Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Daniele Lorenzini (2020) On possibilising genealogy, Inquiry, Published online: 09 Jan 2020

DOI: 10.1080/0020174X.2020.1712227

ABSTRACT
In this paper, I argue that the vindicatory/unmasking distinction has so far prevented scholars from grasping a third dimension of genealogical inquiry, one I call possibilising. This dimension has passed unnoticed even though it constitutes a crucial aspect of Foucault’s genealogical project starting from 1978 on. By focusing attention on it, I hope to provide a definitive rebuttal of one of the main criticisms that has been raised against (unmasking) genealogy in general, and Foucauldian genealogy in particular, namely the idea that Foucault’s genealogical project lacks normative grounding and is therefore ultimately incapable of telling us why we should resist and fight against the mechanisms of power it nevertheless reveals in an empirically insightful way. This conclusion, I argue, is mistaken because it conceives of Foucauldian genealogy exclusively as an unmasking or problematising method, whereas I claim that Foucault’s genealogical project possesses a possibilising dimension that provides his work with sui generis normative force.

KEYWORDS: Genealogy, political philosophy, Foucault/Habermas debate, critical attitude, normativity

Antoine Lilti, L’Héritage des Lumières. Ambivalences de la modernité, Gallimard Seuil, 2019

Les Lumières sont souvent invoquées dans l’espace public comme un combat contre l’obscurantisme, combat qu’il s’agirait seulement de réactualiser. Des lectures, totalisantes et souvent caricaturales, les associent au culte du Progrès, au libéralisme politique et à un universalisme désincarné.

Or, comme le montre ici Antoine Lilti, les Lumières n’ont pas proposé une doctrine philosophique cohérente ou un projet politique commun. En confrontant des auteurs emblématiques et d’autres moins connus, il propose de rendre aux Lumières leur complexité historique et de repenser ce que nous leur devons : un ensemble de questions et de problèmes, bien plus qu’un prêt-à-penser rassurant.

Les Lumières apparaissent dès lors comme une réponse collective au surgissement de la modernité, dont les ambivalences forment aujourd’hui encore notre horizon. Partant des interrogations de Voltaire sur le commerce colonial et l’esclavage pour arriver aux dernières réflexions de Michel Foucault, en passant par la critique postcoloniale et les dilemmes du philosophe face au public, L’Héritage des Lumières propose ainsi le tableau profondément renouvelé d’un mouvement qu’il nous faut redécouvrir car il ne cesse de nous parler.

Megan N. Fontenot, A Weapon With a Will of Its Own: How Tolkien Wrote the One Ring as a Character, Tor.Com, Science fiction. Fantasy. The universe. And related subjects, Jan 1, 2020

In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained…

[…]
The fact was that the Ring had become far more than an artifact or even a semi-sentient being with its own corrupt motivations. It was, Tolkien wrote in 1958, “a mythical way of representing the truth that potency (or perhaps rather potentiality) if it is to be exercised, and produce results, has to be externalized and so as it were passes, to a greater or less degree, out of one’s direct control. A man who wishes to exert ‘power’ must have subjects, who are not himself. But he depends upon them” (Letters 279). This statement—that power is in fact the potential for action and that it must be external to the one who exercises it—is in fact a remarkably sophisticated political theory, one that later, renowned socio-political philosophers like Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, and Giorgio Agamben would write about in great depth.

[…]

Author details
Megan N. Fontenot

Sacha Golob (2015) Subjectivity, Reflection and Freedom in Later Foucault, International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 23:5, 666-688, DOI: 10.1080/09672559.2015.1091029

Abstract
This paper proposes a new reading of the interaction between subjectivity, reflection and freedom within Foucault’s later work. I begin by introducing three approaches to subjectivity, locating these in relation both to Foucault’s texts and to the recent literature. I suggest that Foucault himself operates within what I call the ‘entanglement approach’, and, as such, he faces a potentially serious challenge, a challenge forcefully articulated by Han. Using Kant’s treatment of reflection as a point of comparison, I argue that Foucault possesses the resources to meet this challenge. The key, I contend, is to distinguish two related theses about reflection and freedom: Foucault’s position is distinctive precisely because he accepts one of these theses whilst rejecting the other. I conclude by indicating how this reading might connect to the longstanding question of Foucault’s own right to appeal to normative standards.

Keywords: Foucault, freedom, reflection, subjectivity, subject, critique

affecognitive

“We are condemned to sense,” Maurice Merleau-Ponty writes in his Preface to Phenomenology ofPerception (Landes translation, lxxxiv). The statement concludes a paragraph not on our bodily schema or our being toward the world (être à monde) but on history, or the relation of (natural) perception to (social) history. He ends the sentence with the conviction that “there is nothing we can do or say that does not acquire a name in history.”

We are condemned to sense. This is to say that we are the kind of being, a kind of animal, that is condemned to pull meaning and orientation out of our habitats, or what we come to call our worlds.

My close reading of Phenomenology of Perception this summer has been juxtaposed with my return to volume 1 of Foucault’s Dits et Écrits. It is a forceful intellectual juxtaposition, by which…

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Martina Tazzioli, The Making of Migration. The Biopolitics of Mobility at Europe’s Borders, Sage, 2019

See also a roundtable on this book on 15 January 2020, University of Warwick

The Making of Migration addresses the rapid phenomenon that has become one of the most contentious issues in contemporary life: how are migrants governed as individual subjects and as part of groups? What are the modes of control, identification and partitions that migrants are subjected to?

Bringing together an ethnographically grounded analysis of migration, and a critical theoretical engagement with the security and humanitarian modes of governing migrants, the book pushes us to rethink notions that are central in current political theory such as “multiplicity” and subjectivity. This is an innovative and sophisticated study; deploying migration as an analytical angle for complicating and reconceptualising the emergence of collective subjects, mechanisms of individualisation, and political invisibility/visibility.

A must-read for students of Migration Studies, Political Geography, Political Theory, International Relations, and Sociology.

Contents
Chapter 1: Migrant mobs. The (un)making of migrant multiplicities
Chapter 2: Migrant singularities. Between subjectivation and desubjugation
Chapter 3: Digital multiplicities and singularities. (In)visibility and data circuits
Chapter 4: “Keeping on the move without letting pass”. Dispersal and mobility as technologies of government
Chapter 5: Migrant spatial disobediences. Collective subjectivities and the memory of struggles

via Progressive Geographies

Grégoire Chamayou, La société ingouvernable. Une généalogie du libéralisme autoritaire, La fabrique éditions, 2019

Partout, ça se rebiffait. Les années 1970, a-t-on dit à droite et à gauche, du côté de Samuel Huntington comme de Michel Foucault, ont été ébranlées par une gigantesque « crise de gouvernabilité ».

Aux États-Unis, le phénomène inquiétait au plus haut point un monde des affaires confronté simultanément à des indisciplines ouvrières massives, à une prétendue « révolution managériale », à des mobilisations écologistes inédites, à l’essor de nouvelles régulations sociales et environnementales, et – racine de tous les maux – à une « crise de la démocratie » qui, rendant l’État ingouvernable, menaçait de tout emporter.

C’est à cette occasion que furent élaborés, amorçant un contre-mouvement dont nous ne sommes pas sortis, de nouveaux arts de gouverner dont ce livre retrace, par le récit des conflits qui furent à leurs sources, l’histoire philosophique.

On y apprendra comment fut menée la guerre aux syndicats, imposé le « primat de la valeur actionnariale », conçu un contre-activisme d’entreprise ainsi qu’un management stratégique des « parties prenantes », imaginés, enfin, divers procédés invasifs de « détrônement de la politique ».

Contrairement aux idées reçues, le néolibéralisme n’est pas animé d’une « phobie d’État » unilatérale. Les stratégies déployées pour conjurer cette crise convergent bien plutôt vers un libéralisme autoritaire où la libéralisation de la société suppose une verticalisation du pouvoir. Un « État fort » pour une « économie libre ».

« Grégoire Chamayou, auteur d’ouvrages sur les chasses à l’homme ou les drones, poursuit son travail d’investigation philosophique singulier en publiant un livre intitulé La Société ingouvernable. Une enquête qui produit un vertige politique en exposant les armes idéologiques et les dispositifs avec lesquels nous avons été défaits par le « libéralisme autoritaire ». » Joseph Confavreux, Médiapart, octobre 2018.

« Avec la Société ingouvernable, une généalogie du libéralisme autoritaire (la Fabrique encore), il prend à nouveau de la hauteur pour dresser une saga du néolibéralisme «par en haut», du point de vue ceux qui ont défendu les intérêts du monde des affaires, aux Etats-Unis, à partir des années 70. » , Sonya Faure, Libération, novembre 2018.

« Dans “La société ingouvernable” (éd. La Fabrique), le philosophe Grégoire Chamayou revient de façon stimulante sur l’histoire philosophique des « nouveaux arts de gouverner » impulsés par le monde des affaires, essentiellement aux Etats-Unis et en Grande-Bretagne. », Amélie Quentel, Les Inrocks, novembre 2018.

« Face à la crise de la gouvernabilité qui touche les années 1970, quelles stratégies de management pour contrôler le citoyen sans en avoir l’air ? », Olivia Gesbert, France Culture, novembre 2018.

Grégoire Chamayou
Agrégé de philosophie, Grégoire Chamayou est chercheur au Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) Cerphi ENS Lyon.

via Progressive Geographies

Wendy Brown, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism. The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West, Columbia University Press, 2019

Across the West, hard-right leaders are surging to power on platforms of ethno-economic nationalism, Christianity, and traditional family values. Is this phenomenon the end of neoliberalism or its monstrous offspring?

In the Ruins of Neoliberalism casts the hard-right turn as animated by socioeconomically aggrieved white working- and middle-class populations but contoured by neoliberalism’s multipronged assault on democratic values. From its inception, neoliberalism flirted with authoritarian liberalism as it warred against robust democracy. It repelled social-justice claims through appeals to market freedom and morality. It sought to de-democratize the state, economy, and society and re-secure the patriarchal family. In key works of the founding neoliberal intellectuals, Wendy Brown traces the ambition to replace democratic orders with ones disciplined by markets and traditional morality and democratic states with technocratic ones.

Yet plutocracy, white supremacy, politicized mass affect, indifference to truth, and extreme social disinhibition were no part of the neoliberal vision. Brown theorizes their unintentional spurring by neoliberal reason, from its attack on the value of society and its fetish of individual freedom to its legitimation of inequality. Above all, she argues, neoliberalism’s intensification of nihilism coupled with its accidental wounding of white male supremacy generates an apocalyptic populism willing to destroy the world rather than endure a future in which this supremacy disappears.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wendy Brown is Class of 1936 First Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches political theory. Her recent books include Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (2015) and Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010).

Contents
Introduction
1. Society Must Be Dismantled
2. Politics Must Be Dethroned
3. The Personal, Protected Sphere Must Be Extended
4. Speaking Wedding Cakes and Praying Pregnancy Centers: Religious Liberty and Free Speech in Neoliberal Jurisprudence
5. No Future for White Men: Nihilism, Fatalism, and Ressentiment

Review by Martijn Konings

via Progressive Geographies

Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics, Duke University Press, 2019

n Necropolitics Achille Mbembe, a leader in the new wave of francophone critical theory, theorizes the genealogy of the contemporary world, a world plagued by ever-increasing inequality, militarization, enmity, and terror as well as by a resurgence of racist, fascist, and nationalist forces determined to exclude and kill. He outlines how democracy has begun to embrace its dark side—what he calls its “nocturnal body”—which is based on the desires, fears, affects, relations, and violence that drove colonialism. This shift has hollowed out democracy, thereby eroding the very values, rights, and freedoms liberal democracy routinely celebrates. As a result, war has become the sacrament of our times in a conception of sovereignty that operates by annihilating all those considered enemies of the state. Despite his dire diagnosis, Mbembe draws on post-Foucauldian debates on biopolitics, war, and race as well as Fanon’s notion of care as a shared vulnerability to explore how new conceptions of the human that transcend humanism might come to pass. These new conceptions would allow us to encounter the Other not as a thing to exclude but as a person with whom to build a more just world.

Contents
Introduction. The Ordeal of the World 1
1. Exit from Democracy 9
2. The Society of Enmity 42
3. Necropolitics 66
4. Viscerality 93
5. Fanon’s Pharmacy 117
6. This Stifling Noonday 156
Conclusion. Ethics of the Passerby 184

Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economy Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is author of Critique of Black Reason and coeditor of Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis, both also published by Duke University Press.

via Progressive Geographies

Michel Foucault, Penal Theories and Institutions. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1971-1972, Translated by Graham Burchell, Palgrave Macmillan.
DOI: DOI10.1007/978-3-319-99292-1

“What characterizes the act of justice is not resort to a court and to judges; it is not the intervention of magistrates (even if they had to be simple mediators or arbitrators). What characterizes the juridical act, the process or the procedure in the broad sense, is the regulated development of a dispute. And the intervention of judges, their opinion or decision, is only ever an episode in this development. What defines the juridical order is the way in which one confronts one another, the way in which one struggles. The rule and the struggle, the rule in the struggle, this is the juridical.”

– Michel Foucault

Penal Theories and Institutions is the title Michel Foucault gave to the lectures he delivered at the Collège de France from November 1971 to March 1972.

In these lectures Michel Foucault presents for the first time his approach to the question of power that will be the focus of his research up to the writing of Discipline and Punish (1975) and beyond. His analysis starts with a detailed account of Richelieu’s repression of the Nu-pieds revolt (1639-1640) and then goes on to show how the apparatus of power developed by the monarchy on this occasion breaks with the system of juridical and judicial institutions of the Middle Ages and opens out onto a “judicial State apparatus”, a “repressive system”, whose function is focused on the confinement of those who challenge its order.

Michel Foucault systemizes the approach of a history of truth on the basis of the study of “juridico-political matrices” that he had begun in the previous year’s lectures (Lectures on the Will to Know) and which is at the heart of the notion of “knowledge-power”.

In these lectures Foucault develops his theory of justice and penal law.

The appearance of this volume marks the end of the publication of the series Foucault’s courses at the Collège de France (the first volume of which was published in 1997).

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