Foucault News

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

Byung-Chul Han, Non-things: Upheaval in the Lifeworld, Translated by Daniel Steuer, Polity (2022)

We no longer inhabit earth and dwell under the sky: these are being replaced by Google Earth and the Cloud. The terrestrial order is giving way to a digital order, the world of things is being replaced by a world of non-things – a constantly expanding ‘infosphere’ of information and communication which displaces objects and obliterates any stillness and calmness in our lives.Byung-Chul Han’s critique of the infosphere highlights the price we are paying for our growing preoccupation with information and communication. Today we search for more information without gaining any real knowledge. We communicate constantly without participating in a community. We save masses of data without keeping track of our memories. We accumulate friends and followers without encountering other people. This is how information develops a form of life that has no stability or duration. And as we become increasingly absorbed in the infosphere, we lose touch with the magic of things which provide a stable environment for dwelling and give continuity to human life. The infosphere may seem to grant us new freedoms but it creates new forms of control too, and it cuts us off from the kind of freedom that is tied to acting in the world.

Jane Tynan, Chapter 11. Michel Foucault. Fashioning the Body Politic. In Agnès Rocamora and Anneke Smelik (eds), Thinking through Fashion A Guide to Key Theorists, I.B. Tauris, 2016, pp. 184-199 (Bloomsbury Collections)
Chapter DOI10.5040/

The French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault (1926–1984) has profoundly impacted disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. For Foucault, power lies not in political leadership, but in the productive forces of everyday life, which is why he has become, as it were, fashionable again. Foucault’s ideas have been used to describe the control modern institutions have over us, but in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, we are also witnessing remarkable displays of power from below.

In this chapter, I consider how Foucault’s work might frame the social, political and economic meanings arising from fashion as a cultural system, a discourse, a practice and an industry. More interested in the political significance of material reality than in who appears to be in charge, Foucault set out the various techniques of social control that characterize modern life. Its disciplines and practices were for him critical to the judgements we make about ourselves and each other. The medical procedures available to us, our systems of learning and justice, how we are housed, the treatment of prisoners, all contribute to our sense of what is wrong, of who is rightfully in charge and what kind of speech is permitted. Are these modern systems and technologies that promote surveillance far removed from the glamour of fashion? Possibly, but they are also clearly relevant to mass fashion. Foucault’s perspective on social structures directs our attention away from the spectacle of fashion to perhaps consider how it is constructed, to discover who is involved, to reflect on how fashion is articulated, who it benefits and whose concern it is thought to be. In other words, Foucault might ask what constitutes fashion as a social, 185cultural and economic practice. One thing is clear: most studies of fashion nod in Foucault’s direction, which suggests that writers on fashion, identity and the body recognize his influence and many feel compelled to at least mention him in passing (Craik, 1993: 125; Benstock and Ferriss, 1994: 8; Svendsen, 2006: 143; Finkelstein, 2007: 211; Kaiser, 2012: 20).

Byung-Chul Han, Infocracy: Digitization and the Crisis of Democracy, Translated by Daniel Steuer, Polity Press, 2022

The tsunami of information unleashed by digitization is threatening to overwhelm us, drowning us in a sea of frenzied communication and disrupting many spheres of social life, including politics. Election campaigns are now being waged as information wars with bots and troll armies, and democracy is degenerating into infocracy.In this new book, Byung-Chul Han argues that infocracy is the new form of rule characteristic of contemporary information capitalism. Whereas the disciplinary regime of industrial capitalism worked with compulsion and repression, this new information regime exploits freedom instead of repressing it. Surveillance and punishment give way to motivation and optimization: we imagine that we are free, but in reality our entire lives are recorded so that our behaviour might be psychopolitically controlled. Under the neoliberal information regime, mechanisms of power function not because people are aware of the fact of constant surveillance but because they perceive themselves to be free.This trenchant critique of politics in the information age will be of great interest to students and scholars in the humanities and social sciences and to anyone concerned about the fate of politics in our time.

Andrew Gibson (2021) Producing Historicity: Foucault, Joyce and European Art Cinema, 1955–1980, Textual Practice, 35:10, 1565-1585,

DOI: 10.1080/0950236X.2021.1965290

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear how damaging and virulent the obsessively ‘presentist’ orientation is that drives neoliberal and managerial ‘culture’. Its proponents abjure discourses of or on historicity, lest they encounter critical perspectives on our present situation. For that very reason we should be sustaining and promoting our historicisms as tenaciously as possible. This article argues that Foucault and Joyce, in their extremely different ways, did just that, attuned as they were to the subtleties of specificity and the vagaries of contingency. But there is a certain historicity of the body and affect that philosophy and literature, by their nature, cannot fully capture or communicate. We might rather turn, then, to European Art Cinema, approximately from 1955 onwards, and a range of cinéastes, from Godard and Melville to Varda and Huillet-Straub. The discussion brings out the highly nuanced ways in which they use cities and landscapes, and temporal and spatial anomalies, to construct both a historicity of affect and an aesthetic reflection or meditation on that historicity.

historicity presentism the body managerialism neoliberal culture Joyce Foucault Godard [Jean-Pierre] Melville Antonioni Fellini Varda Huillet-Straub materiality affect the image European art cinema nouvelle vague neo-realism the European city

Nustad, K. G., & Swanson, H. (2022). Political ecology and the Foucault effect: A need to diversify disciplinary approaches to ecological management? Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 5(2), 924–946.

While explicitly Foucauldian analyses have declined in recent years in the social sciences, Foucault’s ideas continue to strongly influence scholars’ approaches to power, governance and the state. In this article, we explore how Foucauldian concepts shape the work of political ecologists and social scientists working on environmental management, multispecies ethnography and the Anthropocene – often in an unrecognized way. We argue that – regardless of whether or not Foucault’s work is explicitly cited – his legacy of linking scientific projects, population management and state control continues to have an outsized impact on thinking in these fields. It is time, we assert, to directly consider how such theoretical inheritances are affecting the shape of political ecology, in particular, and the social sciences, more generally. How, we ask, are Foucauldian traditions at once enabling and constraining more-than-human scholarship? In this article, we explore the contributions and limitations of Foucauldian approaches in environmental contexts through empirical attention to trout introduction and management efforts in South Africa. Our overall aim is to call for a deeper conversation about how scholars working on environmental topics engage the science-governance nexus. The article ends with proposing landscape, as a material enactment of more-than-human politics, as a useful analytical category to this end.

Impressões de Foucault: Entrevista com Roberto Machado
Sociologia & Antropologia. 7 (1) • Jan-Abr 2017 •
Open access

Nesta entrevista sobre Michel Foucault, Roberto Machado aborda sua atualidade e seu impacto nas ciências humanas; os tipos de estudo que caracterizam diferentes momentos de sua trajetória intelectual; as singularidades de seu pensamento – o método provisório, a dimensão instrumental do conhecimento e a atenção à atualidade teórica e política -; bem como o vínculo entre suas análises histórico-filosóficas e suas ações políticas. Relata a vinda de Foucault ao Brasil durante a ditadura militar, o encontro com o pensador francês e sua obra, a experiência em seus cursos e seminários no Collège de France. Comenta ainda o aprendizado da dimensão política dos saberes como um instrumento de luta e resistência.

Michel Foucault; Roberto Machado; saber e poder; ação política; crítica do presente

In this interview on Michel Foucault, Roberto Machado discusses his contemporary relevance and his impact on the human sciences; the types of study composing the different periods of his intellectual trajectory; the singular aspects of his thought – the provisional method, the instrumental dimension of knowledge and the attention to the theoretical and political present; as well as the link between his historical-philosophical analyses and his political actions. He recalls Foucault’s visit to Brazil during the military dictatorship, the encounter with the French thinker and his work, and the experience of his courses and seminars at the Collège de France. He also comments on learning about the political dimension of knowledge as a tool for struggle and resistance.

Michel Foucault; Roberto Machado; knowledge and power; political action; critique of the present

Making music out of human speech
GARETH BRANWYN. Boing Boing, 2:20 PM SUN SEP 11, 2022

I’ve written about the work of artist and composer, Noah Wall, on Boing Boing before (here and here). In his latest project, Speech Patterns, Noah derives music from the rhythm, tone, and timbre of the human voice using source material including the voices of Octavia Butler, Michel Foucault, a cattle auctioneer, people speaking in tongues, and ASMR.

Each limited edition LP and cassette features hand-stamped cover art using shapes derived from Speech Patterns notation.

Lodovica Braida, Anonymity in Eighteenth-Century Italian Publishing. The Absent Author, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2022

This book focuses on the different forms in which authorship came to be expressed in eighteenth-century Italian publishing. It analyses both the affirmation of the “author function”, and, above all, its paradoxical opposite: the use of anonymity, a centuries-old practice present everywhere in Europe but often neglected by scholarship. The reasons why authors chose to publish their works anonymously were manifold, including prudence, fear of censorship, modesty, fear of personal criticism, or simple divertissement. In many cases, it was an ethical choice, especially for ecclesiastics. The Italian case provides a key perspective on the study of anonymity in the European context, contributing to the analysis of an overlooked topic in academic studies.

The introduction focuses on the aim of the book: to analyse the development of the “author function” (defined as such by Michel Foucault in 1969) in Italian states during the eighteenth century, and, above all, its paradoxical opposite: the choice made by many authors to publish their works anonymously. This absence of the author’s name has its own historical, social and cultural relevance. However, despite the importance of this issue, there are still no studies on the Italian case. There are various reasons why authors chose to publish their works anonymously: the political and religious context in which a work is published, the personal needs of the author or the genre of the work. In this perspective, it is fundamental to study anonymity and the affirmation of authorship as two faces of the same coin, not only because the two possibilities coexist before and after the affirmation of copyright, but also because the same author may choose to publish some works using his name on the title page and others anonymously. A socio-cultural perspective allows us to take into account what a literary and author-centred perspective does not allow. It recounts the story of a proliferation of editions controlled neither by the first printer nor by the author, of a mobility of texts, transformed into different editions, sometimes merged with others. And, unlike the idealisation of texts assigned, in literary tradition, to an author, this perspective invites us to take into account the denial of intellectual responsibility. In other words, the silence of the author.

Lodovica Braida is Professor of History of the Book at the University of Milan, Italy. Her work is devoted to the history of written culture and reading practices in early modern Europe, particularly in Italy, in a perspective of sociocultural history that dialogues with bibliography, literary criticism, and intellectual history.

Foucault/Benjamin: storia, violenza, soggettivazione a cura di Valentina Moro
materiali foucaultiani, volume IX, numero 17-18 (gennaio-dicembre 2020)

Open access


Foucault/Benjamin: storia, violenza, soggettivazione
a cura di Valentina Moro

Introduzione : Foucault/Benjamin. Genealogie et costellazioni concettuali (pp. 5-11)
Valentina Moro

Politicità e impoliticità del comune. Pensiero della comunità e filosofia della storia in Benjamin e Foucault (pp. 13-32)
Andrea Di Gesu

Storicizzare l’origine, pensare il discontinuo. Tentativi di archeologia del presente (pp. 33-50)
Arianna Lodeserto

What “Truly” Makes Us. Benjamin and Foucault on the Concept of Violence (pp. 51-80)
Guilel Treiber

Soggetti del capitale. Benjamin e Foucault lettori di Marx (pp. 81-102)
Alessandro Simoncini

Photography, Multiplicity, Promiscuity. Michel Foucault and Walter Benjamin (pp. 103-126)
Anton Lee

Saggi e interviste

La gouvernementalité et après. Entretien avec Colin Gordon (pp. 129-156)
William Walters & Martina Tazzioli

Foucault/Badiou : d’un événement à l’autre (pp. 157-185)
Norman Madarasz

“Capirci qualcosa” dell’amicizia. Note foucaultiane per una storia delle emozioni (pp. 187-216)
Lorenzo Petrachi

Russell-Mayhew, S., Estefan, A., Moules, N.J., Lefebvre, D., Morhun, J.M., Saunders, J.F., Wong, K., Myre, M.
The optics of weight: expert perspectives from the panopticon and synopticon (2022) Psychology and Health

DOI: 10.1080/08870446.2022.2117810

Objective: That we all weigh something is a fact of life, yet the material reality of weight is refracted through multiple layers of surveillance revealing contradictions in experience and understanding, depending on one’s vantage point. We explored the complexities of weight with the specific aim of furthering understanding of this multifaceted surveillance.

Methods and Measures: We used hermeneutics, the philosophy and practice of interpretation, as the method of inquiry. Ten experts by experience and seven professional experts participated in interviews, which were audio- recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Interpretations were developed through group discussions among the eight authors and reiterative writing.

Results: Using the metaphor of optics, we demonstrate how the interplay of the panopticon (the few watching the many) and synopticon (the many watching the few) help us gain a deeper understanding of weight through “fitting in,” being “captured by numbers,” “dieting: the tyrannic tower,” and “the male gaze.”

Conclusion: Monitoring and judging body weight have become so normative in Western society that “weight watching” practices are synonymous with good citizenship and moral character. This study offers insight about how weight is conceptualized in personal and professional contexts, with implications for body image, dieting, eating disorders, public health, and weight bias.

Author Keywords
Foucault; Gadamer; hermeneutics; panopticon; synopticon; weight

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