Foucault News

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

Apr 25, 2022
Foucault tries to put some order into his things. A laughing bag reminds him of the “Chinese encycopedia” described by Jorge Luis Borges. He explains the nature of the laughter caused by Borges’ “heterotopia,” while shedding some light on Nietzsche’s philosophy and the “explosion of man’s face in laughter.”

Michel Foucault, Madness, Language, Literature
Edited by Henri-Paul Fruchaud, Daniele Lorenzini, and Judith Revel
Translated by Robert Bononno. Chicago University Press, Forthcoming 2023

Newly published lectures by Foucault on madness, literature, and structuralism.

Perceiving an enigmatic relationship between madness, language, and literature, French philosopher Michel Foucault developed ideas during the 1960s that are less explicit in his later, more well-known writings. Collected here, these previously unpublished texts reveal a Foucault who undertakes an analysis of language and experience detached from their historical constraints. Three issues predominate: the experience of madness across societies; madness and language in Artaud, Roussel, and Baroque theater; and structuralist literary criticism. Not only do these texts pursue concepts unique to this period such as the “extra-linguistic,” but they also reveal a far more complex relationship between structuralism and Foucault than has typically been acknowledged.

Michel Foucault, La Question anthropologique. Cours, 1954-1955, EHSS, Gallimard Seuil, 10 juin 2022

Qu’est-ce que l’homme ? Michel Foucault, au mitan des années 1950, consacre une partie de son enseignement, dispensé à l’université de Lille et à l’École normale supérieure, à comprendre comment cette interrogation a traversé et transformé la philosophie. Ces leçons sont rassemblées dans un manuscrit, dont nous proposons ici l’édition complète.

Foucault déroule son parcours en une dramaturgie impeccable. Premier acte : montrer pourquoi la philosophie classique (Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz) demeurait sourde à cette question. Son idée infinie de « nature » empêchait que l’homme puisse nouer un rapport immédiat à sa propre vérité. Deuxième acte : exposer comment, après le renversement kantien, le point de gravitation de la philosophie moderne, de Feuerbach à Dilthey en passant par Hegel et Marx, devient cet homme vrai qui déploie un monde de significations et de pratiques révélant son essence. Troisième acte : décrire l’éclatement du dispositif anthropologique chez Nietzsche – à travers cette pensée dionysiaque qui, avec la mort de Dieu, proclame l’effacement de l’homme et promet des expériences tragiques de vérité. Pour la première et dernière fois, on trouve sous la plume foucaldienne une présentation longue, précise et percutante de la philosophie de Nietzsche.

Dans ce cours, Foucault lance en même temps des flèches vers son oeuvre à venir. On y discerne déjà l’entreprise critique qui s’épanouit en 1966 dans Les Mots et les Choses : thèse d’une configuration anthropologique de la modernité, annonce d’une mort de l’homme après son invention toute récente, programme d’une archéologie des sciences humaines. Juste avant son départ pour la Suède, Foucault surgit à la verticale de son propre destin philosophique.

Mark Olssen, Review of Foucault’s New Materialism: A Review of Thomas Lemke’s The Government of Things, Social Forces, 2022;, soac037, https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/soac037

I first wrote on Foucault as a complexity materialist in the 1990s and have continued to write on the subject (see Olssen 1996, 1999, 2008, 2015, 2017, 2021). In that Thomas Lemke’s book, The Government of Things: Foucault and the New Materialisms (New York University Press, 2021), supports my view for a materialist reading of Foucault, it constitutes a welcome addition to the literature. Lemke firstly outlines and critiques three “new” materialist approaches: that of Graham Harman’s Object Orientated Ontology (OOO); Jane Bennett’s “Vital Materialism,” and finally, Karen Barad’s “agential realism.” All three share a concern with “the productivity and dynamism of matter” (p. 4). Lemke’s criticisms of these approaches are insightful. OOO is seen as inadequate for representing nonhuman objects in isolation which translates into “an extreme form of subjectivism” (p. 14) and “essentialism” (p. 8) incapable of resolving the “theoretical tension between relationalism and foundationalism” (p. 8. Jane Bennett’s “vibrancy of matter” thesis is unsatisfactory for failing to theoretically articulate the ways in which matter is “vibrant,” or “active” (see Lemke, Chap. 2). This relates to what Bennett refers to as “thing-power,” to “nonhuman things,” and the “force of things” (Bennett 2010). It is unclear whether such a “force” is postulated as internal to “things” or as emerging from contingent relations in historically engendered configurations.
[…]

Philip Mirowski, The Death of Neoliberalism Has Been Greatly Exaggerated. Jacobin. 04.27.2022

Despite predictions of its demise, the neoliberal power bloc of think tanks and lobby groups is still deeply entrenched and pushing into new territory, from health care to space exploration. Neoliberalism won’t be over until the Left can challenge that power.

It is unnerving to realize we live in an era when everyone seems to be relieved that the COVID-19 pandemic is done and dusted when, in fact, all that is really over are the concerted public health measures to control its spread and propagation. “Wishing makes it so” is hardly a sound policy upon which to build political movements, yet that threatens to be the default stance toward most of the current crises we face, be it global warming, loss of biodiversity, Trumpism, economic inequality, the pandemic, or even the war in Ukraine.

[…]
From Foucault to the Federalist Society
There is a third usage of the term “neoliberal” that is rooted in the cultural formatting of a peculiar construct of subjective individual experience, often found in cultural studies, histories of education, and the humanities in general. This definition derives from the lectures of Michel Foucault — in particular, his depiction of neoliberalism as an injunction to become an entrepreneur of the self.

The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning
Justin E.H. Smith
New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2022. 256 pp

Many think of the internet as an unprecedented and overwhelmingly positive achievement of modern human technology. But is it? In The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is, Justin Smith offers an original deep history of the internet, from the ancient to the modern world—uncovering its surprising origins in nature and centuries-old dreams of radically improving human life by outsourcing thinking to machines and communicating across vast distances. Yet, despite the internet’s continuing potential, Smith argues, the utopian hopes behind it have finally died today, killed by the harsh realities of social media, the global information economy, and the attention-destroying nature of networked technology.

Ranging over centuries of the history and philosophy of science and technology, Smith shows how the “internet” has been with us much longer than we usually think. He draws fascinating connections between internet user experience, artificial intelligence, the invention of the printing press, communication between trees, and the origins of computing in the machine-driven looms of the silk industry. At the same time, he reveals how the internet’s organic structure and development root it in the natural world in unexpected ways that challenge efforts to draw an easy line between technology and nature.

Combining the sweep of intellectual history with the incisiveness of philosophy, The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is cuts through our daily digital lives to give a clear-sighted picture of what the internet is, where it came from, and where it might be taking us in the coming decades.

David Beer, The Internet Is Only What You Think It Is: Go, Go Gadget Philosophy, Berfrois, 20 April 2022

The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning
Justin E.H. Smith
New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2022. 256 pp

A classic lecture theatre layout. I was high in ‘the gods’ listening sporadically to a lecture on how to send an email. It was part of a weekly course guiding us through the internet and some other information technologies. Much of it was new to us. Yet even at the time the sessions felt a bit comical. Part of the assessment required us to successfully send an email to the lecturer. Picking up Justin E.H. Smith’s ambitious new book, which seeks to rethink our understanding of the internet, I can’t help but think back to my early encounters. Pulling philosophy from his sleeves, Smith’s aim, as the title alludes, is to tell the reader The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is. In those early moments of surfing I knew exactly what I thought it was. It was crap. A gimmick. Flimsy content, empty, slow, pointless. Nothing much to capture the imagination and certainly no danger of an attention grab. Of course, things got very complicated very quickly.

[…]
To give this method and approach a label, Smith talks of a ‘historical ontology’, a phrase drawn from the work of Ian Hacking. The approach is also described in terms of it being an adapted version of Foucault’s genealogy. Instead of isolating historical moments of rupture though, Smith is looking for the stable and enduring in what he calls a type of ‘perennialist genealogy’. The aim here, presumably, is to see what keeps coming back. Smartphones, for instance, are said to be ‘concretions of a certain kind of natural activity in which human beings have been engaging all along’. Smith wants to build a sense of something ongoing in the internet, something that has always been and which is finding certain new forms that blend the old with some potentially new properties.

Mark Murphy (ed.) Social Theory and Education Research. Understanding Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and Derrida, Routledge, 2nd edition, 2022

Book Description
Social Theory and Education Research is an advanced and accessible text that illustrates the diverse ways in which social theories can be applied to educational research methodologies. It provides in-depth overviews of the various theories by well-known and much-debated thinkers – Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Derrida – and their applications in educational research.

Updated throughout and with new extended introductions to each theorist and a new chapter on the application of socio-theoretical concepts in education research methodologies and the how-to of research practice, this second edition assists education practitioners and researchers in their acquisition and application of social theory. This book contextualizes the various theories within the broader context of social philosophy and the historical development of different forms of thought.

Social Theory and Education Research will be incredibly useful to postgraduate students and early career researchers who wish to develop their capacity to engage with these debates at an advanced level. It will also prove of great interest to anyone involved in education policy and theory.

Table of Contents
Part I: Introduction

Social theory and education research: An introduction (Mark Murphy)
Social theory and methodology in education research: From conceptualisation to operationalisation (Mark Murphy and Cristina Costa) 
Part II: Foucault 

Foucault and his acolytes: Discourse, power and ethics (Julie Allan)
Retooling school surveillance research: Foucault and (post)panopticism (Andrew Hope)
Using Foucault to examine issues of girls’ education in a religiously driven postcolonial-security state (Ali Sameer)
Part III: Habermas

Jürgen Habermas: Education’s increasingly recognized hero (Terence Lovat)
Between the state and the street: Habermas and education governance (Mark Murphy)
Applying Habermas’ theory of communicative action in an analysis of recognition of prior learning (Fredrik Sandberg)
Part IV: Bourdieu

Bourdieu and educational research: Thinking tools, relational thinking, beyond epistemological innocence (Shaun Rawolle and Bob Lingard)
Research in Christian Academies: Perspectives from Bourdieu (Elizabeth Green)
Bourdieu applied: Exploring perceived parental influence on adolescent students’ educational choices for studies in higher education (Irene Kleanthous)
Part V: Derrida

Derrida and educational research: An introduction (Jones Irwin)
‘Derrida applied’: Derrida meets Dracula in the geography classroom (Christine Winter)
Engaging with student teachers on reflective writing: Reclaiming writing (Duncan Mercieca)

The Biopolitics of Punishment, Derrida and Foucault
Edited by Rick Elmore and Ege Selin Islekel, Northwestern University Press, 2022

This volume marks a new chapter in the long-standing debate between Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault regarding argumentative methods and their political implications. The essays chart the undertheorized dialogue between the two philosophers on questions of life, death, punishment, and power—an untapped point of departure from which we might continue to read the convergence and divergence of their work. What possibilities for political resistance might this dialogue uncover? And how might they relate to contemporary political crises?

With the resurgence of fascism and authoritarianism across the globe, the rise of white supremacist and xenophobic violence, and the continued brutality of state-sanctioned and extrajudicial killings by police, border patrols, and ordinary citizens, there is a pressing need to critically analyze our political present. These essays bring to bear the critical force of Derrida’s and Foucault’s biopolitical thought to practices of mass incarceration, the death penalty, life without parole, immigration and detention, racism and police violence, transphobia, human and animal relations, and the legacies of colonization. At the heart of their biopolitics, the volume shows, lies the desire to deconstruct and resist in the name of a future that is more just and less policed. It is this impulse that makes reading their work together, at this moment, both crucial and worthwhile.

Contents

Editors’ Introduction
Part I. Punishment and Sacrifice: Death Penalty and the Penitentiary
1. Biopolitics and the Politics of Sacrifice: Derrida on Life, Life Death, and the Death Penalty – Michael Naas
2. Posthuman and Postanimal Futures or the Possibilities of a Deconstructive Biopolitics – Rick Elmore
3. Blood on Our Minds, Blood On Our Hands – Brad Elliott Stone
4. Foucault and the Biopolitics of the Penitentiary: Death in/by Incarceration – Ege Selin Islekel
Part II. Taking Lives, Letting Die: Biopolitics of Race
5. Making Die or Letting Die: Derrida, Foucault, and the Refugee Crisis – Kelly Oliver
6. Counting Heads: Reason, The Human, and Capital Punishment(s) – María de la Cruz Salvador López
7. From the Will to Race to Hygienic Feminism: Race, State, Habit – Tamsin Kimoto
Part III. Resistance in Action
8. Fearless Lives: Parrhesia in a Biopolitical Frame – Sarah Hansen
9. The Silent Exception: Hunger Striking and Lip-Sewing – Banu Bargu
10. The Etymology of Unity – Janos Toevs

Harsin, Jayson. “Post-Truth and Critical Communication Studies.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. 20 Dec. 2018 https://oxfordre.com/communication/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228613-e-757.

Summary
While the periodizing concept “post-truth” (PT) initially appeared in the United States as a key word of popular politics in the form “post-truth politics” or “post-truth society,” it quickly appeared in many languages. It is now the object of increasing scholarly attention and public debate. Its popular and academic treatments sometimes differ in respect to its meaning, but most associate it with communication forms such as fake or false news, rumors, hoaxes, and political lying. They also identify causes such as polarization and unethical politicians or unregulated social media; shoddy journalism; or simply the inevitable chaos ushered in by digital media technologies. PT is sometimes posited as a social and political condition whereby citizens or audiences and politicians no longer respect truth (e.g., climate science deniers or “birthers”) but simply accept as true what they believe or feel.

However, more rigorously, PT is actually a breakdown of social trust, which encompasses what was formerly the major institutional truth-teller or publicist—the news media. What is accepted as popular truth is really a weak form of knowledge, opinion based on trust in those who supposedly know. Critical communication approaches locate its historical legacy in the earliest forms of political persuasion and questions of ethics and epistemology, such as those raised by Plato in the Gorgias. While there are timeless similarities, PT is a 21st-century phenomenon. It is not “after” truth but after a historical period where interlocking elite institutions were discoverers, producers, and gatekeepers of truth, accepted by social trust (the church, science, governments, the school, etc.). Critical scholars have identified a more complex historical set of factors, to which popular proposed solutions have been mostly blind.

Modern origins of PT lie in the anxious elite negotiation of mass representative liberal democracy with proposals for organizing and deploying mass communication technologies. These elites consisted of pioneers in the influence or persuasion industries, closely associated with government and political practice and funding, and university research. These influence industries were increasingly accepted not just by business but also by (resource-rich) professional political actors. Their object was not policy education and argument to constituents but, increasingly strategically, emotion and attention management. PT can usefully be understood in the context of its historical emergence, through its popular forms and responses, such as rumors, conspiracies, hoaxes, fake news, fact-checking, and filter bubbles, as well as through its multiple effects—not the least of which the discourse of panic about it.

Keywords
fake news, fact-checking, rumor, disinformation, trust, attention economy, journalism, democracy, political communication, communication and critical studies

Subjects
Communication and Social Change, Critical/Cultural Studies, Communication and Culture, Media and Communication, Policy, Political Communication

[…]
Scholars in the 1990s had begun to discuss popular culture in the context of legitimate and illegitimate knowledges as well as trust in authority, dramatized by TV series such as the X-Files (Bellon, 1999; Lavery, Hague, & Cartwright, 1996). Working on the popular fascination with “conspiracy culture,” Dean (1998) was already speaking of American society as characterized by “fugitive truth” at the turn of the 21st century. A small group of scholars continued to pursue questions of popular knowledges and politics through Foucault’s concepts of truth regimes and subjugated knowledges, with particular emphasis on conspiracy theory and gossip (Birchall, 2006; Bratich, 2008) as well as through Stephen Colbert’s satirical coinage “truthiness,” what is felt to be true (Jones, 2009). However, thus far, the scholarly emphasis on truth, media and politics, dominant and subjugated knowledges and power did not identify a conjunctural shift with regard to public truth and trust and had not begun to explore in depth the multiple, converging mechanisms behind such a thesis.
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