Various Foucault Studies, Neoliberal Governmentality | Foucault and Race | Foucault and Accounting | Foucault and Queer Theory
Number 6, February 2009
Neoliberal Governmentality (Various Authors)
Foucault and the Invisible Economy (Ute Tellmann)
Description: This paper discusses the extent to which governmentality provides a critical visibility of the economy beyond its liberal imaginary. It argues that Foucault’s conceptual and historical understanding of liberal governmentality has two traits that encumber a de-centering of the economy from a Foucauldian perspective. The first obstacle results from a persistent asymmetry of the concept of governmentality as it remains solely geared towards replacing the monolithic account of the state. Governmentality is therefore in danger of rendering the economic invisible instead of advancing an analytics of power appropriate to the specificity of this field. The second impediment relates to how Foucault reads the invisibility of the economy asserted in liberal discourse. While Foucault emphasizes how the “invisible hand” imparts a critical limitation towards the sovereign hubris of total sight, the paper unearths a more complex politics of truth tied to the invisible economy. Drawing on selected historical material, the papers shows that the liberal invisibility of the economy rather functions as a prohibitive barrier towards developing novel and critical visibilities of the economy. A Foucauldian perspective on economy, the paper concludes, benefits from piercing through this double invisibility of the economy.
Description: This article examines Michel Foucault’s critical investigation of neoliberalism in the course published as Naissance de la biopolitique: Cours au Collège de France, 1978-1979. Foucault’s lectures are interrogated along two axes. First, examining the way in which neoliberalism can be viewed as a particular production of subjectivity, as a way in which individuals are constituted as subjects of “human capital.” Secondly, Foucault’s analyses is augmented and critically examined in light of other critical work on neoliberalism by Wendy Brown, David Harvey, Christian Laval, Maurizo Lazzarato, and Antonio Negri. Of these various debates and discussions, the paper argues that the discussion of real subsumption in Marx and Negri is most important for understanding the specific politics of neoliberalism. Finally, the paper argues that neoliberalism entails a fundamental reexamination of the tools of critical thought, an examination of how freedom can constitute a form of subjection.
Neoliberalism, Governmentality, and Ethics (Trent H. Hamann)
Description: This paper illustrates the relevance of Foucault’s analysis of neoliberal governance for a critical understanding of recent transformations in individual and social life in the United States, particularly in terms of how the realms of the public and the private and the personal and the political are understood and practiced. The central aim of neoliberal governmentality (“the conduct of conduct”) is the strategic creation of social conditions that encourage and necessitate the production of Homo economicus, a historically specific form of subjectivity constituted as a free and autonomous “atom” of self-interest. The neoliberal subject is an individual who is morally responsible for navigating the social realm using rational choice and cost-benefit calculations grounded on market-based principles to the exclusion of all other ethical values and social interests. While the more traditional forms of domination and exploitation characteristic of sovereign and disciplinary forms of power remain evident in our ”globalized” world, the effects of subjectification produced at the level of everyday life through the neoliberal “conduct of conduct” recommend that we recognize and invent new forms of critique and ethical subjectivation that constitute resistance to its specific dangers.
Description: This paper considers debates around the neoliberal governmentality, and argues for the need to better theorize the specific ethical practices through which such programs of governmentality are carried out. Arguing that much theoretical and empirical work in this area is prone to a “top down” approach, in which governmentality is reduced to an imposing apparatus through which subjectivities are produced, it argues instead for the need to understand the self-production of subjectivities by considering the ethical practices that make up neoliberal governmentality. Moreover, taking Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad/Poor Dad as an illustrative case, the point is made that the work of neoliberal governmentality specifically targets the temporalities of conduct, in an attempt to shape temporal orientations in a more entrepreneurial form. Drawing on Foucault’s lecture courses on liberalism and neoliberalism, and Jacques Donzelot’s work on the social, the case is made that neoliberal governmentality exhorts individuals to act upon the residual social temporalities that persist as a trace in the dispositions of neoliberal subjects. Moreover, the paper concludes with a discussion of the potentials for resistance in this relation, understood as temporal counter-conducts within neoliberalism.
Number 13, May 2012
Editorial (Various Authors)
Various Pieces from the Issue:
Description: In this paper I argue that Foucaultian genealogy offers a critical approach to practices of remembering and forgetting which is crucial for resisting oppression and dominant ideologies. For this argument I focus on the concepts of counter-history and counter-memory that Foucault developed in the 1970’s. In the first section I analyze how the Foucaultian approach puts practices of remembering and forgetting in the context of power relations, focusing not only on what is remembered and forgotten, but how, by whom, and with what effects. I highlight the critical possibilities for resistance that this approach opens up, and I illustrate them with Ladelle McWhorter’s genealogy of racism in Anglo-America. In the second section I put the Foucaultian approach in conversation with contemporary work in pragmatism and critical theory on the social epistemology of memory. In the third and final section, I explore some of the implications of the Foucaultian notion of resistance and what I term guerrilla pluralism for contemporary epistemological discussions of ignorance in standpoint theory and race theory
The Down Low and the Sexuality of Race (Brad Elliott Stone)
Description: There has been much interest in the phenomenon called “the Down Low,” in which “otherwise heterosexual” African American men have sex with other black men. This essay explores the biopolitics at play in the media’s curiosity about the Down Low. The Down Low serves as a critical, transgressive heterotopia that reveals the codetermination of racism, sexism, and heterosexism in black male sexuality.
Description: In this article, I explore several of Foucault’s claims in relation to race, biopolitics, and power in order to illuminate some concerns in the wake of the post-9.11.01 political regime of population management. First, what is the relationship between sovereignty and power? Foucault’s writings on the relation between sovereignty and power seem to differ across his writings, such that it is not clear whether he had definitively circumscribed the role of sovereignty in relation to “power.” Second, while central sovereign authority, at least in ”Society Must Be Defended” has been displaced by Foucault’s analysis of power, the question still remains as to what drives or instantiates the exercise of power. I lay out an account of what I will call “ontopolitics,” as one that foregrounds the role of sovereign authority in ascribing racial divisions. Moreover, these divisions are driven by cultural, social, and moral criteria that complement—or circumscribe—biopolitics—and are inscribed at the level of the ontological, or onto-ethical.
Decapitating Power (Ladelle McWhorter)
Description: In “Society Must Be Defended” Foucault examines 17th century race war discourse not so much in order to understand 20th century racism or concepts of race but primarily because it constitutes an historical example of an attempt to think power without a head or king. This essay examines his account of race war discourse and the sources he used to construct it. It then takes issue with his claim that early race war discourse can be separated from 18th and 19th century racisms. Finally, it returns to the question of power and argues that the effect of the 1976 lecture series was to dislodge the sovereign model of power but also the model of power as war.
Modern Living and Vital Race: Foucault and the Science of Life (Mary Beth Mader)
Description: The paper examines the relation between Foucault’s account of modern race and racism in the "Society Must Be Defended" lectures and his analysis of the emergence of the modern notion of life and its science in The Order of Things. In "Society Must Be Defended,” Foucault uses the term ‘life’ both with respect to pre-modern and modern political regimes, arguing that in the pre-modern eras there was a particular relation of sovereign power to life and death that differs from the relation to life and death which prevails in the modern era. In The Order of Things, Foucault also discusses the concept of life and the historical emergence of the science of life, biology, in the nineteenth century. For Foucault, modern biological racism is a specifically scientific death sentence. The paper argues that the kind of death at issue in this modern racism must be understood in light of the new evolutionary accounts of life as a transorganismic continuity that emerge in the life sciences.
Description: In his 1979 lectures, Foucault took particular interest in the reconfiguration of quotidian practices under neo-liberal human capital theory, re-describing all persons as entrepreneurs of the self. By the early 1980s, Foucault had begun to articulate a theory of ethical conduct driven not by the logic of investment, but of artistic development and self-care. This article uses Foucault’s account of human capital as a basis to explore the meaning and limits of Foucault’s final published works and argues for two interrelated genealogical projects focused on the ethics of economic activity.
Description: This article aims to expose the main governmental shifts in recent American history (1961-2000) by examining two programs: the Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the Agency for International development (US-AID). Through the exploration of primary and secondary sources, we analyse the production, organisation and circulation of governmental practices in the realms of both domestic and foreign policy. In the American context, practices of government typically revolve around freedom, efficiency models and individual responsibility. Throughout the analysis, we find that the general critiques which have guided reforms and experiments in both areas converge around the same elements. This testifies to the fact that the reflexions and technical models directed at the optimal management of populations are more far-reaching than they first appear. Moreover, the historical transformations in welfare and foreign aid practices bear out the increasingly disciplinary nature of the administration and objectification of the poor, both within the United States and internationally.
The Biopolitics of Ordoliberalism (Thomas Biebricher)
Description: This article examines the biopolitical dimension in ordoliberal thought using Wilhelm Röpke and Alexander Rüstow as exemplary figures of this tradition. Based on an explication of various biopolitical themes that can be extracted from Foucault’s writings and lectures the article argues that these biopolitical themes, although rarely touched on in Foucault’s lectures on ordoliberal governmentality, nevertheless constitute an integral aspect of the thought of Röpke and Rüstow. From the regulation of the population through the strategic lever of the family to the organicist concerns over the health of the social body, biopolitical themes pervade the socio-economic theories of ordoliberalism. The article suggests that critical evaluations of the ordoliberal approach to political economy, which has been gaining ground again in the aftermath of the financial crisis, should take into account the biopolitical–and rather illiberal–dimension of this approach as well.
Number 13, May 2012
Editorial (Various Authors)
Various Pieces from the Issue:
Accounting, Territorialization and Power (Andrea Mennicken and Peter Miller)
Description: This essay aims to introduce readers to the social studies of accounting, attending in particular to the roles and relevance of Foucault’s works for this field. We provide a brief overview of social studies of accounting, discuss recent developments in Foucault oriented accounting scholarship, and position the articles that appear in this special issue in the context of these developments. In the concluding section, we argue that accounting is an inherently territorializing activity. The calculative instruments of accountancy transform not only the possibilities for personhood, they also construct the physical and abstract calculable spaces that individuals inhabit. A focus on territorializing shifts attention to the links between calculating and governing.
The Subject of Retirement (Cameron Graham)
Description: This paper examines the ”subject of retirement,” one of the most intimate governmental technologies of our present. It extends Read’s argument regarding Foucault’s views on neoliberalism, by providing explicit examples of the technologies of neoliberal government. Read drew attention to the intensification of governmentality by which neoliberalism has operated, and its pervasion into every aspect of society as the individual-as-citizen is transformed into the individual-as-entrepreneur. By examining the Canadian retirement income system, this paper provides a specific example of accounting as a tool of governmentality, a technology integral to neoliberalism’s regime of truth and its production of subjectivity.
Accounting and the Making of Homo Liberalis (Caroline Lambert and Eric Pezet)
Description: This paper investigates the practices whereby the subject, in an organisational context, carries out systematic practices of self-discipline and becomes a calculative self. In particular, we explore the techniques of conduct developed by management accountants in a French carmaker, which adheres to a neoliberal environment. We show how these management accountants become calculative selves by building the very measurement of their own performance. The organisation thereby emerges as the cauldron in which a Homo liberalis is forged. Homo liberalis is the individual capable of constructing for him/her the political self-discipline establishing his/her relationship with the social world on the basis of measurable performance. The management accountants studied in this article prefigure the Homo liberalis in the self-discipline they develop to act in compliance with the organisation’s goals.
Governing and Calculating Everyday Dress (Ingrid Jeacle)
Description: Drawing on Foucault’s governmentality thesis, together with the insightful lens offered by Miller and Rose’s seminal work “Governing Economic Life,” this paper suggests that the ‘quick response’ initiatives deployed by contemporary fashion chains to address the problem of ‘fast fashion,’ are illustrative examples of technologies for governing economic life. The meticulous recording and the minute surveillance regimes of the apparatus of quick response, renders the phenomenon of fast fashion knowable and administrable. Calculative technologies operate according to a normalising process that separates the fashionable from the unfashionable. Calculative practices also perpetuate the phenomenon of fast fashion by facilitating the faster flow of both product and information. In so doing, they both construct and sustain mass fashion.
The Truths We Tell Ourselves: Foucault on Parrhesia (Zacharia Simpson)
Description: Michel Foucault’s later concept of parrhesia presents a number of potential interpretive problems with respect to his work as a whole and his conception of truth. This article presents an alternative reading of parrhesia, which develops its concept through Foucault’s earlier pronouncements on truth and fiction. Seen this way, parrhesia becomes a means whereby one enacts useful fictions within the context of one’s life. As a practice, which demands self-mastery, orientation towards truth, and a command of one’s life, parrhesia becomes crucial to an aesthetics of existence.
Foucault’s ‘German Moment’: Genealogy of a Disjuncture (Matthew G. Hannah)
Description: Foucault’s lectures from early 1979 on the German Ordo-liberalen are typically taken to comprise his most comprehensive account of why Germany is important for understanding neo-liberal governmentality more broadly. This paper argues, to the contrary, that the 1979 lectures actually obscure a potentially more complete account of German, neo-liberal governmentality Foucault had begun to sketch in 1977. To support this reading and to offer an explanation of why Foucault would have decided to alter his presentation of West German neo-liberalism, the paper undertakes a genealogy of Foucault’s involvement with West German political issues in 1977 and 1978. The core claims that structure the argument are as follows: (1) Key aspects of the “security state” that Foucault began to work out in 1977, must have been at least partly modeled on West German “militant” or “battle-ready” democracy; (2) Yet, in his 1979 lectures, there is no longer any trace of these repressive, extralegal dimensions; (3) This shift was motivated to a significant extent by his 1977 disagreement with Deleuze, Guattari, and others over whether the West German state of the late 1970s could be considered “fascist.” This concern to contest the accusation of fascism is carried forward in his 1979 lectures in a critique of “state phobia.”
Foucault Among the Classicists, Again (Brenden Boyle)
Description: Foucault’s posthumously-published late work on epimeleia heautou might inaugurate a new partnership between classicists and Foucault. This work, however, has been misconstrued in recent classical scholarship, an important instance of which I consider here. I remedy the errors of one of Foucault’s classical interpreters; diagnose the reasons for the errors; and briefly suggest the transformative potential of Foucault’s work for students of antiquity.
Number 14, September 2012
Editorial (Various Authors)
Various Pieces from the Issue:
Foucault’s Ironies and the Important Earnestness of Theory (Mark D. Jordan)
Description: Foucault’s History of Sexuality 1 cannot be understood without sustained attention to its ironies, which are written into every level from diction to structure. The little book does not intend to deliver a theory, queer or otherwise. It means rather to display and then to frustrate the desire for theory—especially when it comes to sexuality.
Foucault and Sedgwick: The Repressive Hypothesis Revisited (Lynne Huffer)
Description: This essay examines the Foucauldian foundations of queer theory in the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. The essay argues that Sedgwick’s increasing disappointment with Foucault’s critique of the repressive hypothesis is in part produced by the slippery rhetoric of The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Specifically, Foucault’s use of free indirect discourse in that volume destabilizes both the theory of repression and the critique Foucault mounts against it, thereby rendering ambiguous any political promise his critique might seem to offer. Returning to the fraught relation between Foucault and Sedgwick, the essay concludes by reading Foucault and Sedgwick together through the lens of a reparative ethics in which the felt experience of knowing the world is also an experiment in new ways of living.
Empire and the Dispositif of Queerness (Robert Nichols)
Description: Thinkers heavily indebted to Foucault—such as Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, Jodi Melamed and Jasbir Puar—are at the fore of a contemporary interrogation of queerness and racialized empire. This paper critically surveys this terrain, differentiates several strands of it, and attempts a theoretical reframing such that we may be better equipped to gain new vantage on the central problematic. I argue that the current conviviality of queerness and empire is best understood not only through a univocal ‘homonationist’ lens, but also requires situating in the context of multiple languages of civilizational superiority and liberal tolerance. In particular, it requires the deployment of arguments about the ‘benchmark of civilization,’ in which whole societies are ranked along a unilinear trajectory of development according to standards set by the most powerful among them. One relatively recent addition to the criteria of civilizational adjudication is the capacity of societies to ‘tolerate’ new forms of societal difference. In this case, I argue, the most important of these are the strange pairing of sexual and religious dispositifs.
Queer Economies (Ladelle McWhorter)
Description: Queer defies categorization and resists preset developmental trajectories. Practices of queering identities emerged near the end of the twentieth century as ways of resisting normalizing networks of power/knowledge. But how effective are queer practices at resisting networks of power/knowledge (including disciplines) that are not primarily normalizing in their functioning? This essay raises that question in light of expanding neoliberal discourses and institutions which, in some quarters at least, themselves undermine normalized identities in favor of a proliferation of personal styles susceptible to governance through market forces. Special attention is given to Security, Territory, Population and The Birth of Biopolitics in this analysis.
The Queer Thing about Neoliberal Pleasure: A Foucauldian Warning (Shannon Winnubst)
Description: Through a careful reading of Foucault’s 1979 lectures on neoliberalism alongside Volumes 1 and 2 of The History of Sexuality, I argue that scholarship on both neoliberalism and queer theory should heed Foucault’s framing of both neoliberalism and sexuality as central to biopolitics. I thus offer two correctives to these fields of scholarship: for scholarship on neoliberalism, I locate a way to address the ethical bankruptcy of neoliberalism in a manner that Marxist analyses fail to provide; for scholarship in queer theory, I warn that the longstanding embrace of non-conformity as a mode of resistance to normalization is suspiciously neoliberal. I conclude with the possibility of rehabilitating the concept of jouissance as a non-fungible limit to the enterprising rationality of neoliberalism that, if historicized and especially racialized, might offer a meaningful response to the increasing ethical collapse wrought by the neoliberalization of our lives.
Neosocial Market Economy (Frieder Vogelmann)
Description: Although the governmentality literature has occasionally acknowledged the importance of the concept of a liberal truth-regime, there has never been a thorough investigation of the role it plays in Foucault’s governmentality lectures. Therefore, this paper begins with an examination of the lectures’ “archaeological dimension” that leads to two claims: First, it shows that the crucial conceptual tool in the lectures is the question about the relation to truth that a particular political rationality possesses. Only by looking at the changing truth-regimes of the liberal governmentalities will their differences and continuities come into full contrast. The article’s second claim is that this conceptually sharpened understanding of the political rationalities is required for a diagnosis of the present, which reveals that today’s dominant governmentality is no longer neo-liberalism but a new liberal rationality: neosocial market economy.
Description: Michel Foucault is known for his critiques of the intertwinement of empirical knowledge, perception and experience, and power. Within this general framework, this article focuses on a fairly unnoticed text of Foucault’s: his 1962 Introduction to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Dialogues. The article shows that Foucault’s Introduction is central for more than one reason: Firstly, it is apparently the first piece, in which Foucault focuses in detail on confession as an individualizing mode of power and truth-utterance. Secondly, in this text, Foucault treats confession as an empirical, sensual and affective form of power. Thirdly, in this early text, Foucault presents what can be called his critique of phonocentrism, i.e., of the interrelated centrality of voice, hearing, authenticity and “presence.” We find out that Foucault elaborated this critique (from the starting point of his archaeology of knowledge), already before Jacques Derrida introduced the actual term “phonocentrism,” and made it generally known. Finally, we will see that Foucault’s seminal 1970s genealogies of confession, sexuality and pastoral power revisit as well as revise the earlier insights discovered in the Introduction.
Description: In this paper I focus on the emergence of the concept of the “historical a priori” at the origin of Foucault’s archeology. I emphasize the methodological function of this concept within Foucault’s archaeology, and I maintain that despite the different thesis it entails as compared to its philosophical sources, it pertains to one of the main issues of phenomenology, that is, the problematization of the relation between reality as it appears in its historicity, and transcendentality. I start from the interest of the young Foucault in existential psychiatry, and I focus on the French philosophical context in which Foucault’s Introduction to Ludwig Binswanger’s “Dream and Existence” (1954) was conceived. My aim is to show that the first “phenomenological” phase of Foucault’s work is coherent, from a methodological point of view, with the development of archaeology intended as “historical epistemology.” I conclude by arguing that Foucault’s archaeology is methodologically linked to Canguilhem’s epistemology, in that the latter presents itself as an important attempt at linking together historicity and transcendentality.#Foucault #Neoliberalism #Biopower #Capitalism #Governmentality #Queer Theory #Gender #Sexuality #Ethics #Economics #Race #Racism #Power #Politics #Theory #Philosophy #Boipolitics #Dispositif #Rousseau