Turner, S.
Not So Radical Historicism
(2015) Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 45 (2), pp. 246-257.

DOI: 10.1177/0048393114531372

Mark Bevir raises the question of how genealogy, understood as a technique-based radical historicism, and the notion of the contingency of ideas, ground “critique.” His problem is to avoid the relativism of radical historicism in a way that allows for “critique” without appealing to non-radical historicist absolutisms of the kind that ground the notion of false consciousness. He does so by appealing to the notion of motivated irrationality, which he claims avoids the problem of relativism and the problems of “false consciousness.” The genealogies of Nietzsche and Foucault, however, do not ground “critique.” The relevant normative judgments, of nobility in Nietzsche, for example, are presupposed. © The Author(s) 2014.

Author Keywords
critical theory; Foucault; genealogy; Mark Bevir; Nietzsche

Phillips, K.R.
The Event of Dissension: Reconsidering the Possibilities of Dissent
(2015) Quarterly Journal of Speech, 101 (1), pp. 60-71.

DOI: 10.1080/00335630.2015.994899

Dissent emerges out of unique prior conditions in which the coherence of dominant discourses is momentarily opened for contest. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, these conditions are conceptualized through the internal gaps and contradictions within dominant discourse—spaces of dissension—and the singular historical circumstances of the Event of dissension. The unique possibilities opened up in the Event of dissension include the prospects for a kind of critical contemplation on the conditions of the present, which Foucault defines as thought. The prospects for thoughtful dissent are considered. © 2015, © 2015 National Communication Association.

Author Keywords
Dissension; Dissent; Event; Foucault; Thought

Terry Eagleton, The Slow Death of the University, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 April 2015

Editor’s note: My excuse for posting this excellent analysis of the parlous state of the contemporary university, which readers of this blog who are employed by universities will no doubt recognise only too well, is that Eagleton does in fact refer to Foucault in an elegant alliterative passage (see below after the introductory paragraphs). The article is hidden behind a subscription paywall, but you could try a google search of the title to see what’s out there if you don’t have access to a subsription.

A few years ago, I was being shown around a large, very technologically advanced university in Asia by its proud president. As befitted so eminent a personage, he was flanked by two burly young minders in black suits and shades, who for all I knew were carrying Kalashnikovs under their jackets. Having waxed lyrical about his gleaming new business school and state-of-the-art institute for management studies, the president paused to permit me a few words of fulsome praise. I remarked instead that there seemed to be no critical studies of any kind on his campus. He looked at me bemusedly, as though I had asked him how many Ph.D.’s in pole dancing they awarded each year, and replied rather stiffly “Your comment will be noted.” He then took a small piece of cutting-edge technology out of his pocket, flicked it open and spoke a few curt words of Korean into it, probably “Kill him.” A limousine the length of a cricket pitch then arrived, into which the president was bundled by his minders and swept away. I watched his car disappear from view, wondering when his order for my execution was to be implemented.

This happened in South Korea, but it might have taken place almost anywhere on the planet. From Cape Town to Reykjavik, Sydney to São Paulo, an event as momentous in its own way as the Cuban revolution or the invasion of Iraq is steadily under way: the slow death of the university as a center of humane critique. Universities, which in Britain have an 800-year history, have traditionally been derided as ivory towers, and there was always some truth in the accusation. Yet the distance they established between themselves and society at large could prove enabling as well as disabling, allowing them to reflect on the values, goals, and interests of a social order too frenetically bound up in its own short-term practical pursuits to be capable of much self-criticism. Across the globe, that critical distance is now being diminished almost to nothing, as the institutions that produced Erasmus and John Milton, Einstein and Monty Python, capitulate to the hard-faced priorities of global capitalism.


As professors are transformed into managers, so students are converted into consumers. Universities fall over one another in an undignified scramble to secure their fees. Once such customers are safely within the gates, there is pressure on their professors not to fail them, and thus risk losing their fees. The general idea is that if the student fails, it is the professor’s fault, rather like a hospital in which every death is laid at the door of the medical staff. One result of this hot pursuit of the student purse is the growth of courses tailored to whatever is currently in fashion among 20-year-olds. In my own discipline of English, that means vampires rather than Victorians, sexuality rather than Shelley, fanzines rather than Foucault, the contemporary world rather than the medieval one. It is thus that deep-seated political and economic forces come to shape syllabuses. Any English department that focused its energies on Anglo-Saxon literature or the 18th century would be cutting its own throat.

With thanks to Stuart Elden at Progressive Geographies for this news

van Drenth, A. Sensorial experiences and childhood: nineteenth-century care for children with idiocy (2015) Paedagogica Historica, 19 p. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1080/00309230.2015.1019711

Following Foucault’s analysis of expanding psychiatric power, this article addresses the shift from psychiatry into pedagogy in interventions concerning children with mental problems in the nineteenth century. The aims of this article are twofold. First, to answer the question of how the notion of “idiocy” developed in the context of an increasing interest in sensorial experiences in childhood, in relation to both psychopathology and “normalcy”. New research into the early nineteenth-century case of the “wild boy of Aveyron” reveals the importance of care in the first observations of the boy and the connection that was subsequently made with sensorial experiences in childhood and child development. In the wake of the work of Enlightenment alienists such as Pinel and Itard, Edouard Séguin constructed an educational trajectory for children with mental impairments in which, through strict pedagogical guidance, the lack of “will” would be restored by stimulating the senses. The second aim is to examine the case of the first autonomous school for “idiotic” children in The Netherlands. Following the “praxeography” approach, I focus on the interventions by the Reverend Cornelis van Koetsveld, who shaped his “cure by education” through training the senses in children with problems.

Author Keywords
childhood; disability history; idiocy; praxeography; sensorial experiences; special education

Animé par Jean-François Braunstein et Daniele Lorenzini

Samedi 18 avril 2015, 10h30 – 12h30

Judith REVEL (Université Paris-Ouest Nanterre)
“Foucault avec Merleau-Ponty : une ontologie politique”

Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
UFR de philosophie
17 rue de la Sorbonne, Escalier C, 1er étage droite, salle Lalande


Clare O'Farrell:

Another contribution to the debate. With thanks to Stuart Elden at Progressive geographies for this news.

Originally posted on sanshistory:


“Economics is therefore not the analysis of processes; it is the analysis of an activity. So it is no longer the analysis of the historical logic of processes; it is the analysis of internal rationality, the strategic programming of individuals’ activity” (Foucault, M. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979)

Late in 2014 an interview was conducted at Jacobin entitled “Can We Criticize Foucault?”, wherein sociologist Daniel Zamora posits that the late French philosopher – and subsequently rather a sacred cow in plenty of leftist circles – had in the last years of his life reconciled his own perspectives, to a previously unacknowledged degree, with the project of neoliberalism. The interview itself was related to the impending English translation of Critiquer Foucault: Les années 1980 et la tentation néolibérale, a collection of essays on the topic. Considering that the interview was necessarily a…

View original 1,660 more words

brownWendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, Zone Books, 2015

Political Science | Philosophy
$29.95 | £20.05 cloth 978-1-935408-53-6
296 pp. | 6 x 8
Available January 2015
Zone books
Also available from MIT Press

Neoliberal rationality — ubiquitous today in statecraft and the workplace, in jurisprudence, education, and culture — remakes everything and everyone in the image of homo oeconomicus. What happens when this rationality transposes the constituent elements of democracy into an economic register? In vivid detail, Wendy Brown explains how democracy itself is imperiled. The demos disintegrates into bits of human capital; concerns with justice cede to the mandates of growth rates, credit ratings, and investment climates; liberty submits to the imperative of human capital appreciation; equality dissolves into market competition; and popular sovereignty grows incoherent. Liberal democratic practices may not survive these transformations. Radical democratic dreams may not either.

In an original and compelling theoretical argument, Brown explains how and why neoliberal reason undoes the political form and political imaginary it falsely promises to secure and reinvigorate. Through meticulous analyses of neoliberalized law, political practices, governance, and education, she charts the new common sense. Undoing the Demos makes clear that, far from being the lodestar of the twenty-first century, a future for democracy depends upon it becoming an object of struggle and rethinking.

“Wendy Brown’s new book, Undoing the Demos, is a clarion call to democratic action. In close conversation with Michel Foucault’s 1979 lectures on The Birth of Biopolitics, Brown brilliantly explores how the rationality of neoliberalism is hollowing out the modern subject and, with it, our contemporary liberal democracies. Delving deep into the logic of neoliberalism and widely across the spectrum of neoliberal practices, from benchmarking to higher education policy, Brown offers a compelling new dimension to the critical work on neoliberalism. It is necessary reading today — powerful and haunting.”  — Bernard E. Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia University and Directeur d’études, École des hautes études en sciences sociales

“With this passionately incisive critique of neoliberal (ir)rationality, Wendy Brown delineates the political stakes of the present. Tracing its antipolitical and antidemocratic impulses, she challenges us to defend and extend the possibilities of a popular politics that makes the promises of democracy come true.”  — John Clarke, Professor Emeritus of Social Policy, The Open University

“This is a book for the age of resistance, for the occupiers of the squares, for the generation of Occupy Wall Street. The premier radical political philosopher of our time offers a devastating critique of the way neoliberalism has hollowed out democracy. But the victory of homo oeconomicus over homo politicus is not irreversible. Wendy Brown has little time for ‘left melancholy.’ Hers is a call to arms for the defense of the enlightenment principles of freedom, equality, and solidarity and for reimagining and deepening democracy. After reading Brown, only bad faith can justify the toleration of neoliberalism.”  — Costas Douzinas, Director of the Birkbeck institute for the Humanities and author of Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis

“Wendy Brown vividly lays bare neoliberalism’s perverse rationality, the ‘economization of everything,’ documenting its corrosive consequences for public institutions, for solidaristic values, and for democracy itself. Essential but unsettling reading, Undoing the Demos is analytically acute and deeply disturbing.”  — Jamie Peck, author of Constructions of Neoliberal Reason

“Brown deepens the conceptual analysis and criticism of neoliberal ideology, now on the point of becoming the dominant way people think about themselves, their lives and their social world. In illuminating detail, she also discusses the real and horrifying social changes taking place partly as a result of the way in which this ideology is being implemented. A major contribution, presenting its arguments with power and clarity, this book helps us understand the world we have increasingly been forced to live in, and to begin the process of thinking about what might be done to revitalize our political imagination and practices.”  — Raymond Geuss, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Cambridge


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