Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Emanuele Leonardi, Review of Dardot & Laval’s The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society, Theory Culture & Society, Nov 13, 2014

Link to full review

The review highlights how the new book by Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval can be interpreted as a twofold contribution. On the one hand, it represents much-needed commentary to the lectures delivered by Michel Foucault at the Collège de France in 1978/1979, entitled Birth of Biopolitics. On the other one, it provides a compelling analysis of neoliberal governmentality in the era of capitalist financialization – which is also the epoch of a fully deployed crisis of Fordism. Whereas in the first part the authors elaborate a multifaceted and plural image of liberalism and a convincing reading of the emergence of neoliberal rationality, the second section assembles a critical genealogy of ‘entrepreneural governance’. This latter refers to a ‘neo-subject’ which functions according to a regime of ‘jouissance of oneself’ – whose deployment accounts for the incorporation of the shareholder logic and for the self-entrepreneur’s socio-clinical pathologies.

Keywords: Entrepreneural governance, Foucault, Liberalism, Neoliberalism, Neo-subject.

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Review by A. Janae Sholtz of Marcelo Hoffman, Foucault and Power: The Influence of Political Engagement on Theories of Power, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2014.09.25

Hoffman makes several signature claims. As his central thesis, he proposes the relationship between Foucault’s political and militant activities and his analysis of power as a dialectic interplay, which provides a more refined and discriminate view of the various permutations of power throughout the development of Foucault’s philosophy. The book consists of a detailed examination of the different models of power identified by Foucault (war and governmental) and an analysis of the interrelations between the different modalities of power (disciplinary, biopolitical and governmental) as they relate to specific instances of activism and desire for militant intervention. Hoffman clearly challenges readings of Foucault that demarcate his thinking according to the break with one theory of power in lieu of another. Hoffman conducts a nuanced and precise study of how subsequent iterations of power bear the residuals of predecessor accounts or are informed by them in significant ways. Thus he proposes a continuum where conceptions of power bleed into one another rather than operate as discontinuous breaks.

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MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Blackhat’: Techno-thriller hacks into Michael Mann’s directorial signatures, By Peter Suderman — Special to The Washington Times – – Friday, January 16, 2015

The cinematic world of Michael Mann, the director behind “Heat,” “Collateral,” “The Insider” and “Miami Vice,” might look more or less like ours on the surface, but in fact it’s an alternate universe with unique rules and customs.

It’s a world in which the top three buttons of any men’s shirt are useless and designer sunglasses are always at hand. It’s a world of ultramodern architecture and eerie neon urban vistas, a world in which no human ever says “hello” or “goodbye” while on the telephone, and in which the most powerful form of communication between two individuals is the glower, the glance, the look that is at one mysterious and perfectly telling.


The alpha-hacker at the center of it all is Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), a convict with the legendary ability to penetrate practically any computer security system. When we first encounter him, he’s in prison, listening to high-end headphones and reading Foucault. He wears his hair long, in a lionlike blonde mane, and his biceps look like chiseled marble. He gets into trouble with the prison guards. Then he does some push-ups, just because.

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Michel Foucault, Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling: The Function of Avowal in Justice, Fabienne Brion and Bernard E. Harcourt (eds.), Stephen W. Sawyer (tr.), University of Chicago Press, 2014, 344pp., $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780226257709.

Reviewed by Todd May, Clemson University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 13 January 2015

This volume consists of six lectures, preceded by an inaugural lecture and followed by three interviews, that Michel Foucault delivered in 1981 at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium at the request of its School of Criminology. That fact has bearing on the lectures themselves. In these lectures (six of which were transcribed from videotapes, and the inaugural lecture from the manuscript), Foucault offers a rough genealogy of practices of what in French is called aveu, and is translated here as avowal.[1] Near the end of the final lecture, Foucault considers the role of avowal in recent penal practices, and it is clear that his interest is in good part giving an account of how avowal came to have the place it does in those practices.

For those who have read the recently released Collège de France lectures On the Government of the Living, some of the material will be familiar. Other parts harken back to Foucault’s first Collège de France presentations, Lectures on the Will to Know. However, the structure of these lectures is, to my mind, unique in Foucault’s corpus. Rather than focusing on a period of several hundred years, as was his normal practice, he covers a broad sweep from Homeric Greece to the present. In that sense, the Louvain lectures are not a genealogy in the sense many of us have come to identify in Foucault’s work. Rather than showing how the intersection of particular practices give rise to something that had not previously existed (madness, sexuality, the normal, etc.), the lectures trace changes over nearly three millenia in the way subjectivity was constituted in particular practices through the changing nature of avowal. As with his standard genealogies, Foucault is interested here in the relation of subjectivity and truth. Moreover, that interest is focused on the way certain forms of subjectivity are constituted by certain practices of truth. However, whereas in other works the focus is on the emergence of those forms of subjectivity as historical novelties, here the focus is on the changing nature of a particular type of practice: that of avowing. To put the point another way, whereas in the genealogies the focus is on new emergences, in the Louvain lectures it is on the evolving character of a particular practice.

[1] The editors note that they prefer the term avowal to the more commonly used confession, since the former has a wider use, which better reflects the variety of uses in the lectures.


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Jamie Melrose. Foucault’s archaeology: science and transformation, Review of Foucault’s archaeology: science and transformation , by David Webb, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2013, 181 pp., £65 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-7486-2421-8, Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, December 2014


Extract from review

At root, David Webb’s Foucault’s Archaeology: Science and Transformation is an attempt to firm up ‘commonplace’ (Dews 1995, 39) claims about Michel Foucault’s association with the history of science. Webb has set out to ensure Foucault’s notion of archaeology in The Archaeology of Knowledge (AoK) is put in its proper intellectual context. He contends that Foucault should be unambiguously placed alongside thinkers in the French tradition of the history of science (or historical epistemology) such as the pioneering figure of Gaston Bachelard and the philosophers of science and mathematics, Jean Cavaillès and Michel Serres. Through a close reading, Webb propounds that AoK is a specific response to a problematic present in Bachelard, Cavaillès and Serres, and acknowledged by Foucault at the end of AoK‘s precursor The Order of Things (1966): how does one move beyond ‘the impasse in which thinking had been caught in modernity … the disappearance of man’ (7–11). How should man’s finitude affect critical inquiry?
In Foucault’s Archaeology, Webb gets right to it. Structurally, the book starts with a background section, spelling out AoK‘s link to Bachelard, Cavaillès and Serres, before Webb comments on AoK chapter by chapter. He then provides a concise closing remarks section. Foucault’s Archaeology is mainly exposition, so familiarity with AoK is somewhat expected, as well as an acquaintance with Heidegger, who pops up at regular intervals in the book. Indeed, more so than Foucault’s three compatriots, it is arguably Heidegger who is writ largest throughout Foucault’s Archaeology. There are several points of consideration of the relationship of Heidegger’s phenomenology to Foucault’s discursive account of historical experience (9 and 10, 34–37, 114–116). Webb notes the overlaps (and differences) between Heidegger’s temporal but primary ontology and Foucault’s account of the temporal but fundamentally constitutive discursive rendering up of the intelligible. Webb’s phraseology is also quite involved in Foucault’s Archaeology. It makes no concession to idioms other than those of Foucault, Bachelard, Cavaillès, Serres or Heidegger.

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Foucault and Neoliberalism AUFS Event: Gordon Hull – Why Foucault is Still Helpful on Neoliberalism, An und für sich blog, January 3, 2015

The conceptual core of Daniel Zamora’s “Can We Criticize Foucault,” in which he argues that Foucault’s late writings end up advocating the same things neoliberalism does, seems to me to be the proposal that Foucault “seemed to imagine a neoliberalism that wouldn’t project its anthropological models on the individual, that would offer individuals greater autonomy vis-à-vis the state.” In a follow-up piece, Zamora concludes that Foucault “doesn’t advocate neoliberalism, but he adopts all of its critiques of the welfare state.” That’s clearly a problem, though I am aware that I’ve got the benefit of a generation of hindsight about neoliberalism. I also don’t know many of the writings in question, and so I’m reluctant to say anything about the (for lack of better terms) sociological and biographical questions at play.

However, I have no trouble saying that if Foucault thought neoliberalism wouldn’t project its models of subjectivity onto individuals, he was mistaken. I’m also not sure he (consistently) thought that: the Birth of Biopolitics lectures emphasized that one of the main innovations of neoliberalism over classical liberalism was precisely the awareness that markets weren’t natural, and had to be nurtured by the state (Bernard Harcourt underscores the point here), and he emphasizes entrepreneurship of the self as a neoliberal vision of subjectivity. Whatever he thought about social welfare programs, phrasing things this way allows us to focus on the important question: Foucault says that “writing only interests me to the extent that it is incorporated into the reality of a battle.” Does Foucault’s writing offer any weapons against neoliberalism, even if he didn’t realize it?

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Mini-Series on Foucault and Neoliberalism: Responses to Zamora
An und für sich blog, Monday, December 22, 2014 — Mark William Westmoreland

Around the New Year, AUFS will be hosting a 4 day mini-series on Foucault and neoliberalism. What precisely is Foucault’s relationship with neoliberalism, particularly as expressed in Foucault’s writings/lectures on governmentality and biopolitics? In some ways, this is an old question; but, new answers have emerged, namely with Daniel Zamora’s recent contributions to Jacobin. Our tentative list of contributors includes Verena Erlenbusch (Memphis), Gordon Hull (UNCC), Thomas Nail (Denver), and Johanna Oksala (Helsinki).

For those unfamiliar with this particular topic, you may want to take a look at the following: Stuart Elden 1, Stuart Elden, 2, Foucault News, WP: Why Foucault is a libertarian‘s best friend, and Foucault and Becker (an older piece).

Editor: Here is the first article in the series

Foucault and Neoliberalism AUFS Event: Verena Erlenbusch – Neoliberalism and the Genealogy of Biopolitics
An und für sich blog Friday, January 2, 2015

Daniel Zamora’s edited volume Critiquer Foucault: Les années 1980 et la tentation néolibérale (Criticizing Foucault: The 1980s and the neoliberal temptation), published in November 2014 with Éditions Aden, has been hotly debated over the past few weeks on the philosophical blogosphere. My contribution to the conversation here has two main purposes. First, since the volume will remain unavailable for English readers until later in 2015, I want to give a brief overview of the chapters assembled by Zamora. Second, I’d like to offer some thoughts on an aspect that appears to me to be largely absent from discussions of Foucault’s relationship with neoliberalism, namely the hermeneutical salience of Foucault’s methodology. This is to say that Zamora et al.’s failure to engage Foucault’s methodology leads to a very specific reading, a misreading to my mind, of Foucault’s project. As opposed to their interpretation of Foucault as interested in the political claims made by neoliberals, I suggest that Foucault is concerned with the production of neoliberalism as a regime of truth (thanks to Andrew Dilts for his helpful comments here).

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