Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Behrouz Ghamari – Foucault, Spirituality, And The Perils Of Universal History, Paper delivered at the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism, July 2015
mp3 for download

Response by Jorge Daniel Vásquez and Megan Eardley

The beginning of Friday’s session was marked by a radical commitment to putting the analysis of religion within a framework that addresses “happiness” in its political and revolutionary dimensions. Behrooz Ghamari raised questions concerning limits and the moving boundaries between history and memory as he reflected on his experience as part of the organizational process of the Iranian Revolution. Addressing the personal interest that Michel Foucault had in Shiite Islam (its rituals and legal practices) and his theoretical writing on the revolution in Iran (1978-1979), Ghamari argued that Foucault’s readers need to understand the characteristic ambiguity of the political process alongside an analysis of revolutionary religious expression. He reveals a Foucault for whom religion is a space in which the popular imagination is formed— both in the policy of the Iranian Revolution and in the Carter administration in the United States. The ambiguity that is engendered by revolutionary religious claims may open a space through and in which teleological thinking might be transgressed.

Foucault arrived in Iran a week after the “Black Friday” massacre, when even the death of more than two hundred protestors, shot down from helicopters, could not stop people from their revolution. Foucault’s presence in Iran can serve as an anchor for understanding his thinking about the history and the subject (i.e. the history of the present – its reinvention, the ambiguity that it produces) that is configured through a political spirituality: the subject is ‘entirely’ wrapped in a History that is not determined, but becomes a particular form of self-production, keeping the subject in a constant search for that is worth defending even beyond one’s own life. Thus, the analysis of the ‘politics of spirituality’ is located far from the reduction of revolutionary religious expression to an “archaic fascism.” On the contrary, it gives way to an important analytical challenge; to consider the religious-political phenomenon in its completely modern sense (reflecting on the relationship between different spheres in which the subject is produced). This analytical move allows Ghamari to return to questions surrounding the murder of the cartoonists of the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the “Arab Spring” beyond the Manichaeism of the freedom of expression as universalized value or Enlightened anti-Islam. To take the analysis further, we might echo some of the questions raised in the debate.

In the global geopolitical context, to what extent is the analysis of the Arab Spring articulated in the same terms as Foucault’s analysis of the Iranian Revolution? What is the relationship between the specter (the ghost of the Iranian Revolution) and the ways we engage with revolution as either as a rupturing event or as an inheritance? Another entry would be to think about Foucault and the Iranian Revolution alongside the way Susan Buck-Morss thinks about the abstraction of the Haitian Revolution in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

The talk also opened possibilities of imagining a confluence of political spirituality and a political reading of the eschatological tension of St. Paul’s theology. Is a return to Saint Paul—and the tension between the now and the to-come—an attempt to take us out of the teleological prison of modern thought? What are Foucault’s links with theoretical Orientalism and how can an event like the Iranian Revolution be read not as a ‘break’ in Foucault’s thought but as a radicalization of the project which is manifested in his College de France seminars since 1977?

Jorge Daniel Vásquez Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Ecuador and Megan Eardley Princeton University School of Architecture

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New Issue of Foucault Studies
Number 20: December 2015: Civil Society

All articles open access


 Table of Contents


Editorial PDF
Sverre Raffnsøe et al. 1-3

Special Issue on Civil Society

Introductory Note: Foucault and Civil Society PDF
Miikka Pyykkönen 4-7
Liberalism, Governmentality and Counter-Conduct; An Introduction to Foucauldian Analytics of Liberal Civil Society Notions PDF
Miikka Pyykkönen 8-35
Foucault, Ferguson, and civil society PDF
Samantha Ashenden 36-51
Haunted by the Rebellion of the Poor: Civil Society and the Racialized Problem of the (Non-)economic Subject PDF
Anna Selmeczi 52-75
Civil Society and Biopolitics in Contemporary Russia: The Case of Russian “Daddy-Schools” PDF
Pelle Åberg 76-95
Civil Society Organizations and Care of the Self: An Ethnographic Case Study on Emancipation and Participation in Drug Treatment PDF
Riikka Perälä 96-115

Section in collaboration with Foucault Circle

Introduction PDF
Margaret McLaren, Dianna Taylor 116-121
Foucault’s Fossils: Life Itself and the Return to Nature in Feminist Philosophy PDF
Lynne Huffer 122-141
Foucault, Laughter, and Gendered Normalization PDF
Emily R. Douglas 142-154
Against Totalitarianism: Agamben, Foucault, and the Politics of Critique PDF
C. Heike Schotten 155-179


“Is power always secondary to the economy?” Foucault and Adorno on Power and Exchange PDF
Deborah Cook 180-198
Academic Subjectivities: Governmentality and Self-Development in Higher Education PDF
Fabian Cannizzo 199-217
Technologies of the Other: Renewing ‘empathy’ between Foucault and psychoanalysis. PDF
Andrea Lobb 218-235

Review Symposium

Introduction to Review Symposium: On Government of the Living PDF
Alan Milchman, Alan Rosenberg 236-242
The Christian Art of Being Governed PDF
Colin Gordon 243-265
Foucault’s On the Government of the Living PDF
David Konstan 266-276
“Spiritual Gymnastics”: Reflections on Michel Foucault’s On the Government of the Living 1980 Collège de France lectures PDF
Jeremy Carrette 277-290

Review Essay

Foucault’s Flirt? Neoliberalism, the Left and the Welfare State; a Commentary on La dernière leçon de Michel Foucault and Critiquer Foucault PDF
Magnus Paulsen Hansen 291-306

Book Reviews

Marcelo Hoffman, Foucault and Power: The Influence of Political Engagement on Theories of Power (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2014), i-ix, 1-221, hb $120.00 (US), ISBN: 9781441180940 PDF
Ben Golder 307-311
Keith Ansell-Pearson (ed.), Nietzsche and Political Thought (New York: NY: Bloomsbury, 2013), 256, $120, ISBN: 978-1-4411-2933-8. PDF
Eric Guzzi 312-316
Warren Montag, Althusser and His Contemporaries: Philosophy’s Perpetual War (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013), 256pp., $23.95 pb ISBN: 978-0-8223-9904-9. PDF
Martin Paul Eve 317-319
Claudio Colaguori (ed.), Security, Life and Death: Governmentality and Biopower in the Post 9/11 Era (Whitby: De Sitter Publications, 2013), $39.00, ISBN: 978-1-897160-81-7 PDF
Carlos Torres 320-323
P. Cesaroni and S. Chignola (eds.), La forza del vero; Un seminario sui Corsi di Michel Foucault al Collège de France (1981-1984) (Verona: Ombre Corte, 2013), 7-179, € 15.00, ISBN: 978-88-97522-54-6 PDF
Giovanni Maria Mascaretti 324-328
Hutter, Horst, and Eli Friedland (eds.), Nietzsche’s Therapeutic Teaching for Individuals and Culture (New York: NY: Bloomsbury, 2013), 264 pp., $ 130, 978-1-4411-2533-0. PDF
Eric Guzzi 329-333
John Protevi, Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences (Minnesota: Minnesota University Press, 2013), Pagination, Price, ISBN: 978-0-8166-8102-0. PDF
Mohammad-Ali Rahebi 334-338


Editorial: Toolbox PDF
Sverre Raffnsøe et al. 339
The Uncollected Foucault PDF
Stuart Elden 340-353


Editorial: Exchanges PDF
Sverre Raffnsøe et al. 354-355
Neoliberalism, Governmentality, Ethnography: A Response to Michelle Brady PDF
Mitchell Dean 356-366
Neoliberalism, Governmentality, and Ethnography: A rejoinder PDF
Michelle Brady

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Rosie Smith, Book Review: Foucault’s ‘Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling’. The Sociological Imagination, 2015

Michel Foucault’s 1981 Louvain lecture series ‘Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling’ is a wonderfully insightful book. It provides a detailed examination of the role of truth-telling throughout antiquity and its development into a key stone of contemporary European juridical proceedings. Specifically, Foucault investigates, within the discourse of criminal law and criminal justice, the use of ‘avowal’ as a particular form of truth-telling; the process through which an individual identifies themselves as the criminal subject, rather than merely as the author of a crime. Foucault guides the reader through the history of truth-telling within society, how it is constructed and how it affects power, knowledge, and the subject. Using vivid historical, philosophical and literary examples, Foucault constructs a coherent genealogy of the subject (Brion and Bernard, 1981: 271), and how truth-telling aids individuals’ development of a sense of self. The lectures are delivered with great zeal and open a window onto Foucault’s own politicization, particularly his involvement with the French Maoist political party, Gauche Prolétarienne, during the early 1970s. In culmination the reader is provided with an impassioned analysis of “the points where the techniques of the self are integrated into structures of coercion or domination” (1981: 300).

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With thanks to Dave Beer for this news

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Sandrine Alexandre, Compte rendu : Arianna Sforzini : Michel Foucault, une pensée du corps, Actu Philosophia, 6 mars 2015

Plutôt qu’une véritable réflexion sur une « pensée du corps », une analyse de la thématique du corps chez Foucault

1. Le corps, les corps – un thème tout à la fois central chez Foucault mais peu étudié

L’ouvrage d’Arianna Sforzini [1] adopte le même principe que celui retenu chez Philippe Chevalier, Le pouvoir et la bataille dont on peut consulter ici la recension : aborder l’œuvre de Michel Foucault sous un angle particulier, relire l’ensemble de l’œuvre à travers une perspective particulière : en l’occurrence, la thématique du corps, qui conduit l’auteure à parler d’une « pensée du corps » comme en témoigne le titre de son ouvrage. De la même manière que pour l’ouvrage précédent, on est amenés à parcourir l’œuvre du philosophe et ses moments significatifs, tout en développant sur un thème en particulier que l’on entend interroger, questionner pour dire à son propos quelque chose de nouveau, quelque chose de neuf, quelque chose que Foucault lui-même n’aurait pas théorisé en tant que tel mais qui mérite de l’être et attend, pour ce faire, le critique attentif. Plus encore dans cet ouvrage que dans celui que l’on évoquait précédemment, l’auteure s’intéresse avec le corps à un objet qui n’est pas thématisé comme tel par Foucault, qui ne lui consacre aucun ouvrage en propre, tout en étant pourtant au cœur de sa réflexion et de l’ensemble de ses ouvrages et articles – ou presque. Pas sûr pourtant que cette thématique, centrale en effet, ait été aussi délaissée par les commentateurs qui se contenteraient de renvoyer bien platement et d’un trait de plume à la « bio-politique » ou à la « subjectivation » sans en dire grand chose.


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Re-reading Foucault: On Law, Power and Rights
Ben Golder, Editor
(New York: Routledge, 2013. 264 pages.)

Reviewed by—Irina Ceric, (Criminology Faculty member, Kwantlen Polytechnic University),
Vancouver, October 2014

Re-reading Foucault is an ambitious and mostly successful attempt to answer the question “Where is the law in Foucault and what has he done with it?” and the contributors’ creative responses demonstrate the breadth of the interdisciplinary analyses emerging in the wake of the translation of Foucault’s later lectures into English. The collection is dedicated to the “interpretive work of re-imagining law in, and through, Foucault’s work” but the key themes—the politics of rights, surveillance, biopolitics and Foucault’s gestures towards the juridical in his lectures on history, knowledge and power—reflect a broader orientation of likely interest to readers in disciplines other than law. To some extent, however, this potential is belied by the book’s initial focus on the so-called expulsion thesis, the notion that “Foucault had expelled law from any significant role in modernity.” Initially straying into the minutiae of the existing literature, the authors taking up the expulsion thesis ultimately succeed in locating this debate within the context of Foucault’s broader political and theoretical development.

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Arun Iyer, Towards an Epistemology of Ruptures The Case of Heidegger and Foucault. Bloomsbury, 2014

See also Review by H.A. Nethery at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

By systematically uncovering and comprehensively examining the epistemological implications of Heidegger’s history of being and Foucault’s archaeology of discursive formations, Towards an Epistemology of Ruptures shows how Heidegger and Foucault significantly expand the notions of knowledge and thought. This is done by tracing their path-breaking responses to the question: What is the object of thought? The book shows how for both thinkers thought is not just the act by which the object is represented in an idea, and knowledge not just a state of the mind of the individual subject corresponding to the object. Each thinker, in his own way, argues that thought is a productive event in which the subject and the object gain their respective identity and knowledge is the opening up of a space in which the subject and object can encounter each other and in which true and false statements about an object become possible. They thereby lay the ground for a new conceptual framework for rethinking the very relationship between knowledge and its object.

Table Of Contents
Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Texts
1. Heidegger’s Reformulation of the Essence of Thought (I): From the Transcendental Power of the Imagination to the Ontological Power of Thought
2. Heidegger’s Reformulation of the Essence of Thought (II): On the Relationship between Thought and Being
3. Heidegger’s Reformulation of the Essence of Knowledge: From Husserl’s Transcendental Idealism to Heidegger’s Historical Ontology
4. Foucault’s Reformulation of the Essence of Thought in The Order of Things
5. Foucault’s Reformulation of the Essence of Knowledge: From Husserlian Phenomenology to Foucauldian Archaeology

“Epistemology as traditionally conceived seeks to determine the nature of knowledge and justification. Its point of departure is Plato’s critique of the relativism of Protagoras, who according to Plato erred by accepting Heraclitus’ construal of being as becoming. Truth, knowledge, and justification must be grounded in timeless entities of some sort. Arun Iyer shows how Heidegger and Foucault reverse this Platonic argument. For them, truth, knowledge, and justification are irreducibly historical. Iyer’s elaboration of their views is subtle, original, and thought-provoking.” –  Andrew Cutrofello, Professor of Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago, USA

“This book makes it clear how one can develop a strictly epistemological approach to thinkers as complex as Husserl, Heidegger, and Foucault, and how one can draw basic consequences from their thoughts for a theory of knowledge that admits of breaks, ruptures, and discontinuously emerging epistemic formations. Moreover, it shows how a historical thinking in philosophy can be elaborated without having recourse to any aprioristic philosophy of history. Finally, it provides a lucid analysis of the historical conditions human knowledge finds itself submitted to. For all of these reasons, it is a highly remarkable contribution to contemporary continental European philosophy.” –  Laszlo Tengelyi, of Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Germany.

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Formalized Epistemes: Foucault’s Incomplete Order of History.By Alex Lee, Entropy January 9, 2015

Review of The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences by Michel Foucault

To answer why do things make sense, in The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences, Foucault starts by drawing historical periods of sense making. Because he cannot account for why change has happened to determine how our sense making operates, he instead presents a view that historically-speaking sense making comes in stages.

This trajectory is threefold: in the sixteenth century and before we had resemblance as the episteme of knowing. This past heuristic did not distinguish as strictly between valid and invalid modes as our current epoch of sense making might. For example, today astrology isn’t considered valid but modern scientific formulation is. For the previous the seventeenth century, Foucault writes:

The world is covered with signs that must be deciphered, and those signs, which reveal resemblances and affinities, are themselves no more than forms of similitude. To know must therefore be to interpret: to find a way from the visible mark to that which is being said by it and which, without that mark, would lie like unspoken speech, dormant within things.

This is another way of saying that before the Classical era, knowledge was the ability to name and relate signs to one another heuristically. Likewise, our knowledge about manipulating the material world was through access to those named marks. As Foucault adds “This is why the plants that represent the head, or the eyes, or the heart, or the liver, will possess an efficacity in regard to that organ; this is why the animals themselves will react to the marks that designate them.” This is an understanding of the world in terms of the names of things, or what we might dismiss as interacting with the world through wordplay. We can draw a parallel with how the secret Agent Sterling Archer in the animated TV show “Archer” resolves his conflicts through wordplay with other characters. The application of discursive meaning on the material world reflects the violent process of discourse alignment through his aggressive puns, and seemingly non-sequitur connections, which are always revealed to have an interior logic that is respectful to the reality of the Other (be this other a steak, or a wild ocelot, or a gigantic St. Bernard). Often, Archer’s wordplay slides between his fulfillment of his desires, and as a kind of justification to his mother or to mother figures (the men around him also all answer to mother figures, or at least other women in the office). Nonetheless, violence and disobedience coexist in his ability to get what he wants. In other words, minimally justifying his spy actions from his domineering mother is simultaneous with his hermeneutics. In pre-Classical applications of knowledge, this is akin to Archer being a sorcerer, to needing to say all the magic words to change material and social situations to hide his indiscretions.

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