Frieder Vogelmann, Reading Practices: How to read Foucault?, Krisis, Journal for Contemporary Philosophy Issue 2, 2016

Review of: Daniel Zamora and Michael Z. Behrent, Eds. (2016), Foucault and Neoliberalism. Cambridge: Polity Press, 152 pages; and Mitchel Dean and Kaspar Villadsen (2016), State Phobia and Civil Society. The Political Legacy of Michel Foucault. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 196 pages.

Does Foucault have sympathies for neoliberalism? Is his analysis of it therefore rather an “apology” (Becker, Ewald and Harcourt 2012: 4) than a critique? Is his theoretical and political antistatism complicit in the neoliberal dismantling of the welfare state? Such are the questions that have sparked a lively discussion in the last year, mostly on various web blogs[1] but also in journals (Hansen 2015) – and in books, as the two under review here.

Set off by Daniel Zamora’s interview with the strange title “Can We Criticize Foucault?” in the journal Ballast (an English translation appeared in Jacobin),[2] the bold and sweeping accusations that not only had Foucault himself been at least uncritical, if not supportive of neoliberalism, but also that “Foucault scholasticism” (Behrent 2016 [2014]: 54) is therefore implicated in the neoliberal strategy and that this constitutes Foucault’s “political legacy”, (Dean and Villadsen 2016) seem to have touched a sensitive spot within current Foucaultian scholarship. Although Johanna Oksala (2015) is fundamentally right in her assessment that “this debate itself seems misguided,”[3] there is something to learn from this misguided debate because it brings out two questions mostly left unattended by all its participants (but see Erlenbusch 2015): How do weread Foucault? And how does Foucault read (neoliberals like Gary Becker, for example)? By way of reviewing first the English edition of Daniel Zamora’s Critiquer Foucault (2014), and second Mitchell Dean’s and Kaspar Villadsen’s monograph State Phobia and Civil Society (2016), I will argue that the questions of how we read Foucault and how Foucault reads are not sufficiently addressed.

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Ron Purser and Edwin Ng, Cutting Through the Corporate Mindfulness Hype, Part One Huffington Post, March 22, 2016

Michel Foucault made an astute observation: “You know the difference between a real science and a pseudoscience? A real science recognizes and accepts its own history without feeling attacked.” Hopefully, management science scholar-practitioners promoting corporate mindfulness research would contemplate on this statement.

Ron Purser and Edwin Ng, Mindfulness and Self-Care: Why Should I Care? Part Two, Huffington Post, April 6 2016


Though we are skeptical about celebratory claims, we actually do hope that mindfulness might become a disruptive technology to transform prevailing systems. However, we insist on the importance of collective attentiveness towards the workings of power, which have shaped the dominant individualistic-therapeutic approach to mindfulness and the stresses we face in our private and public lives.

I’d like to clarify the notion of governmentality that guides our work. The blended concept of govern-mentality derives from the work of Michel Foucault. Governmentality does not refer only to the processes of the state. Rather, to think about governmentality is to explore how diverse types of knowledge, expertise, and practices are developed to guide people’s voluntary conduct.

Consider, for instance, the contemporary interest in “wellness“. We learn about the research conducted by medical institutions on exercising or meditation. This knowledge filters through the advice we find in the media. With the help of a trained expert or through our independent efforts, we might cultivate a daily practice of jogging or yoga or mindfulness. Companies and institutions might incorporate a wellness program into their operations.

To put it another way, governmentality plays out formally and informally as the everyday “rules of the game” for responsible conduct. Under the conditions of neoliberal capitalism, the logics of governmentality are imbued with the moral rhetoric of “free choice” and are geared towards self-optimizing, consumerist and entrepreneurial ends.

Ron Purser, Ph.D.. is Professor of Management at San Francisco State University. His article, “Beyond McMindfulness,” in the Huffington Post went viral in 2013.
Edwin Ng, Ph.D., is an author and cultural theorist currently based in Australia. He has written commentaries on the cultural translation of Buddhism and mindfulness for Salon.com and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

Robin Rymarczuk, The Heterotopia of Facebook, Philosophy Now, Issue 107, August/September 2016

The other spaces and faces of Michel Foucault by Alex Lawrence Foucault images © Alex Lawrence 2015 Please visit preposterous.carbonmade.com

The other spaces and faces of Michel Foucault by Alex Lawrence
Foucault images © Alex Lawrence 2015 Please visit preposterous.carbonmade.com

Robin Rymarczuk is Michel Foucault’s ‘friend’.

Facebook was founded on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard University room-mates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. What started out as an on-campus online ‘hot or not’ tool resulted in the registration of a billion users by 2012. Its rapid growth and perpetually expanding corporate power, as well as its part in the ‘digital privacy’ controversy, has attracted many seeking to explain its remarkable popularity as well as peoples’ discontent with it. Although interesting and important, these studies focus predominantly on what users do on Facebook, leaving underexposed what Facebook does to the user.

Facebook possesses properties that can be construed not just in terms of globalized online networks, but also in terms of a type of space. In these terms, Facebook is a world within the world that attracts or repels people by its geography as much as by its social life. So what kind of space is Facebook? I claim that it’s what philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) ingeniously called “un espace autre” – “an other space”; better known as a heterotopia. As I will elaborate, understanding Facebook as a heterotopic space offers a style of critical thinking that invites moral reflection on digital culture and its relation to other spaces in our everyday lives.

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Ott, J.C.
Perceptions of the Nature of Happiness: Cultural, but Related to the Dynamics of the Human Mind and the Gratification of General Needs: Review of Laura Hyman: Happiness; Understanding Narratives and Discourses, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-137-32152-7
(2016) Journal of Happiness Studies, pp. 1-7. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1007/s10902-016-9720-6

In her book ‘Happiness’ Laura Hyman identifies some discourses, as defined by Foucault, about happiness among 19 middle-class respondents in the UK. A discourse is a way of thinking and communicating about some issue, and comparable to a ‘perception’ or a’ view’. The dominant ‘Therapeutic Discourse’, is based on the view that happiness is an individual and normative challenge; it is to be worked on by selfcare and self-knowledge. A somewhat contradictory discourse puts more priority on social relations, as a condition for happiness. Hyman explains the co-existence of these discourses as a consequence of individualization. Individualization puts more priority on individual responsibility, but can easily lead to a neglect of social relations. It is difficult to assess the universality of these discourses, because the sample of respondents is very homogeneous. If individualization is an important factor we might expect different discourses in more collectivistic cultures. There are, however, theoretical reasons to believe that these discourses are rather universal. We may expect that the gratification of general needs is important. If certain needs are not gratified they will get more attention, and more priority, in a discourse about happiness. The ‘Therapeutic Discourse’, more in particular, is apparently a logical consequence of the dynamics of the human mind. The characteristics of the human consciousness clearly support this discourse. We need more empirical research, about discourses in different cultures, to find out for sure! © 2016 The Author(s)

Author Keywords
Capitalism; Discourse; Enlightenment; Gratification of needs; Happiness; Hedonic level of affect; Human needs; Individualization; Life-satisfaction

Index Keywords
clinical article, consciousness, empirical research, happiness, human, human tissue, individualization, narrative, neglect, perception, responsibility, social interaction, theoretical model

Kojiro FUJITA, Comment la philosophie de Foucault voyage-t-elle ?
Ici et ailleurs, Association pour une Philosophie Nomade, 14 juin 2016


La question qui m’intéresse particulièrement est : « comment la philosophie, les théories et les concepts voyagent-ils ? » ; plus précisément, « la philosophie, les théories et les concepts occidentaux peuvent-ils se transférer à l’Orient sans y apporter aucune domination coloniale ou commerciale ? » Or, moi, chercheur extrême-oriental, je travaille depuis longtemps sur une philosophie occidentale, la pensée de Michel Foucault : après l’avoir étudiée en France pendant longtemps, j’ai soutenu l’année dernière ma thèse portant sur un aspect théorique des travaux foucaldiens (1) et c’est avec ce résultat de recherche que je suis récemment retourné à mon pays d’origine, le Japon, pour développer cette philosophie occidentale dans notre contexte oriental. Ainsi, dans mon cas, il conviendrait de spécifier la question ainsi : « comment la philosophie de Foucault voyage-t-elle ? » ; plus précisément, « peut-elle se transférer au Japon sans colonisation ni commercialisation ? »

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Sam Kriss, Flat-Earthers Have a Wild New Theory About Forests – The AtlanticSEP 9, 2016

What it means to believe that “real” trees no longer exist.

Something tremendous is happening; over the last few weeks, without too many of its globe-headed detractors noticing, a surprisingly vast community on the tattered fringes of intellectual orthodoxy is in turmoil. A bizarre new theory has turned the flat earth upside down. The flat earth is still flat, but now it’s dotted with tiny imitations of the truly enormous trees that once covered the continents, and which in our deforested age we can hardly even remember.

Against both the panpsychicism of hippie ecology, the bleary-eyed invocations of some dismally all-encompassing Mother Earth, and the pedantic materialism of most sciences as they’re actually practiced, ‘No Forests on Flat Earth’ proposes a kind of hylothanatism, a pessimism for our own weary age: this world was once alive, everything was once beautifully connected, but not any more. This earth has been dead for millennia; what we think of as progress is just the rot spreading through the cadaver of the world.

There are mythic assonances here—beyond the familiar world-trees of Norse cosmogony, the notion of a world built on a corpse has always fascinated people; Babylonian mythology, for instance, has the entire universe butchered out of the body of Tiamat, the primordial mother. Its mode of argument—‘this thing looks like this other thing, therefore they’re the same thing’—is also familiar. In The Order of Things, Foucault describes the medieval episteme: “It was resemblance that organized the play of symbols, made possible knowledge of things visible and invisible, and controlled the art of representing them.” The world was configured as one single text, a great chain of being explicable to those who knew how to read the signs. Bestiaries would record not just the physical characteristics of various animals, but their symbolic attributes. If a plant resembled a part of the human body, it could be used to treat its diseases; the map of the cosmos is also a map of the human body, and the pattern of the stars is also a horticultural manual. Foucault quotes Crollius: “Just as each herb or plant is a terrestrial star looking up at the sky, so also each star is a celestial plant in spiritual form, which differs from the terrestrial plants in matter alone.”

Foucault himself has a very ‘No Forests’ sadness for the loss of this world of interlinking resemblances in the 16th century, lamenting that “there is nothing now that still recalls even the memory of that being. Nothing, except perhaps literature.” The experience of modernity is one of a lost unity, and with an emerging capitalism came a world no longer required to be explicable, only fungible. But this lost world is not just something that falls away with modernity—as Freud points out, the formation of the conscious mind is similar: the ego is a “precipitate of lost objects.”

Johanna Oksala, Foucault, Marx and Neoliberal Subjects, Theory, Culture and SocietyFebruary 16, 2015

Daniel Zamora’s edited volume Critiquer Foucault: Les années 1980 et la tentation néolibérale, published in November 2014, has been the subject of a heated debate recently on the philosophical blogosphere. Many Foucault scholars have been puzzled and surprised by the stir it has caused. Verena Erlenbusch (2015) suggests that the controversy has more to do with Zamora’s interview with Jacobin Magazine, provocatively titled “Can We Criticize Foucault?” than with the book itself because many of the arguments presented in it are neither as revolutionary nor as provocative as the interview would make it seem. Stuart Elden (2014) notes that Zamora’s ‘revelations’ are not in fact based on any new material that would have come to light recently and that Foucault’s relationship with neoliberalism has already been subject to critical scrutiny for a number of years by a host of thinkers.

Source: Johanna Oksala on Foucault, Marx and Neoliberal Subjects

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