Foucault 8/13 | Richard R.W. Brooks on Foucault’s “The Birth of Biopolitics” (1979)
By Richard R. W. Brooks
My comments on Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics will focus on the distinctions he observes (in discussing neoliberalism) between abstract economic and legal subjects (subject of interests and subject of rights) and actual individuals in concrete interactions of civil society. Interestingly, a number of the features and fractures that Foucault identifies between the German ordo-liberalism and the American (Chicago School) neo-liberalism, surfaced earlier in the U.S. context between advocates of the marginalist revolution in economics and their counterparts among progressive institutional economists (themselves, to a non-trivial extent, influenced by the German historical tradition) at the turn of the nineteenth century. I hope to usefully relate this marginalist-institutionalist debate to Foucault’s insightful analysis of economic subjects as developed by the Chicago School, significantly in the Journal of Political Economy, and particularly through Gary Becker’s theories on human capital and criminality.