The following is a guest post by Stephen Sawyer, organizer of the March 25-26 Foucault and Neoliberalism Conference at the American University of Paris. Professor Sawyer has kindly provided us with concluding remarks on the conference.
By Stephen Sawyer
Michel Foucault’s reflections on neoliberalism have ultimately left us with more questions than answers. They have opened a path toward a more sophisticated reflection on one of the most important thinkers of the last half century, while providing an unexpected point of entry into one of the most vexing political, economic, cultural and social movements of our contemporary world. While the “critique” of Foucault as a closet neoliberal by the far left and the right is tenuous at best (Steinmetz-Jenkins), the extraordinary success of neoliberal ideology has made Foucault’s interest in this question in the late 1970s at once prescient, puzzling and alluring. Moreover, the full release of Foucault’s Collège de France lectures along with the spate of previously unreleased material has led to something of a Foucault renaissance that has only raised the stakes. The question, then, almost four decades after Foucault’s reflections is: How do we craft a sophisticated history of this moment without either falling into sensationalist critiques or an uncritical assumption that Foucault’s exploration of neoliberalism was an insignificant passing concern.