Archive for September, 2017

Dylan Sebastian Evans (host of program)
Michel Foucault & His Contemporaries/Michel Foucault & ses contemporains
Discussion with Vikki Bell, Lois McNay, Stephen Shapiro, BBC Radio 4, 21 August 2013.

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Gordon Hull, Foucault and Marx: on Subjectification and Exhaustion, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, 25 September 2017

I have been circling around the relation between Marx and Foucault for a while, and thinking in  particular about the ways that they can be viewed as productively engaged, particularly at the intersection of primitive accumulation and subjectification (e.g., herehere and here)  This of course flies in the face of Foucault’s acerbic dismissals of Marxism, as when in the early parts of Society must be Defended, he dismisses it as “totalitarian,” or in the Trombadori interviews more generally.  But there is a renaissance of interest in the topic, and there are a number of Foucault texts only now being studied in the English-speaking world that can be brought to bear on it.  Most prominent perhaps is the recently translated “Mesh of Power” lecture, where Foucault specifically credits chapters 13-15 of Capital for moving toward a non-juridical understanding of power.  As Foucault says, what Marx shows there is that “one power does not exist, but many powers” and that power is productive, not repressive:

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Marder, L. Rethinking homo economicus in the political sphere. Constellations, 31 August 2017

DOI: 10.1111/1467-8675.12295


Homo-economicus, this rational cost-benefit calculating interest-pursuing subject, in political analysis usually stands for the ordinary citizen little interested in unprofitable political knowledge. This subject appears as an obstacle to democratic governance, but it does not have to appear as such. On the basis of Michel Foucault’s analysis of homo-economicus in The Birth of Biopolitics, I argue that others who rely on his account and political scientists too quickly dismiss the possibility that homo-economicus may support the democratic system. As long as this subject’s image remains antithetical to democratic governance, its potential remains unrealized and its treatment focuses only on its destructive behavior.

Extract from introduction
Various versions of the homo economicus story highlight different aspects. At a very general level of understanding, there seems to be agreement that homo economicus is the subject of economic rationality, and it is an analytic tool that does something. It may be a fiction, but it is a useful one that affects the way scholars and policy makers treat societal concerns. Beyond that, scholars amplify some of the characteristics of homo economicus over others as it suits their purposes. Economists including Vilfredo Pareto focus on the economic, profit-maximizing principles that homo economicus represents (1909/1927); rational choice scholars are quite comfortable with the economists’ accounts and record homo economicus’s appearance in politics and how it operates in electoral politics in particular (Carpini & Keeter, 1997; Congleton, 2001; Downs, 1957); Michel Foucault traces the evolution of homo economicus to understand shifts in governmentality (2010); and some political theorists—picking up on Foucault’s insights—warn about the devastating activity of homo economicus in politics.

The latter stories of homo economicus based on Foucault’s account in the Birth of Biopolitics (2010) describe the harm homo economicus inflicts on homo politicus (Brown, 2011, 2015), the suffocating neoliberal policies that reduce political decisions to market rationality (Brown, 2015; Callison, 2014; Peters, 1995), the constriction of possibilities of collectively changing existing conditions (Read, 2009), and the responsibilization that is inseparable from this subject’s invasion of the political sphere (Hamann, 2009). Not all these works highlight homo economicus’s destructive nature, as the notable exceptions of the works of John Clarke (2009) and Jason Weidner (2009) show. Yet none of the narratives exalt homo economicus when it comes to its activity in the political sphere and, more specifically, democratic rule, by which I mean the representative democracy model that conflates the rule of the people with electoral politics.1

To re-evaluate what homo economicus does in the political sphere I offer an account that emphasizes this subject’s ignorance, based on Foucault’s Birth of Biopolitics. Considering that Foucault associates homo economicus with ignorance only in the 18th century and does not follow this thread into the 20th century, I take his theorization as the starting point and enhance it. My account of homo economicus, based on Foucault’s text, is no more complete than the others. However, it differs from the others in that (a) it puts in question the assertion of homo economicus’s inherently destructive nature when it comes to democratic politics and (b) taking this a step further, it allows us to link homo economicus positively with democratic governance.

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Perryman, J., Maguire, M., Braun, A., & Ball, S. (2017). Surveillance, Governmentality and moving the goalposts: The influence of Ofsted on the work of schools in a post-panoptic era. British Journal of Educational Studies, September 2017, 1-19.

DOI: 10.1080/00071005.2017.1372560

This paper asks the question: to what extent do inspection regimes, particularly the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), influence the work of a school, and how might that influence be conceptualised? It draws on an ESRC-funded study of ‘policy enactments in secondary schools’, which was based on case-study work in four ‘ordinary’ schools. Here the data set is re-examined to understand the extent to which Ofsted had an ongoing influence on the work of the leadership, management and teachers in these schools. We undertook a process of secondary analysis of the data from the project and found that the influence of the inspection agenda was strong in the schools, policy decisions were often being made to conform to Ofsted’s expectations and the influence on leadership and management was clearly apparent. In resisting this agenda we also found that schools to some extent performed ‘the good school’ for inspections. Finally, we relate this empirical evidence to conceptions of governmentality and post-panopticism to shed new light on their theoretical relevance to contemporary inspection regimes.

Keywords: inspection, Foucault, policy, schools

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Deranty, J.-P., Dunstall, A.
Doing justice to the past: Critical theory and the problems of historicism
(2017) Philosophy and Social Criticism, 43 (8), pp. 812-836.

DOI: 10.1177/0191453716685757

In this article, we argue that the usual restriction of critical theory to ‘modern’ norms is subject to problems of coherence, historical accuracy and moral obligation. First, we illustrate how critical theory opposes itself to societies designated as pre-modern, through a summary of Honneth’s recognition theory. We then show how an over-emphasis on modernity’s normative novelty obscures counter-currents in ethical life that threaten the unity of the modern era. Those two steps prepare the main analysis: that the ‘exceptionalist’ modernism of critical theory distorts our view of history and ignores normative dimensions of the past. We show how medieval and early-modern societies in Europe experienced many conflicts and possessed institutions that create illuminating configurations with modern norms. As a result, we articulate several kinds of moral and political link to the past that should lead critical theorists to expand the historical reach of their analyses. © The Author(s) 2017.

Author Keywords
Axel Honneth; Medieval society; Michel Foucault; Modernity; Walter Benjamin

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Todorof, Maria Borisof, Foucault and the Poster-Child for Conformism or the Cost of Identity in the Same-Sex Marriage Context (August 21, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2364097 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2364097

Open access
Also on academia.edu

The paper discusses the reconciliation between state and same-sex marriage which it is suggested could be seen as employment of a progressive agenda for the purposes of shepherding new subjects into the system of normativity and control which family is. The promise of allegiance inherent into sanctioned by society enterprises, a promise coming as much from the hetero as it comes from the homosexual community, creates a dynamic contributing to compliance. Foucault’s ideas are used here to highlight the possible cost attached to this trade-off.

Keywords: Foucault, same-sex marriage, Butler, queer theory, power and control, normativity, identity, manipulation

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Allain, K.A., Marshall, B.
Foucault retires to the gym: Understanding embodied aging in the third age
(2017) Canadian Journal on Aging, 36 (3), pp. 402-414.

DOI: 10.1017/S0714980817000216

In light of recent social pressures leading to a reimagining of the “Third Age” as a time of constant activity rather than repose and relaxation, this article explores the pressure on individuals to age “successfully” by engaging in physical activity in later life. Through semi-structured interviews with 15 retired or semi-retired gym-goers (eight women and seven men), the article examines how this call to increased activity impacts the ways active mid-life and older adults understand themselves and others. Drawing on Foucault’s understandings of the productive nature of power, we argue that those who perceive themselves as successfully heeding the call to active aging position themselves in contrast to inactive peers. Within a neoliberal framework, these participants self-identify as morally responsible citizens who, as a result of engagement in fitness activities, are authorized to survey and discipline the bodies of those “others” who will not or cannot engage in regular exercise. © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2017.

Author Keywords
Aging; Embodiment; Exercise; Fitness; Foucault; Third age

Index Keywords
adult, aging, clinical article, drawing, exercise, female, human, leisure, male, physical activity, semi structured interview, social problem

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