Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Grégoire Canlorbe and Stephen Hicks, Capitalism versus the Philosophers, FEE: Foundation for Economic Education, 2 May 2016

Stephen Hicks is a Canadian-American philosopher who teaches at Rockford University, where he also directs the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship.

Hicks is the author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, which argues that postmodernism is best understood as a rhetorical strategy of far-left intellectuals and academics in response to the failure of socialism and communism.

FEE contributor Grégoire Canlorbe sat down with Professor Hicks to discuss how philosophers confront economic freedom.


Grégoire Canlorbe: According to French philosopher Michel Foucault, the rise of economic freedom after the 18th century coincides with the deployment of new techniques of control operating at local level through prisons, factories, schools, and hospitals. Economic policy, then, is the product of a new practice of power, present at all levels of society, whose aim is to “rationalize the problems posed to [society] by phenomena characteristic of a set of living beings forming a population: health, hygiene, birthrate, life expectancy, race.”

How would you sum up the main strengths and weaknesses of Foucault’s analysis?

Stephen Hicks: There’s a libertarian streak in Foucault that sometimes appeals to me, and of course he’s right that the rise of centralized and controlling bureaucracy is one feature of the modern world. I think Foucault can often be good psychologically and insightful philosophically, but ultimately he’s weak as a historian.

As a start on this huge topic, I’ll just say two things here. One is that the modern era is characterized by at least three types of social philosophy. The great debate between free-market liberalism and socialism highlights two of the three types. The third type is bureaucratic centralization, and that social philosophy cuts across the free-market/socialist debate.

The idea that society can be organized centrally with concentrated power used in all of the ways that Foucault diagnoses — that paradigm of technocratic efficiency is often committed to neutrally and can then be applied in either market or governmental contexts. One can envision and find examples of private factories, corporations, and government bureaucracies applying those techniques.

So the question of both history and philosophy is whether the hegemonic-controlling-power model best fits with the theory and practice of modern free-market capitalism or with the theory and practice of modern collectivism-socialism.

The other point I’ll make quickly is that Foucault consistently embraces a Nietzschean understanding of power as fixed and zero-sum. In that model, power may be constantly evolving, but it is also constantly agonistic and antagonistic. Hence the consistent undercurrent of cynicism in any Foucauldian discussion of power.

That contrasts to those understandings of power that recognize some forms of it — cognitive, economic, personal-relational, for example — as potentially generative and increasing, resulting in a net growth.

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Interview with Stuart Elden by Dave O’Brien (podcast) on the New Books Network

In relation to Foucault’s Last Decade Polity Press 2016

Why did Michel Foucault radically recast the project of The History of Sexuality? How did he work collaboratively? What was the influence of Antiquity on his thought? In Foucault’s Last Decade (Polity Press, 2016) Stuart Elden, Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick explores these, and many more, questions about the final years in a rich intellectual life. The book combines detailed studies of Foucault’s recently collected lecture series with archival material and his publications, to give an in depth engagement with the changes and continuities in his thought during the last decade. Addressing questions associated with key terms, such as governmentality, as well as confession, the self, power, truth telling, and many other core ideas and themes, the book will be essential reading for anyone interested in this most important of Western thinkers.

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Michel Foucault, Prisons And The Future Of Abolition: An Interview, Critical Theory, JUNE 25, 2016

Active Intolerance: Michel Foucault, the Prisons Information Group, and the Future of Abolition” explores the Prison Information Group (GIP), an organization founded by notable academics, including Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, to expose the deplorable conditions of the French Prison system.

“Little information is published on prisons,” Foucault announced on behalf of the GIP. “It is one of the hidden regions of our social system, one of the dark zones of our life. We have the right to know; we want to know.”

In this interview, I spoke with the book’s editors, Perry Zurn and Andrew Dilts, about the legacy and lessons of the GIP.

Eugene Wolters: What was the GIP?

Perry Zurn: The GIP (or Le Groupe d’information sur les prisons, the Prisons Information Group) was a prison activist organization in France, conceived of in 1970 and operational well into 1973. Beyond this simple description, the GIP can be characterized in a number of competing ways.

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Orazio Irrera, « Michel Foucault et les critiques de l’idéologie. Dialogue avec Pierre Macherey », Methodos [En ligne], 16 | 2016;

DOI : 10.4000/methodos.4667

Texte intégral

Orazio Irrera – On a l’habitude un peu hâtive de dire que lorsque Foucault critique l’idéologie, il s’adresse surtout à la conception althussérienne de l’idéologie. Mais en suivant votre argumentation, il semble plutôt que Foucault et Althusser ont tenté tous les deux d’échapper à une conception représentationnelle et seulement négative (donc non productive) de l’idéologie. Pour cette raison, à votre avis, serait-il utile de distinguer parmi les critiques de Foucault entre celles qui sont adressées à l’idéologie comme système de représentation, donc comme « reflet et transposition », ou encore comme rationalisation (Althusser lui aussi semble critiquer cette conception de l’idéologie) et celles qui sont plutôt adressées à la manière dont Althusser cherche, pour sa part, à surmonter cette idée représentationnelle de l’idéologie à travers une conception positive de l’idéologie, entendue comme agent effectif du processus de reproduction sociale ? Pourquoi, face aux efforts déployés par Althusser pour sauver la notion d’idéologie, Foucault tient-il, au contraire, cette notion comme étant non-amendable – ce qui revient à jeter le bébé avec l’eau du bain ? Est-ce que toutes les critiques que Foucault adresse à l’idéologie ont pour lui le même poids, ou est-ce qu’il y en a une qui, à un certain moment, se révèle plus importante ou plus décisive que les autres et qui aurait enfin persuadé Foucault qu’il n’est pas possible de se servir de cette notion ?

Pierre Macherey – Il me semble, c’est une hypothèse que je propose à la discussion, que la manière tranchante utilisée par Foucault pour aborder la question de l’idéologie est le symptôme d’un embarras.

Mots-clés : Foucault, Althusser Louis, idéologie, Macherey Pierre


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EDGES BLOG: CSC Interview with Daniel Zamora. Cultural Studies blog, George Mason University, 12 March 2016

The Cultural Studies Program’s colloquium (CSC) series features talks by distinguished scholars from across the disciplines. Graduate student Dave Zeglen interviewed Daniel Zamora, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago. See below for the transcript.

Let us begin with your primary thesis, which has already stirred controversies and debates: How did Foucault understand neoliberalism, and how did he actually position himself vis-à-vis the shifting political currents of the 1970s? How was his thinking shifting on questions related to the social democratic welfare state? What factors contributed to Foucault’s open anti-socialism and anti-statism in the French context?

These are probably some of the most important questions to ask in order to understand Foucault’s relationship to neoliberalism. And we can’t understand that relationship without placing Foucault’s work within the French context of the mid-1970s. More specifically, Foucault’s work is situated in the conflict between old and new lefts, in the post-1968 left’s increasing opposition to the post-war left.

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The Limits of Neoliberalism: An Interview with Will Davies

Posted by Stephen Dunne in Management is too Important Not to Debate Blog on April 15, 2015

Stephen Dunne (henceforth SD): Can I ask you to recount, when you set out on the book, what you were trying to do and in relation to what body of work?

WD: The main question I had, following on from my PhD, concerned competition and competitiveness as forms of justification, or as sources of political authority. It appeared to me that appealing to competitive processes, or claiming that certain actions were going to be good for competitiveness or improve competition, was a basis on which to win consent to certain things. It seemed to be a form of justification or a way of legitimating certain types of action. I was interested in the fact that it was almost not tenable in today’s society and particularly in today’s policy establishment to be against competition or against competitiveness in some way.  It was almost that to be against those ideas was to put yourself in some sort of irrational or futile position.  And that immediately concerned me because it made me think about where these ideas came from.


It was only later that I started to become interested in the notion of neoliberalism. In the space of about three years, there were a series of very good critical historical books on neoliberalism as a distinct tradition of thought.  In 2008 Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics was translated into English then in the summer of 2009 Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe’s The Road from Mont Pelèrin, a series of articles on different aspects of what they call The Neoliberal Thought Collective was also published. I think it was 2010 when Jamie Peck’s Constructions of Neoliberal Reason came out and much more recently there was Angus Burgin’s The Great Persuasion, the most historical and detailed history of the neoliberal intellectual movement, although probably also the least critical or theoretical.

Foucault points out that the key trait of markets from a neoliberal perspective is not that they facilitate exchange but that they facilitate competition. For liberals, the market is a space of equivalence in that two people come together and perform an act of exchange. Money is equivalent to a good or a service or a unit of labour. For neoliberals, the market is something which produces inequality between people.  One person wins and another person loses and that is the key moral trait of markets for them. Suddenly I realised the reason I was interested in competitiveness was precisely this issue: competition as a mode of justification. This effectively means generating more inequality and preventing the push towards equality that was a trait of the socialists, Keynesians and social democrats: projects that initially prompted the creation of the neoliberal thought collectives as a critical response.

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Rohan Deb Roy and David Arnold, Of Prisons, Tropics and Bicycles: A Conversation with David Arnold, Asian Medicine 6 (2010–11) 149–163

Full text on academia.edu

David Arnold who retired this year as the Professor of Asian and Global History at the University of Warwick remains one of the most prolific historians of colonial medicine and modern South Asia. A founding member of the subaltern studies collective, he is considered widely as a pioneer in the histories of colonial medicine, environment, penology, hunger and famines within South Asian studies and beyond. In this interview he recalls his formative inspirations, ideological motivations and reflects critically on his earlier works, explaining various shifts as well as mapping the possible course of future work. He talks at length about his forthcoming works on everyday technology, food and monsoon Asia. Finally, he shares with us his desire of initiating work on an ambitious project about the twin themes of poison and poverty in South Asian history, beginning with the Bengal famine in the late eighteenth century and ending with the Bhopal gas tragedy of the early 1980s. This conversation provides insights into the ways in which the field of medical history in modern South Asia has been shaped over the past three decades through interactions with broader discussions on agency, resistance, power, everydayness, subaltern studies, global and spatial histories. It hints further at the newer directions which are being opened up by such persisting intellectual entanglements.

Colonialism, medicine, subaltern, everyday, South Asia

Subsequently, Foucault has been the most important single influence on my work and my thinking about history. Of course, Foucault’s work takes many forms and it is the early Foucault that I tend to go back to, particularly Discipline and Punish and the Power/Knowledge interviews rather than the later Foucault of The History of Sexuality

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