Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

“What Do You Want Me to Regret?”: An Interview with François Ewald
Johannes Boehme interviews François Ewald, Los Angeles Review of Books, 3 November 2017

NOBODY COULD HAVE PREDICTED, in 1968, that François Ewald would one day receive the French state’s highest order for civil merit. At the time he was a young, ambitious, and radical philosophy student. He became a Maoist, demonstrated in the streets of Paris, and witnessed the violence that followed. In the early 1970s he went to the countryside. There he found himself swept up in one of France’s most notorious criminal scandals, the “Affaire Bruay-en-Artois.” A young miners’ daughter was killed, a lawyer was arrested (and later released), and the radical left staged mass demonstrations against “class violence.” It was then, in the small town of Bruay-en-Artois, that he first met Michel Foucault. Soon Ewald would become Foucault’s assistant at the Collège de France and one of his closest associates.

Ewald wrote a masterful 600-page dissertation, supervised by Foucault, on the history of the French welfare state. Foucault, who died in June 1984, never got to read the final version. After Foucault’s death, Ewald became the de facto executor of his estate. He edited most of his unfinished manuscripts and lectures. He also took a job in an unlikely field for a Foucauldian: the insurance industry. He struck up relationships with captains of industry like Claude Bébéar, the founder of AXA, and Denis Kessler, the CEO of SCOR, a French financial services company. In 2006 he received the Légion d’honneur.

And during the early 2000s his views seemed to change as well. He became a vocal advocate for liberal reforms of the French welfare state. He opposed the introduction of the 35-hour workweek and argued for the privatization of the pension-system.


Where did [Foucault’s] interest in liberalism come from?

His interest wasn’t ideological. It was a way to criticize traditional political philosophy. He didn’t study liberalism out of personal conviction, but as a way of passage — to get a clearer sense of what government actually meant. He was drawn to it, because it was so relevant to understand the contemporary situation. But he was much more interested in its epistemology than its politics. To read his lectures on liberalism as a statement of approval makes absolutely no sense. But on the other hand, there is a complication. Foucault didn’t believe in socialism. He wanted to criticize government practices. And liberalism at the time was one avenue of government-critique in France. But only one among many.

Recently there has been a heated debate about Michel Foucault’s attitude toward neoliberalism. The sociologist Daniel Zamora accused Foucault of adhering to neoliberal ideas. Do you agree?

Let me tell you two things. First of all, I am completely fed up with this entire discussion. Secondly, in terms of actual evidence, the claim that Michel Foucault held neoliberal views is just so far-fetched. Look, during those weeks in which Foucault was lecturing about liberalism at the Collège de France, he also visited Ayatollah Khomeini at Neauphle-le-Château. The Iranian Revolution happened shortly afterward and Foucault was particularly interested in the events in Tehran. He was fascinated by the fact that people were willing to die for a religious idea in the streets of Tehran! But nobody would say that he became a militant supporter of the Iranian Revolution. Based on the evidence it doesn’t make more sense to say that Foucault was a closet neoliberal, either.


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Sergio Resende Carvalho,Ricardo Rodrigues Teixeira, Politics of life itself and the future of medical practices: dialogues with Nikolas Rose (Part 3), Interface – Comunicação, Saúde, Educação
On-line version ISSN 1807-5762
Interface (Botucatu) vol.21 no.60 Botucatu Jan./Mar. 2017



This is the third and last interview with Nikolas Rose which we sought to explore important aspects of his wide academic production. At the first interview1 we explore aspects about State, Public Policy and Health and their relation with the concept of governmentality. On the second2 on we discussed the role of psy’s knowledge and practices in the government of conduct. I this last one we had the opportunities to reflect with Rose on his current researches about the transformations of life sciences, biomedicine, neurosciences relating those changes with the clinical practices and their impact upon the Health Systems.


After affirming that ‘the truth discourse of contemporary genomics no longer sees genes as the hidden entities that determine us” and that new technologies had open ‘“the gene” to knowledge and technique at the molecular level”, you affirm that we are entering a new ‘style of thought’ (ways to think, see and intervene) where the molecularization of vitality is central to it, that at this molecular level life itself has become open to politics, that biology is not destiny but opportunity. Can you detail this idea for us?

Well, there are two parts to that question. The first part is about determinism and biological determinism. So let me start by saying a little bit about that. I suppose genetics is the clearest example of the retreat of biological determinism. Genetic determinism, the idea that the complement of genes with which an individual is born shapes inescapably their capacities, both physical and mental, has if not completely disappeared at least become significantly weakened. We know that this idea that the gene is like a single unit of DNA and all the genes are stretched out like beads on a string on the chromosomes and that each gene determines a particular protein which creates a particular characteristic. We know that this idea has been disproved by developments in genomics following the human genome project. So now we know that humans do not have 100 000 or perhaps even 300 000 genes that were hypothesized. They have about 20 to 25 000 coding sequences, and that these sequences are spread across many parts of the genome, they can be read in many different ways and what’s crucial is not so much the genes, but how they are activated. Secondly, we know, and this is now becoming a cliché of what’s called epigenetics, we know that what’s crucial is not the DNA that you are born with, but how this is activated or de-activated across a lifetime in a process called methylation which enables the DNA sequence to produce its effects. We know that these epigenetic processes are shaped in all sorts of ways by the relationship between the organism and its milieu. In fact, developmental geneticists have known this known this for many decades, but now this has become a much more salient way of trying to understand how genes are expressed in organisms across a lifetime. All these and many other developments suggest that genetic determinism, as a general programme for understanding not only biological organisms but their destiny is no longer the style of thought that characterises contemporary genetics.

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Any Answers: Christian Caujolle, Interview with Michael GrieveBritish Journal of Photography, 21 August 2017

The chief picture editor of Libération between 1981 and 1986, Christian Caujoulle left to co-found Agence Vu’ and, a decade later, Galerie Vu’. He has curated and edited countless photofestivals, exhibitions, and books, and is associate professor at the ENS Louis Lumière school


Roland Barthes was one of my professors. After my studies, when I was writing for Libération, he would often ask my advice on the photographers I was writing about at the time. He helped me understand that teaching is not about transmitting facts, it’s about method.

The philosopher Michel Foucault was another. We became close friends and I collaborated with him on different projects, including the movie, Moi, Pierre Rivière. During this radically political and creative time we had hours and days of discussion.

At each moment, Foucault was pushing you to be curious. The last dinner with him will always stay with me. A few days before he finally went to hospital, and weeks later passed away, I was at his home with friends and it was so much fun; a beautiful memory to be with this brilliant man.

Without money, with total freedom: this was the most exciting and creative moment of my professional life. That was my experience as chief picture editor of Libération!

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An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz, Theory Culture and Society, 22 May 2017

The Incorporeal’: An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz
Elizabeth Grosz & Vikki Bell
March 2017

VB: Many congratulations on the publication of your new book The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics and the Limits of Materialism (Columbia University Press, 2017). The book seems to simultaneously explore a genealogy of a concept ‘the incorporeal’ while also proposing it as a concept that has both explanatory power and ethical promise. I wonder if there is a debate that is un- or under-described here but that drives the desire to explore the incorporeal and these thinkers, since genealogy in both Nietzsche and Foucault’s sense is always a purposive endeavour. Which positions are you taking a stance against, or which oversights are you seeking to correct?

EG: I wouldn’t say that it is a corrective particularly, though there are a number of positions that describe themselves as materialist that I think are problematic and would disagree with. A genealogy – an exploration of sources and sites often unrecognized or unknown – is a way of reviving things that either we have forgotten or that were never developed, elaborated or perhaps even born, things that were stillborn or fragmented. I was seeking something positive rather than undertaking a critique, implicit or explicit. From a commitment to materialism, I was interested in how to address certain questions that were reductively posited within materialisms (after all, there is no one form of materialism, but many, some conflicting with others) or not addressed at all – questions linked to explaining thinking and experience, language or representation more generally, and the self-evident immaterial conditions of materiality, such as space and time. If materialism(s) cannot account for the immaterial events we experience and articulate, then it has a clear limit that it needs to address. I see my work as an expansion of materialism more than a critique of it, though I suspect that the book may be considered idealist in the opinion of some. I am looking for an account of being-becoming that can explain the existence of incorporeal things and events – and most especially how thinking is possible, what it is, how it relates to the brain, or doesn’t, how it capable of being understood beyond any reductionism.

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Bryan Cooke and Mark Kelly discuss Foucault, biopolitics, modernity, the role of the intellectual in politics, and Foucault, March 18, 2016

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Letzlove, portrait(s) Foucault
Adaptation de Pierre Maillet
d’après Vingt ans et après / Letzlove l’anagramme d’une rencontre de Thierry Voeltzel
mise en scène Pierre Maillet

Du mar. 28/02/17 au sam. 04/03/17
Du mar. 25/04/17 au jeu. 27/04/17



Eté 1975. Un jeune homme fait du stop sur l’autoroute en direction de Caen. Le conducteur qui s’arrête a un look inhabituel : un homme chauve, avec des lunettes cerclées d’acier, un polo ras du cou et une curiosité constante pour son jeune passager. Ils échangent leurs coordonnées avant de se dire au revoir… Trois ans plus tard paraîtra un livre d’entretiens entre cet inconnu de vingt ans, Thierry Voeltzel, et ce célèbre philosophe, Michel Foucault, qui avait alors tenu à garder l’anonymat. Au cours de la conversation qui se noue entre eux, sont abordées les mutations existentielles de la jeunesse dans son rapport avec la sexualité, les drogues, la famille, le travail, la religion, la musique, les lectures… et la révolution. Quarante ans après, l’intérêt de ce document réside autant dans les expériences vécues de Thierry que dans le portrait en creux de son interviewer.

Le passage au théâtre de ces entretiens rendra donc palpable, physique et vivante l’impression directe provoquée à leur lecture. Mettre en avant la rencontre, et surtout le jeune homme. En faire le portrait avec une chaise, un projecteur diapos et deux micros. Utiliser les outils de tout conférencier, professeur, ou rencontre publique quelconque (du moins en 1975) pour mettre l’intime en lumière avec la même franchise et la même décontraction que son interlocuteur il y a quarante ans. Nous serons deux, comme dans le livre. En lumière le jeune Thierry, qui sera un garçon d’aujourd’hui et surtout du même âge. Quant à moi je me chargerai des questions. L’idée de cette forme, très autonome et très simple permettrait au spectacle de circuler le plus possible : à l’université, dans les librairies, bibliothèques, divers lieux culturels et sociaux, en appartements, mais aussi bien sûr au théâtre, dans les décors des spectacles qui joueraient au même moment, pourquoi pas… La circulation presque interventionniste de cette parole intime et libertaire me paraît juste, excitante, et permet de poser simplement par le biais d’une attention particulière à la jeunesse et au dialogue inter générationnel, la question de la liberté et de l’engagement.

Letzlove – portrait(s) Foucault, d’après « Vingt ans et après », de Michel Foucault et Thierry Voeltzel (éd. Verticales, 2013). Adaptation et mise en scène Pierre Maillet. Le Monfort Théâtre, 106, rue Brancion, Paris 15e. Tél. : 01-56-08-33-88. Du mardi au samedi à 20 h 30, jusqu’au 21 janvier. Durée : 1 h 20. Puis à Rouen du 28 février au 4 mars, et à Brest du 25 au 27 avril.

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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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