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Archive for the ‘Magazine articles’ 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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Elaine Blair, Chris Kraus, Female Antihero, The New Yorker, November 21, 2016

She turned her failures as a filmmaker and in her romantic relationships into the boundary-breaking autobiographical novel “I Love Dick.”
[…]

“I Love Dick,” Kraus’s first book, was published in 1997 by the independent press Semiotext(e) and received little notice. Semiotext(e), founded in 1974 as a journal by Sylvère Lotringer, whom Kraus later married, was a shoestring operation that had a loyal following in the art world and some corners of academia for having introduced the French theorists Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, and Paul Virilio to American readers. “I Love Dick” sold fewer than a hundred copies a year until it was reissued, in 2006. Through word of mouth and the endorsement of some influential writers and critics, a new generation of readers has discovered the novel. In 2013, Sheila Heti wrote, in The Believer, that “I Love Dick” belongs to the category of novels that “tear down so many assumptions about what the form can handle.” Last year, Lena Dunham gave a copy to the singer-songwriter Lorde, who Instagrammed its distinctive white cover. It has sold about fourteen thousand copies so far this year. In August, the director Jill Soloway released a pilot for a television show based on the novel.

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William Davies, What Is “Neo” About Neoliberalism?, New Republic, July 13, 2017

How to tell the difference between liberalism and something else.

In the buildup to the 2015 General Election, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), reiterated his support for an “Australian-style points system” as a means of controlling immigration, the policy issue that his party had prioritized above all others. What was curious about Farage’s statement was not the policy commitment itself, which had been known for some time, but the liberal rhetoric that he used to justify it. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Farage argued “what UKIP wants is not to do down migrants. It’s not to stigmatize, or discourage, or blame people for coming to this country and trying to make a better life for themselves” and that the “points system” is the only fair basis for managing immigration.

[…]

Firstly, neoliberalism has never pursued a weaker state; indeed it is a political philosophy and policy agenda that has always looked to the state to reshape society around its ideals. As Michel Foucault went to great lengths to stress, it is not another form of laissez-faire and, instead, grants the state a key role in shaping how economic freedom is to be defined and instantiated. So, in the case of immigration, the liberal notion that economic welfare will be maximized by simply throwing open the national labor market to all-comers would be resisted from a neoliberal perspective. It is entirely plausible, from a neoliberal perspective, that the state might seek to regulate something like labor flows, to serve certain strategic economic goals.

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Workload survival guide for academics, Advice on how to cope with all the work and when to say no to opportunities, Times Higher Education, February 18, 2016

[Editor: This piece by Stuart Elden is part of a larger feature on current workload problems in the university]

‘I try to agree only to talks that move the writing forward, using them as deadlines for producing parts of a wider whole’

I recently spent three days at the Institut Mémoires de l’Edition Contemporaine at the Abbaye d’Ardenne, outside Caen in Normandy. This houses the archives of many French writers, publishers and institutions, including a valuable collection of papers by and relating to Michel Foucault.

The reading room is in the abbey itself; the other buildings have been converted into study-bedrooms, a refectory and conference rooms. Most people using the collections stay on site, take meals together and work in the reading room all the time it is open. There is a shared collective endeavour, a comfortable silence in working hours and a genuine interest in each other’s work in the communal spaces.

All this is at some distance from the working lives of most academics today. Teaching, preparation, marking, office hours, meetings, emails, phone calls and so on make consolidated and protected time for individual study very difficult to obtain and protect. Yet much of our most important work, perhaps especially for academics in the social sciences and humanities, happens alone, in time that cannot easily be quantified, measured or evaluated. Journal articles, chapters and books need consolidated, isolated and protected time; the slow accumulation of reading, thinking and writing, repeated and repeated.

I’m in a privileged position in general in terms of my academic role, and especially this academic year, when I am on sabbatical. But I have an ambitious plan: one book was submitted in the summer before the sabbatical began, I have another that I want to complete and a third with which I want to make good progress. So I set myself some rules to try to structure the days and make the most of the time available (these work just as well for isolated research days, or even just a few hours of writing time).

Number one is not to check email in the morning; email has a habit of setting the day’s agenda for you, instead of being but one of the tasks you need to address. I try to keep nothing in my inbox. This does not mean that every email is already answered, or the associated task completed. It means that the only ones in there are ones I have never seen. Some messages are sorted into consolidated folders – things to do in the office, things to read at some point – others are turned into tasks with scheduled dates and times. So, if nothing in my inbox is older than half a day, it can’t be that urgent. If it is, it’s the sender’s problem, not mine.

I try to keep the morning, or the whole of a shorter slot, as consolidated writing time. I set the agenda. If I’ve had a few productive hours of writing, and feel I am moving things forward, then I am better placed to deal with other tasks – review work, editorial duties, reading PhD students’ work, answering messages. I restrict social media use, usually by using a plug-in to block or limit time. I can always use my phone or iPad, but then it’s really obvious that I’m not working.

I try to agree only to talks that move the writing forward, using them as deadlines for producing parts of a wider whole. There are always exceptions, but preparing a talk can become a major diversion from a focus. The same goes for writing or editing projects – often intriguing, flattering and tempting, and I do those that I can, but they have a cost.

Certain places are also associated with productive work. The specialist archives are one; I’ve also done good work in the British Library Rare Books room in the past. But the best place is still my home study. Close the door – physical and virtual – and get back to writing.

Stuart Elden is professor of political theory and geography at the University of Warwick and author of the forthcoming Foucault’s Last Decade. He blogs at Progressive Geographies.

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Sam Leith, In our Google era, indexers are the unsung heroes of the publishing world, The Guardian, Thursday 30 March 2017

[…]
Today, the Society of Indexers – the industry body for those professionals (for which, full disclosure, I have the honour to be honorary president) – turns 60 years old. It celebrates its “anniversary, diamond”. “What?” you ask. “Who?” you wonder. No surprise. Indexers are like badgers: they are seldom sighted in the wild, they do their work in the darkness, and when you see one it’s usually because they’ve been run over by an 18-wheeler.

[…]

Also, which is well worth remembering, a good index is often very funny. Those of us who take an interest in such things – and I think there should be more of us – end up hoarding favourites. Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality (volume two) contains the cherishable “Elephants, as example of conjugal virtue, 17”. A 1995 book on the computer contains a deliberately circular reference (normally an absolute no-no): “Loop, endless: see ‘endless loop’”; “Endless loop: see ‘loop, endless’.” JG Ballard wrote a short story called “The Index”, which was the index to an imaginary book; the late David Miller used it as the index to his anthology That Glimpse of Truth: The 100 Finest Short Stories Ever Written. And as my colleague in the society, Paula Clarke Bain, who blogs about comedy indexes, recognises, the indexes to Alan Partridge’s memoirs are at least as funny as the body text.

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Colin Koopman, The power thinker, Aeon, 15 March 2017
Original, painstaking, sometimes frustrating and often dazzling. Foucault’s work on power matters now more than ever

Imagine you are asked to compose an ultra-short history of philosophy. Perhaps you’ve been challenged to squeeze the impossibly sprawling diversity of philosophy itself into just a few tweets. You could do worse than to search for the single word that best captures the ideas of every important philosopher. Plato had his ‘forms’. René Descartes had his ‘mind’ and John Locke his ‘ideas’. John Stuart Mill later had his ‘liberty’. In more recent philosophy, Jacques Derrida’s word was ‘text’, John Rawls’s was ‘justice’, and Judith Butler’s remains ‘gender’. Michel Foucault’s word, according to this innocent little parlour game, would certainly be ‘power’.

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Ron Purser and Edwin Ng, Cutting Through the Corporate Mindfulness Hype, Part One Huffington Post, March 22, 2016

Extract
Michel Foucault made an astute observation: “You know the difference between a real science and a pseudoscience? A real science recognizes and accepts its own history without feeling attacked.” Hopefully, management science scholar-practitioners promoting corporate mindfulness research would contemplate on this statement.

Ron Purser and Edwin Ng, Mindfulness and Self-Care: Why Should I Care? Part Two, Huffington Post, April 6 2016

Extract

Though we are skeptical about celebratory claims, we actually do hope that mindfulness might become a disruptive technology to transform prevailing systems. However, we insist on the importance of collective attentiveness towards the workings of power, which have shaped the dominant individualistic-therapeutic approach to mindfulness and the stresses we face in our private and public lives.

I’d like to clarify the notion of governmentality that guides our work. The blended concept of govern-mentality derives from the work of Michel Foucault. Governmentality does not refer only to the processes of the state. Rather, to think about governmentality is to explore how diverse types of knowledge, expertise, and practices are developed to guide people’s voluntary conduct.

Consider, for instance, the contemporary interest in “wellness“. We learn about the research conducted by medical institutions on exercising or meditation. This knowledge filters through the advice we find in the media. With the help of a trained expert or through our independent efforts, we might cultivate a daily practice of jogging or yoga or mindfulness. Companies and institutions might incorporate a wellness program into their operations.

To put it another way, governmentality plays out formally and informally as the everyday “rules of the game” for responsible conduct. Under the conditions of neoliberal capitalism, the logics of governmentality are imbued with the moral rhetoric of “free choice” and are geared towards self-optimizing, consumerist and entrepreneurial ends.

Ron Purser, Ph.D.. is Professor of Management at San Francisco State University. His article, “Beyond McMindfulness,” in the Huffington Post went viral in 2013.
Edwin Ng, Ph.D., is an author and cultural theorist currently based in Australia. He has written commentaries on the cultural translation of Buddhism and mindfulness for Salon.com and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

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