Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and Foucault (2017)

Editor: An unfortunate flip remark from former Australian Labor Prime Minister.

Kevin Rudd: Foucault’s more painful than the knife in my back
The Sunday Times, November 19 2017.

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Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister ousted by his deputy, tells Leaf Arbuthnot his Oxford PhD course can be brutal too,

Kevin Rudd, the apple-cheeked former prime minister of Australia, is not going gently into that good night. Aged 60 and four years out of office, he has just embarked on a PhD at Oxford and seems exhilarated to be learning again.


Rudd was prime minister not once but twice. His first stint, as leader of the Labor Party, was in 2007-10; his second was in 2013.

Although we talk under the silent stare of one of his minders, Rudd is evidently throwing himself into student life. He enthuses about the “great minds” he is encountering and taking part in Oxford’s “weird” rituals — including the matriculation ceremony at the start of the academic year, where new university members parade through town in gowns.


Yet he is clearly still adjusting to the demands of academic work. “The other day I endured my first lecture on Derrida and Foucault,” he recalls with a laugh. “I’m still in the recovery ward.”

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Speaking the language of change? (2017)

Speaking the language of change?
Nissim Mannathukkaren, The Hindu (newspaper), July 17,2017

The World Bank’s reports show that social movements may be shaping the bank’s language

Democratic Centralism entails popular participation in formulating the plan at the enterprise level. — World Bank Romania country report, 1979

The World Bank’s ‘World Development Report 2017’ is a remarkable document. Remarkable, because it does not seem that the World Bank authored this document titled “Governance and the Law.” When the report cites Michel Foucault, that incandescent French thinker, who showed us how supposedly free and rational institutions of modernity are indissolubly linked with power and social control, it is time to sit up and notice.

Politics and power

This is not an accident for the central focus of the report is politics and power in development policy, and the endeavor is to move politics and power “from the margins to the core of development thinking and action” and to “development practice… health and education… transportation and food…” (p.271).

How does then a rethinking of governance for development look like? The report stresses on three key principles which differ from traditional approaches: 1) Focus not only on the right form of institutions, but also about the functions of institutions. 2) Focus not only on building the capacity of institutions, but also about power asymmetries, and 3) Focus not only the rule of law, but also about the role of law (p.29).

Nissim Mannathukkaren is Chair, International Development Studies, Dalhousie University, Canada

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Meet Disney’s philosopher king (2017)

[Editor: You never know where references to Foucault’s name will pop up…]

Todd Martens, Meet Disney’s philosopher king: the brain behind ‘Avatar’s’ Pandora and Marvel’s ‘Guardians’ ride, Los Angeles Times, May 25 2017

When visitors set foot into Pandora — The World of Avatar at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., they will find glowing plants and floating mountains.

Opening Saturday, the lush, forest-like setting of Pandora obviously takes its cues from James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster; more unexpected is the subtle nod to the Italian Baroque art of Gian Lorenzo Bernini seen in the entangled vines descending from the apparently hovering mountains.

On the other side of the country, fans of “Guardians of the Galaxy” films will find much that’s familiar in California Adventure’s new Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout attraction, which also opens Saturday.

Art history majors, however, may also notice the high-tech influence of architect Renzo Piano, who worked on France’s Pompidou Centre.

These cultural mash-ups, which herald a new age and aesthetic for the two Disney parks, are compliments of the complicated mind of one man: Imagineer Joe Rohde.

During his nearly 40 years with Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s highly secretive arm devoted to theme park experiences, Rohde has emerged as something akin to Disney’s philosopher king, working from a deep belief that Disney parks are cultural institutions as much as they are places to ride alongside pirates or buy a churro and a lightsaber.

But Rohde is more likely to cite Michel Foucault than he is Uncle Walt.

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The False Difference Between the Right and the Left (2017)

The False Difference Between the Right and the Left, Haaretz, Ofer Sitbon Apr 28, 2017

Jean-Claude Michéa has recently garnered unusual exposure: His book “Notre ennemi, le capital” (2017), made the front page of Le Monde on January 1. The philosopher, who was born in 1950, teaches philosophy in a high school in Montpellier, France. Despite not having had an academic career, he has become an intriguing and controversial public figure, and some have described the great enthusiasm for him among young people as the Michéa generation.

The basic thesis that is the leitmotif in his books (the first of which was published in 1995) and in interviews with him (never for television) concerns the two faces of liberalism: economic liberalism, which seeks to expand the applicability of the market to all human activity throughout the planet, and cultural liberalism, which seeks to expand the rights of the individual and lift all restrictions on human behavior.

According to Michéa — and this is his innovation — the two kinds of liberalism that put the individual at the center are inextricably knotted together, because in order to impose its vision on a society of total consumption, a rightist economy (in which “everything is tradable”) needs at its side and as its ally a leftist society (in which “everything is permissible”) that opens to the economy more and more pathways to commercializing human life: unlimited growth in a world without borders. The deep liberal logic whereby belonging that does not happen by choice (family, religion, nationality) means oppression sees an unrestricted market as the only site of socialization that accords with the individual’s liberty to act without any limitations at all.

In a provocative formulation, Michéa argued that the Cannes Film Festival, which emphasizes the artistic character of the cinema, is not the opposite of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Rather, both events glorify the individual with no limits. According to one epigram, Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist whose thinking has shaped today’s liberalism, and Michel Foucault, the postmodern prophet who saw moral obligations as a manifestation of “the dictatorship of the Other,” are two sides of the same coin: Both are guided by the same historical and intellectual logic.

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In our Google era, indexers are the unsung heroes of the publishing world (2017)

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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Quand la CIA s’intéressait de près à Foucault, Derrida et Althusser (2017)

Quand la CIA s’intéressait de près à Foucault, Derrida et Althusser. Le Monde, 23.03.2017

En 1985, les espions américains se félicitaient de la décomposition de la gauche intellectuelle française. Et passaient complètement à côté de la popularité croissante de ces mêmes philosophes dans leur pays.

Les espions lisent de la philosophie. Ce n’est d’ailleurs pas un secret, pendant la guerre froide, la CIA a mené une « guerre culturelle » en surveillant la vie intellectuelle et en finançant des projets culturels. Un rapport de recherche, déclassifié en 2011, vient apporter un éclairage étonnant sur ces pratiques.

Ce document, livré en 1985 par les agents américains basés à Paris, montre un certain intérêt pour les grandes figures du structuralisme, qu’on appellerait bientôt, outre-Atlantique, la « French theory ». Comme le résume Gabriel Rockhill, philosophe franco-américain qui a étudié le rapport pour la Los Angeles Review of Books, « la CIA a consacré des moyens importants à l’étude, par un groupe d’agents secrets, du corpus théorique considéré par certains comme le plus abscons et le plus alambiqué jamais produit ».

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Foucault and the Duchess of Cambridge (2017)

Editor: What do Foucault and the Duchess of Cambridge have in common? The polo neck skivvy!

The affordable staple that has become the Duchess of Cambridge’s secret wardrobe weapon, The Telegraph, 23 February 2017

The Duchess of Cambridge is now, we can all agree, a pro in the royal dressing stakes. For her increasingly regular royal engagements, she strikes a careful balance between introducing new pieces, whether by designers she’s never worn before or old faithfuls like Alexander McQueen or L.K Bennett, and reviving favourite looks from past appearances. This means that she has become both famously ‘thrifty’ but also noted for her glamour and support of British design names. […]

But it’s the Duchess’s black polo neck jumper which she layered underneath the nipped-waist jacket that was today’s most noteworthy outfit addition. It marks the third time this year alone that Kate has worn this staple piece for a public engagement. […]

For such a useful and seemingly simple piece, the polo neck has a rather illustrious history. Its beginnings were humble, being used mostly as a practical cover-up. But during the 20th century it became a favourite of the intellectual elite. The French philosopher Michel Foucault was renowned for his love of a white jersey version.

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