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Gordon Hull, Republican Thanatopolitics, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science blog, 8 May 2017

Foucault reminds us that biopolitics is describes a kind of power structure according to which some will be compelled to live (or have their lives as members of a favored population optimized), while others will be allowed to die. As he puts it, “the ancient right to take life or let live was replaced by a power to foster life or disallow it to the point of death” (HS1, 138). Although much work has focused on techniques by which biopower works to optimize a population, it is worth attending to the disallowance of life, the thanatopolitics that is the other half of biopower, because the Republican party is engaged in producing a very effective case study.

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Gabriel Rockhill, The CIA Reads French Theory: On The Intellectual Labor Of Dismantling The Cultural Left. The Philosophical Salon, Los Angeles Review of Books, 28 Feb 2017

Also in French on Mediapart
Quand la CIA s’attelait à démanteler la gauche intellectuelle française

It is often presumed that intellectuals have little or no political power. Perched in a privileged ivory tower, disconnected from the real world, embroiled in meaningless academic debates over specialized minutia, or floating in the abstruse clouds of high-minded theory, intellectuals are frequently portrayed as not only cut off from political reality but as incapable of having any meaningful impact on it. The Central Intelligence Agency thinks otherwise.
[…]

As a matter of fact, the agency responsible for coups d’état, targeted assassinations and the clandestine manipulation of foreign governments not only believes in the power of theory, but it dedicated significant resources to having a group of secret agents pore over what some consider to be the most recondite and intricate theory ever produced. For in an intriguing research paper written in 1985, and recently released with minor redactions through the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA reveals that its operatives have been studying the complex, international trend-setting French theory affiliated with the names of Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Roland Barthes.

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Hugo Durieux, La CIA et les intellectuels français, Durieux.eu blog, 31 Mars 2017

Après l’avoir purifiée (sanitized), la CIA états-unienne (Central Intelligence Agency) a  rendu publique en 2011 une note de recherche intitulée France : Defection of the Leftist Intellectuals (France : la défection des intellectuels de gauche)[i]. Le document original confidentiel date de fin 1985 et fut élaboré au sein de l’Office for European Analysis.

D’abord rappelez-vous le contexte politique. On est encore en période de guerre froide. L’OTAN a l’intention de déployer en Europe de l’ouest près de six cents  missiles de croisière conçus pour le transport de têtes nucléaires. Partout en Europe se tiennent d’énormes manifestations contre l’OTAN et les Etats-Unis et leur politique d’armement. L’Union Soviétique existe encore, même si elle fait déjà l’expérience de fortes résistances organisées en Europe de l’est. En France, François Mitterrand a entamé la deuxième moitié de son premier  septennat présidentiel. Le gouvernement va de crise en crise. Sa politique économique et sociale ne cesse de décevoir l’électorat de gauche ; au gouvernement  Fabius de 1984 les quatre ministres communistes du PCF ont été remplacés. Une année plus tard, en 1986, l’union de la gauche perdra sa majorité à l’Assemblée Nationale.

suite

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The Deflationary Mind
Mark Lilla’s prosecution of radical thinkers in the name of intellectual seriousness can only lead to a flat and lifeless politics.
by David Sessions, Jacobin, 27 October 2016

During the 1990s, some of the most prominent Anglo-American interpreters of European intellectual history decided it was time to settle accounts. They brought important thinkers of the past two centuries — Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Georges Bataille, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, just to name a few — before end-of-history tribunals, and, more often than not, declared them guilty of intellectual irresponsibility, a weakness for tyranny or mythology (or both), and crazed utopianism.

The liberal reading public was delighted to read these verdicts, which convicted twentieth-century European philosophy of failing to submit to the global triumph of English-speaking liberal capitalism. The idea of “intellectual responsibility” guided both the late British historian Tony Judt’s excoriation of French intellectuals’ postwar communism, and Mark Lilla’s portrait-essays of European theorists who looked beyond the pragmatic, deflated liberal politics he presented as the exclusive terrain of legitimate intellectual engagement.

Things look different now. The limits of American power, as well as the strength of recent resistance to the global neoliberal order, have come into clearer view, making the questions Europeans faced in the first half of the twentieth century — and some of the answers they proposed — seem more current. Less prosecutorial scholars have approached the difficult ideas of European thinkers with greater theoretical subtlety, intellectual empathy, and political open-mindedness, grounding their work in its historical context.

From this vantage point, the “realism” of the fin-de-siècle American elite looks more like myopic hubris than sober responsibility. Its assessment of twentieth-century theory looks less like a reckoning with the past and more like the euphoric sanctification of what they allowed themselves to believe was the permanent overcoming of history.

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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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Chez Foucault, the 1978 Fanzine That Introduced Students to the Radical French Philosopher, Open Culture Blog, 5 March 2015

chez-foucault1

Extract

Into this fomenting intellectual culture stepped French theorist Michel Foucault, who first lectured in the U.S. in 1975 after the publication of his History of Sexuality. Foucault was a true product of the French university system and an academic superstar of sorts, as well as a gadfly of revolutionary movements fromParis in ’68, to Iran in ’79, to Berkeley in the 80s. His work as a philosopher and political dissident prompted one biographer to refer to him as a “militant intellectual,” though his politics could sometimes be as obscure as his prose. By 1981, he had risen to such cultural prominence in the States that Time magazine published a profile of him and his “growing cult.” One of Foucault’s American acolytes, Simeon Wade, befriended the philosopher in the mid-seventies and wrote an unpublished, 121-page account of Foucault’s alleged 1975 LSD trip in Death Valley (referred to in James Miller’s The Passion of Michel Foucault). Wade, along with a number of other University of California students, also interviewed Foucault the following year.

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Mark Murphy, Foucault, hybridization and social research: reflections on the Foucault @90 Conference, Social Theory Applied Blog, 29 June 2016

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent Foucault @90 conference, held at the University of West of Scotland on the 22-23 June. It was well attended with a strong selection of papers and excellent keynotes from Prof. Mark Olssen, Dr. Clare O’Farrell and Prof. Stephen Ball. A conference wholly devoted to Foucault – what’s not to like?

[…]

What I particularly enjoyed about the conference was its lack of deference and willingness to think with Foucault and beyond his work. Evident among the presenters was a desire to match his ideas up with practical research agendas in specific cultural and national contexts. This desire was reflected in the ways in which presenters made connections between Foucault and other thinkers.

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