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‘Becker on Ewald on Foucault on Becker’: American Neoliberalism and Michel Foucault’s 1979 ‘Birth of Biopolitics’ Lectures

Gary S. Becker
University of Chicago – Department of Economics; University of Chicago – Booth School of Business

Francois Ewald
Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers

Bernard E. Harcourt
University of Chicago – Department of Political Science; University of Chicago – Law School

Further details
text version

September 5, 2012

University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 614
U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 401


Abstract:

In a series of lectures delivered in 1979 at the Collège de France under the title The Birth of Biopolitics, Michel Foucault conducted a close reading of Gary Becker’s writings on human capital and on crime and punishment, within the context of an elaboration and critique of American neoliberalism. Foucault was assisted at the time, at the Collège de France, by François Ewald. Since then, there has been ongoing debate over Foucault’s views about neoliberalism. In this historic meeting at the University of Chicago between Professors Becker and Ewald, Professor Ewald presents a framework to understand Foucault’s writings on Becker; Professor Bernard Harcourt offers a different reading of Foucault’s views on neoliberalism; and Professor Becker responds to Foucault’s lectures and to possible critical readings of his work on human capital. Apology or critique — that is the motivating question in this rich encounter between contemporary French philosophy and American economic theory.

Keywords: Gary Becker, Michel Foucault, François Ewald, neoliberalism, human capital, crime and punishment, biopolitics
working papers series

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