“‘Foucault and Neoliberalism’ has already begun to launch a crucial historical and political debate. Its critique and historical contextualization of Foucault’s late work open up new perspectives on the rise of neoliberalism in France and the general evolution of the intellectual left since the 1980s. From the retreat of class analysis to the triumph both of identity politics and of a conception of social justice limited to equality of opportunity, Foucault and Neoliberalism helps us first to understand and then to imagine an alternative to the political dead end of the contemporary left.”
–Walter Benn Michaels, University of Illinois at Chicago
Daniel Zamora discusses “Foucault and Neoliberalism”
Co-sponsored by Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT)
At the Co-op
About the book: Michel Foucault’s death in 1984 coincided with the fading away of the hopes for social transformation that characterized the postwar period. In the decades following his death, neoliberalism has triumphed and attacks on social rights have become increasingly bold. If Foucault was not a direct witness of these years, his work on neoliberalism is nonetheless prescient: the question of liberalism occupies an important place in his last works. Since his death, Foucault’s conceptual apparatus has acquired a central, even dominant position for a substantial segment of the world’s intellectual left.
However, as the contributions to this volume demonstrate, Foucault’s attitude towards neoliberalism was at least equivocal. Far from leading an intellectual struggle against free market orthodoxy, Foucault seems in many ways to endorse it. How is one to understand his radical critique of the welfare state, understood as an instrument of biopower? Or his support for the pandering anti-Marxism of the so-called new philosophers? Is it possible that Foucault was seduced by neoliberalism?
This question is not merely of biographical interest: it forces us to confront more generally the mutations of the left since May 1968, the disillusionment of the years that followed and the profound transformations in the French intellectual field over the past thirty years. To understand the 1980s and the neoliberal triumph is to explore the most ambiguous corners of the intellectual left through one of its most important figures.
About the author: Daniel Zamora is a postdoctoral fellow in sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and has recently published “Foucault and Neoliberalism” at Polity Press.