martedì 6 gennaio 2015

Daniel Zamora and Foucault and Neoliberalism AUFS Event: Daniel Zamora – A Reply: Was Foucault Speaking in His Own Voice? @ AUFS blog, 06Jan2014

Foucault and Neoliberalism AUFS Event: 
Daniel Zamora – A Reply: Was Foucault Speaking in His Own Voice?
Daniel Zamora is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Later in 2015, a translation of Critiquer Foucault: Les années 1980 et la tentation néolibérale will appear in English. Two recent discussions by Zamora on Foucault and Neoliberalism can be found at Jacobin.

First I would like to thank the four contributors and AUFS for devoting this series to the theme of Foucault and neoliberalism. All the interventions are highly stimulating and take us to the heart of a debate of great current moment. Obviously I am not able to undertake a general discussion of all the interventions and all the central questions they pose. But I am sure that the debate will not end here, that it will continue when the book is published in English. However, I would like to revisit the reasoning behind my argument, and why I do not think that it is a problem of interpreting Foucault’s words.
It is indeed true, as Stuart Elden notes in his response, that “Foucault’s mode of reading texts often makes it look like he is agreeing with arguments, when he is really trying to reconstruct them, to understand their logic, and so on.” Verena Erlenbusch, for her part, adds that I “[fail] to recognize that Foucault is not speaking in his own voice but paraphrasing important representatives of neoliberal thought.” The argument made by Stuart Elden clearly applies to Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France. But while I am largely in agreement with his critique, I do not think it affects my argument. This is the case for two reasons.
First, because my argument is only secondarily based on Foucault’s lectures. Indeed, of the 45 footnotes citing Foucault in my text [in Critiquer Foucault], only 9 come from the lectures he delivered at the Collège de France. The other 36 are from texts, interviews, and interventions that he delivered over a period stretching from 1972 to 1983. Thus, when Foucault takes aim at the notion of a “right to health,” in terms that are ambiguous to say the least, or when he invokes the “perverse” effects of social security, he is responding to a national secretary of the CFDT [the French union federation] in one of the rare interviews that he devoted to this subject. To this, Verena Erlenbusch replies that “with regard to the interviews Foucault gave, it seems to me by no means necessary that Foucault always speaks in his own voice.” But on what basis can she claim this? Why, in this interview given in 1983, in which absolutely nothing indicates he was not speaking in his own name, should I think this is the case? And if it is the case, should we then conclude that there is no interview where Foucault ever gave his own opinion? If this were the case, it would be necessary to revise the great majority of the existing studies of Foucault.
The truth is much simpler: the person interviewing Foucault is very clearly addressing him and soliciting his opinion, using terms such as “do you think”, “in your opinion,” “is it your view that,” “do you support the goal I’ve just outlined?” Foucault is speaking in his own name; it is necessary to accept this and to try to understand why he thinks such things. The same goes for all the other interviews where he takes up neoliberal arguments in his own words and speaks in his own name. Understanding Foucault means above all to read him honestly, not to attribute to him the opinions that suit us and to ignore those we don’t like. As Michael Behrent notes, “the real danger consists in turning Foucault into our fantasy philosopher, the thinker we want him to be—an unrelenting critic of Marxism who somehow remained a kind of socialist; a Nietzschean who embraced solid progressive principles. This is just wishful thinking. Historicizing, in this instance, is the best form of critique.”
Second, I do not think we can exempt from discussion the texts of the Collège de France lectures. The least that can be said is that they are ambiguous, and that what he is saying in them is a matter of debate. In addition, the argument I make about Soléru’s negative income tax is based on a more general theoretical discussion about the shift from exploitation to exclusion, and towards those on the “margins” of the workforce. These two shifts – the end of the political centrality of the working class and the notion of exploitation – constitute, in my view, two of the principal theoretical evolutions that accompanied the advent of neoliberalism. And it cannot be denied that, on these two planes, in his books as well as his texts and interviews, Foucault participates in this evolution. Certainly all of this is complicated and demands much more thorough discussion. But I think that today these questions are quite pertinent and absolutely necessary.
Thus, to the criticism that this isn’t the “right question,” I would respond, on the contrary, that it is precisely the right question. The neoliberal offensive profoundly reconfigured the intellectual field of the 1970s, and to better oppose it we must understand its origins. In this sense, my response would take the form of that which Foucault gave to Chomsky concerning anarcho-syndicalism. In our haste to oppose neoliberalism, without first understanding the profound revolution of which it is the product, we risk perpetuating it in our discourse, however progressive that discourse may be.
In French:
Tout d’abord j’aimerais remercier les quatre contributeurs et le blog AUFS pour avoir consacré cette série au thème de Foucault et le néolibéralisme. Les interventions étaient toutes très stimulantes et nous plongent au coeur d’un débat qui est d’une grande actualité. Je ne pourrais évidemment pas entamer une discussion générale sur toutes les interventions et sur les questions centrales qu’elles posent. Je suis cependant certain que ce débat ne s’arrêtera pas ici et qu’il pourra continuer lors de la parution du livre en anglais. J’aimerais cependant revenir sur les raisons de mon argument et sur pourquoi je ne pense pas qu’il s’agisse d’un problème d’interprétation des propos du philosophe.
En effet, comme le note Stuart Elden dans sa réponse : « Foucault’s mode of reading texts often makes it look like he is agreeing with arguments, when he is really trying to reconstruct them, to understand their logic, and so on. » Verena Erlenbusch ajoute, pour sa part que je « fails to recognize that Foucault is not speaking in his own voice but paraphrasing important representatives of neoliberal thought. » L’argument que fait légitimement Stuart Elden porte bien évidemment sur les cours au Collège de France qu’a donné Foucault. Si je suis en grande partie d’accord avec cette critique, je pense cependant que cela ne porte pas atteinte à mon argument. Et cela pour deux raisons.
La première est que mon argument ne se base que secondairement sur les cours. En effet, sur les 45 notes renvoyant à Foucault dans mon texte, seuls 9 proviennent des leçons qu’a donné Foucault au Collège de France. Les 36 autres sont issues de textes, d’interviews et d’interventions que le philosophe a donné sur une période qui s’étend de 1972 à 1983. Ainsi, lorsque Foucault s’en prend à la notion du « droit à la santé », dans des termes pour le moins ambigus ou qu’il évoque les effets « pervers » de la sécurité sociale, il répond à un secrétaire national de la CFDT dans une des rares interviews qu’il consacre alors à ce sujet. A cela Verena Erlenbusch répond que « with regard to the interviews Foucault gave, it seems to me by no means necessary that Foucault always speaks in his own voice. ». Mais en vertu de quoi peut elle affirmer cela ? Pourquoi, lors de cet entretien donné en 1983 ou strictement rien n’indique qu’il ne parle pas en son nom, devrai-je penser que c’est le cas ? Et si c’est le cas, faut il alors considérer qu’il n’y a aucune interview ou Foucault donne son avis ? Si tel était le cas, il faudrait dès lors revoir une grande majorité des études faites sur Foucault. La réalité est beaucoup plus simple, la personne qui interroge Foucault s’adresse très clairement à lui et à son opinion dans des termes tels que « estimez vous ? », « a votre avis », « est-ce votre avis ? », « souscrivez vous à l’objectif que je viens d’énoncer ? »,… Foucault parle en son nom et il faut accepter ce fait et tenter de comprendre pourquoi il pense de telles choses. Il en va de même pour toutes les autres interviews où il reprend les arguments néolibéraux à son compte et s’exprime en son nom. Comprendre Foucault c’est avant tout le lire honnêtement et pas lui prêter les opinions qui nous conviennent et écarter celles qui nous plaisent moins. Comme le note Michael Behrent, « the real danger consists in turning Foucault into our fantasy philosopher, the thinker we want him to be—an unrelenting critic of Marxism who somehow remained a kind of socialist; a Nietzschean who embraced solid progressive principles. This is just wishful thinking. Historicizing, in this instance, is the best form of critique.”
Ensuite, je pense que nous ne pouvons pas écarter de toute discussion sur les textes des cours donnés au collège de France. Le moins qu’on puisse dire c’est qu’ils sont ambigus et que ce qui y dit est – au moins – matière à débat. Par ailleurs l’argument que je mène sur l’impôt négatif de Soléru se base sur une discussion théorique plus générale à propos du recentrage de l’exploitation vers l’exclusion et les figures aux « marges » du salariat. Ces deux déplacements – la fin de la centralité politique de la classe ouvrière et de la notion d’exploitation – constituent à mon sens deux des principales évolutions théoriques qui ont accompagné l’avènement du néolibéralisme. Et force est de constater, que sur ces deux plans, autant dans ses livres, ses textes et interviews, Foucault participe à cette évolution. Bien sur tout cela est beaucoup plus compliqué et demanderai une discussion beaucoup plus aboutie. Cependant je pense que ces questions sont tout à fait pertinentes aujourd’hui et absolument nécessaires.
Ainsi à la critique que ce n’est pas « la bonne question » à poser, je répondrais qu’au contraire, c’est précisément la bonne question. L’offensive néolibérale a profondément reconfiguré le champ intellectuel des années 70 et nous devons, pour mieux s’y opposer, en comprendre la genèse. En ce sens ma réponse sera à l’image de celle qu’offre Foucault à Chomsky concernant l’anarcho-syndicalisme. A vouloir trop vite s’opposer au néolibéralisme, sans, au préalable, en avoir compris la profonde révolution dont il est le produit, on risque de le voir se perpétuer dans nos discours, aussi progressistes soient-ils.

lunedì 5 gennaio 2015

Nicolae Morar, Thomas Nail, and Daniel W. Smith: Introduction @ Foucault Studies Special Issue: Foucault and Deleuze, April 2014

Nicolae Morar, Thomas Nail, and Daniel W. Smith: 

Introduction @ Foucault Studies Special Issue: Foucault and DeleuzeApril 2014

Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault are widely accepted to be central figures of post‐war French philosophy. Philosophers, cultural theorists, and others have devoted considerable effort to the critical examination of the work of each of these thinkers, but despite the strong biographical and philosophical connection between Foucault and Deleuze, very little has been done to explore the relationship between them. This special issue of Foucault Studies is the first collection of essays to address this critical deficit with a rigorous comparative discussion of the work of these two philosophers.

Deleuze’s Course Lectures on Foucault
In particular, this special issue is motivated by the recent (2011) online publication of Gilles Deleuze’s course lectures on Michel Foucault (1985‐86) at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (French National Library) in Paris. The BNF collected the available recordings of Deleuze’s seminar lectures at the University of Paris 8 and converted them into digital files. Needless to say, the task was a painstaking one, but the mp3 files have now been made accessible online through the Gallica search engine at the library.When Foucault died in 1984, Deleuze was so affected by the death of his friend, that he began lecturing and writing a book about Foucault’s philosophical corpus immediately. When asked why he wanted to write such a book, Deleuze was quite clear, “it marks an inner need of mine, my admiration for him, how I was moved by his death, and his unfinished work.”2 Deleuze’s desire for some kind of reconciliation with Foucault seems to have been a mutual one. According to Didier Eribon, one of Foucault’s most heartfelt wishes, knowing that he would not live long, was to reconcile with Deleuze.3 After speaking at Foucault’s funeral, Deleuze’s book project on Foucault began as a lecture series given at the University of Paris 8, between 1985 and 1986. But these lectures were not merely a scholarly commentary on Foucault’s work. They were, in the words of Frédéric Gros, “[a] means [of] discovering the founding principles, [and] laying bare the inherent metaphysics of [Foucault’s] thought.”4 “It is amazing to see,” Gros admits in an interview with François Dosse, “how Deleuze, who couldn’t have had any knowledge of the Collège de France lectures, was so accurate in his interpretation.”5

From 1985 to 1986, Deleuze gave a weekly seminar at the University of Paris 8 every Tuesday on Foucault. The seminars were scheduled for two hours but often lasted three or even four hours, and functioned as a kind of laboratory in which Deleuze would experiment with the ideas and concepts he was in the process of developing. Some of these eventually made their way into his book on Foucault but there are many analyses that find no parallel in his published book, Foucault. For this reason, some of the most innovative philosophical scholarship on Foucault can be found in these lectures.

For example, while Deleuze’s published book on Foucault is approximately 40,000 words (140 pages) long, his transcribed lectures on Foucault are over 400,000 words long (1600 pages). On April 8, 1986, Deleuze gave a three‐hour seminar that developed an original conception of Foucault’s concept of biopower through a wide‐ranging reinterpretation of the Foucauldian corpus. The seminar is a tour de force, and clarifies the enigmatic relationship of Deleuze’s concept of “control societies” with Foucault’s concept of biopower, that scholars have struggled with for years. However, in his published book on Foucault that was the result of these seminars, the analysis of this entire seminar was compressed into scarcely more than a single page that never even mentions the word “biopower.”6 It would be difficult, even for philosophically informed readers, to discern the breadth of the original analysis from the summary presented in the book. Indeed, Deleuze’s published book on Foucault is simply a précis of the more detailed material presented in the seminars.

We believe that these lectures offer an incredible contribution to both Deleuze and Foucault studies and an opportunity to formally reflect (in this special issue) on the relationship between two of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. In addition to this special issue we applied for and received two grants in 2011 to form a team to undertake a transcription of Deleuze’s seminar on Foucault. The transcriptions were completed by Annabelle Dufourcq in 2013 and are now available on the Paris 8 website as well as our parallel site at Purdue7. In conjunction with the transcription project, we organized an international conference entitled “Between Deleuze and Foucault” in November 2012.We are now currently working on an English translation of these transcriptions. It is our hope that Deleuze’s lectures and this special issue will prompt a critical revaluation of the philosophical connection between Foucault and Deleuze. 

Between Foucault and Deleuze
The relationship between Foucault and Deleuze, however, is as strong as it is disparate: it is perhaps best described as a parallelism. As Deleuze says, “I never worked with Foucault. But I do think there are a lot of parallels between our work (with Guattari) and his, although they are, as it were, held at a distance because of our widely differing methods and even our objectives.”9 While the two were drawn together through their novel readings of Nietzsche, their commitment to a non‐teleological theory of history, their activism in contemporary politics (with prisons, ‘68, Palestine, etc.), their return to the stoics, and a theory of the event, Deleuze and Foucault were often decisively divided in their methods and motivations.
For example, what is the difference between Deleuze’s concept of desire and Foucault’s concept of pleasure? Why were the two authors so opposed to the other’s choice in terminology? Is the difference semantic or is there a really an important philosophical difference between them, as some commentators have argued10? If both the concepts of desire and pleasure are meant to be radical departures from the psychoanalytic notion of desire as lack, why does Deleuze choose to stick with the psychoanalytic word “desire” and Foucault with the more amorphous term “pleasure”? This divergence is clearly manifest in a letter Deleuze wrote to Foucault. “I cannot give any positive value to pleasure, because pleasure seems to me to interrupt the immanent process of desire. [...] From my point of view, this is precisely how desire is brought under the law of lack and in line with the norm of pleasure.”11 This divide is also noticeable from Foucault’s side. In an interview recently translated by Nicolae Morar and Daniel W. Smith, Foucault emphasizes this very problem.

  • “I believe the problem of “pleasure‐desire” is currently an important problem. I would even say that it is the problem that has to be debated in this reevaluation—this rejuvenation, in any case—of the instruments, objectives, and axes of the struggle. . . . Deleuze and Guattari obviously use the notion in a completely different way. But the problem I have is that I’m not sure if, through this very word, despite its different meaning, we don’t run the risk, despite Deleuze and Guattari’s intention, of allowing some of the medico‐ psychological presuppositions [prises] that were built into desire, in its traditional sense, to be reintroduced. And so it seems to me that, by using the word pleasure, which in the end means nothing, which is still, it seems to me, rather empty of content and unsullied by pos‐ sible uses—don’t we have here . . . a means of avoiding the entire psychological and medi‐ cal armature that was built into the traditional notion of desire?”12 

Deleuze similarly expressed concern over the concepts of truth and subjectivity. As Jacques Donzelot recalled, 􏰀Deleuze often spoke to me about that, saying: ‘Jacques, what do you think, Michel is completely nuts, what’s this old idea about truth? He􏰁's taking us back to that old idea, veridiction! Oh, it can be!􏰀' Deleuze, in a letter to Foucault, continues, “The danger is: is Michel returning to an analog of the ‘constituting subject’ and why does he feel the need to resuscitate the truth even if he does make it into a new concept?”13

Consider too Foucault and Deleuze’s divergent concepts of apparatus (dispositif) and assemblage (agencement). Both concepts seem to be aiming to replace structuralist concepts of organization with the assembly of heterogeneous elements, but why have they chosen such different terms/methods to do so? Again, are these real philosophical differences that are mutually exclusive? Are they strategic choices relevant in a certain axis of struggle or are they merely ter‐ minological differences disguising philosophical homologies? While there has been much written on both concepts, very few scholars have taken the time to clarify the differences and similarities between these two concepts in depth and in relation to their original French meanings.

Even, and perhaps especially, in terms of politics, Foucault and Deleuze seem so similar and yet so different. Foucault’s concept of biopower (the statistical political control over life itself) and Deleuze’s concept of societies of control (post‐disciplinary forms of modulated and flexi‐ ble control) seem to both be offering new concepts of post‐institutional/ disciplinary political power. However, Foucault and Deleuze choose very different methods of analysis (genealogy vs. schizoanalysis) and have different motives for doing so (to understand the emergence of liberalism vs. to understand the schizophrenic breakdown of contemporary capitalism). How have these approaches shaped the alternatives that Foucault and Deleuze then propose (ethical self‐transformation vs. revolutionary nomadism)? Why does Foucault, in his later work, then turn to a revitalization of the concept of the subject, a term Deleuze rarely uses, except in his book on Foucault? If Foucault was initially in La Volonté de Savoir against the use of the word desire because of its historical over‐determination, why does he return to the terminology of the subject and self, and including of desire14?

The convergences and differences on these topics (and others) between Foucault and Deleuze, are further complicated by a third body of literature: the one they wrote about each other’s work. Foucault wrote Theatrum Philosophicum (1970) as a review of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (1968) and Logic of Sense (1969) where he made the oft cited claim that “perhaps, one 

day, this century [the twentieth] will be called ‘the Deleuzian century.’”15 The two also recorded a conversation entitled “Intellectuals and Power” (1972), later publishing it in a special edition of the journal, L’Arc dedicated to Deleuze’s works16. After Foucault’s death, Deleuze published his book, Foucault (1986) soon after, of course. Deleuze also wrote several articles on Foucault, “Breaking Things Open, Breaking Words Open,” “Life as a Work of Art,” “A Portrait of Foucault”, as well as a private letter to Foucault, delivered by François Ewald in 1977, titled, “Desire and Pleasure” (1994). These writings clarify some issues while multiplying and deepening others. Above all, they express a deep admiration and complex philosophical friendship whose implications have yet to be fully explored.

A Philosophical Friendship
In addition to their philosophical similarities and differences, it is also important to reflect on the nature of the friendship between Foucault and Deleuze. Together, Deleuze and Foucault launched a French revival of Nietzsche against phenomenology. In 1977, they helped co‐edited Nietzsche’s complete works for Gallimard;17 they attended a major Nietzsche confer‐ ences together (1964);18 and they were both close friends of Pierre Klossowski, who dedicated his book Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (1969)19 to Deleuze and The Baphomet (1965)20 to Foucault.

Both Deleuze and Foucault were political activists together in the Prison Information Group (GIP). As Judith Revel interestingly suggests in an interview with François Dosse: “Foucault took experience and practices [from the GIP] as his point of departure and conceptualized from there. Deleuze and Guattari invented war machines then tried them out.”21 Whereas Foucault wrote Discipline and Punish only after the GIP, Deleuze and Guattari became interested in the decentralized non‐representational structure of the GIP only after writing about these themes in AntiOedipus. In each case the GIP gave birth to a whole new relation between intellectuals and power for both Deleuze and Foucault. “A theorizing intellectual, for us,” they say “is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness”.22 Their involvement in the GIP, according the Deleuze’s seminar on Foucault, was not at all an “academic critique of representation,” but as a specifically “practical critique of representation,”23  that supported a “non centralized movement” that “we both” saw as an extension of the events of May 1968.24

But the friendship between Deleuze and Foucault is also marked by a long silence. Why? A plausible hypothesis goes back to the time when Foucault and Deleuze both demonstrated against the deportation of the Baader‐Meinhof group’s attorney Klaus Croissant from France, but Foucault refused to sign the petition because he wanted to more carefully define his support for Croissant?25 Perhaps it was because Deleuze hated the nouveaux philosophes, whereas Foucault supported them? Perhaps it was because Deleuze supported Mitterrand’s Socialist presidency, but Foucault thought it was best to criticize them, just as one would criticize any other party in power? Or perhaps it was because “Foucault didn’t not like AntiOedipus,” as Jacques Donzelot claims.26 Or perhaps, it was the infamous letter Deleuze wrote to Foucault criticizing his concept of pleasure in the History of Sexuality? Or perhaps, as Deleuze says, in a 1990 interview with James Miller, when asked directly about his and Foucault’s mutual silence:

  • “(1) There’s obviously no single answer. One of us could have answered one way one day and another way the next. Not because we are fickle. But because there are many reasons in this area and no single reason is “essential.” And because none of them is essential, there are always several answers at once. The only important thing is that I had long agreed with him philosophically and on specific occasions, I no longer made the same evaluations as he did on several points at once. (2) This didn’t lead to any “cooling” of relations between us, or to any “explanations.” We saw each other less often, as if by the force of circumstances. And from there on, it became more and more difficult to meet up again. It is strange, we didn’t stop seeing each other because we didn’t get along, but because we weren’t seeing each other any more, a kind of incomprehension or distance between us took hold. (3) I can tell you that I constantly miss seeing him, increasingly so. So what stopped me from calling him? That’s where a deeper reason comes into it. Rightly or wrongly, I believed that he wanted greater solitude, for his life, for his thinking; that he needed this solitude, keeping in touch only with the people who were close to him. I now think that I should have tried to see him again, but I think I didn’t try out of respect. I am still suffering from not having seen him again, even more so because I don’t think there were any external reasons.”27

With the growing interest in Foucault’s recently translated course lectures at the Collège de France (1973–1984), and our recent transcription of Deleuze’s course lectures on Foucault, released by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (2011), the editors of the this special issue believe that the time is right to address the relationship between these two great thinkers directly. This collection of essays thus brings together both senior and junior scholars from diverse backgrounds to clarify the implications of this important philosophical encounter between Foucault and Deleuze.

Marco Altamirano’s essay focuses on the shared concepts of “milieu” and “machine,” in Deleuze and Foucault. Vernon W. Cisney’s essay defend’s a Deleuzian politics by drawing on an important political concept shared with Foucault: “becoming other.” William E. Connolly’s essay offers an exploration of creativity and the ambiguous role it plays in the understanding of freedom that we find in Nietzsche, Deleuze, and Foucault. Erin Gilson’s essay offers an original account of the shared methodology of “problematization” found in both Deleuze and Foucault. Wendy Grace’s essay traces Deleuze and Foucault’s shared Nietzsche‐ an philosophical origins. Chris Penfield’s essay articulates a theory of “transversal politics” common to both Deleuze and Foucault. Finally, Dianna Taylor’s essay compares the respective ontologies of Deleuze and Foucault. We would also like to thank Alan Rosenberg for his invitation to publish this special issue and Ditte Vilstrup Holm for all her helpful editorial work. We greatly appreciate all their support in putting together the present collection. 


2 Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations, 19721990, translated by Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 94.
3 François Dosse, Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, translated by Deborah Glassman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 328. 

4 Frédéric Gros, “Le Foucault de Deleuze: une fiction métaphysique” Philosophie 47, September (1995), 54.
5 Frédéric Gros, “Interview with François Dosse,” in Dosse, Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, 327.
6 Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, translated by Seán Hand (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 84–85. 7
8 Video recordings of the lectures are available at:

9 Gilles Deleuze, “Fendre les choses, fendre les mots” [1986], in Pourparlers (Paris: Minuit, 1990), 117.
10 For example, Wendy Grace, “Faux Amis: Foucault and Deleuze on Sexuality and Desire”, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Autumn 2009), 52‐75.
11 Gilles Deleuze, “Desire and Pleasure,” in Two Regimes of Madness: texts and interviews 19751995, Edited by David Lapoujade and translated by Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina (Semoiotexte: Los Angels, 2006), 131. 
12 Michel Foucault, “The Gay Science,” Translated by Dan Smith and Nicolae Morar, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Spring 2011), 385–403. In his letter, Deleuze mentions an earlier encounter with Foucault when Michel told him, “I cannot bear the word desire; even if you use it in another way,” in Deleuze, “Desire and Pleasure.” 

13 Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, 318.
14 As Foucault notes in the Introduction to the second volume of The History of Sexuality: The Use of Pleasure (translated by Robert Hurley, NY: Vintage, 1990), his intention was “to study the games of truth in the relationship of self with self and the forming of oneself as a subject, taking as my domain of reference and field of investigation what might be called ‘the history of desiring man’”(p.6; italics added).

15 Foucault made this remark in his 1970 essay on Deleuze, “Theatrum Philosophicum,” which is included in The Essential Works of Foucault, Vol. 2, Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology, Edited by James D. Faubion; Trans‐ lated by Roburt Hurley and others (London: Penguin Press, 1998), 343, translation modified.
16 Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, “Entretien: les intellectuels et le pouvoir”, L’Arc, Volume 49, (1980), 3‐ 11.

17 Friedrich Nietzsche, Œuvres philosophiques complètes, edited by Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, et al, (Paris: Gallimard, 1977).
18 Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, 307.
19 Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, translated by Daniel W. Smith (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

20 Pierre Klossowski, The Baphomet, translated by Sophie Hawkes and Stephen Sartarelli (Hygiene: Eridanos Press, 1988).
21 Judith Revel, “Interview with François Dosse,” in Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, 313.
22 Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, 312.

23 Gilles Deleuze, ParisVIII Foucault Seminar, BNF audio archives, Jan 7, 1986.
24 Ibid.
25 This hypothesis is further developed by Paul Patton in “Activism, Philosophy, and Actuality in Deleuze and Foucault,” Deleuze Studies, vol. 4, 2010, supplement, 84‐103, especially 85.
26 Jacques Donzelot, “Interview with François Dosse,” in Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, 315.
27 Gilles Deleuze, “Letter to James Miller (February 7, 1990),” in James Miller, Michel Foucault (Paris: Plon, 1993), 346.

Paper from Thomas Nail's page @

Roberto Ciccarelli: Deleuze-Foucault, così vicini così lontani @ Il Manifesto 26 luglio 2014

Roberto Ciccarelli:
Deleuze-Foucault, così vicini così lontani
@ Il Manifesto, 26 luglio 2014

Read more @ Manifesto

Gilles Deleuze. Pubblicato il primo volume che raccoglie i corsi del filosofo francese dedicati a Michel Foucault. Un’immersione nel labirinto rappresentato dal rapporto tra sapere e potere

Gil­les Deleuze e Michel Fou­cault hanno intrat­te­nuto un’amicizia pro­fonda e distante. Miste­rioso rap­porto, l’ha defi­nita Deleuze nell’intervista a Claire Par­net sull’Abe­ce­daire. Poi suben­trò il ram­ma­rico quando il filo­sofo delle Parole e le cose o di Sor­ve­gliare e punire morì nel 1984. I rap­porti si erano raf­fred­dati dopo una serie di dis­sidi teo­rici e poli­tici. Nel 1976 Fou­cault cri­ticò la nozione di desi­de­rio di Deleuze-Guattari nell’Anti­e­dipo. Poi si allon­ta­na­rono sul caso dell’avvocato della Raf Klaus Crois­sant, estra­dato dalla Fran­cia in Ger­ma­nia nel 1977. Emer­sero diver­genze anche sulla que­stione palestinese. Deleuze con­servò tut­ta­via un enorme rispetto nei con­fronti di Fou­cault. Per lui era una «ven­tata spe­ciale». «Era atmo­sfe­rico», come un’emanazione o un’irradiazione. La si per­ce­piva quando entrava in una stanza. L’aria cam­biava. Ricordo di un gesto di metallo, di legno secco, strano e attraente in cui era pos­si­bile per­ce­pire un grano di fol­lia. Den­tro Fou­cault c’era una pic­cola radice che per­met­teva alle cose di mostrarsi in una luce diversa. Quando la radice ger­mo­glia, pro­duce cono­scenza. Come in ogni atti­vità vivente, la cre­scita è un evento dram­ma­tico. Se la fol­lia è il grano da cui nasce il pen­siero, il trauma è la con­di­zione di un nuovo pensiero. Anche quello di Deleuze è stato un gesto inno­va­tivo. Arti­sta del ritratto, più che com­pi­la­tore di sto­rie della filo­so­fia, il suo è un pen­sare con Fou­cault, non un volerlo spie­gare in quanto autore da col­lo­care in un museo. Il pen­siero è sem­pre con­tem­po­ra­neo, diviene con i suoi pro­blemi. Per que­sto biso­gna cat­tu­rarne l’atmosfera.


Que­sto è il risul­tato di Fou­cault, mono­gra­fia di Deleuze pub­bli­cata nel 1986, due anni dopo la morte dell’amico (ripub­bli­cata da Cro­no­pio). È un libro da leg­gere per capire un per­corso che ancora oggi, gra­zie alla pub­bli­ca­zione dei corsi al Col­lège de France, cono­sce un’inesauribile vita­lità. Per pre­pa­rare i mate­riali di que­sto capo­la­voro della filo­so­fia con­tem­po­ra­nea, Deleuze impartì tra il 1985 e il 1986 un ciclo di lezioni che oggi sono state pub­bli­cate in ita­liano dall’editore Ombre Corte. È da poco in libre­ria il primo volume Il sapere. Corso su Michel Fou­cault (1985–1986)/1, (euro 23, pp. 269). Ne segui­ranno altri due.
Nel 1999, la Biblio­teca Nazio­nale di Fran­cia ha sta­bi­lito un archi­vio delle regi­stra­zioni delle lezioni tenute da Deleuze all’università Parigi VIII tra il 1979 e il 1987. I semi­nari sono stati regi­strati da molti stu­denti, pro­ve­nienti da tutto il mondo, pro­prio come acca­deva a Fou­cault al Col­lège. La Bn ha river­sato le audio-cassette in file digi­tali e così nel 2011 anche le lezioni su Fou­cault sono state rese dispo­ni­bili su Inter­net. È un pia­cere leg­gere, e non solo ascol­tare, i mate­riali densi, la lin­gua com­plessa, il labi­rin­tico argo­men­tare di Deleuze, le ful­mi­nee defi­ni­zioni che col­gono le fasi atmo­sfe­ri­che e i dispo­si­tivi teo­rici con­fluiti nella monografia-ritratto. Filo­so­fi­ca­mente, Deleuze chia­ri­sce l’eredità kan­tiana (e hei­deg­ge­riana) svi­lup­pata da Fou­cault nei primi anni del suo lavoro e spiega come in seguito abbiano pesato sul suo metodo archeo­lo­gico e genea­lo­gico. Ne emerge il ritratto di un filo­sofo nè strut­tu­ra­li­sta, né feno­me­no­logo. Fou­cault è un pen­sa­tore dell’immanenza, un mate­ria­li­sta radi­cale di nuovo genere. Un apprez­za­mento giunto negli anni Ottanta che rispec­chia quello dato da Fou­cault negli anni Ses­santa: il XXI secolo sarebbe stato «deleuziano».

Oltre le linee del potere 
Al cen­tro delle lezioni c’è l’interrogazione sul potere. Con una dif­fe­renza rispetto al 1972 quando, in un dia­logo sulla rivi­sta «L’Arc», Deleuze osservò che il potere di Fou­cault era un con­cetto tota­liz­zante e non spie­gava il motivo per cui gli uomini lo desi­de­rano, pre­fe­rendo essere domi­nati piut­to­sto che man­te­nere la pro­pria libertà. Negli anni suc­ces­sivi, Deleuze avvertì un cam­bia­mento in Fou­cault. Cita una frase da La vita degli uomini infami dove Fou­cault avverte un limite e pro­pone un rime­dio: «Qual­cuno obiet­terà – scrive – riec­coci, sem­pre con la stessa inca­pa­cità di oltre­pas­sare il con­fine, di pas­sare dall’altra parte, di ascol­tare e far com­pren­dere il lin­guag­gio che viene da altrove o dal basso; sem­pre la stessa scelta di col­lo­carsi dalla parte del potere, di quello che esso dice o fa dire». Supe­rare la linea del potere signi­fica rag­giun­gere un ter­reno dove l’esistenza è già data, ma non il modo in cui essa è deter­mi­na­bileNon lo può essere dal potere che non tutto può cat­tu­rare. Biso­gna, al con­tra­rio, par­lare del potere par­tendo da un ter­reno che non è di nes­suno, ma è di tutti. Con la sto­ria della ses­sua­lità e quella della verità in Gre­cia, a Roma e nel primo Cri­stia­ne­simo, Fou­cault cam­biò impo­sta­zione e, invece del potere in quanto tale, ini­ziò a inter­ro­gare l’etica e il suo rap­porto con la politica. L’oggetto di que­sta rifles­sione era uno spa­zio dove il sog­getto è impe­gnato a defi­nire il pro­prio sé attra­verso la media­zione delle norme da rispet­tare e le azioni da com­piere. Tale spa­zio assume una dimen­sione costi­tuente («eto­po­ie­tica» scrive Fou­cault) quando il sog­getto matura la forza di tra­sfor­mare il pro­prio modo di vita, creando pra­ti­che e modelli giu­di­ca­bili dove emerge un’autonomia dal potere. Que­sto è tanto più vero nelle società neo-liberali dove il potere col­tiva la libertà, men­tre i sog­getti pos­sono svi­lup­pare un’autonomia che è anche il luogo di una con­te­sta­zione possibile. Nelle lezioni, Deleuze insi­ste molto sul rap­porto tra il sapere e il potere, pro­fonda «anti­no­mia» e com­plesso dua­li­smo che carat­te­rizzò la rifles­sione di Fou­cault negli anni Ses­santa. Vent’anni dopo, in corsi come Il governo dei viventi (Fel­tri­nelli) o Sub­jec­ti­vité et vérité, in con­fe­renze rive­la­trici come Sull’origine dell’ermeneutica di sé (Cro­no­pio) o Mal fare, dire vero (Einaudi), Fou­cault inter­roga sem­pre il «sapere», ma da un punto di vista poli­tico e affer­ma­tivo: la verità non è l’espressione di una cono­scenza pura ma è un «sovrap­più di forza» che eccede il potere. Il «sapere» non è più un discorso filosofico-giuridico, ma si pro­ietta sulle pra­ti­che e spinge il sog­getto al supe­ra­mento dei suoi limiti.

Così vicini, così lontani
L’etica viene intesa come una forza che, da un lato, per­mette la matu­ra­zione della volontà di non essere ecces­si­va­mente gover­nati e, dall’altro lato, isti­tui­sce la «poli­tica di noi stessi», cioè «il prin­ci­pale pro­blema poli­tico dei nostri giorni» scrive Fou­cault. Il per­corso seguito da Fou­cault rien­tra in quello che Deleuze ha defi­nito il momento spi­no­zi­sta del pen­siero politico. Più che imporre i valori dell’«uomo», rispet­tando così i prin­cipi della «morale», la poli­tica è l’espressione di una potenza che si mani­fe­sta secondo infi­nite moda­lità e gra­da­zioni. Nasce da qui l’esigenza di spe­ri­men­tare i ruoli, allon­ta­nan­dosi dall’idea che la distin­zione tra chi comanda e chi obbe­di­sce sia irre­ver­si­bile. Tale distin­zione è mute­vole. La poli­tica non è un gioco fis­sato per sem­pre dalla deci­sione di un sovrano o dal con­tratto tra le parti. Essa è una per­ma­nente nego­zia­zione sulle leggi, sul potere e sulle norme. Fou­cault ha affron­tato la sfida dal punto di vista dell’individuo e del suo rap­porto con il governo. Deleuze è invece par­tito da una mol­te­pli­cità, di cui l’individuo e il governo sono espres­sione, cer­cando di arti­co­lare la potenza dei molti e non il potere dei pochi. Due filo­sofi: così lon­tani, così vicini. Uniti dall’idea che l’etica sia l’espressione della potenza, men­tre la poli­tica è una spe­ri­men­ta­zione oltre la linea delle iden­tità pre­sta­bi­lite, dove i molti che obbe­di­scono ai pochi lo fanno in base a cer­tezze infon­date e rine­go­zia­bili. Qual­cosa che il potere, e i suoi custodi, tro­vano intol­le­ra­bile e inaccettabile.

Thomas Nail: Michel Foucault, Accelerationist @ AUFS blog, 05Jan2014

Thomas Nail: 

Michel Foucault, Accelerationist 

@ AUFS blog, 05Jan2014

Thomas Nail is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver. He is the author of Returning to Revolution: Deleuze, Guattari and Zapatismo (Edinburgh University Press, 2012) and The Figure of the Migrant (Stanford University Press, forthcoming). His publications can be downloaded at

The Debate: So far the debate over Foucault’s relationship to neoliberalism is split between two positions. On one side there are those (Daniel ZamoraFrançois EwaldMichael Behrent, and others) who argue that Foucault’s “sympathy” for neoliberalism marks his later work as at least partially “compatible” with neoliberalism. On the other side many more (Stuart EldenPeter GrattonSteven MaynardMichael Hardt and Antonio Negri, and others) argue that although “Foucault’s mode of reading texts often makes it look like he is agreeing with [neoliberal] arguments, he is really trying to reconstruct them, to understand their logic, and so on.” Furthermore, given Foucault’s commitment to Leftist groups like Le Groupe d’information sur les prisons, GIP and others, the argument goes, Foucault could not have been a neoliberal.
But perhaps this debate has been made unnecessarily polemic. The question of the debate is not, “was Foucault a neoliberal or not?”. As far as I can tell, no one is explicitly arguing that he was, only that he shared “some sympathies” with neoliberal theory: some anti-statism, some anti-authoritarian values, and so on. Is it not possible to share some points of interest or critique with a position that one does not fully accept? Thus, the more interesting question I think we should be asking is, “what commonalities or shared interests might exist between Foucault’s political thought and certain neoliberal ideas, and to what degree?”
Accelerationism: Posing the question in this way points us to a third position in the debate: that Michel Foucault was an accelerationist, or least expressed someaccelerationist tendencies. Accelerationism is the political belief that the best way to combat capitalism is actually by accelerating capitalism’s own inherent tendenciestoward anti-statism, decentralization, constant novelty, and experimentation. To be clear, this position should not be confused with either resignation (the hope for capitalist apocalypse) or dialectics (the hope that capitalism will transform itself into communism through contradiction). Accelerationism does not simply affirm capitalism or neoliberalism: it only affirms some tendencies in it. Much has been written recently on the history and theory of this position as well as criticisms of it. Michel Foucault, to my knowledge, has not been included in these discussions. But perhaps he should be.
I do not have the space in this short piece to mount a full defense of this position, but it is not very hard for me to imagine that Foucault might have been influenced by French accelerationism in his 1978-1979 lectures on neoliberalism, The Birth of Biopolitics. For instance, several of his colleagues at the University of Paris VIII, Vincennes had been espousing accelerationism for years. Deleuze and Guattari published Anti-Oedipus in 1972 where they write that our “flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. [The task then is] Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to ‘accelerate the process’” (AO, 239–240). Foucault wrote the preface to this accelerationist work. Two years later Jean-François Lyotard published Libidinal Economy, where he writes that “We abhor therapeutics and its vaseline, we prefer to burst under the quantitative excesses that you judge the most stupid. And don’t wait for our spontaneity to rise up in revolt either” (LE, 116).
Even if Foucault did not fully adopt these positions at the time, it seems like more than a coincidence that after their publication he is suddenly inspired to begin a new research program analyzing the features of twentieth century capitalism—something he had never attempted before, and something Deleuze himself had only just begun in 1972 with Guattari.
Accelerationism in The Birth of Biopolitics: In his new research program, Foucault located several points at which neoliberalism and Left wing struggles share some similar biopolitical features. First, they share a “state-phobia.” “All those who share in the great state phobia,” Foucault says, “should know that they are following the direction of the wind and that in fact, for years and years, an effective reduction of the state has been on the way, a reduction of both the growth of state control and of a ‘statifying’ and ‘statified’ (étatisante ou étatisée) governmentality born in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries” (BB, 191-192). Anti-state anarchists and neoliberals, despite their differences, have been working to reduce the power of the state for over a hundred years—and this tendency is winning.
Second, they share a valorization of previously non-economic phenomena like affect, leisure, intellect, desire, and other forms of so-called “immaterial labor.” As Foucault says in his lectures, “How is this capital made up? It is at this point that the reintroduction of labor or work into the field of economic analysis will make it possible, through a sort of acceleration or extension, to move on to the economic analysis of elements which had previously totally escaped it” [my italics] (BB, 226). Foucault is correct to describe this process of real subsumption as an “acceleration,” since it is precisely this tendency within capitalist production that keeps deterritorializing farther and experimenting with new markets (social capital, intellectual capital, cultural capital, etc). But it is also this same tendency that describes the revolutionary task of “moving beyond” the current order. The difference between the two is that capitalism is slowed down by the requirements of commodification, while the revolutionary has already moved on.
In the context of accelerationism, what we are witnessing in this renewed debate about Foucault’s relationship to neoliberalism is all too familiar. Deleuze, Guattari, and Lyotard have all been praised both as revolutionaries and so-called “post-modern capitalists.” Slavoj Žižek, for example, even argues both in the same chapter. “Deleuze,” he says, “more and more serves as the theoretical foundation of today’s anti-global Left” (OwB, xi). Eleven pages later he then argues that this foundation is only “masquerading as radical chic, effectively transform[ing] Deleuze into an ideologist of today’s ‘digital capitalism’” (OwB, xxii). But there is no contradiction. This is the point Žižek and others miss. Accelerationism is an affirmation of capitalist deterritorialization, but without the need for commodification and its axioms of exchange. Foucault was well aware of this theoretical position and even makes several points that are entirely “compatible” with accelerationism in his 1978-1979 lectures.
Foucault was not a neoliberal, but he may have experimented with accelerationism.

Foucault/Neoliberalism Mini-series @ AUFS blog:
Johanna Oksala: Never mind Foucault. What are the right questions for us?
Verena Erlenbusch: Neoliberalism and the genealogy of biopolitics
Gordon Hull: Why Foucault is still helpful on neoliberalism

domenica 4 gennaio 2015

Out now: "The Birth of Digital Populism. Crowd, Power and Postdemocracy in the 21st Century" (Obsolete Capitalism Free Press @ Issuu) 04Jan2015

The Five Star Movement led by Grillo & Casaleggio had an unexpected success in the Italian general elections of February 2013, deeply disrupting the panorama of Italian politics. This book seeks to explore some of the features characterising the emergence of a new political phenomenon: digital populism. We asked Italian and English thinkers from different political and disciplinary backgrounds to contribute to an analysis of some fundamental points behind the rise of populism and the digital relations between masses, power and democracy at the dawn of the twenty-first century. This is the result of nine interviews carried out between May 2013 and February 2014 with Luciana Parisi, Tiziana Terranova, Lapo Berti, Simon Choat, Paolo Godani, Saul Newman, Jussi Parikka, Tony D. Sampson and Alberto Toscano

Click HERE to read or free download !

Johanna Oksala: Never Mind Foucault: What Are the Right Questions for Us? @ AUFS blog, 04Jan2014

Johanna Oksala: 

Never Mind Foucault: What Are the Right Questions for Us? 

@ AUFS blog, 04Jan2014

Johanna Oksala is currently Academy of Finland Research Fellow (2012-2017) in the Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies at the University of Helsinki, and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, USA (2013-2015). Oksala is the author of Foucault on Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), How to Read Foucault (London: Granta Books, 2007), Foucault, Politics, and Violence (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2012), and Political Philosophy: All That Matters (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2013). 

Daniel Zamora’s recent interview in Jacobin titled “Can We Criticize Foucault?” has sparked another discussion on Foucault’s alleged endorsement of neoliberalism. For those of us who did not know Foucault personally, the evidence for such a claim can only be found in his writings. I, for myself, have not found any such evidence yet. Zamora’s revelations that Foucault met with Lionel Stoléru several times seem inconclusive at best.
More importantly, this debate itself seems misguided to me. Whether Foucault had some secret sympathies for neoliberalism might obviously be of some biographical or historical interest, but theoretically the answer to this question would only be relevant if it disqualified his thought as a useful toolbox for the academic left today. Zamora’s aim seems to be to show that this is in fact the case. In a follow-up article to the initial interview he claims that Foucault was not asking the “right questions” due to his neoliberal leanings, and that his thought has therefore contributed to the disorientation of the left and to the dismantling of the welfare state.
In this short response I want to suggest that it is Zamora, and to some extent us too, as participants to this debate, who are not asking the right questions. We should not be asking whether we can criticize Foucault, nor should we be asking whether he endorsed neoliberalism. The answer to the first of these questions is an obvious yes: we have criticized him repeatedly and we should continue to do so. And when the answer to the second question is supposed to determine the theoretical and political relevance of his thought today, we are ultimately engaging in biographical speculation and ad hominem reasoning, the problems of which I do not need to point out here.
The only relevant question the academic left should be asking regarding Foucault’s analyses of neoliberalism is whether they provide us with any useful tools that can be successfully deployed against the current neoliberal hegemony. And I believe that the answer to this question is, significantly, also a yes. Foucault’s thought continues to provide an important theoretical perspective for the academic left today, and I also believe that his lectures on neoliberalism delivered at the Collège de France in 1979 offer a novel conceptual and theoretical framework for the critical analysis of neoliberalism today. It is my contention that his investigation of neoliberal governmentality represents in many respects a theoretical advance over the traditional leftist defenses of the welfare state that Zamora is hankering after. Foucault’s thought provides a more nuanced diagnostic approach to neoliberalism than traditional welfare socialism, because it enables us to account for neoliberalism’s constitutive effects. These effects include both new forms of the subject as well as new limitations on what are understood as viable and rational political options in today’s society.
I can only provide a brief outline here of what I take to be Foucault’s key contributions to a critical study of neoliberalism. I have to refer you to my publications for a more detailed argument.[i] I want to highlight three distinctive ideas in particular.
1. What makes Foucault’s philosophical interpretation of neoliberalism particularly helpful, in my view, is his critical analysis of it, not as an ideology, economic doctrine or political regime, but as a specific, rationally reflected and coordinated way of governing: a form of liberal governmental rationality or governmentality. Neoliberalism is thus not reducible to a set of economic policies such as limiting the regulation of capital, maximizing corporate profits, and dismantling the welfare state. As a form of governmentality neoliberalism extends beyond economic policy, or even the economic domain as traditionally conceived. A fundamental feature of neoliberal governmentality is not just the eradication of market regulation, for example, but the eradication of the border between the social and the economic: market rationality—cost-benefit calculation—must be extended and disseminated to all institutions and social practices. In other words, while in many socialist analyses neoliberalism is seen just as an intensification of capitalism, from a Foucaudian perspective it is in fact a distinctive organizing principle for the economic, but also for the social and political spheres.
Foucault’s approach also implies that neoliberalism and the state cannot be understood as simply antithetical to each other when they are understood to combine in the form of a rationally coordinated set of governmental practices. Hence, the political stakes do not come down to being for or against the state. Foucault was not suffering from “state-phobia” and explicitly warned the left against it. Our current problem, on the other hand, is not “the erosion of the state,” but its neoliberal reorganization.
2. Instead of treating neoliberalism as an ideological mask for a hidden truth, Foucault advocates a response to it on the level of the production of truth. The spread of neoliberalism has been difficult to stop in our current governmentality according to which economic progress, defined as GDP growth, is the unquestioned political end of good government and politically neutral economic truths are understood as the essential means for achieving it. The neoliberal economic argument has kept winning in this governmental game of truth: according to neoliberals, economic growth can be best achieved via free international trade, sound budgets—meaning normally fiscal austerity, which translates into cuts in welfare spending—low inflation, privatization, and the deregulation of markets. In such economic reasoning commodification and privatization, for example, are particularly effective means of speeding up growth given that GDP is measured in terms of market transactions.
The socialist critics of neoliberalism are undoubtedly right in demonstrating that its rise has been contemporaneous with the dramatic increase of the wealth of the elites. Since the global neoliberal turn in the 1970s, there has been an enormous spiralling of the levels of wealth in the top income categories. This new distribution of wealth is often presented as the primary aim of the neoliberal turn by its socialist critics: the neoliberal project has been a deliberate attempt to restore the power and the wealth of the capitalist classes.[ii] However, the models of resistance to neoliberalism become more complicated if we accept that the aim of neoliberal governmentality is to maximize economic growth – in other words, everybody’s material welfare, not just the welfare of the elite. The growing disparities of wealth are then perceived as the unfortunate, but inevitable consequence of neoliberal government and not as its conspiratorial aim. Since the end of the 1970s the left has repeatedly lost in the economic debates centred on the key question of economic growth. It has been forced to either accept “hard economic facts” or to back up its political demands with moral arguments—arguments that have appeared as misplaced compassion for those failing to give their lives proper entrepreneurial shape.[iii]
In other words, the left has not been disarmed or disorientated by post-structuralism nor has it been duped by dubious ideological propaganda; rather, it has been defeated by economic truths. Truth poses a far more difficult political conundrum than ideology or the restoration of class privilege because opposing it politically appears irrational. The incongruous question that the left has had to face is: how can we resist politically economic truths, which are supposed to be politically neutral?
3. The third key issue that points beyond traditional socialist welfare politics concerns the political subject. Foucault’s perhaps most important contribution to political theory has been his philosophical insight that any analysis of power relations must recognize how these relations are constitutive of the subjects involved in them. This insight must continue to remain central when we try to understand and evaluate the political impact of neoliberalism. The Foucauldian critique against traditional forms of Marxist theory has targeted the latter’s inability to account for the different ways in which subjects are constituted in intersecting, capillary networks of power.
Foucault theorizes neoliberal governmentality as a particular mode of producing subjectivity: it produces subjects who act as individual entrepreneurs across all dimensions of their lives. He shows how governable subjects are understood as self-interested and rational beings navigating the social realm by constantly making rational choices based on economic knowledge and the strict calculation of the necessary costs and desired benefits. They are atomic individuals whose natural self-interest and tendency to compete must be fostered and enhanced. Instead of capitalists and workers, in contemporary society everybody has become an entrepreneur of the self attempting to maximize his or her human capital. A Foucauldian approach thus shows that the political impact of neoliberalism is not limited to the dismantling of the welfare state, but extends even to the most private and personal aspects of our being. As a form of governmentality neoliberalism is constitutive of our conceptions of politics and political action, but also of ourselves as political subjects.
As Zamora notes, relations of power within the academic field have changed considerably since the end of the 1970s. Tables have turned: Marxism has declined and Foucault’s thought has occupied a central place. Hence, it is Foucault’s turn now to be attacked by the radical Marxist margins. A critical analysis of contemporary capitalism is a pressing task for political theory today and I am sympathetic to the attempts to combine Marxist and poststructuralist frameworks. However, it is my contention that the poststructuralist turn in political thought in the 1980s and 1990s was an important advance. Now its theoretical and political force has to be redirected to the overlapping social, political, economic, and ecological crises facing us. Anything else would be dangerous nostalgia.
[i] See e.g. Johanna Oksala, Foucault, Politics, and Violence (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2013); Johanna Oksala, ‘Foucault, Feminism and Neoliberal Governmentality’, Foucault Studies, No. 16, pp. 32-52, 2013; Johanna Oksala, ‘Neoliberalism and the Feminine Subject’, Public Seminar
[ii] See e.g. David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[iii] See Wendy Brown, Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 56.

Foucault/Neoliberalism Mini-series @ AUFS blog:
Thomas Nail: Michel Foucalt, Accelerationist
Verena Erlenbusch: Neoliberalism and the genealogy of biopolitics
Gordon Hull: Why Foucault is still helpful on neoliberalism