Summary : Capitalism in the light of neoliberalism - Is neoliberalism a phase of capitalism? - Michel Foucault: a visionary insight into contemporary law - The Birth of Biopolitics, in the light of the crisis - Neoliberalism, political theory abd critical thought - Environmental interventionism, a neoliberal strategy - Quantifying quality. Read More
DOSSIER Michel Foucault's neoliberalisms
Capitalism in the light of neoliberalism
This article uses Foucault's analyses on neoliberalism to show that capitalism cannot be reduced to a specific mode of production, ruled by necessary and natural economic laws (the logic of capital). Capitalism is rather a radically plural "economic and juridical complex", which assumes different forms throughout history. Neoliberalism is one of these historical forms, and it is characterized by two specific features: a governmental practice intervening directly in market mechanisms, an active relation to laws and institutions as a means to regulate the competition; an entrepreneurial way of shaping society and its subjects, that is, the application of the rationality of the market to practices of subjectivation.
Is neoliberalism a phase of capitalism?
This article engages a critical dialogue with the interpretations of neoliberalism as a general view on the world and a construction of individual psychology. It aims at showing that the economic importance of neoliberalism is primordial. Underestimating the economical dimension in neoliberal governmental practices leads to the temptation of a “functionalist psychologism”: it prevents from understanding the complex and bidirectional relations between capitalist economy and the subjects living in it (their desires, their beliefs, their interests). There is no contradiction between neoliberalism as a form of society and neoliberalism as an economic rationality. Therefore, neoliberalism can be understood as an essential (even if mobile and plural) moment of contemporary capitalism.
Michel Foucault: a visionary insight into contemporary law
This article focuses on the contemporary transformations of the field of law. It underlines a paradox in the evolution of neoliberal juridical practices, which take more and more place “in the shadow of the law”. A tendency arises to try to find a solution to legal controversies outside the law courts, by means of agreements and compensations. Law enforcement actions are perceived as a danger (especially in an economic sense) and not as a guarantee of protection. A new form of juridical subjectivity as immediate capacity of calculating and negotiating is gradually replacing the subject of inalienable rights and freedoms. But this process risks putting pressure on individuals and enterprises to give up their rights in the name of their own interest.
The Birth of Biopolitics, in the light of the crisis
This article criticizes Foucault’s lectures on neoliberalism in the light of the recent financial crisis. In opposition to what Foucault seems to say, liberalism has never been opposed to State strategies: on the contrary, liberalism is only one possible modality of subjectivation for “State capitalism”. The hegemony of the entrepreneurial model does not destroy the State but fashions it in accordance with its own goals. Nevertheless, Foucault’s work remains precious in order to highlight a new configuration of the relationships between sovereignty and governmentality, pointing towards a post-democratic authoritarian governmentality.
Neoliberalism, political theory and critical thought
Geoffroy de Lagasnerie
This article aims at highlighting the critical potentialities inscribed at the heart of neoliberal rationality, which has been established as radically opposed to the raison d’État through the idea that “one always governs too much”. Foucault’s analyses in The Birth of Biopolitics are particularly attentive to this theme: indeed, using economic reasoning and the instruments of economic science as critical weapons in order to deconstruct the traditional political philosophy and to demystify its emancipatory pretenses, Foucault presents neoliberalism as one of the main contemporary embodiments of the critical tradition. Hence, it is outside political philosophy, moral philosophy or theory of law that we have to search if we want to resist neoliberalism.
Environmental interventionism, a neoliberal strategy
This article focuses on Foucault’s analysis in The Birth of Biopolitics of the neoliberal concept of homo oeconomicus, which is no more defined (as it was the case in classical liberalism) as an atom of intangible freedom, but becomes on the contrary a manageable and “eminently governable” man, whose economic behaviour can be modified through an action on his environment. Thus, according to Foucault, the neoliberal governmentality is characterized by the necessary coexistence of an autonomy of the markets and massive strategies of intervention (implying the imposition of modes of subjectivation through the ajustment of an “environment”) on the social field.
Quantifying quality. Human capital between economics, demography and education
This article focuses on something that could appear as a paradoxical omission in Foucault’s lectures on neoliberalism, namely the description of what would be a neoliberal biopolitics. The article outlines such a biopolitics by stressing how economics and demography connect. While sketching the genealogy of economic government of population from classical theories to neoliberalism, the author highlights the role played by the notion of human capital in neoliberal rationality, and the tension it introduces between quantification of working time and qualification of population, between present and possible, and between investment and realization: what is at stake is quantifying quality, through a set of measures appraising the possible valorization of subjects.