The Government of Life: Foucault, Biopolitics, and Neoliberalism

The Government of Life: Foucault, Biopolitics, and Neoliberalism

The Government of Life: Foucault, Biopolitics, and Neoliberalism

The Government of Life: Foucault, Biopolitics, and Neoliberalism

Synopsis

Foucault's late work on biopolitics and governmentality has established him as the fundamental thinker of contemporary continental political thought and as a privileged source for our current understanding of neoliberalism and its technologies of power. In this volume, an international andinterdisciplinary group of Foucault scholars examines his ideas of biopower and biopolitics and their relation to his project of a history of governmentality and to a theory of the subject found in his last courses at the College de France.Many of the chapters engage critically with the Italian theoretical reception of Foucault. At the same time, the originality of this collection consists in the variety of perspectives and traditions of reception brought to bear upon the problematic connections between biopolitics and governmentalityestablished by Foucault's last works.

Excerpt

Vanessa Lemm and Miguel Vatter

The recently completed publication of the Courses that Michel Foucault gave at the Collège de France starting in 1971–72 and ending in 1983–84 has dramatically changed the way Foucault’s thought as a whole is now understood. Prior to the publication of these Courses many interpreters thought that the “last” Foucault had shifted away from the post-structural analysis of power that characterized his work from the late 1960s in order to move toward an “aesthetic” and “ethical” preoccupation with self-invention and authenticity, with the problem of subjectivity. Some interpreters hypothesized that Foucault had reinvented himself as a liberal pol itical phil osopher. Today, on the evidence of the complete transcript of the Courses, it is clear that Foucault’s work did undertake a “turn” in the mid-1970s, but that this was a turn toward the problem of “government” or “governmentality.” Foucault did not become a “liberal” political theorist in the mid-1970s, but he did turn the focus of his attention toward a genealogy of liberalism and neoliberalism as forms of “governmentality,” rather than as political ideologies . . .

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