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Annual Meeting Foucault Circle NL/BE
29 November @ 15:00 - 17:15
The Foucault Circle NL/BE is still alive! After a hiatus of more than two years due to COVID restrictions and other factors, we hope to meet all of you again at a live event on November 29th from 15.00-17.30 at the University of Amsterdam, with two keynote presentations followed by an annual meeting in which plans, projects and organizational matters can be briefly discussed.
We hope to welcome you all in Amsterdam!
On behalf of the equipe Foucault Circle NL/BE
Karen Vintges / Michiel Leezenberg / Guilel Treiber / Casper Verstegen
Annual Meeting Foucault Circle NL/BE
Universiteit van Amsterdam, Oudemanhuispoort, room A0.08, 15.00 – 17.15
15.00 – 15.45 Tim Christiaens, Michel Foucault, a neoliberal convert?
15.45 – 16.15 Guilel Treiber, What Fish in What Water? Foucault, Neoliberalism, and the Future of the Left
16.15 – 16.45 Discussion
16.45 – 17.15 Annual Meeting (plans/projects, organizational matters)
Tim Christiaens is assistant professor of philosophy at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. His research concerns primarily contemporary continental philosophy (Foucault, Agamben, Marx) in relation to economic topics, like neoliberalism, financialization, and the digitalization of work. He has published on these topics in journals like Theory, Culture & Society, European Journal of Social Theory, and Philosophy and Social Criticism. Tim has also published a book on Digital Working Lives: Worker Autonomy and the Gig Economy with Rowman & Littlefield in 2022.
Michel Foucault, a neoliberal convert?
Michel Foucault’s lectures on The Birth of Biopolitics have been a valuable resource for critical research into the genealogy of neoliberalism as a governmental rationality. Nonetheless, many contemporary scholars aim to formulate a more direct critique of neoliberalism than Foucault’s lectures seem to allow. Read individually, these lectures do not contain many direct criticisms of neoliberalism. This has made some of Foucault’s interpreters wonder whether he could have been ‘converted’ to neoliberalism. Especially Foucault’s Marxist critics stress the affinities between the neoliberal celebration of individual autonomy and Foucault’s ideal of an experimental ethics of the self. In this talk, I will criticize the “neoliberal conversion”-thesis as misrepresenting the context of Foucault’s lectures and exaggerating the similarities between Foucault’s and neoliberalism’s ethics. On the other hand, I note that the critics might be right in stressing some limitations in Foucault’s approach to ethics, which will lead me to formulate an affirmative biopolitics of care as an alternative to neoliberal governmentality.
Guilel Treiber is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven. He teaches the history of philosophy and political theory in Amsterdam and Groningen and is the author of numerous articles emphasizing the radicality of Foucault’s political theory.
To the question can we criticize Foucault, we must respond with a resounding yes. Foucault is not a saint, and even saints should be criticized. Yet when we criticize him, it should be on firmer grounds than biographical conjectures and fallacious logical inferences. Some of Zamora and Dean’s critique of Foucault’s impact on the Left can be summed up as such. Yet when their critical account does work, they can be said to apply to Foucault the same reproach he applied to Marx in The Order of Things. There is nothing in Foucault’s work that can challenge neoliberalism. Foucault is like a fish in its entrepreneurial waters, he cannot be used to criticize it. His work is a product of what led to its rise and ended up nourishing it.
This more serious challenge seems to rest on a few mistaken moves which, if Foucault’s work is used correctly, could have been avoided while still criticizing him. Firstly, the reduction of governmentalities and powers to one overarching, hegemonic governmentality. Secondly, the assumption that limit experience has no emancipatory potential, let alone a collective one. Thirdly, the mixing up of the theological and the political. Fourthly, the minimization of the causes that led to the collapse of the ‘old’ left and a disregard to the massive emancipation of underrepresented communities since the 70s. Lastly, a reduction of the work to the vagueries of an individual existence. In this paper, I will demonstrate how one can criticize Foucault and show that instead of essentializing a rift in the Left by pitting Foucault against Marx, it would be better to work to construct a synthesis of Foucault and Marx.
About the OZSW event calendar
The OZSW event calendar lists academic philosophy events organized by/at Dutch universities, and is offered by the OZSW as a service to the research community. Please check the event in question – through their website or organizer – to find out if you could participate and whether registration is required. Obviously we carry no responsibility for non-OZSW events.