Economics as Foucauldian

Some English-speaking (and non-French-reading) academics are looking forward to the release of the translation of Michel Foucault’s 1978-1979 lectures at the Collège de France. Naissance de la Biopolitique was actually published in French only in 2004: a careful transcription and compilation of the tape-recorded lectures on neoliberal governmentality and neoclassical economics that came out the same year as Sécurité, Territoire, Population, the transcription of the 1977-1978 lectures. The translation of the latter is with Palgrave, so Birth of Biopolitics should be expected there too. Expectation is justified, in part, because Foucault develops there, at length, his own understanding of neoliberalism and neoclassical economics in terms of governmentality. Works such as The Foucault Effect initiated a long and fruitful series of studies on neoliberalism taking Foucault’s path, but without access to Foucault’s own extensive examination of the topic. Francesco Guala has published an interesting review of the French edition in which he points the usefulness of Foucault’s own job:

“In many ways economics looks more like a Foucauldian discipline now than it did when these lectures were delivered at the Collège de France. Foucault himself didn’t live long enough to see neoclassical economics flourish as a science and policy tool.” (from review in Economics and Philosophy, 22(3), 2006, pp. 429-439, also available here)

As Guala points out, current sociological attention to the performativity of economics (e.g. to how the discipline of economics formats the economy for real) might find in Foucault’s (unfinished) investigations a fruitful source of inspiration.


  1. 1 Foucault and the roots of risk management « socializing finance

    […] recent post in the Test Society blog (whose main writer is a personal friend) discusses the publication, by Palgrave of a set of […]

  2. 2 Economics as Foucauldian Out « Test Society

    […] the way: the translation of Foucault’s lectures on neoliberalism (which were duly advertised here) is about to be published here. And, as mentioned here, the first chapter is freely available here. […]

  3. 3 Reviews of the Birth of Biopolitics « Foucault blog

    […] Reviews of the Birth of Biopolitics Posted on February 28, 2008 by Jeremy Here is a nice review of the Birth of Biopolitics by Francesco Guala in 2006 in Economics and Philosophy (h/t Test Society). […]

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