Michel Foucault's The Birth Of Biopolitics: Case Study

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On initial reading of lecture nine (‘American neo-liberalism (I)’), in Michel Foucault’s 1979 seminal lectures entitled The Birth of Biopolitics, it seemed rather clear to me that he was critiquing the neo-liberal order. Foucault mocked economist Gary Becker’s theory of human capital , and how humans are demoted to robots, with the sarcastic repetition of “ability-machines”. However, in 2013, after looking into Foucault’s work, Becker states, “but as I read the essay [lecture 10] it’s hard for me to see something in that essay that Foucault doesn’t like in terms of my work.” (Harcourt, Becker & Ewald 2013, 7). He made this fascinating observation in a dialogue with Bernard Harcourt, and Foucault’s close associate and producer of the lecture series François Ewald—who himself does anything but deny Foucault’s sympathy for neoliberalism (Becker, Ewald & Harcourt 2012). Furthermore, it has been argued by several authors that Foucault derails from his initial project, which was to “do a course on biopolitics” (Foucault 1979, 21), and gets stuck in a quasi-romance with neoliberalism.

I would like to explore my intuition that these claims are mistaken. Unlike Becker, I think it is necessary to explore Foucault’s oeuvre to understand if he has any normative stance on a certain system of thought. I shall also like to show that biopolitics is in fact exercised in neoliberal governance, even though the word is rarely used, in the shape of ‘human capital’. Secondly, through

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