A new paper proposal:
BIOPOLITICS AND THE RETURN OF THE CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
In The Birth of Biopolitics, his 1978-1979 lecture course at the College de France, Michel Foucault makes a surprising turn towards the critique of political economy. At the start of the lecture series, Foucault sets out to trace the genealogy of the “art of government” in bourgeois society, with its ever-expanding attempt to manage bodies and populations. But as the series progresses, Foucault ends up giving an account, instead, of the logic of neoliberal economics, and of the new version of subjectivity (a mutation in the form of Homo oeconomicus) that corresponds to this logic. Foucault doesn’t explicitly denounce the logic of neoliberalism; but he dissects it with the cool distance of an entomologist discussing the life cycle of parasitic wasps. Foucault’s focus upon neoliberal economic rationality is quite prescient, coming as it does shortly before the accession to power of Thatcher and Reagan, and the US Federal Reserve Bank’s turn towards monetarism. This turn in Foucault’s thought is also surprising, because it cuts against the grain of the veiled anti-Marxist polemic that is present in many of Foucault’s other works. It almost seems as if Foucault were being forced, in spite of himself, to return from his usual concerns with governmentality, power and domination, and the incitation of discourse, to the fundamental grounds of the critique of political economy.
In taking a new look at Foucault’s lectures, I want to argue two points. First, that Foucault’s account of neoliberal rationality, centered upon the market, provides an important missing piece to a Marxist understanding of capitalism under the regime of flexible accumulation. And second, that Foucault’s own turn to the critique of political economy is, ironically enough, precisely what is missing from contemporary, post-Foucaultian accounts of biopolitics and biopower. My ultimate aim in this paper is to place biopolitics within the framework of capital accumulation and the contemporary regime of finance capital.