Rowman and Littlefield International

Foucault, Neoliberalism, and Beyond

Edited by Stephen W. Sawyer and Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins

4 Reviews

Offers a comprehensive account of Foucault’s relationship to neoliberalism that is driven not by polemics but a careful reading of Foucault’s texts and political positions.

Hardback ISBN: 9781786603760 Release date: Apr 2019
£85.00 €119.00 $125.00
Ebook ISBN: 9781786603784 Release date: Apr 2019
£24.95 €34.95 $39.50

Pages: 226


Few philosophers have garnered as much attention globally as Michel Foucault. But even within this wide reception, the consideration given to his relationship to neoliberalism has been noteworthy. However, the debate over this relationship has given rise to a great deal of polemics and confusion.

This volume brings together leading figures in the field to provide a reliable guide to one of the most controversial subjects in recent continental thought. It puts across the case for Foucault’s importance for post-colonial, race, queer and feminist studies, among other areas, and opens up his relationship to neoliberalism to offer a broader picture of tensions brewing within the left more generally.

Introduction: Stephen Sawyer and Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins

Chapter 1: Michael C. Behrent, Neoliberalism: The Highest Stage of Anti-Humanism?

Chapter 2: Serge Audier, Is Foucault a Good Guide for Understanding, Critiquing and Combatting Neoliberalism?

Chapter 3: Daniel Zamora, Finding a “Left Governmentality”: Foucault’s Last Decade

Chapter 4: Aner Barzilay, Rereading the Birth of Biopolitics in Light of Foucault’s Early Reading of Marx

Chapter 5: Dotan Leshem, Foucault, Genealogy, Critique

Chapter 6: Duncan Kelly, Michel Foucault on Phobie d’État and Neoliberalism

Chapter 7: Claudia Castiglioni, Foucault, Neoliberalism, and the Iranian Revolution

Chapter 8: Luca Paltrinieri, Neoliberal Selves: Human Capital Between Bourdieu and Foucault

Chapter 9: Judith Revel, Not Fostering Life, and Leaving to Die


Stephen W. Sawyer is Professor of History at the American University of Paris

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins is a Lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.

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4 Reviews

This collection of nine essays examines Michel Foucault’s “neoliberalism” as expressed in his late 1970s Collège de France Birth of Biopolitics lectures. The contributing scholars offer various interpretations regarding Foucault’s critical consideration of neoliberalism, and their essays illustrate Foucault’s analytical, thought-provoking ambiguity. Claudia Castiglione reminds readers that Foucault “never hid his discomfort toward conventional answers and never ceased to search for alternative ones." Michael Behrent writes, “If Foucault was a liberal, it was despite himself: his liberalism was not one of self-identification or political affiliation; it was, rather, an élan implicit in his concepts and arguments." Daniel Zamora views Foucault’s neoliberal study as a means to “rethink resistance” and be “less governed." “Pushing beyond” (editors’ italics) whether Foucault was a neoliberal, the volume presents “two key ambitions: to provide a more nuanced perspective on this key movement in the history of ideas and in so doing, uncover new interpretations, analyses, or applications of Foucault’s work." The contributors impressively pursue those ambitions. Readers well-versed in Foucault’s evolving thought will find the collection particularly accessible and valuable. This book deserves inclusion in university libraries.

Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


This volume dismantles any simple link between Foucault and neoliberalism, leaving us with parts for reassembly into politics of our own.

Quinn Slobodian, Associate Professor of History, Wellesley College

Foucault’s lectures on liberal and neoliberal governmentality at the end of the 1970s have provoked multiple controversies over the evolution of his thought and politics. This excellent collection of essays provides a wealth of historical detail and analysis that helps to situate these lectures in relation to their time and to the trajectory and sources of his thought. This book is indispensable for an informed appreciation of Foucault’s work during this period and its relation to a key moment in French and global history.

Paul Patton, University of New South Wales

In recent political debate, the question of Michel Foucault’s notoriously ambiguous relationship to neoliberalism has become a cypher for all kinds of contemporary preoccupations on the left. But do we really know what Foucault was responding to? This volume performs the immensely valuable work of historicizing Foucault’s relationship to Marxism, neoliberalism and the so-called second left. Making no attempt to definitively resolve the question of Foucault’s political sympathies, the papers in this volume meticulously document the unique political challenges of the late 1970s and manage to be all the more illuminating about our contemporary predicament. This brilliant volume will transform the tenor of contemporary debate around Foucault, neoliberalism, and the revolutionary left.

Melinda Cooper, Associate Professor in the School of Social and Political Science, University of Sydney

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