Neo-liberalism and the symbolic institution of society: Pitting Foucault against Lefort on the state and the ‘political’

Philosophy and Social Criticism 41 (9):945-962 (2015)
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Abstract

This article sets up a dialogue between Lefort’s view on the relationship between state and modern society and Foucault’s thesis of a governmental turn in the modern power regime. Whereas Lefort’s political ontology leaves room for divergent agencies from which the symbolic institution of the social may unfold, his preoccupation with democracy leads him to link the symbolic institution of modern society inseparably with the functioning of the modern state. By contrast, Foucault’s history of governmentality documents a shift in the regime of the symbolic institution of modern society. Where that institution hitherto relied on the state, today, a symbiosis of state and neoliberal governmentality seems to take over. Foucault’s highlighting of the neoliberal conception of a generalized market may thus undermine the ontological role Lefort formerly ascribed to the state. In conclusion it is suggested that this shift in power regime is by and large responsible for the readjustment of the instituting representations of contemporary society, the de-politicization of political and social relations, and the erosion of democracy

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References found in this work

Security, territory, population: lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-78.Michel Foucault - 2007 - New York: République Française. Edited by Michel Senellart & Arnold Ira Davidson.
The Prince.Niccolo Machiavelli - 1640 - New York: Humanity Books. Edited by W. K. Marriott.

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