Did Foucault do Ethics? The "Ethical Turn," Neoliberalism, and the Problem of Truth

Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 26 (1):107-133 (2018)
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This paper argues against a common misunderstanding of Foucault's work. Even after the release of his lectures at the Collège de France, which ran throughout the 1970s until his death in 1984, he is still often taken to have made an "ethical" turn toward the end of his life. As opposed to his genealogies of power published in the 1970s, which are relentlessly suspicious of claims of individual agency, his final monographs focus on the ethical self-formation of free individuals. I suggest that this basic misinterpretation makes possible interpretations of Foucault's work as being sympathetic to neoliberal government, by linking the ethical turn to a "liberal" or "neoliberal" turn in his thought. I present a case against the ethical turn by arguing that Foucault's main focus, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, is a concern for the ways in which we become obligated by truth.



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Patrick Gamez
University of Notre Dame

Citations of this work

How Foucault Got Rid of (Bossy) Marxism.Gordon Hull - 2022 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 34 (3):372-403.

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References found in this work

Technologies of the Self.Michel Foucault - 2001 - Filosoficky Casopis 49 (2):319-343.
Normativity and Normalization.Dianna Taylor - 2009 - Foucault Studies 7:45-63.

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