Theory, Culture and Society 33 (5):3-21 (2016)

David Newheiser
Australian Catholic University
Although Foucault’s 1979 lectures on The Birth of Biopolitics promised to treat the theme of biopolitics, the course deals at length with neoliberalism while mentioning biopolitics hardly at all. Some scholars account for this elision by claiming that Foucault sympathized with neoliberalism; I argue on the contrary that Foucault develops a penetrating critique of the neoliberal claim to preserve individual liberty. Following Foucault, I show that the Chicago economist Gary Becker exemplifies what Foucault describes elsewhere as biopolitics: a form of power applied to the behavior of a population through the normalizing use of statistics. Although Becker’s preference for indirect intervention might seem to preserve the independence of individuals, under biopolitics individual liberty is itself the means by which populations are governed indirectly. In my view, by describing the history and ambivalence of neoliberal biopolitics, Foucault fosters a critical vigilance that is the precondition for creative political resistance.
Keywords biopolitics  neoliberalism  Foucault  critique  economics  power  normalization
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1177/0263276415619997
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Subject and Power.Michel Foucault - 1982 - Critical Inquiry 8 (4):777-795.
Crime and Punishment.[author unknown] - forthcoming - Latest Results.

View all 19 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The political technology of the ‘Camp’ in historical capitalism.John Welsh - forthcoming - Contemporary Political Theory:1-23.
Financial Neoliberalism and Exclusion with and Beyond Foucault.Tim Christiaens - 2019 - Theory, Culture and Society 36 (4):95-116.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Neoliberal Noise: Attali, Foucault, & the Biopolitics of Uncool.Robin James - 2014 - Culture, Theory, and Critique 52 (2):138-158.
The Potentials and Limitations of Rational Choice Theory: An Interview with Gary Becker.Gary Becker - 2012 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 5 (1):73-86.
Adorno, Foucault and Critique.Deborah Cook - 2013 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 39 (10):0191453713507016.
Neoliberalism, Biodiscipline, and Cultural Critique.William Wilkerson - 2010 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 48 (s1):64-73.
Ricoeur and Foucault: Between Ontology and Critique.Patrick Gamez - 2013 - Études Ricoeuriennes / Ricoeur Studies 4 (2):90-107.
The Subject of Retirement.Cameron Graham - 2012 - Foucault Studies 13:25-39.


Added to PP index

Total views
161 ( #53,380 of 2,325,982 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
39 ( #16,397 of 2,325,982 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes