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Letting go of Neo-Liberalism (with some help from Michel Foucault)

Flew, Terry (2010) Letting go of Neo-Liberalism (with some help from Michel Foucault). [Working Paper] (Unpublished)

Abstract

Neo-liberalism has become one of the boom concepts of our time. From its original reference point as a descriptor of the economics of the “Chicago School” such as Milton Friedman, or authors such as Friedrich von Hayek, neo-liberalism has become an all-purpose descriptor and explanatory device for phenomena as diverse as Bollywood weddings, standardized testing in schools, violence in Australian cinema, and the digitization of content in public libraries. Moreover, it has become an entirely pejorative term: no-one refers to their own views as “neo-liberal”, but it rather refers to the erroneous views held by others, whether they acknowledge this or not. Neo-liberalism as it has come to be used, then, bears many of the hallmarks of a dominant ideology theory in the classical Marxist sense, even if it is often not explored in these terms.

This presentation will take the opportunity provided by the English language publication of Michel Foucault’s 1978-79 lectures, under the title of The Birth of Biopolitics, to consider how he used the term neo-liberalism, and how this equates with its current uses in critical social and cultural theory. It will be argued that Foucault did not understand neo-liberalism as a dominant ideology in these lectures, but rather as marking a point of inflection in the historical evolution of liberal political philosophies of government. It will also be argued that his interpretation of neo-liberalism was more nuanced and more comparative than the more recent uses of Foucault in the literature on neo-liberalism. It will also look at how Foucault develops comparative historical models of liberal capitalism in The Birth of Biopolitics, arguing that this dimension of his work has been lost in more recent interpretations, which tend to retro-fit Foucault to contemporary critiques of either U.S. neo-conservatism or the “Third Way” of Tony Blair’s New Labour in the UK.

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ID Code: 38695
Item Type: Working Paper
Additional Information: Paper presented to Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove campus, Brisbane, Australia, 25 November, 2010.
Keywords: neo-liberalism, Foucault, governmentality, markets, enterprise
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA STUDIES (200100) > Media Studies (200104)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > Schools > Journalism, Media & Communication
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 Terry Flew.
Deposited On: 22 Nov 2010 15:16
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2010 01:32

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