Foucault and Economics

30 August 2006 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

| Nicolai Foss |

Catallaxy has a post on “Foucault at the Sydney Institute.” More precisely, the post is about a presentation on Foucault by Foucault scholar, Clare O’Farrell:

She noted that Foucault’s ideas are rapidly growing in popularity and influence in a wide range of fields including the social sciences and the humanities, also nursing, health administration and education. Unfortunately this list coincides with a list of problem areas in my humble opinion, though I would not be rash enough to blame Foucault’s influence alone.

O’Farrell is then ” .. asked about Foucault’s economics … The reply did not address the specific issues but it seems that late in his life Foucault wrote a book (in French) on the rises of neoliberalism.” It is somewhat strange that a Foucault scholar has apparently forgotten that Foucault dealt at great length with (the history of) economics in The Order of Things (1966). Economics is important to Foucault because it becomes, in his view, a prime “arbiter of governmentality.” Foucault’s analysis of this contains a number of quite insightful points.

However, most of his later discussions are superficial or fall in the red herring category (the universal bogey of “atomized selfs”). He did take specific issue with Hayek and Friedman and the German Ordo liberals.  Unfortunately, muzzy Foucaultian doctrines are in fact creeping into economics, although only at the fringes (and we don’t have this gentleman in mind). See e.g. this paper. Although O&M sometimes lament the monolithic nature of contemporary economics, one benefit of this uniformity is that Foucaultian doctrines can only thrive in the underworld of economics.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science, Myths and Realities.

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