Stéphane Legrand

La généalogie foucaldienne du libéralisme

Listening track

[00:00-03:29] Legrand’s presentation interrogates the intertwining relations of power and mechanisms of production through Foucault’s analysis of liberalism as practical way of rationalizing the exercise of governmental power. [03:30-10:11] What Foucault makes visible in the course, The Birth of Biopolitics, is the irreducible heterogeneity and, at the same time, the inextricability that exists between relations of production, on the one hand, and political rationality on the other. Foucault shows that, in order to understand this articulation, we must undertake a non-economic analysis of power, thus criticizing Marxist “economism”, which makes the mistake of folding the two domains in question (economy and politics) into one another without considering the constitutive gap between economic mechanisms and relations of power. This critique is particularly developed in Society Must Be Defended, as well as in the previously unpublished course entitled The Punitive Society, in which Foucault recognizes that disciplinary mechanisms operate on two levels: they must protect the productive force and the means of production but, at the same time, they “produce the aptitude to produce” – that is, they produce subject producers. [10:12-23:51] Nevertheless, Legrand argues, Foucault himself ends up advancing an economic interpretive model because Discipline and Punish is grounded on the idea of a “general economy of illegalities”, which took place in the second half of the 18th century with the establishment of disciplinary power. This analysis, however, enables us to look at the constitutive asymmetry and irreducibility between relations of power and economic relations. In particular, Legrand underlines that the corrective feature of disciplinary technology does not only serve to empower the productive forces but also “to produce productive subjects”. [23:52-37:30] In this regard, it is not a question of choosing between liberalism and state control, the opposition of which is historically false, but rather of fabricating new modalities of governmentality. Secondly, resistance cannot be grounded only in a discussion of power relations, neglecting a critique of political economy (that is to say the capitalist system): the political challenge, therefore, is to connect the Foucaultian critique of power relations with the Marxist critique of political economy. [37:31-39:58] Finally, Legrand marks his distance from the analysis of Frédéric Gros: we do not have to overvalue the Greek techniques of self and subjectivity, since they were part of a deeply inegalitarian political context , based on a constitutive asymmetry of the social relations among individuals. [39:59-01:00:55] Discussion.

Keywords: liberalism, marxism, disciplinary correction, productive forces, political economy.

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