New paper: Parrhesia under Neoliberalism

(From the Dept. of Shameless Self-Promotion) I have just uploaded to ssrn a paper on Foucault’s last two College de France lecture courses, On the Government of Self and Others and The Courage of Truth, looking at main concept Foucault analyzes there: parrhesia (roughly: frank speech).  Those of you who were at my SPEP paper last year will recognize that this is the much revised and expanded version of that paper.  The ultra-short version of my thesis is that I don’t think that parrhesia as Foucault recounts in the ancient Cynics will get us anywhere today (that’s going the opposite direction from the doxa on these lectures).  Here is the abstract:

Foucault’s account of parrhēsia shows why it would have little critical traction today.  In Foucault’s analysis, parrhēsia has both a political and an ethical phase; Cynicism is the most radical version of the ethical phase.  The primary characteristic of Cynical parrhēsia is full visibility, something which Foucault does not endorse but which neoliberal biopolitics actively demands.  More fundamentally, ethical parrhēsia fails as a resistance strategy because branding capital blurs the boundaries between affirmations of capital and its critique, enabling the full cooption of parrhēsia-as-visibility into the process of branding.  Our problem is a lack of politics.

In addition to more textual work, the main additions are probably to the section on capital and branding, where I use the pharmaceutical industry as an example (drawing from this book by Phillip Mirowski.  You should pour a stiff drink before starting).  I also engage in the conclusion with an important paper by Kelly Happe on OWS (I discuss a different aspect of that paper here).

This post is also up in identical form at my regular blogging place, NewAPPS

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