Shameless Self-Promotion Dept: Papers on Foucault, and on Spinoza

I’ve just uploaded a (relatively minor) revision of my SPEP paper from this fall in Salt Lake City to SSRN.  The paper is “”Confessing Preferences: What Foucault’s Government of the Living can tell us about Neoliberalism and Big Data,” and the abstract is:

Foucault’s 1979-80 Collège de France lectures, On the Government of the Living, offer one way to situate the development of his later work, and in particular to understand his supposed turn away from biopolitics and governmentality to ethics and subjectivity.  In this paper, I argue that (1) a unifying thread in most of Foucault’s work from the late 1970s onward is an increasing concern with the centrality of confession as a primary technology of power in the Christian West; and (2) Neoliberalism is deeply confessional, and therefore highly suspect from a Foucauldian standpoint.  (3) These connections are particularly evident in a Foucauldian reading of data analytics (“big data”).


I’ve also uploaded a somewhat older paper on Spinoza and finitude.  The  paper is “Of Suicide and Falling Stones: Finitude, Contingency, and Corporeal Vulnerability in (Judith Butler’s) Spinoza,” and the abstract is:

This paper juxtaposes Judith Butler’s reading of Spinoza with the commonly-received, originally Deleuzian, presentation of Spinoza as the “anti-Hegel” or as the presentation of “positivity” against Hegelian “negativity.” Working via the key commentary by Pierre Macherey in Hegel ou Spinoza, I argue that, once we no longer are compelled to read Spinoza as Hegel’s negation or opposite, the way is open to see a Spinoza who is profoundly concerned with human fragility and finitude. the Spinoza that emerges presents a more cautious, but also potentially more generous, approach to emancipatory politics.

To put the point too schematically, readings of the affirmative Spinoza tend to develop the importance of conatus as resistance, at the expense of developing an understanding of the importance of limitations imposed by our own finitude. It seems to me that much of Butler’s thought can be read as bringing those elements together. How do we understand conatus, and marshal it as resistance, given the inevitability of finitude and constraint as factors that structure the desires through which we actually live?


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