Foucault sweater polo

Rod Macdonald was a brilliant mind, a warm, often generous mentor, and a charming man. One of the things he taught me is that, when you are smart, well-educated, charming in your own way—and, I suppose, if we are to be honest with our typology, when you are a man—avoiding hagiography, and by the same lights, preventing admiration from turning into discipleship, required finding ways to keep people at a distance, ways to compensate for the charm.

It seems to me that Foucault’s strategy was the same as Rod’s: if you want to ensure that the enfant terrible is not appointed under protest as leader of a movement, one can simply be childish. If you want people to take your seriously, but not too seriously, act like a brat. Viz (translation in hover text):

Je voudrais que mes livres soient une sorte de tool-box dans lequel les autres puissent aller fouiller pour y trouver un outil avec lequel ils pourraient faire ce que bon leur semble, dans leur domaine. L’ Histoire de la folie, je l’ai écrite un peu à l’aveuglette, dans une sorte de lyrisme dû à des expériences personnelles. Je suis attaché à ce livre, bien sûr, parce que je l’ai écrit, mais aussi parce qu’il a servi de tool-box à des personnes différentes les unes des autres, comme les psychiatres de l’antipsychiatrie britannique, comme Szasz aux États-Unis, comme les sociologues en France : ils l’ont fouillé, ont trouvé un chapitre, une forme d’analyse, quelque chose qui leur a servi ultérieurement.

Les Mots et les Choses, au fond, est un livre qui est beaucoup lu, mais peu compris. Il s’adressait aux historiens des sciences et aux scientifiques, c’était un livre pour deux mille personnes. Il a été lu par beaucoup plus de gens, tant pis. Mais, à certains scientifiques, comme Jacob, le biologiste prix Nobel, il a servi. Jacob a écrit La Logique du vivant; il y avait des chapitres sur l ‘histoire de la biologie, sur le fonctionnement du discours biologique, sur la pratique biologique, et il m’a dit qu’il s’est servi de mon livre. Le petit volume que je voudrais écrire sur les systèmes disciplinaires, j’aimerais qu’il puisse servir à un éducateur, à un gardien, à un magistrat, à un objecteur de conscience. Je n’écris pas pour un public, j’écris pour des utilisateurs, non pas pour des lecteurs.

This short quotation, of course, provides a delicious example of his strategy (“Il a été lu par beaucoup plus de gens, tant pis”–what an asshole! what a brat!), while demonstrating, if one takes its key thrust about how he hoped his work on discipline and governance might be put to use and holds it up to the light of most the literature that subsequently drew on his work, just how unsuccessful that strategy was.

Neoliberalism in One Image

Now, the interesting question is whether those lines will keep falling, and what might rise in their place.



Update: For those who don’t know about google ngram. And for a more enlightening case study:

and especially:

Rule Thyself/Read Together

One of the unexplored concepts for a themed blog or tumblr or twitter account or…—anyway, a concept which lays fallow for reasons that will quickly be made clear—would have a title something like “read together.”

To explain: the upsides of being in my location in a global division of labour that nominally assigns me the task of reading books and articles, and writing down my thoughts about what I have said cannot be overstated. […More] ‘ Rule Thyself ‘

What we think they should want

I am informed by a colleague that in 1963, Arthur Laing, then Canada’s minister responsible for Indian policy, asserted that, “The prime condition in the progress of the Indian people … must be the development by themselves of a desire for the goals which we think they should want.”

Which we think they should want.

This is of course awful, an expression of the sentiment that makes it fair to describe the policy of […More] ‘ What we think they should want ‘


Why so little attention in conversations about neoliberalism to where this is all happening? What about land and territory? As in, when it came to the VW emissions scandal, what planet exactly did these high-level executives think they were going to move to?

Your point about the role of space and place in neoliberalism is spot on. What is fascinating about the reading I’ve been doing about financial imaginaries, and their slow diffusion into […More] ‘ Annihilation ‘

Don't ask your female students to babysit

If you supervise a graduate student, or a student doing an honours thesis, the offer to do some research assistance for you can be an attractive proposition. If your student is lucky, he or she may actually get to do research in this research assistant job, for which he or she will get almost vanishingly small credit but through which, at least, he or she may actually learn things that are valuable to their development […More] ‘ Don’t ask your female students to babysit for you ‘


I am participating in a reading group on neoliberalism, or perhaps on “what we talk about when talk about when we talk about neoliberalism.”

Here is Hayek, within two contiguous pages (50-51) of his most-famous work, The Road to Serfdom:

“The intellectual history of the last sixty or eighty years is indeed a perfect illustration of the truth that in social evolution nothing is inevitable but thinking makes it so.“ “Far from being appropriate only […More] ‘ Unthinkable ‘