Tuesday, February 26, 2008

May, Todd. "Review of Jeffrey T. Nealon's FOUCAULT BEYOND FOUCAULT." NDPR February 14, 2008.

Nealon, Jeffrey T. Foucault Beyond Foucault: Power and its Intensifications since 1984. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008. There is a witless, though common, interpretation of Michel Foucault circulating these days. It is an interpretation that seeks to declaw Foucault’s political radicalism and bring him into the liberal fold. On this interpretation, Foucault abandoned the analysis of power constructed during his genealogical period (false) because it had a totalizing character that left no room for resistance (false) in favor of a sort of individual self-construction that he found in the ancient Greeks (false). If Jeffrey Nealon had done no more than recall to us the vapidity of this interpretation, he would have performed a service. However, he has done much more than this. In his slim volume on Foucault, he has offered a fascinating interpretation of Foucault’s work, one that brings to light previous neglected elements of his thought. Although the stated motivation for Nealon’s discussion is to counter the current interpretation of Foucault’s ethical works, the result is one of the most interesting interpretations of Foucault to emerge in many years. The lynchpin of Nealon's interpretation is the concept of intensification. Nealon argues that an understanding of that concept will enlighten us on the trajectory of Foucault's middle and late periods, from power to biopower and from genealogy to ethics. For Foucault, this charting of emergent modes of power is hardly a story of progress or Enlightenment, but a story of what he calls the increasing "intensity" (intensité) of power: which is to say its increasing "lightness" and concomitant "economic" viability, in the broadest sense of the word "economic." Power's intensity most specifically names its increasing efficiency within a system, coupled with increasing saturation. (p. 32) The history of power, in short, is a history of a force (applied against the force of resistance) that becomes more supple and more suffused. Foucault Beyond Foucault proceeds by way of a systematic development of this thought. . . . Read the rest of the review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=12364.

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