January 11, 2009

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Administrators, budgets, and 'it's the economy, stupid': we aren't that dumb Tenured faculty are generally in a pretty good position for riding out the recession. Most of us don't have to worry about unemployment. Many of us are likely to keep fairly decent insurance and retirement plans. And, we are likely to retain this security even as others employed at our colleges and universities risk losing their jobs and even as more students will face more challenges in paying for a college education. We will retain security (although we may not get cost of living raises) at the same time as we watch the detrimental impact of the market and overall global economic crisis on our institutions, particularly on the endowments and the portion of the operating budgets that come from these endowments. What this will mean is that many administrators will start wielding the explanation 'the economy' for all sorts of decisions. Any time they confront disagreement or noncompliance, perhaps even any time they are asked for reasons or to fund conventional elements of academic life, they will bring up 'the economy.' We should expect, then, a crackdown on more radical, innovative, creative, non-easily monetarized fields, activities, and speakers. So we need to be vigilant: what is getting cut? what is funded? why? What was reasonable and expected two years ago may now be cut. But not everything is cut--faculty need to be on top of what is cut and why. Is money available for projects related to homeland security? green technology? what about contemporary radical philosophy and psychoanalytic theory?...
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The Birth of Biopolitics (4.2): American neo-liberalism I've been summarizing Foucault's lectures, The Birth of Biopolitics. The title is appropriate in that we never quite get a biopolitics fully born; instead we get a kind of coming to be. An appropriate image might be a kind of fractal or a video clip of an animated fractal where we see a pattern emerge: we see little bits and then zone out--or in--and see the pattern again and again. Or maybe we see neoliberalism as a logic of governmentality installing a kind of circuit into society that captures ever more elements, propelling them into a kind of orbit. And we can say that this orbit is established around critical questions of competition, efficiency, and success, a critical gaze or grid that is the interface between government and individual and government and society. Lectures nine and ten (March 14 and March 21) focus on neoliberalism in the US. 1. Neoliberalism in the US emerges in opposition to Keynesianism, social pacts made in WWII (promises to soldiers and citizens regarding what they will get after the war), and programs developed up through the Johnson administration on education, poverty, and segregation (basically, the rise of the social welfare state). 2. Neoliberalism in the US, unlike in France, is more a type of relation between governors and governed than it is the techniques of the governors with regard to the governed. It is also a style and method of thought, analysis, and imagination (which makes me think, gee, Foucault knows he's talking about...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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