January 17, 2009

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The Birth of Biopolitics (5): the limits of sovereign knowledge (or, the subject supposed-not-to-know) Foucault's last two lectures in the birth of biopolitics series (March 28 and April 4) consider the generalization of the neoliberal grid via the idea of homo economicus. To my mind, there are at least two crucial repercussions of his discussion for contemporary political theory. The first is the way that it demonstrates (in advance, as it were) Zizek's crucial point in his criticism of the later Deleuze, namely, the ultimate compatibility of Deleuzian ideas of multiplicity and immanence with the worst excesses of capitalism. The second it the implication that Zizek's emphasis on the impossibility of a relation between politics and the economy (or the parallax view between them) remains trapped within a neoliberal matrix predicated on the necessary absence of an economic sovereign. 1. Neoliberalism's economic man is rooted in the idea of a subject who chooses and who chooses on the basis of interest. 2. The subject of interest is not fully compatible with the subject of right, that is, with the juridical subject of law; it 'constantly overflows the subject of right;' it is 'irreducible to' it; it is 'not absorbed' by it and is its 'permanent condition' of functioning. As he explains, despite claims to the contrary, the contract and the market function in opposed ways and have heterogeneous structures. One involves renunciation and transcendence. The other involves interest and spontaneous harmonization. 3. How, then, does Foucault conceive the subject of right (that is, how does he describe the figure presupposed by liberal legal theorists)?...
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The Inaugural Address I Want to Hear I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. ... Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.2 More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.3 Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. ... Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.4 True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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