Lazzarato on Foucault and the Failure of Liberalism

Deterritorial Investigations

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The governmentality Foucault describes in The Birth of Biopolitics does not seem sufficient for understanding what it implies from the 1990s on, when governmentality began to limit the freedom which Foucault made the condition of “liberalism.” The freedom in liberalism is always and primarily the freedom of private ownership and owners. When the “rights of man” are threatened – by a crisis, a revolt, or some other phenomenon – regimes of governmentality other than liberal governmentality are required in order to ensure their durability. In this way, the problem of “governing as little as possible” first created the conditions for, then gave way to, as has always been the case in the history of capitalism, ever more authoritarian politics. To read The Birth of Biopolitics in light of what is taking place today is to be struck by a certain political naivete, since the parable of “liberalism” always describes, leads…

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