Paul Patton – Governmentality and public reason: the critique of Neo-liberalism revisited

Event Date: 3 and 4 June 2011
Clore Lecture Theatre
Clore Management Centre
Birkbeck College
Malet Street, Bloomsbury
London WC1E 7HX

The Birkbeck Centre for Law and the Humanities presents:


A Conference at Birkbeck College, University of London Reflecting on 20 years of
The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality

Paul Patton Governmentality and public reason: the critique of Neo-liberalism revisited

Readers often assume that the aim of Foucault’s 1978‐1979 lectures on neoliberalism was to provide a ‘critique’ of neoliberalism, where the nature of this critique is spelt out in the terms of one or other of his programmatic formulations: exit from the present, not to be governed in particular ways, etc. I want to suggest a way of reading those lectures that connects with a different kind of critique, namely one that provides a normative framework within which political power should be exercised. Foucault does not venture into this kind of normative territory, but such a reading is justified by his question: what would be the governmentality appropriate to socialism? (Foucault 2008: 94).

John Rawls’s egalitarian conception of political liberal public reason and its associated criterion of legitimate government offers a useful guide to how such a project might be pursued. His overtly normative approach to the question how should political power be exercised converges with Foucault’s descriptive approach to governmental reason. However, he presents the forms of public reason in which the exercise of power is discussed in relatively static and ahistorical terms. Foucault’s genealogical approach promises to show how public reason evolves in the broader context of the public political culture of liberal democracies. Conversely, Rawls’s preferred economic models of market socialism and property‐owning democracy point to possible ways to answer Foucault’s question above. The history of the idea of property‐owning democracy points to an egalitarian tendency within twentieth century liberal governmentality that a more comprehensive genealogy would need to consider.

Paul Patton

Paul Patton is Professor of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales

Books (selected)

(2000) Deleuze and the Political, Routledge.

(2000) Political Theory and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Co-editor with Duncan Ivison and Will Sanders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(2010) Deleuze and the Postcolonial. Co-editor with Simone Bignall. Edinburgh University Press.

(2010) Deleuzian Concepts: Philosophy, Colonization, Politics. Stanford University Press.

Recent book chapters

2010 ‘Multiculturalism and Political Ontology’ in Duncan Ivison ed The Ashgate Research Companion to Multiculturalism, Ashgate Publishing, 57-71.

2010 ‘Foucault and Normative Political Philosophy’ in Timothy O’Leary and Christopher Falzon eds Foucault and Philosophy, Wiley-Blackwell, 204-221.

2009 ‘Foucault’ in David Boucher and Paul Kelly eds Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 575-595.

2009 ‘Events, Becoming and History’ in J. A. Bell and C. Colebrook eds Deleuze and History, Edinburgh University Press, 33-53.

Recent articles

2011 ‘Life, Legitimation and Government,’ Constellations, 18:1, 35-45.

2009 ‘Rawls and the legitimacy of Australian Government,’ Australian Indigenous Law Review, 13:2, 59-69.

2007 ‘Derrida, Politics and Democracy to Come,’ Philosophy Compass, Volume 2, Issue 6, November, 766-780.

2007 ‘Deleuze and Derrida on the Concept and Future of Democracy,’ Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, No. 15, October, 7-23.

2007 ‘Utopian Political Philosophy: Deleuze and Rawls,’ Deleuze Studies, 1:1, 41-59.






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