Politics and Theory – “Three Forms of Politicization of Method”, Neoliberalism and The Turn Towards Studying Subjectivity in The Work of Michel Foucault


  • Milan Urošević Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade, Serbia




neoliberalism, subjectivity, intellectuals, theory of governmentality, homo economicus, social context, history of ideas


This paper explores the place neoliberalism has in Foucault’s opus and the reasons he turned to studying subjectivity in the latter part of his career. We will follow the thematic, theoretical, and methodological changes in Foucault’s work and show how they relate to the social context. We will claim that Foucault, due to his political engagement, gives a political dimension to his work by putting it in the service of political goals. The article starts by researching how the social context influenced the beginnings of Foucault’s work in order to show how even then the changes in the French political scene influenced his thought. Afterwards we move on to the period after the rebellion of 1968 when Foucault was working with radical Maoist organizations. It is here that we find the first form of politicization of his intellectual work. We argue that due to the conflict between progressive French intellectuals and the “Communist party of France” in the second half of the 1970s Foucault turned to studying the history of liberalism in order to find a conceptual framework for a new non-communist left politics. This can be seen as a second form of politicization of his intellectual work and Foucault’s study of neoliberal ideas can be located here. We claim that since this research is placed at the very end of his history of governmentality it is here that Foucault found a conceptual framework suitable for a new left politics. For him this politics would be based on the pursuit of an ever greater autonomy of the individual and his subjectivity. Therefore, after studying neoliberalism Foucault turns to studying subjectivity which we understand as a third form of politicization of his intellectual work. We argue that he conceptualized the “care for the self” as a form of subjectivity which is supposed to play the role of an ethical ideal for a new left politics. The paper concludes with a segment in which we contrast our claims with the claims of other authors that studied Foucault’s relation to neoliberalism and his turn towards studying subjectivity. 



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How to Cite

Urošević, Milan. 2022. “Politics and Theory – ‘Three Forms of Politicization of Method’, Neoliberalism and The Turn Towards Studying Subjectivity in The Work of Michel Foucault”. Etnoantropološki Problemi Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 17 (2):745–774. https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v17i2.12.