Following the post earlier today on reading, I thought I’d return to posting about things I’ve read. I spent quite a bit of time last term working on a virtual special issue of Theory, Culture & Society on ‘Fiction & Social Theory’, which will hopefully be out soon (on the open site). So most of my reading was used to shape that. Following the Punk Sociology book I’m trying to develop some new themes. I’ve started by turning to Foucault. From doing review work for Palgrave Macmillan I’ve managed to accumulate a few of the books from the College De France lectures.
I’ve been trying to keep-up with some of the debates around neoliberalism, which interfaces with my other work on data. My interest in neoliberalism was sparked by my time working with Nick Gane and from attending the excellent conference he organised (with Claire Westall). I’m not planning to write anything directly on neoliberalism, but it seems important to have a sense of these debates and their origins. Obviously Foucault’s lectures have been prominent in these debates on neoliberalism, particularly the 1978-79 lectures on biopolitics. I’m planning to read these next, but to give me some context I started with the 1977-78 lectures on ‘Security, Territory, Population’. I’ve nearly completed the book, and I can see how the argument appears to be developing. I found the sections on milieu, calculation and circulation to be really interesting. The lectures are very readable, if a little tough in patches and you can really get a sense of the occasion. The book is full of ideas, which i expect I’ll be mining for a while. Foucault’s accounts of the ‘art of government’ are really compelling and relevant. The emergence of means for calculating aspects of populations is crucial, it shows how some of the notions of big data etc might be placed into a longer historical context. At times Foucault seems to suggest that there are arts of government that are waiting for the right technologies to emerge. So there is quite a bit in this particular lecture course that might be developed. But the place to go though for a much more informed account of the lectures is Stuart Elden’s page on his Foucault’s Last Decade book project.
The second book, which I’m just starting as I complete Foucault, is Btihaj Ajana’s book Governing Through Biometrics: The Biopolitics of Identity. I’ve only read a couple of pages but it looks excellent. I’m reviewing it for Information, Communication & Society. This book looks like it might speak directly to some of the themes in Foucault’s lectures.