At a conservative party meeting in the mid-1970s, Margaret Thatcher, soon to become Prime Minister, took out a book and slammed it on the table. “This,” she said brandishing Friedrich von Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty, “is what we believe in.” Hayek’s ideas, along with those of other “neoliberal” political economists, were at the heart of the social and economic policies of the Thatcher and Reagan era.
In 2008, the world witnessed the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1927, and brought the system of capitalism to its knees.
Is there a connection between those events?
The thirty-year period between those two events saw the rise and victory of neoliberalism. But what is neoliberalism? How does it differ from the liberalism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century? How does it influence the way we see the world and experience ourselves? To answer those questions, and develop a critical relation to our own present, we will turn to the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault, and focus on his rich and prescient lecture course from 1979, The Birth of Biopolitics.