Original scientific paper

David Šporer,; Sveučilište u Zagrebu, Filozofski fakultet

pp. 87-100



The paper is suggesting one possible angle for the re-examination of Foucault’s portrayal of the historical role of German neoliberalism in his 1979 lectures entitled Naissance de la biopolitique. This particular season has been the object of the increased interest in recent decades for various reasons. One of the reasons is the broader theme of “biopolitics” developed in them (as well as in the two immediately preceding seasons), which was instrumental in subsequent interpretations and applications even before the 1979 lectures became available integrally. Another reason that has fuelled various interpretations and contentions, that are still ongoing as some recent publications attest, has to do with the general setting and tone of Foucault’s dealings with neoliberalism. Debates that have ensued have mostly been centred on the question of whether or not Foucault embraced certain neoliberal tenets that he was explaining in these lectures.
But what is usually overlooked in these debates is the question of the historical accuracy of the impression that emerges from the 1979 lectures about the role that German “ordoliberalism” had after WWII. It is in a way surprising considering that Foucault’s relationship with the “historians’ guild” was strained, interspersed with criticisms and polemics. Some of these critiques are sketchily reproduced here to point at certain repeating weaknesses in Foucault’s dealings with the past. Crucial failing seems to be the concept of the “cut” or discontinuity whose consequence was usually such that Foucault was often forcing great contrasts onto the past. The concluding section proposes, although in a preliminary fashion and through a short comparison, that Foucault might have overstated the role that “ordoliberal” ideas had in Germany during the 1950s and 1960s precisely because he might have accepted the view that some of these ideas were not only the motor of economic and social development, but sort of a “third way” solution.

Key words:

history, historians, Michel Foucault, neoliberalism, German “ordoliberalism”