Marxism Considered Through the Lens of Foucauldian Biopower
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If you are not a current K College student, faculty, or staff member, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request access to this SIP.Michel Foucault portrayed himself in interviews and his writings as being staunchly anti-Marxist throughout his lifetime, and is often regarded by scholars as belonging to the post-structuralist school of philosophical thought. In his seminal work The Order of Things, Foucault contends that Marxism “exists in 19th Century thought like a fish in water: that is, unable to breathe anywhere else” (The Order of Things, 262). In response to this comment, fellow French intellectual and noted existential Marxist Jean-Paul Sartre referred to Foucault as “the last rampart of the bourgeoisie” (Wilson, par. 48). However, an exploration of the themes and philosophies advanced by Foucault throughout his major works seem to indicate that, while he publicly believed Marxism to be a product of its time and merely another power structure from which subordination would invariably result, his writings can be used to adapt much of Marx's 19th Century theories regarding class conflict for use in contemporary society. In exploring this topic, I will first elucidate both Marx and Foucault's views regarding history and the individual, as well as their political prescriptions. I will then explore points of overlap and contention between their two philosophies, pointing out the strengths and failings of Marxism from a Foucauldian post-structuralist perspective. Finally, I will consider both philosophies through the lens of Richard Sennett's The Culture of the New Capitalism, illustrating how the hybridization of the complementary theories of Foucauldian biopower and Marxist class relations form a viable model by which the causes and means of contemporary social and economic exploitation can be understood.