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Public defence of doctoral thesis with Karl Katz Lydén

Karl Katz Lydén defends his thesis ”Critique and the Care of the Self: The Economy of Truth and Government in Michel Foucault's Late Work”.

Subject: Philosophy
Research area: Critical and Cultural Theory
Graduate School: Baltic and East European Graduate School (BEEGS)
External reviewer: Arianna Sforzini, Maîtresse de conférences en philosophie, Université Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC), France
Language: English

This thesis engages Michel Foucault’s late work on ancient philosophy in relation to his earlier investigations of modern forms of government and events in his political present. Beginning with a reinterpretation of the function of style in Foucault’s oeuvre, it demonstrates that the ancient notion of the care of the self – the style of existence – unfolds as a critical project. The thesis considers Foucault’s last three lecture courses at the Collège de France: “The Hermeneutics of the Subject” (1982), “The Government of Self and Others” (1983), and “The Courage of the Truth” (1984). It shows that what is at stake in the ancient notions of truth-telling and the technologies of the self is not reducible to an ethical, individual subject in Greco-Roman antiquity, but rather something that bears on Foucault’s previous critical work on modern forms of subjection, on his notion of critique, and on political, collective subjects in the present.

No previous study has treated this relation between Foucault’s notion of the care of the self and his theory of critique. And while shorter attempts have noted their conceptual common basis in “virtue” and “government,” this thesis opens new perspectives. Through a formal analogy to Kant’s critical project, it proposes a model of three Foucauldian kinds of critique: the historical-philosophical practice of theoretical work, truth-telling in the political field, and the individual or collective “art of not being governed like that.” Moving between the theoretical work and lesser discussed materials – specifically Foucault’s engagement with the Polish trade union “Solidarność” and the French labor union CFDT – important continuities are identified. It is demonstrated that Foucault understands critique, the care of the self, and collective movements in his own time, not only by the same conceptual framework of government, virtue, and truth, but also as non-discursive forms or practices in which means and ends merge. This is significant in relation to Foucault’s definition of modern economic government in his lecture course on neoliberalism, “The Birth of Biopolitics” (1979): a government guided by an equally non-discursive “veridiction of the market.” Building on these continuities in Foucault’s oeuvre, it is concluded that the ancient notions of truth-telling and of the style of existence offer significant tools in the art of not being governed like that: as collective configurations of critique in the present.

Keywords: Foucault, Critique, Care of the self, Governmentality, Socialist Governmentality, Neoliberalism, Means and ends, Self-finalization, Par-rēsia, Parrhesia, Truth-telling, Veridiction of the market, Solidarność, labor unions, CFDT, Style, Performativity, Montage

Time and place

31 May 2024, 13:00-16:00

Public defence of thesis

Södertörn University, room MB503, Moas båge, Alfred Nobels allé 7, Flemingsberg, find us


Arranged by

Philosophy at the School of Culture and Education, Södertörn University



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