Miguel de Beistegui, The Government of Desire: A Genealogy of the Liberal Subject – forthcoming with University of Chicago Press in May 2018.
Liberalism, Miguel de Beistegui argues in The Government of Desire, is best described as a technique of government directed towards the self, with desire as its central mechanism. Whether as economic interest, sexual drive, or the basic longing for recognition, desire is accepted as a core component of our modern self-identities, and something we ought to cultivate. But this has not been true in all times and all places. For centuries, as far back as late antiquity and early Christianity, philosophers believed that desire was an impulse that needed to be suppressed in order for the good life, whether personal or collective, ethical or political, to flourish. Though we now take it for granted, desire as a constitutive dimension of human nature and a positive force required a radical transformation, which coincided with the emergence of liberalism.
By critically exploring Foucault’s claim that Western civilization is a civilization of desire, de Beistegui crafts a provocative and original genealogy of this shift in thinking. He shows how the relationship between identity, desire, and government has been harnessed and transformed in the modern world, shaping our relations with others and ourselves, and establishing desire as an essential driving force for the constitution of a new and better social order. But is it? The Government of Desire argues that this is precisely what a contemporary politics of resistance must seek to overcome. By questioning the supposed universality of a politics based on recognition and the economic satisfaction of desire, de Beistegui raises the crucial question of how we can manage to be less governed today, and explores contemporary forms of counter-conduct.
Drawing on a host of thinkers from philosophy, political theory, and psychoanalysis, and concluding with a call for a sovereign and anarchic form of desire, The Government of Desire is a groundbreaking account of our freedom and unfreedom, of what makes us both governed and ungovernable.
Daniele Lorenzini, Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought
“The Government of Desire is a challenging, original, and convincing attempt to address the crucial question of the forms taken by contemporary liberal and neoliberal governmentality, and of their capacity to produce and exploit subjects of desire. This fascinating book should become a fundamental reference for both students and scholars, not only in relation to Foucault studies, but more broadly within the fields of political and social philosophy.”
Leonard Lawlor, Pennsylvania State University
“Miguel de Beistegui contributes to what Foucault called a history of the present by pursuing the idea of desire across three categories: economic, sexual, and symbolic. By interweaving the historical and theoretical aspects of these together, he argues that desire is not a transcendental feature of subjectivity, but rather an ‘assemblage’ of knowledge and power. Bolstered by a remarkable amount of research, The Government of Desire is a compelling, persuasive, and original work of philosophy.”
Among many other things, this looks of real interest for its bringing together Foucault’s work on neoliberalism and governmentality into relation with his wider work on subjectivity and sexuality. Here’s the full table of contents:
Introduction: Why Desire?
Part One Homo Oeconomicus
1 The Birth of Homo Oeconomicus
2 Man’s “Vain and Insatiable Desires,” or the “Oeconomy of Greatness”
3 Neoliberal Governmentality
Part Two Homo Sexualis
4 “Abnormal Desires” and “Barbarous Instincts”: The Birth of the Sexual Pervert
5 Instincts or Drives? The Birth of Psychoanalysis
Part Three Homo Symbolicus
6 Recognition, That “Most Ardent Desire”
7 Struggles for Recognition
8 The Consolations of Recognition
Conclusion: Desire, Again . . .