François Ewald, The Birth of Solidarity: The History of the French Welfare State – Duke University Press, May 2020 (with open access Introduction)

978-1-4780-0823-1_prFrançois Ewald, The Birth of Solidarity: The History of the French Welfare State – Duke University Press, May 2020, edited by Melinda Cooper and translated by Timothy Scott Johnson

The Introduction is available open access here.

François Ewald’s landmark The Birth of Solidarity—first published in French in 1986, revised in 1996, with the revised edition appearing here in English for the first time—is one of the most important historical and philosophical studies of the rise of the welfare state. Theorizing the origins of social insurance, Ewald shows how the growing problem of industrial accidents in France throughout the nineteenth century tested the limits of classical liberalism and its notions of individual responsibility. As workers and capitalists confronted each other over the problem of workplace accidents, they transformed the older practice of commercial insurance into an instrument of state intervention, thereby creating an entirely new conception of law, the state, and social solidarity. What emerged was a new system of social insurance guaranteed by the state. The Birth of Solidarity is a classic work of social and political theory that will appeal to all those interested in labor power, the making and dismantling of the welfare state, and Foucauldian notions of governmentality, security, risk, and the limits of liberalism.

“Ingenious and trenchant, François Ewald’s The Birth of Solidarity offers an arresting insight into the politicization of probability. Abounding in legal and historical detail, the book deftly demonstrates how industrial power integrated French society by assuming the risk of accidents. Ewald’s critical theory of the rules of judicial decision-making is a tour de force. His critique of law brilliantly unveils the birth of the twentieth-century insurantial society that is now itself at risk.” — Bernard E. Harcourt, author of The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order

“François Ewald’s seminal book is not only a major contribution to the history of the welfare state but a significant work of social and political theory in its own right, notably in the way Ewald applies a Foucauldian perspective to understanding the significance of concepts such as responsibility, insurance, and solidarity to modern forms of government. The Birth of Solidarity is a landmark in French political thought.” — Michael C. Behrent, coeditor of Foucault and Neoliberalism

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Michele Lancione and Abdoumaliq Simone, David Harvey, Alain Badiou, Panagiotis Sotiris, William Davies and Angela Last on Covid-19

A few pieces by geographers, sociologists and philosophers – presented without commentary

[Update: an updated list is available here – thanks to people for sending additional links. I’ll try to keep that page updated as I see more]

Michele Lancione and Abdoumaliq Simone, Bio-austerity and Solidarity in the Covid-19 Space of Emergency – Episode One and Episode Two (Society and Space)

David Harvey, Anti-Capitalist Politics in the Time of COVID-19 (Reading Marx’s Capital)

Alain Badiou, On the Epidemic Situation (Verso blog)

Panagiotis Sotiris, Against Agamben: Is a Democratic Biopolitics Possible? (Viewpoint)

William Davies, The last global crisis didn’t change the world. But this one could (The Guardian)

Angela Last, Covid-19, ‘European Science’ and the Plague (Discover Society)

Update: Catherine Malabou, To Quarantine from Quarantine: Rousseau, Robinson Crusoe, and “I” (Critical Inquiry)

Mike Davis, The monster is finally at the door (LINKS)

Rob Wallace, Notes on a novel Coronavirus (MR Online)

M. Foucault, G. Agamben, J.L. Nancy, R. Esposito, S. Benvenuto, D. Dwivedi, S. Mohan, R. Ronchi, M. de Carolis, Coronavirus and philosophers (European Journal of Psychoanalysis)

Update 2: Gordon Hull, Why We Are Not Bare Life: What’s wrong with Agamben’s Thoughts on Coronavirus (New APPS)

And Žižek has a book on this already forthcoming…

Posted in Alain Badiou, David Harvey, Giorgio Agamben, Society and Space, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Some Moments from the Foucault Archives – two audio recordings of talks at Warwick and TCS

Earlier this year I gave two talks on my work for The Early Foucault, discussing how I am using archives to trace this story. I recorded both talks, but was not planning on sharing them until I’d given some others on the same topic. Since those talks have either been cancelled or seem unlikely to go ahead, and as my work is developing in any case, I thought I’d share them now. Hopefully someone will find them of interest.

Four Moments from the Foucault Archives (23 minutes) – given at “Foucault at Warwick II”, University of Warwick, 17 January 2020. Discusses Foucault’s practical work in psychology, his links to Roland Kuhn and Ludwig Binswanger, a 1957 radio lecture on anthropology, and his secondary thesis on Kant

Foucault in the Archives (35 minutes) – given at a Theory, Culture and Society workshop, London, 27 February 2020. Discusses all the above themes, but also what Foucault studied in Paris and especially for the agrégation, the dating of early publications and his teaching in Uppsala


Foucault in 1957.jpgMy work on this book, as with so much else, has been disrupted by current events. I plan to share an update in the next day or two on the work I did before everything changed.

Posted in Michel Foucault, The Early Foucault, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Nadine Ehlers and Shiloh Krupar, Deadly Biocultures: The Ethics of Life-Making -UMP, December 2019

imageNadine Ehlers and Shiloh Krupar, Deadly Biocultures: The Ethics of Life-Making -University of Minnesota Press, 2020

I’ve noted this book before, in a post of ‘books received’, but seems especially relevant to the present moment.

In their seemingly relentless pursuit of life, do contemporary U.S. “biocultures”—where biomedicine extends beyond the formal institutions of the clinic, hospital, and lab to everyday cultural practices—also engage in a deadly endeavor? Challenging us to question their implications, Deadly Biocultures shows that efforts to “make live” are accompanied by the twin operation of “let die”: they validate and enhance lives seen as economically viable, self-sustaining, productive, and oriented toward the future and optimism while reinforcing inequitable distributions of life based on race, class, gender, and dis/ability. Affirming life can obscure death, create deadly conditions, and even kill.

Deadly Biocultures examines the affirmation to hope, target, thrive, secure, and green in the respective biocultures of cancer, race-based health, fatness, aging, and the afterlife. Its chapters focus on specific practices, technologies, or techniques that ostensibly affirm life and suggest life’s inextricable links to capital but that also engender a politics of death and erasure. The authors ultimately ask: what alternative social forms and individual practices might be mapped onto or intersect with biomedicine for more equitable biofutures?


Nadine Ehlers and Shiloh Krupar have written a brilliant book about the Janus-faced nature of neoliberal biopolitics. Focusing on a diverse range of topics, from race-based medicine to the ‘war on cancer,’ they superbly show how practices and technologies aimed at fostering life in liberal democratic regimes perversely produce vulnerability, death-in-life, and even death itself.

Jonathan Xavier Inda, author of Racial Prescriptions: Pharmaceuticals, Difference, and the Politics of Life



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Free e-books from Verso, Haymarket, Cambridge UP; open access journals and e-books from JSTOR

I’ve shared a couple of these on Twitter, but putting them in the same place. Will add others if I see them, or please add as comments.

1FREE_quarantine_EBOOKS-Free Quarantine Ebooks from Verso – Reading in a time of coronavirus: download your free ebooks until April 2.

Ten Free Ebooks from Haymarket Books: Angela Y Davis, Naomi Klein and others

“You can search all open access content on JSTOR without a login – there’s more than 6,000 ebooks and over 150 journals”: [Clarification: this appears just to be the stuff that was already open access, not a wider opening up of the archive]

And the Cambridge UP textbooks previously mentioned are available here.

Update: World e-book here (looks good for people with children)

JHU Press – free access to Project Muse: “The collection’s 1,400 books and 97 journals will be accessible for free through May 31 to help university students complete coursework at home”

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Cambridge University Press textbooks open access

Cambridge University Press is making higher education textbooks in HTML format free to access online during the coronavirus outbreak.

Thanks to dmf for posting this as a comment – reposting here to give it more exposure.

COVID19 HE textbooks banner

Cambridge University Press is making higher education textbooks in HTML format free to access online during the coronavirus outbreak.

Over 700 textbooks, published and currently available, on Cambridge Core are available regardless of whether textbooks were previously purchased.

We recommend a Laptop/Desktop computer with Google Chrome for the best viewing experience. Textbook content is read only and cannot be downloaded.

Free access is available until the end of May 2020.

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Progressive Geographies over the coming weeks and months – what is, and isn’t appropriate at this time?

I’m not entirely sure how much or what kind of blogging to do over the coming weeks. This blog has been quieter over the past few weeks anyway, and with the current situation most of what I post seems increasingly irrelevant. At the moment, I don’t feel I have anything to add to the chorus of commentary about coronavirus itself, despite the connection to some themes of my previous work – Foucault’s work on medicine and public health, surveillance and so on; Canguilhem’s interest in biology and medicine; Shakespeare on contagion…

So, I’m torn. It’s having an effect on my own work, in a very minor way, with the cancellation of some talks and all forthcoming archival work. But I am still trying to do some writing, and had an update on the work I’ve recently done for The Early Foucault ready to post. I also have a couple of recordings of talks that I was planning on sharing. So, some degree of normal service, or inappropriate in the current situation? Comments welcome.

Update: I should have added that in 2014-15 I put together a reading list on the Ebola crisis. This was because of a personal connection to what was happening, and a sense that there wasn’t a comparable place providing links. I did give one short talk on Ebola, and it’s continued to be part of my Geopolitics Today teaching at Warwick.

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Louise Amoore, Cloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others – Duke UP, May 2020 (and link to Introduction)

978-1-4780-0831-6_prLouise Amoore, Cloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others – Duke University Press, May 2020.

Great to see this book is imminent – the Introduction can be read here.

In Cloud Ethics Louise Amoore examines how machine learning algorithms are transforming the ethics and politics of contemporary society. Conceptualizing algorithms as ethicopolitical entities that are entangled with the data attributes of people, Amoore outlines how algorithms give incomplete accounts of themselves, learn through relationships with human practices, and exist in the world in ways that exceed their source code. In these ways, algorithms and their relations to people cannot be understood by simply examining their code, nor can ethics be encoded into algorithms. Instead, Amoore locates the ethical responsibility of algorithms in the conditions of partiality and opacity that haunt both human and algorithmic decisions. To this end, she proposes what she calls cloud ethics—an approach to holding algorithms accountable by engaging with the social and technical conditions under which they emerge and operate.
“Beautifully written and richly documented, Louise Amoore’s Cloud Ethicsanalyzes the workings of algorithms in contemporary society, from those assessing security risks to self-learning and self-programming neural nets. She draws on her extensive interviews with experts in the field to explore the nuances of algorithmic doubt and certainty. Finally, she calls for a new ethics of doubt in which the individual components of algorithms are scrutinized to open new spaces for critique that can ‘crack open’ the seemingly certain fabulations of algorithmic calculation. Technically stunning and critically informed, this book is required reading for anyone interested in how to resist the current trends toward algorithmic governmentality.” — N. Katherine Hayles, Distinguished Research Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles
“Calling for an embrace of the contingency and doubt that is inherent in the structure and working of algorithms, this important book refuses mythologies of certainty and machinic omnipotence. Framing computation as a partial accounting, Cloud Ethics moves beyond the unproductive binaries of ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ to consider algorithms as generative of complex political possibilities.” — Caren Kaplan, author of Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above
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NYU and Bologna talks cancelled

Unfortunately two forthcoming talks, at New York University on 26 March 2020 and at the University of Bologna on 12 May 2020, have been cancelled. The organisers and I hope they can been rearranged for a later date.

I cut my time in Uppsala short last week, and now won’t get to the Yale and Princeton libraries I’d planned to visit on the US trip. I’ve also had to cancel a few days in Paris. Most of these things were cancelled shortly before more and more things started to get restricted. All minor in the big picture, of course.

Posted in Conferences, Michel Foucault, The Early Foucault, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Books received – Cacciari, Webster, Shakespeare, Jardine, Butler, Lefebvre, Iyengar, Beaufret


Mainly in recompense for review work for Bloomsbury, including the final volume of the Arden Shakespeare Third Series, and Alice Jardine’s biography of Julia Kristeva, along with Judith Butler’s new book The Force of Nonviolence, Henri Lefebvre, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche or the Realm of Shadows, and the first volume of Jean Beaufret’s Leçons de Philosophie.

Posted in Henri Lefebvre, Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva, Uncategorized, William Shakespeare | 1 Comment