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Economic Theology: Governance

Mitchell Dean – March 11th – 10:00 GMT


Foucault and Agamben in the present– Governmentality, economic theology and political theology as paradigms and analytical strategies – Methodological orientations, e.g. signature, arche, genealogy – Institutional and conceptual economic theology – The ordeal (l’épreuve): personal, economic, governmental – Liturgical politics – The political valence of theological analogies: exomologesis and BLM – The plague doctors and the Leviathan – ‘The Last Man takes LSD’.

Mitchell Dean is a political and historical sociologist and social theorist best known for his work Governmentality: power and rule in modern society, which holds the distinction of being cited in both The Oxford English Dictionary entry on government and in the first editions of Foucault’s lectures on the topic In French and English. After many years as a Professor of Sociology at two Australian universities, he has lived and worked in Copenhagen for most of the last decade. His new book with Daniel Zamora, to be published in May, is The Last Man Takes LSD: Foucault and the End of Revolution (Verso).


Each seminar was recorded and featured one or more readings, please find these below.

Click here to view the recording.

Building on an earlier talk by Stefan Schwarzkopf, Mitchell Dean expanded on economic theology by getting into the implications that such an analysis can have for governance. Mitchell discussed the importance of his idea: rogue neoliberalism. Neoliberalism has become increasingly unstable over time, begun as a project to make a society of free juridical individuals (no matter how much they resisted), it has become increasingly authoritarian, marked by scandal, contradiction, and strain. Neoliberalism’s claim to govern people through their freedom, or through market logics has become more and more questionable as time has gone on. Disciplinary power in its incarnation of neoliberalism seems to have reached its limit. As evidenced by Trump, even democracy becomes negotiable as his followers state their wish to establish a monarchy.

The above picture has one small error – Ilana Gershon’s talk will begin at 16:00 GMT

As this process of economic and socio-political disintegration continues, Mitchell calls our attention to the ways that neoliberalism becomes more focused on what Agamben calls the liturgical elements of glory. In this reading if government is a purely secular enterprise, then why is there so much emphasis on glory (i.e. ceremonies, rites, rituals, pomp, traditions)? Politicians become more and more removed from general society and begin a regression (or perhaps an elevation) to becoming an aristocracy of sorts, along with all the signatures which accompany such a transformation.

Mitchell also spoke to us about his new book, The Last Man Takes LSD – based on a deep reading of Foucault’s decision in May 1975 to take LSD in the Californian desert. Nobody is entirely certain what happened – but following his experience Foucault revised what he called his Magnum Opus, The History of Sexuality. He began to focus more on the care of the self and less on the power relations which had marked so much of his career. Unfortunately the work was never finished, but Mitchell traces through the significance of Foucault’s experience and gives us some pointers for what he might say were he alive today.

This book goes on sale May 25 2021
We would like to express our gratitude to the European Union for funding this event.

Previous Seminar: Stefan Schwarzkopf – Economic Theology Markets and Marketisation.

Next seminar: Ilana Gershon – Jobseeking & The Labour Market.

The Economy and Society Digital Summer School 2021

DateTime (GMT)Event / TopicSpeakersRecording Link
--Main Archive Page--Full Playlist
February 23rd16:00Ideas Lying AroundNidesh Lawtoo & Lynne LaytonLink
March 4th16:00The Great ReversalElizabeth AndersonLink
March 9th10:00Economy Theology and MarketisationStefan SchwarzkopfLink
March 11th10:00Economic Theology and GovernanceMitchell DeanLink
March 16th16:00Jobseeking & the Labour MarketIlana GershonLink
March 23rd 10:00The Reformation of WelfareRay Griffin & Tom Boland Link
March 25th10:00Justifying WelfareMagnus P. Hansen., Fiona Dukelow, Michael McgannLink
April 13th10:00Precarity and Precarious WorkTheresa O'Keefe, Aline Courtois & Teresa CrewLink
April 15th16:00The Datafication of WelfareLina Dencik & Ray Griffin & HecatLink
April 20th16:00Street-Level WelfareEvelyn Brodkin, Mary Murphy, Joe Whelan
April 22nd10:00Fairground CapitalismArpad SzakolczaiLink
April 27th10:00Work & The Gig EconomyAlex WoodLink
April 29th10:00Rationalities and Moral Economies in Illicit Drug MarketsAngus BancroftLink
May 6th10:00Good Models and Positive MimesisKieran KeohaneLink
May 10th/11th 20:00/10:00The Leviathan of RationalityDamian O'DohertyLink

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