The Redesign of Biopolitics through Keynesian Economics
The Redesign of Biopolitics
through Keynesian Economics
Graduate Program of Public Policy – Federal University of
12th Post Keynesian Conference – Kansas City, USA
•Foucault and the concept of biopolitics;
•A Keynesian art of government;
•Were Keynesian economics capable of changing
• Keynes’s view about the role of the State has been a
recurrent issue among Post-Keynesian scholars interested
in Keynes’s ethics and philosophy (such as John B. Davis,
Steven Pressman, Maria Cristina Marcuzzo, etc.).
• But the way how Keynesian economic policies affected
power relations – especially those that involved State and
population – still remain rather obscure within PK
• The concept of biopolitics proposed by Michel Foucault
can help understanding this dynamics.
• This study applies Foucault’s genealogical principle to J.M.
Keynes’s intellectual context and ideas in order to
understand how Keynesian policies influenced the redesign
of biopolitics throughout the Golden Age of Capitalism.
• My goal here is to demonstrate how Keynesian policies also
affected the reality of the living subjects in terms of power
• Policies that involve well-being, security, equality and
prosperity of the population.
• Studies involving Foucault and the HET are quite scarce in
• Curiously, Foucault never mentioned Keynes in his biopolitics
writings. He only pointed out 19th century classical liberalism
and neoliberalism as the responsible schools of thought for
producing new regimes of power through economic and
• Biopolitics = “a set of mechanisms through which the
biological features of the human species became the object of
a political strategy” (Foucault, 1978).
• If the State was a key institution within the dissemination
of biopolitics, how could Foucault leave Keynes and
Keynesian economics aside?
• Which elements were relevant in Keynes’s intellectual and
ethical formation that influenced in his view of the State
and how did they emerge?
• How a Keynesian art of government managed to regulate
and control the population through its policies? Which
consequences can we derive from this phenomenon?
• According to Post Keynesian authors such as Holt & Pressman
(2001), Keynes gave the State an essential responsibility for
overall macroeconomic performance, rejecting the idea of a
• The action of the State was necessary to employ economic
policies in order to help mitigate economic and social
• This promoted a redesign of biopolitics which started first
in the golden age of capitalism and it has been in a recovery
process since the 2008 financial crisis, when Keynesianism
If Keynes, unlike liberalism and neoliberalism, defended
State intervention in strategic areas, how can we rethink the
concept of biopolitics in terms of its rationalization and
• This study demands a critical reading about:
(i) Foucault’s notion of biopolitics and his contemporary
(ii) Keynes’s main writings concerning economic and social
interventions, as well as his intellectual basis and world
Foucault and biopolitics
• Modern subjects are a product of knowledge, power relations
and truth systems.
• Economics (as a discourse and practice) was always in a
central role within Foucauldian analyses of power.
• Foucault developed a genealogy of 18th century classical
liberalism and 20th century neoliberalism in order to
understand how economic discourses and practices led to new
power relations and how they influenced the conduct of
Foucault and biopolitics
• Biopolitics “starting from the 18th century [has
rationalized] the problems posed to governmental practice
by phenomena characteristic of a set of living beings
forming a population: health, hygiene, birthrate, life
Foucault and biopolitics
• Classical liberalism and neoliberalism were responsible for
creating biopolitical practices insofar as a liberal art of
government became consolidated.
• These practices were consolidated by State and non-state
institutions such as economic, educational, medical, urban,
• For Foucault, they created several apparatuses to
disseminate power relations.
• Keynes’s view about how should State manage the population
and civil society is crucial to understand the appearance of
new power relations.
• Insofar as Keynes did not write a formal theory of State, his
thought about State action was pragmatic.
• Foucault’s genealogical method can shed some light on how
Keynes’s theoretical considerations about the State emerged
• Which exterior, discontinuous and specific conditions were
Keynes’s ethical and ontological view;
Intellectual context (Bloomsbury group, Cambridge
Classical influences (Malthus, Marshall);
A Keynesian art of government
• How did Keynesian economic thought and policies inspire
new forms of power relations?
• A “Keynesian art of government” would involve ethics,
pragmatism and confidence.
• For Keynes, the State should play a leading role in
increasing agents’ confidence and reducing uncertainty
through economic planning and public investments.
Were Keynesian economics capable of
• The action of the State caused an increase on public
investments on life, such as:
Level of employment;
Size of population;
Welfare and quality of life;
Financial control and economic stabilization.
• The critics of Keynesian economics to liberal pillars created
a different art of government.
• This differs from liberal and neoliberal forms of
government, which had the rejection of the State and its
reallocation to population control as its main goal.
• Therefore, “Keynesian biopolitics” emerged as a security
pact between the State and the population insofar as it
became responsible for many important aspects of life:
health, education, productivity, labor, culture, etc.
Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An
Introduction. (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Pantheon Books.
Holt, R.P.F.; Pressman, S. (2001). A New Guide to Post Keynesian
Economics. London: Routledge.
Keynes, J.M. (2012a). The Collected Writings of John Maynard
Keynes: Volume XXVII: Activities 1940-1946: Shaping the Post War
World: Employment and Commodities. New York: Cambridge
Keynes, J.M. (2012b). The Collected Writings of John Maynard
Keynes: Volume XIX: Activities 1922-1929: The Return to Gold and
Industrial Policy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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