The Place of the Iranian Revolution in the History of Truth: Foucault on Neoliberalism, Spirituality and Enlightenment


In this article I want to argue that Foucault's engagement with the Iranian Revolution was neither romantic fascist atavism nor does it presage any sort of transformation of his thought. Indeed, Foucault's investigations of neoliberalism and subsequent work on spirituality, truth-telling and ethics are fully continuous with his critical genealogy of power. This is an important point, as we shall see, insofar as Foucault's journalism on the Iranian Revolution occurs in the midst of his Collège de France lectures on biopolitics and governmentality. Foucault's enthusiasm for the Revolution might indicate, albeit very indirectly, directions for thought that might resist neoliberalism. I will argue that Foucault was engaged in a very specific telling of the 'history of truth', emphasizing a partisan and agonistic form of truth-telling and transformation through struggle and ordeal, as opposed to the pacifying, neutralizing and normalizing forms of modern Western power. The 'political spirituality' Foucault witnessed on the streets of Tehran was a reactivation of this agonism, and -- I will claim -- a literal embodiment of what Foucault calls the 'ethos of critique'.


Arts, Languages, and Philosophy

Keywords and Phrases

Biopolitics; Critique; Genealogy; Liberal Governmentality; Politics of Truth

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0191-4537; 1461-734X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2019 The Author, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2019