Foucault and Becker: a biopolitical approach to human capital and the stability of preferences.

Miguel Vatter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The chapter makes a contribution to discussions of the neoliberal economic conception of freedom and the reason that it is so conducive to biopower, although in so doing it leaves Michel Foucault's reading aside and analyses Gary Becker's writings. It argues that the conception of freedom is crystallised around Becker's approach to the economic idea of 'revealed preference', and in particular his axiom concerning the 'stability of preferences'. Foucault suggests that neoliberalism moves away from an idea of law as 'human technology' based on 'discipline-normalization', and towards a conception of law as 'action on the environment. For Becker, labour is not 'work', just as consumption is not 'production'. The chapter suggests that underlying Foucault's claim according to which the neoliberal homooeconomicus is no longer the 'man of exchange' but 'an entrepreneur of himself is Becker's theory of preferences and their stability, the heart of his 'economic approach'.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe politics of legality in a neoliberal age.
EditorsBen Golder, Daniel McLoughlin
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781315650784, 9781317308072, 9781317308089
ISBN (Print)9781138121768
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Law -- Political aspects
  • Law -- Philosophy
  • Neoliberalism
  • Biopolitics
  • Economics
  • Michel Foucault
  • Gary Becker


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