Neoliberalism and Disability: The Possibilities and Limitations of a Foucauldian Critique

Scott Yates


In this article, I reflect back on the period since the publication of the first edition of Foucault and the Government of Disability in order to argue that the intervening years have seen the increasing advance of neoliberal politics that impact on the lives of disabled people. Beginning from an overview of Foucault’s 1978-9 lectures on neoliberalism, I seek to demonstrate that a range of policy developments that affect disabled people can be read against the background of Foucault’s analyses of neoliberal rationalities and practices of government. The impact of these developments has been economically harsh for many; hence, the article considers the potential for effective critique of these issues starting from a Foucauldian analytics. I argue that Foucault’s works, whilst useful in unsettling taken-for-granted assumptions about subjectivity and autonomy given by neoliberal governmental rationalities, do not, in and of themselves, suggest a form of critique that is capable of mounting an effective challenge to the neoliberal consensus. My argument ends with a challenge to Foucault-inspired social scientists to ally the valuable insights available from Foucauldian analyses to a critical perspective that can, in addition, diagnose and respond to problems of economic marginalisation, the concentration of wealth, and the marketisation of the social.


neoliberalism; disability; employment; critique; Foucault

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2015 Scott Yates

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

visitors since Feb 2009. Hosted by CBS Library