Becker and Foucault on Crime and Punishment

Author: 
Gary S. Becker
with: 
Francois Ewald

In his 1979 lectures at the Collège de France, The Birth of Biopolitics, Michel Foucault discussed and analyzed Gary Becker’s economic theory of crime and punishment, originally published in The Journal of Political Economy in 1968 under the title “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach.” In this historic, second encounter at the University of Chicago, Gary Becker responds to Foucault’s lectures and possible critical readings of his writings on crime and punishment, in conversation with Professors François Ewald (who was, at the time in 1979, Foucault’s assistant at the Collège and one of Foucault’s closest interlocutors) and Bernard Harcourt (a punishment theorist and an editor of Foucault’s lectures). The rich encounter explores potential overlaps, complementarities, and conflicts between Foucault’s theoretical work on punishment (both in Birth of Biopolitics and Discipline and Punish) and Becker’s economic theory of crime, builds on the previous confrontation over American neoliberalism, and provides a bridge between contemporary French philosophy and American economic theory.