Michael C. Behrent

I earned my doctorate at New York University, where I defended a dissertation entitled "Society Incarnate: Association, Society, and Religion in French Political Thought, 1825-1912." It examines the ways in which nineteenth-century republican and socialist thinkers drew upon religious discourse to speculate about how a post-corporate and post-revolutionary society might foster robust social bonds. Debates about religion, I argue, become an important terrain for assessing the respective weight a modern political order should assign to the claims of "individualism" as opposed to those of "society."

In addition to nineteenth-century political philosophy, I am also interested in recent French political thought. In particular, I am working on a project that examines the role played by Michel Foucault played in ushering in the "liberal turn" in French thought during the 1970s.

Finally, I also write about American politics and political thought for several French publications, including La Vie des Idées, an online journal. I write a blog in French on American politics (hosted by the French magazine Alternatives Internationales) and another blog in English on French politics.


Ph.D. New York University

Areas of Study

Europe, European Intellectual History, Modern France

Recent Publications

“Michel Foucault.” In Jeremy Jennings and Michael Moriarty, eds., The Cambridge History of French Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2019)

“A Liberal despite Himself: Reflections on a Debate, Reappraisals of a Question.” In Stephen W. Sawyer and Daniel Steinmetz Jenkins, eds., Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond. (Rowman-Littlefield, 2019)

“Introduction to François Ewald’s ‘Values of Insurance.’” Grey Room 74 (Winter 2019). 

"The Origins of the Anti-Liberal Left: The 1979 Vincennes Conference on Neoliberalism," French Politics, Culture & Society (2017) (accessible online here).

"The Shape of a Career: An Introduction" and "Form: An Apollonian Modernity," "Fluidity and Form in Modern Life: The Intellectual Vision of Jerrold Seigel," forum for Modern Intellectual History (2017).

"Twilight of the Political? On the Ideological Disarray of French Politics. Modern and Contemporary France (2016) (accessible online here).

"Karl Polanyi and the Reality of Society," History and Theory (2016) (accessible online here).

"Foucault and France's Liberal Moment," in Stephen Sawyer and Iain Stewart, eds., In Search of the Liberal Moment: Democracy, Anti-totalitarianism, and Intellectual Politics in France since 1950 (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2016).

"Foucault and Neoliberalism" (with Daniel Zamora). Polity, 2015.

"Can the Critique of Capitalism be Antihumanist?," "Forum: Foucault and Neoliberalism," History and Theory (2015) (accessible online here).

"Liberal Dispositions: Recent Scholarship on French Liberalism," Modern Intellectual History (2015) (accessible online here).

"Justifying Capitalism in an Age of Uncertainty: L'Association pour la Liberté Économique et le Progrès Social, 1969-1973" in Emile Chabal ed., France since the 1970s: History, Politics and Memory in an Age of Uncertainty (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014).

"Penser le XXe siècle avec Michel Foucault" (Thinking the Twentieth Century with Michel Foucault), Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine (2013) (accessible online here).

"Foucault and Technology," History and Technology (2013).

"Pluralism's Political Conditions: Social Realism and the Revolutionary Tradition in Pierre Leroux, P.-J. Proudhon and Alfred Fouillée," in Julian Wright and Stuart Jones, eds., Pluralism and the Idea of the Republic in France (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012).

"The Genealogy of Genealogy: Foucault's 1970-1971 Course on The Will to Know," Foucault Studies 13 (2012) (available online here).

"Accidents Happen: François Ewald, the 'Antirevolutionary' Foucault, and the Intellectual Politics of the French Welfare State," Journal of Modern History (2010).

"Liberalism without Humanism: Michel Foucault and the Free-Market Creed, 1976-1979," Modern Intellectual History, (2009). French translation: "Le libéralisme sans l'humanisme: Michel Foucault et la philosophie du libre marché, 1976-1979" in Daniel Zamora, ed., Critiquer Foucault Les années 1980 et la tentation néolibérale (Aden, 2014). Spanish translation: "Liberalismo sin humanismo: Michael Foucault y el credo de libre mercado, 1976-1979," Revista Laguna (2014).

"A Seventies Thing: On the Limits of Foucault's Neoliberalism Course for Understanding the Present," in Samuel Binkley and Jorge Capetillo, ed., A Foucault for the 21st Century: Governmentality, Biopolitics and Discipline in the New Millennium (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

"The Mystical Body of Society: Religion and Association in Nineteenth-Century French Political Thought," (505 KB pdf) Journal of the History of Ideas (2008).

"Le débat Guyau-Durkheim sur la théorie sociologique de la religion. Une nouvelle querelle des universaux?" Archives de sciences sociales des religions (2008).

"Religion, Republicanism, and Depoliticization: Two Intellectual Itineraries—Régis Debray and Marcel Gauchet," in Julian Bourg, ed., After the Deluge: New Perspectives on the Intellectual and Cultural History of Postwar France (Lexington Books, 2004), 325-349.



Winner of the Richard N. Henson Outstanding Adviser Award for 2013.

Winner of the Rennie W. Brantz Award for Outstanding Teaching in First Year Seminar for 2012.

Winner of the Chester Penn Higby Prize, awarded by the Modern European History section of the American Historical Association for the best article appearing in the Journal of Modern History over a two-year period (2009-2010, for "Accidents Happen").

Title: Associate Professor
Department: Department of History

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-6014

Office address
Anne Belk Hall 249V