Michael C. Behrent

Teaching: I teach classes on modern European history, the history of European thought and the Western intellectual tradition, and modern French history. I also regularly teach “Writing History” (HIS 2800), the senior seminar, and general education courses on cultural history. I especially enjoy teaching classes that use philosophical and literary texts as sources for understanding the past.

Research: My recent scholarship has sought to historicize the work of the French philosopher Michel Foucault. An initial set of essays evaluated the political significance of his reflections on free-market economics by situating his work in the shifting ideological landscape of France in the 1970s. My current project seeks to show how Foucault’s thought was (to a significant degree) rooted in his upbringing in Poitiers (France) from the 1920s to the 1940s. A subsequent project seeks to reconstruct the thought of the “young Foucault” (spanning 1949 through to the mid-1960s).

 I have also written on nineteenth-century French political thought (particularly the relationship between religion and republicanism), the history of liberal and democratic thought, and contemporary French political philosophy.

Finally, I write about American politics and culture for several French publications, notably Esprit. I also write about French politics and culture for several American and British venues (such as, Dissent, Foreign Policy, and Oxford University Press blog).


Ph.D. New York University

Areas of Study

Europe, European Intellectual History, Modern France

Recent Publications

Becoming Foucault: The Poitiers YearsUniversity of Pennsylvania Press (forthcoming December 2023)

“Henri Ey, Michel Foucault, et la psychiatrie de l'après-guerre: Histoire d'une mésentente,” Cahiers Henri Ey, 2023

A Case for the Young Foucault.” Critical Review, 2022.

Between Neo-Liberalism and the Nation: France’s Political Landscape in 2022” (with Emile Chabal). Modern and Contemporary France, 2022.

“Left and New Left Critiques of Liberalism.” Routledge Handbook of Illiberalism (2021).

“A Foucauldian Defense of the State: Blandine Kriegel and the État de Droit.” Modern Intellectual History (2021)

“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: Professor
Department: Department of History

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-6014

Office address
Anne Belk Hall 249V