From Foucault’s CollÃ¨ge de France lecture on March 14th, 1979 (in what the publisher has misnamedÂ The Birth of BiopoliticsÂ despite the fact that that year’s lectures basically spelled the end of Foucault’s work on biopolitics and focused on the limitation of state control over the market):
What does it mean to form human capital, and so to form theseÂ kinds of abilities-machines which will produce income, which will beÂ remunerated by income? It means, of course, making what are calledÂ educational investments. In truth, we have not had to wait for theÂ neo-liberals to measure some of the effects of these educational investments,Â whether this involves school instruction strictly speaking, orÂ professional training, and so on, But the neo-liberals lay stress on theÂ fact that what should be called educational investment is much broaderÂ than simple schooling or professional training and that many moreÂ elements than these enter into the formation of human capital?Â What constitutes this investment that forms an abilities-machine?Â Experimentally, on the basis of observations, we know it is constitutedÂ by, for example, the time parents devote to their children outside ofÂ simple educational activities strictly speaking. We know that the numberÂ of hours a mother spends with her child, even when it is still in theÂ cradle, will be very important for the formation of an abilities-machine,Â or for the formation of a human capital, and that the childÂ will be much more adaptive if in fact its parents or its mother spendÂ more rather than less time with him or her. This means that it must beÂ possible to analyze the simple time parents spend feeding their children,Â or giving them affection as investment which can form humanÂ capital. Time spent, care given, as well as the parents’ education becauseÂ we know quite precisely that for an equal time spent with theirÂ children, more educated parents will form a higher human capital thanÂ parents with less education-in short, the set of cultural stimuliÂ received by the child, will all contribute to the formation of those elementsÂ that can make up a human capital.
What happens to care and affection when they are analyzed in terms of their human capital-formative effects? This is the other reason that humanities advocates decry the instrumentalism of education: the fear that things like art and history which have previously stood as pureÂ teloi [telÃª?]Â will subsequently become mere means to an end. We have to beÂ very carefulÂ if we are to keep the instrumentally-reflective stage from infecting or polluting the genuineness of the commitments and relationships that we learn on reflection are best-suited to achieving our guiding or ultimate ends.
And perhaps, too, being “very careful” will not prevent instrumentality from colonizing the life-world. The “helicopter parent” has simply taken the neo-liberal realization about care-as-investment to heart, and is “saving up” for the future.