Anders Fogh Jensen (born 13 May 1973) is a Danish philosopher, author and lecturer. He holds an MA in philosophy from the University of Odense, Denmark, Diplomé d’Etudes Approfondies from the University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne, France and a Ph.D. from the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Fogh Jensen writes books, articles and essays and is involved in philosophical salons and talks, lecturing and delivering courses. In his lectures, Fogh Jensen offers a philosophical view of fundamental themes, such as mythology and love and of developing trends, such as inclusion and innovation. He participates in current social debates on the radio and in printed media, taking a philosophical look at contemporary life. He has held a number of positions as external associate professor at Danish universities and educational institutions. He is currently (2016) engaged as a lecturer in the Philosophy of Education at Aarhus University, Denmark.
In his research, Fogh Jensen works with language, its forms, images and limits – in his first book Metaforens magt. Fantasiens foster og fornuftens fødsler (“The Power of Metaphor. Foetuses of the Imagination and the Births of Reason”). He deals with power, control and organizational forms at the boundaries between philosophy and sociology in the books Mellem ting. Foucaults filosofi (“Between Things. Foucault’s Philosophy”), Epi-demos (“Epi-demos”), Projektmennesket (“The Project Person”),and Projektsamfundet (“The Project Society”) and has recently turned to philosophical questions; for example, in the book Hvordan skal jeg leve mit liv, Kierkegaard? (“How Should I Live my Life, Kierkegaard?”). In collaboration with the Mammut Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark, he has also written the play Kapitalen (The Capital) (2004) and, under director Jon Skulberg, has co-authored the play Forestillingen om en historie (The Idea of History) (2014). In 2017 his Play De danser alene (They Dance alone) ran at the Copenhagen theatre scene. In 2018 Fogh Jensen co-wrote the book Pseudoarbejde (Pseudo-labour) with anthropologist Dennis Nørmark. The book investigates the conundrum of how we ended up working so much and keeping so busy with seemingly pointless work tasks. Through interviews with a range of different employees, leaders and CEOs they seek to answer the question of why econimists and great thinkers, who a mere 100 years ago speculated about the rise of the leisure society with a 15 hour work week, ended up being so sorely mistaken.
In 2002, Fogh Jensen founded the company Filosoffen as a forum for his philosophical work. On the website filosoffen.dk (international: filosofo.net) Fogh Jensen’s philosophical works can be read, seen and listened to, including in podcast format, and you can read about the philosopher’s other activities, such as talks, lectures and philosophical salons.
Less than a hundred years ago leading economists, thinkers and social planners all thought we were on the brink of a “leisure society”. Maybe even a work week as short as 15 hours! Needless to say, that didn’t happen, even though we did everything that these thinkers thought we would do: Invent efficient machines, work smarter and ultimately getting rid of thousands of dull and repetitive jobs. And most of these thinkers didn’t even think of outsourcing to faraway countries, or the invention of the internet, smartphones and all the other things that have given us so much more time on our hands. So, what happened? Why do we still work so much?
In their provocative bestselling book Pseudolabour – how we ended up being busy doing nothing a philosopher and an anthropologist, each from their own field and each from two opposite positions on the political spectrum , try to answer this riddle and their answer is as surprising as it is tragic: we ended up inventing work we really didn’t need, just to act busy, fill out time and inflate our own importance. We have done this with all the best intentions in the world.
Inspired by research done by contemporary sociologist, business experts and anthropologists the writers look both through the numbers that indicate that something has gone terribly wrong in our organizations, and they flesh it out by interviewing the people who themselves think that their entire job or, large parts of it, has become utterly meaningless. Through these interviews the authors investigate the reason why we make up so many pointless tasks to ourselves, and why so much of this “pseudolabour” develop and expand in staff positions such as HR, communication, compliance, quality assuring, consultancy and in the ever-growing number of administrative functions and bureaucrats.
With a sale of more than 10.000 copies in Denmark the book has created a radical debate about work both in the public as well as the private sector. Pseudolabour has inspired a large range of people from employees, to senior managers and CEOs to consider if real value creation has been lost in the complex hall of mirrors that so many modern organizations have become. After the book was published many “pseudo workers” in Denmark have come out of the closet and told their story, making the book a real driver for a national movement against pointless jobs. Pseudolabour is a mix between an investigative story about our work, a management book and a bipartisan political manifest and it covers it’s funny, tragic and fascinating topic like no other book has done it before.
How should I live my life?
Anders Fogh Jensen’s idea of philosophy is rooted in the principle that philosophy must always (also) deal with the lived life in all its aspects. Fogh Jensen works from the premise that all important philosophy is always the philosophy of life, and for him that means helping people to think and to live better. In this respect, philosophy should not respect the lack of differentiation in individual sciences. Phenomena should not be considered to be exclusively social, psychological or anthropological. The question of how to live one’s life has played a key role in Fogh Jensen’s philosophical work. Lately, Fogh Jensen has embarked on writing a series of books in which he lets different philosophers answer this question. The first book in the series, Hvordan skal jeg leve mit liv, Kierkegaard? (“How Should I Live my Life, Kierkegaard?”) was published in 2013.
For Anders Fogh Jensen, the question of the meaning of life is not solely the reserve of dead philosophers. He also hosts conversation salons on philosophical topics and offers philosophical conversations.
The Project Society
To ask how it is to live as a human being involves, of course, asking how the contemporary human lives life. In the books Projektsamfundet (“The Project Society”) (2009), Projektmennesket (“The Project Society”) (2009) and The Project Society, 2012 Fogh Jensen tries to describe contemporary human conditions as a project society. Projektsamfundet (“The Project Society”) is a contemporary diagnosis that attempts to characterize the kind of society that emerges after what the philosopher Michel Foucault describes as a disciplinary society has been surpassed. In other words, the project society offers a way to describe what the post-disciplinary society consists of, and can provide an explanation as to why we find projects everywhere. Through an analysis of synchronous changes that have taken place in football systems, pair relationships, dance, sports, business management, architecture, social services, education, the fight to cure disease and warfare, Fogh Jensen delineates a picture of the post-disciplinary society as a place where the notion of the project has been suffused into all areas of life. Life in the project society is characterized by ad hoc solutions, postponements, cancellations, temporality, ignorance, insecurity, ceaseless enthusiasm and absence of clear limits and expectations, but also by commitment and enthusiastic drafts of the future. The project person has to create her own framework, and then has to draft it and throw it forward (project it). She has to commit herself to taking initiative and responsibility, and must be flexible, adaptable and have good social skills, but also have steady nerves and be ready to expect nothing. In his books, Fogh Jensen shows that such a project life introduces new forms of system crashes, new pathologies and new compensation strategies.
Philosophy and Mythology
Fogh Jensen drafted a project of his own in 2009, which is about mythology. This project goes beyond contemporary diagnostics and through myth tries to capture the human condition and the direction towards a good life. Fogh Jensen reads the myths as life wisdom handed down from previous generations. At one and the same time, myths have both a historical emergence and a universal human touch. The wisdom that is accumulated in myths is partly about the relationship between human and cosmos, about what it means to be human and how best to live one’s life. Within philosophy, Fogh Jensen wants to debunk the view that mythology and rationality have to be in stark mutual contrast; the transition from mythos to logos is not a radical or sudden change, and the birth of philosophy marks not a departure from the mythical understanding of the world, but an attempt to conceptualise it. The philosophical analysis of myths should come before a distinction between philosophy, psychoanalysis, psychology and therapy. It is about seeing myths as collective images and as a source of guidance, and to understand how myth is present in every person’s life, whether or not we are conscious of it. Since 2011, Fogh Jensen’s work with myths has focused on the story of love; he examines the images we make about love, where they come from and how they work.
The Power of Metaphor
Akin to the study of collective myths is the study of collective pictures and colloquial images. Anders Fogh Jensen’s research focused initially on language, its shapes, images and boundaries. In 2001, he published the book Metaforens magt. Fantasiens fostre og fornuftens fødsler (“The Power of Metaphor. Foetuses of the Imagination and the Births of Reason”). As a development of cognitive semantics and linguistics, the book was an attempt to reveal the metaphorical density embedded in everyday language. This study of a language’s image forms was supplemented in Metaforens magt (“The Power of Metaphor”) with the notion of power; the images in a language are viewed as the enablers of an array of expressions, but they can also lead us into different rationalities. Fogh Jensen subsequently developed the neologism “metaphorologic” to throw light on the substance of imagination and rationality – of how used we are to our customary pictures and thoughts. In the same way, a metaphor is suggestive when it generates a topic. Metaphorologic is about examining how different metaphors say different things about the world. Fogh Jensen investigated how some everyday metaphors come into play in our interpretation of, and dealings with, the world. For example, Fogh Jensen shows how the ubiquitous resource metaphoricity paves the way for economic rationality, and makes it seem sensible to think of people, time, relationships, commitment, history, art, creativity and a whole lot more as resources that have to be managed and invested to harvest the optimum yield.
Fogh Jensen specializes in 20th century French philosophy, namely structuralism and its successors in the last thirty years of the 20th century. Fogh Jensen’s ventures into the philosophy of language, and his diagnoses of contemporary life, are based on a study by the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault. This study has resulted in the book, Mellem ting. Foucaults filosofi (“Between Things. Foucault’s Philosophy”) (2005), which was published again in 2013 in a second revised edition, and in the preface to Foucault’s books in Danish Galskabens historie (“Mandness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason”) and Overvågning og straf (“Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison”). As a continuation of this work, in collaboration with the painter Rasmus Svarre, Fogh Jensen published in 2006 a readable introduction to Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, Magtens kartografi. Foucault og Bourdieu (“Mapping power. Foucault and Bourdieu”).
2018 Pseudoarbejde (Pseudo-work): Gyldendal, 294 pages. Written with Dennis Nørmark.
2013 Hvordan skal jeg leve mit liv, Kierkegaard? (“How Should I Live my Life, Kierkegaard?”) Copenhagen: Akademisk forlag. 169 pages.
2012 The Project Society. Aarhus: University Press Aarhus. 148 pages.
2011 Epi-demos. En lille bog om store epidemier (“Epi-demos. A Little Book about Big Epidemics”).Copenhagen: Forlaget THP. 110 pages.
2009 Projektmennesket (“The Project Society”). Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. 148 pages.
2009 Projektsamfundet (“The Project Society”). Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. 385 pages.
2006 Magtens kartografi. Foucault og Bourdieu (“Mapping Power. Foucault and Bourdieu”).Copenhagen: Unge pædagoger. 152 pages.
2005 & 2013 Mellem ting. Foucaults filosofi (“Between Things. Foucault’s Philosophy”).Frederiksberg: Det lille forlag. 352 pages / Copenhagen: Forlaget THP.
2001 Metaforens magt. Fantasiens fostre og fornuftens fødsler (“The Power of Metaphor. Foetuses of the Imagination and the Births of Reason”). Aarhus: Modtryk. 252 pages.
2016 Jensen, A., Thuesen, C., & Geraldi, J. (2016): “The projectification of everything: Projects as a human condition.” in Project Management Journal, 47(3); pp. 21-34.
2013 “Gevangenis, kerke, voetbalveld. Of hoe de maatschppij én projectmaatschappij is geworden” Mechelen: Contour, 2013.
2013 “Prison, Church, Football pitch. Or how society became a project society” Mechelen: Contour, 2013.
2013 “Tale der virker. Godt” (“Talk that Works. Good”) in Modersmålselskabets årbog 2013: Ord til anden.
2013 “Filosofi er et liv” (“Philosophy is a Life”) in Grundbog i anvendt filosofi Aalborg: Mindspace.
2012 “Odysseus gave” (“Odysseus’s Gift”) in Skal livet ligne en slutspurt? Aarhus: Klim.
2011 “Kapitalisme og kritik. Boltanski & Chiapello” (“Capitalism and Criticism. Boltanski & Chiapello”) in Venstrefløjens nye tænkere., Århus: Slagmark.
2010 “Om samling og glemsel” (“On Collecting and Oblivion”) in Kaspar Bonnen: Samling Odense: Brandts Klædefabrik.
2004 “Befrielsens styresystem” (“Liberations’s Management System”) in Dalager og Jørgensen (red.): Tid til respekt, København: Socialpolitisk forlag.
2003 “Indledning” (“Introduction”) in Michel Foucault: Galskabens historie. Frederiksberg: Det lille forlag.
2002 “Indledning” (“Introduction”) in Michel Foucault: Overvågning og straf. Frederiksberg: Det lille forlag.