Essays on governmentality

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Essays on governmentality

Semantics[ edit ] This term was thought by some commentators to be made by the " To fully understand this concept, it is important to realize that in this case, Foucault does not only use the standard, strictly political definition of "governing" or government used today, but he also uses the broader definition of governing or government that was employed until the eighteenth century.

Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. In the work of Foucault, this notion is indeed linked to other concepts such as biopolitics and power-knowledge.

The genealogical exploration of the modern state as "problem of government" does not only deepen Foucault's analyses on sovereignty and biopolitics; it offers an analytics of government which refines both Foucault's theory of power and his understanding of freedom. Foucault encourages us to think of power not only in terms of hierarchical, top-down power of the state.

He widens our understanding of power to also include the forms of social control in disciplinary institutions schools, hospitals, psychiatric institutions, etc.

Essays on governmentality

Power can manifest itself positively by producing knowledge and certain discourses that get internalised by individuals and guide the behaviour of populations. This leads to more efficient forms of social control, as knowledge enables individuals to govern themselves. However, it is often used by other scholars and by Foucault himself in reference to "neoliberal governmentality", i.

In this case, the notion of governmentality refers to societies where power is de-centered and its members play an active role in their own self-government, e. Because of its active role, individuals need to be regulated from 'inside'.


A particular form of governmentality is characterized by a certain form of knowledge "savoir" in French. In the case of neoliberal governmentality a kind of governmentality based on the predominance of market mechanisms and of the restriction of the action of the state the knowledge produced allows the construction of auto-regulated or auto-correcting selves.

In his lecture titled Governmentality, Foucault gives us a definition of governmentality: The ensemble formed by the institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections, the calculations and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific albeit complex form of power, which has as its target population, as its principal form of knowledge political economy, and as its essential technical means apparatuses of security.

The tendency which, over a long period and throughout the West, has steadily led towards the pre-eminence over all other forms sovereignty, discipline, etc of this type of power which may be termed government, resulting, on the one hand, in formation of a whole series of specific governmental apparatuses, and, on the other, in the development of a whole complex of savoirs.

The process, or rather the result of the process, through which the state of justice of the Middle Ages, transformed into the administrative state during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, gradually becomes 'governmentalized'. We shall begin with a closer inspection of the first part of Foucault's definition of governmentality: This strand of the three-part definition states that governmentality is, in other words, all of the components that make up a government that has as its end the maintenance of a well-ordered and happy society population.

The government's means to this end is its "apparatuses of security," that is to say, the techniques it uses to provide this society a feeling of economic, political, and cultural well-being.

The government achieves these ends by enacting "political economy," and in this case, the meaning of economy is the older definition of the term, that is to say, "economy at the level of the entire state, which means exercising towards its inhabitants, and the wealth and behavior of each and all, a form of surveillance and control as attentive as that of the head of a family over his household and his goods".

The second part of Foucault's definition the "resulting, on the one hand, in formation of a whole series of specific governmental apparatuses, and, on the other, in the development of a whole complex of savoirs" [15] presents governmentality as the long, slow development of Western governments which eventually took over from forms of governance like sovereignty and discipline into what it is today: The next and last part of Foucault's definition of governmentality can be restated as the evolution from the Medieval state, which maintained its territory and an ordered society within this territory through a blunt practice of simply imposing its laws upon its subjects, to the early Renaissance state, which became more concerned with the "disposing of things", [17] and so began to employ strategies and tactics to maintain a content and thus stable society, or in other words to "render a society governable".

History of the term[ edit ] The concept of governmentality segues from Foucault's ethicalpolitical and historical thoughts from the late s to the early s.

His most widely known formulation of this notion is his lecture entitled "Security, territory and population" The course was first published in French in as Naissance de la biopolitique: This notion is also part of a wider analysis on the topic of disciplinary institutions, on neoliberalism and the "Rule of Law", the "microphysics of power" and also on what Foucault called biopolitics.

In the second and third volumes of The History of Sexualitynamely, The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Selfand in his lecture on "Technologies of the Self"Foucault elaborated a distinction between subjectivation and forms of subjectification by exploring how selves were fashioned and then lived in ways which were both heteronomously and autonomously determined.

Also, in a series of lectures and articles, including "The Birth of Biopolitics""Omnes et Singulatim: Further developments of the concept[ edit ] Hunt and Wickham, in their work Foucault and Law [] begin the section on governmentality with a very basic definition derived from Foucault's work.

They state, "governmentality is the dramatic expansion in the scope of government, featuring an increase in the number and size of the governmental calculation mechanisms" [ In other words, governmentality describes the new form of governing that arose in the mid-eighteenth century that was closely allied with the creation and growth of the modern bureaucracies.

In giving this definition, Hunt and Wickham conceive of the term as consisting of two parts 'governmental' and '—ity' - governmental meaning pertaining to the government of a country; and the suffix —ity meaning the study of.

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They acknowledge that this definition lacks some of Foucault's finer nuances and try to redress this by explaining some more of Foucault's ideas, including reason of state, the problem of population, modern political economy, liberal securitisation, and the emergence of the human sciences" [ Kerr's approach to the term is more complex.

He conceives of the term as an abbreviation of "governmental rationality" [Governmentality operates to produce a (governmentable) subject (hence the relation between ‘the subject and power’ and the continuation of Foucault’s broader and always central theme: ‘to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects’).

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Essays on governmentality

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Michel Foucault (–) was a French historian and philosopher, associated with the structuralist and post-structuralist movements. He has had strong influence not only (or even primarily) in philosophy but also in a wide range of humanistic and social scientific disciplines.

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Governmentality: Notes on the Thought of Michel Foucault