Foucault on ‘governmentality’

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Foucault on ‘governmentality’

  1. 1. Foucault on ‘Governmentality’ Foucault/Norway seminar 14-15 November, 2006 Michael A. Peters University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
  2. 2. Foucault – with whom?
  3. 3. At work
  4. 4. Characteristic pose?
  5. 5. Protest
  6. 6. Introduction • A lecture given by Foucault at the Collége de France in February 1978 on the course “Security, territory, population”. • Governmentality – a neologism meaning ‘government rationality’, a theme of his later work. French word ‘mentalité’- mentality, mental attitude or mindset. • In English - attitude, character, comprehension, disposition, mind-set, intellect, make-up, outlook, personality, rationality, reasoning, routine, sense, understanding, wit • ‘the conduct of conduct’ – a form of activity aiming to shape, guide or affect the conduct of some person or persons (Gordon)
  7. 7. The Problem of Government Foucault states: • “Government as a general problem seems to me to explode in the sixteenth century, posed by discussion of diverse questions” (p. 87). He mentions: • The question of the government of oneself (problem of personal conduct – Stoic revival in 16th century) • Government of souls and lives – (Catholic/Protestant pastoral doctrine) • Government of children “and the great problematic of pedagogy” (C16th) • Government of the state by the prince
  8. 8. Problematic of Government • “How to govern oneself, how to be governed, how to govern others, by whom the people will accept being governed, how to become the best possible governor…” (p. 87). • The question in its multiplicity becomes pressing at the break-up of feudalism with the establishment of great territorial, administrative and colonial states. • “There is a problematic of governmental in general” (p. 88).
  9. 9. Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513) • The body of literature extends from 16th-to C18th. Mentions Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513), a treatise on the art of acquiring and maintaining political power: – a willingness to imitate the behavior of great men – the ability to illustrate how government is necessary to the well-being of the populace – a dedication to the art of war – an understanding that apparent cruelty may be essential to maintaining stability and power – prudence with respect to disbursement of one's own wealth – making efforts to appear religious to sway the "vulgar." – the wisdom to seek advice and counsel only when it is needed
  10. 10. Literature on Government • The literature centered on the art of government centered on the state and ‘reason of state’, shorn of its religious and theological foundations and taking the prince as its oject and principle of rationality. • Foucault discusses Machiavelli’s The Prince and a series of anti- Machiavellian texts (Guillaume de La Perrière’s Miroir Politique) where Machiavelli is rediscovered in the early 19th century. • The juridical theory of sovereignty draws the lines between different types of power. A person who wishes to govern well must learn how to govern himself (the pedagogical formation of the prince); conversely when a person governs well, the head of the family will know how to look after his family and goods, and family members will know how to behave also. Upwards and downwards continuum- pedagogical and ‘police’.
  11. 11. Introduction of Economy • “The central term of this continuity is the government of the family, termed economy” (p. 92). The central problem – how to introduce economy, that is “the correct manner of managing individuals goods and wealth in the family … and of making the family fortunes prosper” • The essential issue of the art of government is “the introduction of economy into political practice” (p. 92). Refers to Rousseau • “To govern a state will therefore mean to apply economy, to set up an economy at the level of the entire state, which means exercising towards its inhabitants, and the wealth and behaviour 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” (p. 92) • Economy in C16th meant a form of government; in C18th a field of intervention.
  12. 12. Right Disposition • Government is also ‘the right disposition of things, arranged so as to lead to a convenient end’. The sovereign must have as his aim ‘the common welfare and salvation of all’ • ‘convenient end’ means efficiency. • Late C17th and early C18: the art of government is formed around the theme of reason of state: “the state is governed according to rational principles which are intrinsic to it and which cannot by derived solely from natural or divine laws or principles of wisdom and prudence” (p. 97). The first form of state rationality. Impeded in the C17th – 30 Years war etc. It could only develop in an age of expansion, free from war. • “Mercantilism is the first rationalization of the exercise of power as a practice of government” • The theory and system of political economy prevailing in Europe after the decline of feudalism, based on national policies of accumulating bullion, establishing colonies and a merchant marine, and developing industry and mining to attain a favorable balance of trade.
  13. 13. Problem of Population • The problem of population made possible the art of government, recentering the notion of economy and eliminating the model of the family. • Foucault details ‘state-istics’ revealing the population had its own regularities and enable a quantification of phenomena specific to the population of a territory: deaths, births, mortality, trade, labor, wealth. • “prior to the emergence of the population, it was impossible to conceive of the art of government except on the model of the family” (p. 99) ; the family nevertheless remained a privileged segment . • Population “the ultimate end of government” (p. 100)
  14. 14. Governmentality • “The ensemble formed by 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 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 of power (sovereignty, discipline, etc.) of this type of power which may be termed government, resulting, on the one hand, in the formation of a whole series of specific government 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’” (pp. 102-3)
  15. 15. An Era of Governmentality • “We live in an era of a ‘governmentality’ first discovered the eighteenth century” (p. 104) • Governmentality was bon out of , on the one hand, the archaic model of Christian postoral care, and, on the other, a diplomatic-military technique, perfected on a European scale with the Treaty of Westphalia” • With the police, the art of government in the administrative state in the C18th, “it made possible the …governmentalization of the state” (p. 104)
  16. 16. Applications
  17. 17. Applications Notes from Colin Gordon’s ‘Government rationality: an introduction’ in The Foucault Effect (1991) Foucault applied the governmentality perspective to a number of domains: 1. Nature of government in antiquity and early Christianity & idea of government as a form of ‘pastoral power’; 2. Doctrines of government in early modern Europe associated with the idea of reason of state and the police (administrative) state; 3. The C18th beginning of liberalism considered as ‘an art of government’; 4. Post-war forms of neo-liberal thought in Germany, the USA, and France considered as ways of rethinking the rationality of government.
  18. 18. Power/Knowledge In Discipline & Punish, Foucault developed a form of political analysis based on the “microphysics of power”, exemplified in the disciplinary techniques of the modern prison (school, factory). A focus on “techniques of power” or “power/knowledge” designed to observe, monitor, shape and control the behavior of individuals
  19. 19. The Prison at Philadelphia
  20. 20. Notice the radial spoke-like pattern with the central panoptic rotunda.Source: N.K. Teeters, The Prison at Philadelphia, Cherry Hill (1957).
  21. 21. Intérieur de l'Ecole d'enseignement mutuel, situeé rue du Port-Mahon, au moment de l'exercice d'écriture. Lithographie de Hippolite Lecomte, 1818. (Collections historiques de l'INRDP). Cf. p. 147 Eng. Edn.
  22. 22. Intérieur de l'Ecole d'enseignement mutuel, situeé rue du Port-Mahon, au moment de l'exercice d'écriture.
  23. 23. Criticisms of ‘Power/Knowledge’ • Foucault's attention to the detailed specifics of power failed to address on global issues or relations between state & society; • Foucault’s picture of society as a network of power relations seemed to preclude individual freedom; • Foucault’s bleak account of humanitarian penal reform reflected a political philosophy of nihilism and despair.

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