Foucault on neoliberal or raison d’État government. It is not empire:
I think there is a distinctive feature of this art of government organized in terms of raison d’État which is important for understanding what comes after. This is that in its foreign policy, let’s say in its relations with other states, the state, or rather government according to raison d’État, has a limited objective in comparison with the ultimate horizon, the project and desire of most sovereigns and governments in the Middle Ages to occupy the imperial position with regard to other states so that one will have a decisive role both in history and in the theophany. Raison d’État, on the other hand, accepts that every state has its interests and consequently has to defend these interests, and to defend them absolutely, but the state’s objective must not be that of returning to the unifying position of a total and global empire at the end of time. It must not dream that one day it will be the empire of the last day
(Birth of Biopolitics, 2008, p. 6)
Interesting to speculate on where this leaves the great treatises of our time forecasting the return of “empire” (Neil Smith, Hardt & Negri…?).
On the other hand, internal government is not “small”:
it entails precisely an objective or set of objectives that could be described as unlimited, since for those who govern in the police state it is not only a matter of taking into account and taking charge of the activity of groups and orders, that is to say, of different types of individuals with their particular status, but also of taking charge of activity at the most detailed, individual level
This is no surprise to readers of Foucault (who after all talked of the microphysics of power and its capillary nature in Discipline and Punish). But it is a reminder that neoliberalism has a complicated relationship with the idea of “small government.”
Filed under: Empire