Call for panelists: Global Governance as Governmentality

Jason Weidner is looking for panelists for the following session. Contact him for details:

International Studies Association (ISA) 16-19 March 2011, Montreal

Call for Participants for a Proposed Panel: Global Governance as Governmentality

The “global governance” paradigm has become increasingly central to the study of world politics, offering an analytical framework for investigating the shift in political authority away from its traditional locus in the nation-state. In recent years, the global governance paradigm has been challenged by a growing body of research that draws inspiration from Michel Foucault’s analytics of “governmentality.” This “global governmentality” approach has offered a critique of, and an alternative to, theories and discourses of global governance, by (1) critically examining the connection between the language of governance and its associated political imaginary, and (2) by drawing attention to the diverse governmental assemblages—combinations of expert forms of knowledge, political technologies and rationalities—that seek to order political reality, but which are occluded by the global governance paradigm.

Furthermore, the recently released publication and translation of Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France, Security, Territory, Population and The Birth of Biopolitics, have opened up a number of new directions for critical analyses of governmental assemblages and their relation to broader questions of power and world order.

The aim of this panel is to contribute to the growing governmentality research program and to offer a critical alternative to the dominant global governance paradigm. We are particularly interested in innovative papers that combine the theoretical with the empirical, and which contribute to the advancement of a governmentality approach to issues most often grouped under the category of “global governance.”

Please email paper proposals (250 words) by May 21st, 2010 to:

Jason Weidner:

Jason Weidner

Department of Politics & International Relations

Florida International University

Miami, FL USA


Is there a second way? Responses to the neoliberal

The blog, Artisans for a New Humanity, argues that the usual framing of neoliberalism as a coherent project is wrong:

Rather, I am tempted to follow Foucault’s characterisation of ‘neoliberal’ in his 1979 Collège lectures as denoting a modern art of government that allows for the strategic coordination of multiple points of power in apparently liberal capitalist societies:

Il s’agit au contraire d’obtenir une société indexée non pas sur la marchandise et sur l’uniformité de la marchandise, mais sur la multiplicité et la différenciation des entreprises. … Société d’entreprise et société judiciaire, société encadrée par une multiplicité d’institutions judiciaires, ce sont les deux faces d’un même phénomène.

[It involves, on the contrary, obtaining a society that is not orientated towards the commodity and the uniformity of the commodity, but towards the multiplicity and differentiation of enterprises…An enterprise society and a judicial society, a society orientated towards the enterprise and a society framed by a multiplicity of judicial institutions, are two faces of a single phenomenon. Birth of Biopolitics, pp. 149-150. Trans: Graham Burchell]

What this means therefore is that:

by targeting neoliberalism as the Big Enemy, we attack a phantastic entity. What exists is often a pragmatic and impure concatenation of “neoliberal” rhetoric (from Hayek, Friedman, etc) with a mish-mash of instutitional and cultural path dependencies that produce “actually existing neoliberalism”. This why I prefer the term ‘neoliberal’ over ‘neoliberalism‘: it is one paradigm of state policymaking for dealing with global capitalism… We all believe that liberal capitalism is the shiz, the only problem is how to manage it – neoliberal or third-way social democracy.

Is there a second way?
David Harvey argues in his book that historically we experienced merely ’embedded capitalism’ in the post-war period, even at the height of Keynesianism. That is, capitalism with rules or (some) constraints. Even that is given grudgingly in the USA (regulation is deemed anti-profit and thus anti-American).
So I would be doubtful there is a second way, beside lib-dem or the neoliberal. The decision if you grant that is whether to work within social-dem or for something better but unlikely. And this cannot be a general decision, surely, but rather a tactical one.
I spoke a bit about the relationship of geographers to power in a special panel on foreign policy at the AAG recently. Where the premise of the panel (convened by the Office of the Geographer at the State Department) was how to get geographers more involved in the state’s foreign policy-making, my question was rather whether to be, or if so, in what way. I suggested two things: the academic as critique (in Alec Murphy’s phrase to “problematize the spaces we study” eg., Israel-occupied, etc.). Second, the academic constructing new alliances that perform oversight on government (given that the press and Congress don’t seem able to do this any more). I cited the good work of Wikileaks here, and also public geographies.
Foucault’s own somewhat flexible relationship to state government (refusing a position in Mitterand’s government, but getting his fingers burnt by reporting on Iran) is a case in point of this “tactical” positioning.

Reading group on Birth of Biopolitics

A reading group has been convened at QUT, Australia to study the Birth of Biopolitics lectures:

In light of considerable interest in the term “neo-liberalism”, its historical origins, and its uses and misuses – including its use by Australian Prime Minster Kevin Rudd – we have decided to get together an informal working group to discuss how the term was developed by the French philosopher Michel Foucault.

Foucault’s lectures at the College de France in 1978-79 have only now been translated and published. In these lectures he traces a history of liberalism as an “art of government”, and its relationship to political economy and to government policy.

The convener is Terry Flew, who will offer summaries of the lectures. He has already posted his first one. Worth following I would think.

CFP: Politics of Life

The Politics of Life: Michel Foucault and the Biopolitics of Modernity
Call for papers

Södertörn University College, Stockholm
September 3-5, 2009

Confirmed Speakers:
Thomas Lemke
Maurizio Lazzarato
Julian Reid
Boris Groys
Catherine Mills
Johanna Oksala
Frédéric Gros
Vikki Bell

Ever since the concepts of “biopolitics” and “biopower” appeared in the first volume of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality in 1976, they have continued to provoke responses. In 1976 Foucault picks up themes already developed in Discipline and Punish, and describes a shift in the structure of power that takes us from the epoch of sovereignty, in which the right of the ruler is to take life or let live, to the modern conception of power as a way to enhance, render productive, compose, maximize, and administer life. In some respects this is an undeniable progress toward a more “humane” world, but, as Foucault underlines, it also leads to a biological conception of politics. To exterminate the enemy, to expel the degenerate, the enemy of the people or the class from the social body in order to attain purity—all of this will become possible precisely because the body politic comes to be perceived as a living entity that must be attended to, and not just a source of disturbances that must be repressed.

More here (link fixed). Deadline extended to May 31. For more information, contact Sven-Olov Wallenstein (sven-olov.wallenstein (at)

Update. Information about the deadline extension was contained in this message sent to crit-geog.

Another contact listed in the cfp isjakob.nilsson (at)

Radical Philosophy Conference

The Radical Philosophy Conference will be held Saturday 9 May 2009 at Birkbeck College in London. The theme is “Power to the People?”

‘Power to the people!’ was once a revolutionary slogan, but reference to government by the people and for the people has long been an empty cliché of the post-revolutionary status quo. Numerous alternatives have been proposed: the proletariat, the workers, the masses, the soviets, the the nation, the community, the multitude, the commons… And now? How might we assess the different conceptions of political change embodied in these often conflicting ideas? What is the political and philosophical significance of ‘the people’ and related terms today?

Sessions include at least one on Foucault-related themes, chaired by Stuart Elden, on biopolitics and population:

3.45–5.00 Population & Biopolitics (chair: Stuart Elden, Durham)
‘Biopolitics, Diasporas and (Neo)Liberal Political Economy’
Couze Venn (Nottingham Trent)
‘Feminist Strategies Revisited – Sexopolitics, Multitude and Biopolitics’
Encarnacion Gutierrez Rodriguez (Manchester)

Other talks are being given by Eric Swyngedouw and Gayatri Spivak.

Full text: Birth of Biopolitics

Somebody has posted a searchable pdf of the Birth of Biopolitics around the internets.

Search for key phrases! Hayek! Friedman! (mentioned only ONCE)! Chicago School! Etc.

No links, coz.

Foucault papers at the AAG

This year’s Association of American Geographers conference is being held in Las Vegas. It opens today, and although I can’t be there until late Monday night due to teaching obligations, I thought I would provide the abstracts of papers that focus on Foucault or Foucauldian themes.

There are also numerous papers on government, governmentality, biopolitics, etc., so please search here if you are interested in these.

Abstract Title:
Science as a key word: A Foucaultian analysis of science, power, communication, and deviance during Toronto’s SARS crisis

is part of the Paper Session:
Geography of Science I

scheduled on Thursday, 3/26/09 at 8:00 AM.

Claire Major* – York University

In 2003, Toronto was a central node in the global crisis of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Taking a cue from Sarasin (2008), I argue that the “science” of SARS is something of an active metaphor: given the unknown nature of the virus, at best what science could do was to suggest a likeness of what response to the crisis ought to be. After examining how the science of SARS was conceptualized and mobilized, highlighting discussion of the epidemiological curve of the outbreak and the problems of disciplines, I draw on interviews with policy makers (at the international, national, provincial and urban scale) as well as workers and their unions to excavate how science is affixed to power, to trace its’ localized, particularized manifestation and re-articulation, and to question how science is subject to scalar interpretation. Arguing for the importance of “deviant” behavior that facilitated knowing the nature of the crisis, I consider the gaps that occurred during communications about the status of the outbreak (between health care units, the province of Ontario, the World Health Organization and so on) and the problems that arose when knowledge and science sharing occurred between the front line workers and agencies, hospitals, and governments. I scrutinize how the SARS panic was inflated by a crisis management strategy that enabled strategic voids, suggesting that in the response to the crisis policy makers engaged science as ubiquitous yet poorly defined concept that enabled multiple, and often contradictory, response trajectories.

Abstract Title:
Learning to be hearing: is the mainstream school a space for normalising deaf children?

is part of the Paper Session:
Disability in Education: Geographies of Inclusion and Exclusion

scheduled on Wednesday, 3/25/09 at 13:00 PM.

Elizabeth Mathews* – National University of Ireland, Maynooth

“[T]he subject is objectified by a process of division either within himself or from others” (Michel Foucault).

In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on educating students who are deaf or hard of hearing in integrated settings with their hearing peers.  Such a move is framed in discourses of inclusion and the provision of a ‘normal’ life for deaf children.  However, evidence from the practise of mainstreaming deaf education in Ireland suggests that the inclusion of deaf children is often based on their ability to perform as hearing children, and is largely linked to their ability to speak and speech-read.  Deaf children without these skills are rarely meaningfully included in mainstream classrooms and continue to be segregated.  Since the new goal of education is inclusion, and speech skills are linked to the inclusion of deaf children, the education system has become a space of normalisation through integration for deaf children.
This paper examines the role of the school as an institutional space in Foucaultian terms as a means of normalising and subjectifying the deaf student.  In particular it seeks to explore if Foucault’s concern with dividing practices, scientific classification and subjectification can be applied to the deaf student as they divide the inner deaf ‘self’ from the outer ‘hearing’ other, in the process of objectifying the subject.

Abstract Title:
The Space between Two Deaths

is part of the Paper Session:
Anarchism, Autonomia and the Spatialities of Revolutionary Politics and Theory 1

scheduled on Monday, 3/23/09 at 8:00 AM.

Stephanie Wakefield* – CUNY Graduate Center

In this paper, I argue that anarchism today is a noncontradictory movement of deterritorialization and reterritorialization happening in social spaces of anarchic self-making, where subjects who have been called into being by the political order as commodified, divided and oppressing individuals engage in the rejection of these normative grounds for their existence and simultaneously create themselves anew as non-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian, communist.  This self-making is not predetermined and it does not conform to a prefigured criterion; it is a singular yet collective, active process of subjective refashioning grounded in a radical notion of responsibility.
Interwoven with stories of black bloc street experience and Earth First! organizing, I describe anarchy not as some new hot topic radical chic that one can simply espouse from the halls of academia, but instead as a way of living and creating a life that departs from the established norms of politics qua “police” and “has the function of wrenching the subject from itself, of seeing to it that the subject is no longer itself, or that it is brought to its annihilation or its dissolution… a project of desubjectivation” (Foucault 2000: 241).    Anarchy today is lived, then, in this space in-between, where we find ourselves neither reterritorialized as closed subjects nor lost on a suicidal line of flight.  It is an intentional flirtation with both forms of death where, walking a thin ridge, we live our lives on the brink.

Abstract Title:
Techniques of Governmentality – Rural District Councils in Ireland, 1898 – 1922

is part of the Paper Session:
Surveillance and Governmentality

scheduled on Tuesday, 3/24/09 at 8:00 AM.

Arlene Crampsie, PhD* – Boston College – Ireland

From even the most cursory examination of the introduction of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898 it is clear that it was a key moment in the development of British policy towards Ireland. This act marked the introduction of democratic self-government to Ireland, and the transfer of a myriad of vital local functions from the control of the landed, protestant ascendancy to the lower class, catholic population. However, a more detailed investigation of the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the legislation, the provisions enshrined in the act, and the operation of the rural district councils in the period 1898 – 1922 raises questions relating to the aims of this apparently revolutionary state policy towards Ireland. By exploring these issues utilising Foucault’s theory on governmentality the rationalities and technologies utilised by the British state, as it attempted to secure its position as the sole and rightful state authority in Ireland, can be investigated. This paper will investigate the operation of governmental rationalities in a contested space, through an examination of the operation of rural district councils in Ireland and an analysis of their success as a technology of governmentality by the British state.

Abstract Title:
‘Mattering’ the Res Publica – Design Competitions as Foucauldian Dispositif

is part of the Paper Session:
Topics in Urban Geography

scheduled on Wednesday, 3/25/09 at 17:20 PM.

Joris Ernest Van Wezemael,* – ETH Zurich

The presented paper starts from the question of ‘agency’ with respect to the constitution of a collective identity by means of public architecture. While analyzing the creation of an architectural image for the young Federal State in Switzerland in the late 19th Century we aim at contributing to the tracing of historical trajectories. Empirically we will focus on the design process of Federal buildings such as post offices (e.g. Lucerne (1885), Geneva (1889), Neuchatel and Winterthur (1894), Lausanne (1895), Schaffhausen (1898), Berne (1898) or Chur (1899)), which are all ‘solutions’ of design competitions.
We will put forward the hypothesis that the production of a specific constellation of discourses, knowledge-based practices, spatial settings, architectural expression, and professional networks performed a powerful social technology. The argument will mainly trace the constitution of design competitions as a regulatory device that may obtain the power to govern, regulate, institutionalize or empower specific solutions.
Our conception will allow for a view on the architect as an Actor-Network rather than an ingenious creator. By conceptualizing the ‘agency’ of the processes as a Foucauldian Dispositif we also aim at contributing to the recent debate on alternative theoretical conceptions in research on Architecture and Planning.