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


Why I couldn’t vote Labour

With the UK elections now less than 4 weeks away, it looks increasingly likely that there will be a hung parliament for the first time in a generation. Labour, sorry New Labour, which has been in power for some 13 years, following the Tories’ 20 year stint, look like coming second. As John Lanchester explains in the LRB blog, the Tories will need a sizable percentage swing to overcome the inbuilt Labour advantage in returning MPs. It doesn’t look like they’ll get it outright, which perhaps says something for Cameron’s rebranding efforts. But they may get in if they form a coalition (which no-one would have voted for directly).

As a British citizen living in the United States I’m of course not eligible to vote here. Furthermore, I’m unfortunately unable to vote in the UK elections either. The current statute of limitations is 15 years away (it has varied from 5 to 20) before you become ineligible. So I’m kind of a stateless, or voteless person. If I could vote in the UK though, I’d be hard pressed to tick the Labour box to return the MP for Chester for another term, (that being where I last lived in the UK some 25 years ago).

What I hear from my UK colleagues about higher education there is very dispiriting. The RAE was bad enough, but this Hefce Research Excellence Framework (REF) seems to me to have two intended effects. One, as Ross McKibben points out (also in the LRB), is to characterize academia as a kind of branch of business, with “outputs,” “impacts” and “units.” This is a dispiriting vision of the university system (not that it’s much better here, in fact Labour seem to have taken the weakest part of the American system and expected it to magically generate new revenue, while cutting off fee-paying non-EU students over fears of terrorism).

Secondly, it’s an econometric vision, where you see scarce resources and seek to centralize them in a few research universities or “units.” But is academia rather not something that produces “outputs” but rather education? How could you measure “critical thinking”? Is it an “output” or an “impact”? Speaking for myself, that’s what I see myself doing, not making new inventions or gadgets.

In all this Labour seem to have forgotten the “art of government.” This is pretty funny considering how neoliberal Labour are. As McKibbon explains:

Britain now has a ministerial elite who have largely divorced the art of politics from the art of government. All politicians, of course, have to practise the art of politics, but at some point, the needs of government, which are usually long-term and based on accumulated knowledge, have to override the needs of politics, which are usually short-term and based on anything but accumulated knowledge. It has been characteristic of British political life in the last 30 years, not least under New Labour, that the art of politics has vanquished the art of government. MPs who wish to become ministers are obliged to repeat what they do not believe (or perhaps they do not know or care what they believe), and they have been taught that that is what politics is about. In the case of education, though not education alone, such behaviour has produced a political vacuum filled by ill-considered and often mutually incompatible pieces of legislation. Unfortunately, while our constitutional and electoral apparatus remains as it is, there is no reason to suppose this will change.

McKibbon says the Tories, if elected, would put the REF on hiatus for 2 years while the measure of “impact” is defined. That might be just enough of a reason not to vote Labour on May 6.

Carceral notebooks

I missed this previously:

Carceral Notebooks
Volume 4, 2008


Introduction. Bernard Harcourt

Discipline, Security, and Beyond: A Brief Introduction.
Andrew Dilts and Bernard Harcourt

D’une configuration disciplinaire à l’autre? Laurent Bonelli

Des classes à la population ?
Formules de gouvernement et détention
Fabienne Brion

Masques de Foucault. Guy Casadamont

The Post-Disciplinary Prison. Gilles Chantraine

Michel Foucault Meets Gary Becker: Criminality Beyond
Discipline and Punish
Andrew Dilts

“Une chaîne, qui laisse toute liberté de faire le bien et qui ne permette
que très difficilement de commettre le mal.”
Claude-Olivier Doron

La police, les anormaux et leurs archives au XVIIIe siècle.
Lisa Jane Graham

Supposons que la discipline et la sécurité n’existent pas
Rereading Foucault’s Collège de France Lectures.
(with Paul Veyne)
Bernard E. Harcourt

Repenser la police et les contrôles par rapport à Foucault.
Salvatore Palidda

La connaissance “de” l’Etat. Pasquale Pasquino

“Je peins le passage.” Stephen Sawyer

Beyond Discipline and Punish: Foucault’s Challenge to Criminology
Mariana Valverde

Foucault in a Post-9/11 World: Excursions into Security,
Territory, Population
Michael Welch


From the Introduction:

Foucault’s 1978 and 1979 lectures contained a wealth of insights about punishment, penal techniques, the development of the police, and their relationship to neoliberalism. The lectures were extremely useful for thinking about the entire social body in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and specifically about the practices that characterize the contemporary penal sphere. And thus we set out, in these essays, to explore contemporary penal practices in conversation with the newly published lectures—but also, naturally, in conversation with Foucault’s earlier writings on épistémès and his later turn to ethics and truth telling, to veridiction and le dire vrai, to parrêsia.

Special issue of Global Society

Nick Kiersey has edited a special issue of the journal Global Society on Foucault and International Relations.

Global Society, Volume 23 Issue 4 2009

The papers assembled in this special issue are the result of a series of discussions, starting with a panel organised by David Chandler at the 33rd Annual Conference of the British International Studies Association, University of Exeter, 13-17 December 2008, and continuing with discussions across a range of panels at the 50th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, New York, 15-18 February 2009. These papers represent just a sample of viewpoints and arguments extended on those occasions.

Editorial Introduction
Nicholas J. Kiersey; Jason R. Weidner
Pages 353 – 361
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Neoliberal Political Economy and the Subjectivity of Crisis: Why Governmentality is Not Hollow
Nicholas J. Kiersey
Pages 363 – 386
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Governmentality, Capitalism, and Subjectivity
Jason R. Weidner
Pages 387 – 411
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Governmentality of What? Populations, States and International Organisations
Jonathan Joseph
Pages 413 – 427
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Foucault’s Concept of Power and the Global Discourse of Human Rights
Ivan Manokha
Pages 429 – 452
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Hobbes, War, Movement
Leonie Ansems De Vries; Jorg Spieker
Pages 453 – 474
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Taking Foucault beyond Foucault: Inter-state Governmentality in Early Modern Europe
Halvard Leira
Pages 475 – 495
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Decentring Global Power: The Merits of a Foucauldian Approach to International Relations
Doerthe Rosenow
Pages 497 – 517
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“… we are being left to burn because we do not count” : Biopolitics, Abandonment, and Resistance
Anna Selmeczi
Pages 519 – 538
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Rethinking Foucault in International Relations: Promiscuity and Unfaithfulness
Andrew W. Neal
Pages 539 – 543
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If not mass consumption, then what?

Clare O’Farrell picks up on an interesting suggestion in Foucault’s Birth of Biopolitics that the aim of (the) government is not to create a society of mass consumption. On the face of it this is a laughable claim, especially more so now than when Foucault originally made it 30 years ago. It also contradicts the Frankfurt School’s typical analysis, eg Adorno’s critique of mass consumption and its deadening effects.

If there is anything that marks modern society it is that we are constantly seeking new means of consumption, and of providing those means. What else marked the current financial crisis but the production of more consumption for people unable to afford homes? (Where homes are what is being “consumed”.) Isn’t that why the the sub-prime mortgage market was created and the subsequent practice of credit default swaps?

But I think Foucault is not saying that there is no mass consumption, but that it is a mistake to use that as an analysis of what he calls the art of government.


Foucault takes to task standard – and usually Marxist – critiques of modern capitalist and liberal society which see it as a society of mass consumption. His argument is that we have moved beyond this into a governmental arrangement which incites the creation of multiple enterprises. With the existence of multiple enterprises and the inevitable friction between them, we also see the proliferation of endless forms of legal regulation to keep them all in balance.

As he says elsewhere in the same lecture, the homo Æconomicus that neo-liberal government is aiming to create is ‘not the man of exchange or man the consumer; he is the man of enterprise and production’. (p.152).

What government is interested in is a kind of circulation, an aleatory one (a favorite Foucault word in these lectures) that can nevertheless be known through the usual technologies (statistics, cartography, public health, etc.).

I expect any day now to find a journal or at least conferences and papers on “circulation studies” if in fact it hasn’t already happened…

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.

Government of self and others published

Volume 2 of Government of self and others has been published (in French). Volume 1 was published around this time last year (also in French).

Volume 2 represents the last lectures Foucault gave at the Collège de France, in 1984. They are called “Le courage de la vérité.”

Here’s an early review in Libération.