The Social As A Programme For Governance - Part One

The Social as A Programme for Governance
Ashwin Kumar


In contrast to global theories of the state, certain thinkers have
followed Foucault in seeking to reflect upon the nature of government
within 'modern' societies. Linked to this is the idea of the emergence of
'the social' as a specific domain of government and a specific sector of
practices, interventions, and knowledges. I attempt to get at the
strategic notion of the state and governance that emerges from Foucault
and others. It is also an attempt to consider how we might think about
this 'social' sector as it appears in phrases such as 'social policy' and
'social welfare'.

If one examines Foucault's works with aims of locating or defining the
social, it emerges through the strategic notion of 'bio-politics of
population'(1). The social could be conceptually seen as developing in
the bio-politics of population as "a body of influences on individual
lives that aims to administer, optimise, multiply it by subjecting
individuals to controls and regulatory practices"(2). The social, in this
view, could be seen as a disciplinary technique whereby specific sets of
techniques, instruments, procedures and bodies of knowledge are utilised
for the purpose of social control and the formation of a disciplinary
society. Thus the social exists as a technique for ordering human life.
How does the social act as a programme for controlling individual lives?
This could be seen in the process whereby techniques of power are
exercised with aims of development of collective habits, time-zoned life
patterns and total/detailed surveillance on individual lives. The social
acts as a control programme with aims of making individuals more useful
in the production processes by the objectification of the individual to
form a body of knowledge about themselves.

Thus the social can be viewed as reducing inefficiency of mass phenomena
and making it more manageable by regulating movements thus reducing
unpredictable ways to establish calculated distributions. Furthermore,
the social also acts as a programme of social control by neutralising
resistances to power especially for those who wish to dominate it. The
social acts as a programme for social control as techniques of power
could be exercised through it at the lowest cost economically over large
majorities and in this process link the growth /extension of power with
the output of institutions such as educational and medical. What is the
link between the development of the social and the development of
capitalism as distinct categories? Economic take-off in the west started
with techniques for capital accumulation. These techniques for capital
accumulation involved calculation and control of individuals:
"administration of accumulation of men" (3). This is made possible by the
formation of the social as a body of knowledge for control which created
the technology of the subjection of individuals. As such, the division of
labour is also produced by the social as a form of technique for
individual subjection in the capital accumulation process. The social
could be seen as providing a guarantee of the submission of forces and
bodies under mass sovereignty and also allows individuals to become
integrated into the political economy.

Donzelot identifies the social as referring to a set of phenomena which
is used to a particular sector in which "diverse problems and special
cases could be grouped together"(4); a sector comprising of specific
institutions. This social sector is seen as existing alone and not
merging with the judicial sector though it extends the field of judicial
action. It also does not merge with the economic sector as the social is
seen to invent an entire social economy which lays the foundations for
"making the distinction between the rich and the poor"(5). Does the
social react with the private/public sector? The social is seen as not
merging with either since it also leads "to a new hybrid form of the
public/private sectors and this produces withdrawals and interventions of
the state"(6). Donzelot views the social as inducing new relationships
between the public and the private sectors. The social is seen as acting
across and reshaping existing and previous divisions. Donzelot further
asserts that "the rise of the social and the crisis of the family are the
two fold political effects of the same elementary causes"(7).

Minson sees the social as a regime of ethical truth such as moral
ontology or as a kind of ethical thinking(8). The social as moral
ontology provides the basis for value judgements and justifications. the
social is primarily seen as an ethical entity in terms of assumptions of
personalism in structuring ideologies, programmes, laws and policies
which operate political values. Minson attributes the origins of the
social in the emergence of political economy. The social is seen as
development of certain kinds of knowledge concerning human conduct to
able the processes of social administration and policy in the way in
which social disorder is framed and also measures to deal with them.
Minson is also of the view that the social, existing as patterns of
reasoning, transforms human beings into political subjects by the process
of objectification. The social, as a control programme, is viewed by
Minson as "that exercised upon lower classes as relationships binding
them into the political order" (9).

Polanyi views the social as "checks on the dynamics of modern societies
as to the exact nature and causes of economic expansion"(10). The social
is seen to act as a counter movement aided by legislature mechanics that
are seen as "essential for the protection of society"(11). Polanyi treats
the social as a form of Foucault's bio-power especially in terms of
individual growth of possibilities and utility. Thus the social also
becomes an organising principle in society with specific institutional
aims and methods. Polanyi chiefly views the social as a "principle of
social protection of society through calculative techniques with aims to
conserve man/nature as well as the productive organisation as this relied
on the working class"(12). It can be seen that the social becomes the
Bentham principle of inspectibility for effective control by view of the
social as a protectionist mechanism; a moral and intellectual advance for
moral restraints of the population. Polanyi also views the social as
acting through the private sector to later develop the political economy.

What is the Benthamian view of the social? It could be described as the
scientific and economic treatment of the poor through the concepts of
social mechanics as the intellectual main spring of the industrial
revolution (13). The social is seen here as the eighteenth century "new
social science of morals and legislation"(14)on the principle of utility
which allows exact calculations. The social is also viewed as an attack
on individualisation to forming collectives in the production process.
The social is essentially viewed as a form of legislation to provide for
individual solidarity and enhance social usefulness. The rise of the
social is attributed to the industrial revolution "as having caused a
social dislocation in people through the principles of social

Gamble examines the rise of the social by an examination of the rise of
capitalism (16). The social here is positioned as "the need that
industrialised societies placed at the creation of legitimate political
institutions and government"(17). The social is seen as allowing
governmentality as a programme of social control: "social control allows
the rapid control of the masses for rapid growth of material wealth
through the production process"(18). It is evident in Gamble's analysis
of the social that with the increased emphasis on production generate
great concerns about the character/control of the economy through
conditioning people and also their resistance. The social is seen as
conditioning individuals into calculated values to create consensus and
the social is also responsible for the conditioning of the resistances of
the working classes to social conditions by the deployment of knowledge
and forms of self evaluation by objectifying societal relations on
ethical and moral scales.

How does the governance of the economy and the political system work to
link the social to anticipated effects in a particular form of society?
It is through the principle of individualising whereby collective action
through the state is used in the regulation of the economic system. The
social is also viewed by social theorists as having effects that
undermine individualism by the formation of collective identities and
consensus of values in society via collective identities. Lukes views
individualism as underlying the view that holds collective action through
the state in the regulation of economic systems (in particular for
welfare ends) as undesirable at certain established limits(19). This
belief is based on the principle of individual liberty, methodological
individualism and contingent claims about individual desires and motives.

The principles of individualisation are counteracted by the deployment of
the social in the formation of collectives for aims of social control.
Individualism also dictates that state interventions through social
programmes should be kept to an absolute minimum. Nozick suggests that a
minimalist state limited to the narrow functions of protection and
enforcement of social contracts is justified; "that any more extension of
the state in the name of social programmes especially in areas of morals,
would violate individual rights and that the minimalist state is aspiring
and right"(20). Furthermore, Nozick suggests that social programmes in
the name of collective interests are "illicit"(21).

P.T.O - Part Two


Partial thread listing: