Re: Governmentality/State Theory

A few comments by Deleuze (from _Foucault_) that might help with the theme
of a micro-physical analysis of the State:

"As a postulate of localization, power would be power of the State and
would itself be located in the machinery of State to the point where even
'private' powers would only apparently be dispersed and would remain no
more than a special examply of the machinery of State. Foucault shows
that, on the contrary, the State itself appears as the overall effect or
result of a series of interacting whells or structures which are located at
a completely different level, and which constitute a 'microphysics of
power'. Not only private systems but explicit parts of the machinery of
State have an origin, a behaviour and a function which the State ratifies,
controls or is even content to cover rather than institute." (pg. 25)

"It is as if finally, something new were emerging in the wake of Marx. It
is as if a complicity about the State were finally broken. Foucault is not
content to say that we must rethink certain notions; he does not even say
it; he just does it, and in this way proposes new co-ordinates for praxis.
In the background a battle begins to brew, with its local tactics and
overall strategies which advance not by totalizing but by relaying,
connecting, converging and prolinging. The question ultimately is: what
is to be done? The theoretical privlege given to the State as a apparatus
of power to a certain extent leads to the practice of a leading and
centralizing party which enventually wins State power; but on the other
hand it is this very organizational conception of the party that is
justified by this theory of power. the stakes of Foucault's book lie in a
different theory, a different praxis of struggle, a different set of
strategies." (pg. 30)

This chapter ("A New Cartographer") is loaded with useful insights for
Foucault and the State.

Having used Deleuze as an opening crutch, I would like to make a few
comments in response to "Examhell's" post:

> Yet, why crucial? If we agree with Gordon's comments in the opening
>chapter of THE FOUCAULT EFFECT (cf. pp. 3-4), we can address this importance
>by way of the (Neo-) Marxist critique of Foucault's attention to microphysics
>of power in DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH. How can we address government in terms of
>a microphysics of power? The Neo-Marxist asks, "How can we address the
>relation between society and the state or the sovereign without looking at the
>body of government in relation to the body politic?" Is Foucault's answer
>that a plurality of forms of government demands an analysis of power operating
>at its extremities (as in the double upward and downward movements of
>governance in La Mothe Le Voyer's treatise)?

I think the wording of the last sentence here might send Foucault back into
the vaccum of State theory, where an analysis of power begins with the
state and traces its effects in the "extremities" of a social body. In
other words, this might lead one towards a "descending" analysis of power
(which F. lamented in P/K). Foucault's point, I think, is that power only
exists in its local manifestations, in the particular points through which
it passes, and that the state is a 'resonance chamber' (to use Deleuze and
Guattari's language) or space of articulation and codification of as many
power relations as possible (not a site of condensation as Hall and many
other cs folks want to rewrite F.).

> Gordon explains (and Foucault explicitly agrees in "Politics and the
>Study of Discourse") that the microphysical method deployed in DISCIPLINCE AND
>PUNISH need not be changed to address the macro question of the relation
>between society and the state. Yet, in addressing the macro question with
>micro method, Foucault seems to be moving along the lines of a distancing from
>the reduction of the art of governing to the exercise of a sovereign power to
>govern (to hold territory). In doing so, however, the essay in no way turns
>away from the analysis of the state. Yet, rather than a critique of the state
>are we reading a critique of the state-form? In short, how is it that the
>micro-method is necessary and how is it that it allows attention to the state
>without embracing state theory - "State theory attempts to deduce the modern
>activities of government from the essential properties and propensities of the
>state, in particular its supposed propensity to grow and to swallow up or
>colonize everything outside itself (Gordon, p.4)." Once a plurality of forms
>of governance are recognized as immanent to the state, can a history of
>government that functions by way of state theory be tenable, or helpful?

First of all, I think Foucault is not engaged in "state theory". I
think the answer to this question is found throuought _Discipline and
Punish_, a text which contemporary governmentality studies folks have
tended to push aside to their detriment. If you think back to D&P where F
tries to outline the shift from 'soveriegn power' to 'disciplinary power',
he says quite clearly that it is not as a result of the humanitarians, the
jurists, the politicians, or any conscious action or tactic which can be
attributed to a state apparatus. The shift occurs because of a breakdown
in a localized manifestation of soveriegn power, the danger of conflict in
the spectacle of the scaffold. So, the movement from one 'technology' of
power to another occurs not through a tactical manipulation by the state
apparatus (as state theorists might say), but from local fissures which
begin to disrupt the functioning of that particular technology.
Further, the development of disciplinary power, or modern power,
moves by the gradual implementation of microphysical tactics, the placement
of the hand on rifle and angle of the arm and fingers when writing, untill
a complex web of power relations became implemented in localized settings.
The particular form which the modern state adopts, Foucault seems to be
saying, is then an effect of these local power relations (not visa-versa).
Consider, for example, where he talks about Napoleon (on page 141) and how
the form of his regime was organized upon a disciplinary mechanism of
power. So, Foucault would absolutely not say that the state 'swallows up
or colonizes everything outside itself', rather it is itself an effect of
those connections which it makes to the mechanisms of power which are
diffuse and local.
There is another interesting way to make this point. In "Subject
and Power", Foucault defines government as the "conduct of conduct" and in
"Governmentality" as the "disposition of things". So, one can govern
oneself, a family, a car, dog, nation, state ... . Governmentality, it
seems to me, is a certain form which is immanent in numerous (but not every
since there is a "multiple regime of governmentality"--Gordon, pg. 36) acts
of government. Governmentality, therefore, is not about how the state
apparatus controls a population or populations and the various institutions
and how the are distributed throughout society (as many governmentality
studies folks have tried to demonstrate), but rather a certain logic that
is in the connection or *between* various relations and mechanisms of
power. A particular governmental rationality determines the form/function
of the state (but not only the state) and not the other way around.
I've rambled. Hope this makes some sense.


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