Re: [Foucault-L] Governmentality -Take 2 (ignore the previouse-mail)

Hi Scott,

thanks for the reply. There is no disagreement with nearly all of the points you mentioned. I definitely consider it fruitful using the governmentality approach in different historical contexts and especially for examining the present and future of our societies.
I just wanted to distinguish the methodological proposal connected with the notion of governmentality (regard governing in a very broad sense as all forms of conducting conduct and try to find a rationality drawing together these diverse forms) from a different usage of governmentality. The term is often also used to describe the subject matter of a specific historical logic of of governing. That is the rationality of governing which follows the sovereign and the disciplinary logic, a historically new rationality of governing which aims in maximizing the powers of a population.
Very often both meanings are drawn together incautiously.

Herein also lies the (only) problem I see in your rendering of the concept.
I would not give the two pillars - as you call them - such an universalistic role. Rather, the specific interaction of individualization and totalization is one of the findings if you see our present from the analytical perspective of governmentality. But they are not the founding stones of every historical specific rationality of governing. For example the sovereign rationality of governing (dominant in the middle ages) simply is concerned with serfs. At this historical moment the concept of population still does not exist in the eyes of governing. The appearance of population as object of governing in the 18th century and the beginning of the interplay of totalization and individualization is one of the interesting results of Foucault's lecture series 'Security, Territory, Population'.

thanks for the possibility of clarification and I hope it helps as such

best regards

Am 06.03.2008 um 02:15 schrieb Scott Nicholas:

Hi Henning,

I both agree and disagree with your assessment.

Governmentality incorporates technologies of power like sovereign, pastoral,
disciplinary, and bio-power and therefore entails the associated methods for
guiding individual conduct and managing the life issues of population .I
agree with you when you say:"This allows for example the drawing together of
all the many different ways power is exercised in a certain society
and it enables to see patterns and interactions between these
technologies."In this respect, Governmentality represents as you say a
"certain analytical perspective" or an analytic of the overall guidance of
conduct - both in an individual and totalising sense.

However, where I differ from you is when you limit its application to the
present or as you describe:" (2) as a hint on the content of the
contemporary rationality of governing." Foucault was as you say critiquing
the present but my reasoning is that if certain assumptions are acceptable
then Governmentality can be applied in non-Liberal and future contexts
also. This is why I use the rhetorical device of the twin pillars. If
Governmetality by incorproating the notions of Discipline &Biopower takes as
its key objects of attention individual and population governnace, if this
assumption is true and I believe that it is, then the political
rationalities, apparatuses, technologies and practices of government can
come and go but the twin pillars remain in place.These things in effect
represent the means by which individuals and populations are governed (twin
pillars) for the purpose of achieving national outcomes (e.g., GNP & GDP
growth).The probleamtic of government remains the concern while political
fashions come and go. If this is an acceptable construal of Governmentality,
then it seems a reasonable response in light of attempts to historisise
Foucault and say limit him to a method of production (Fordism) and form of
society (disciplinary)that they claim no longer exists.

Let me know what you think


----- Original Message -----
From: "H. F." <gluexritter@xxxxxx>
To: "Mailing-list" <foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2008 12:35 AM
Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] Governmentality -Take 2 (ignore the

Hi Scott,

as far as I can see, the term Governmentality carries a central
ambiguity which is expressed also in your questions.
I would claim that Governmentality is used (1) as a term to describe a
certain analytical perspective and (2) as a hint on the content of the
contemporary rationality of governing.

So what you describe in your email is the analytical perspective the
notion of governmentality is opening up. Concretely that is the
question of 'How we are governed?' in a very broad sense at a certain
time in a certain society. That is the first aspect the term
governmentality is used for.

"The twin pillars of governmentality" as you call them belong to the
second meaning that is if the analytical perspective of
governmentality is applied to the contemporary societies. The
"governmentality of our present" indeed consists of technologies of
individual guidance as well as of technologies of population control.

So regarding your questions it is not only possible but quite
promising to follow the research perspective the notion of
governmenality opens up. This allows for example the drawing together
of all the many different ways power is exercised in a certain society
and it enables to see patterns and interactions between these
To cite Rose et al.:
"What remains salient and challenging about this approach is its
insistence that to understand how we are governed in the present,
individually and collectively, in our homes, workplaces, schools, and
hospitals, in our towns, regions, and nations, and by our national and
transnational governing bodies requires us to turn away from grand
theory, the state, globalization, reflexive individualization, and the
like. Instead, we need to investigate the role of the gray sciences,
the minor professions, the accountants and insurers, the managers and
psychologists, in the mundane business of governing everyday economic
and social life, in the shaping of governable domains and governable
persons, in the new forms of power, authority, and subjectivity being
formed within these mundane practices. Every practice for the conduct
of conduct involves authorities, aspirations, programmatic thinking,
the invention or redeployment of techniques and technologies." (Rose,
Nikolas, P. O’Malley . M. Valverde (2006). Governmentality. Annual
Review of Law and Social Sciences, 2:83–104, 101)

But it would be misleading to use the very special pattern of t the
contemporary rationality of government (Biopower, Individualization
and totalization) as a general scheme of governing.

To put it short: Governmentality as a research perspective could be
applied in many different societies. The specific 'governmental' way
of governing, seems historically bound to advanced liberal societies.

correct me if you disagree (would be helpful for my understanding)

best regards

Am 05.03.2008 um 12:46 schrieb Scott Nicholas:

Hi everyone,

just thought that I had better clarify a couple of things.

I am looking at Foucault's work on Governmentality this semester. My
reading of his Governmentality lecture and other references within
his 1978 lecture series "Security, Territory & Population" is that
this analytic can be applied even when the prevailing political
rationality changes, or the state as a technology of government and
its constituent elements (e.g., organising mechanisms,mix of private
& public) change, or indeed the technologies and practices of
government change. In other words, my core argument is that the twin
pillars of governmentality: guidance of individual conduct and
population management for the purpose of achieving national outcomes
(e.g., GDP growth); remain in place even when the rationality for
and the means of achieving (e.g., governmental tactics, practices,
methods, devices, mechanisms etc) the aforementioned outcomes
change, shift or mutate. In this sense, governmentality can
accomodate say the alleged change from Fordist discipline to Post-F!
ordist flexibilisation.

I am responding to a recent claim that Foucault was "the great
theorist of Fordist Discipline"and is at risk of becoming depasse,
by arguing among others things both that:(1) his Governmentality
analytic can accomodate epochal shifts from Fordism to Post-Fordism
provided that the focus of government remains both the governance of
individual conduct and the management of populations life issues
(biopolitical concerns if you will); and (2) the Disciplinary
society still exists.

Given my construal, the question arises does say repression fall
under the conceptual auspices of Governmentality? and under what
conditions would governmentality not apply - slavery perhaps?

I am curious to know if anyone disagrees with this construal of what
I think is the continued relevance of Governmentality?

Any and all responses are welcome

Scott Nicholas
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  • Re: [Foucault-L] Governmentality -Take 2 (ignore the previouse-mail)
    • From: Scott Nicholas
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    [Foucault-L] Governmentality -Take 2 (ignore the previous e-mail), Scott Nicholas
    Re: [Foucault-L] Governmentality -Take 2 (ignore the previous e-mail), H. F.
    Re: [Foucault-L] Governmentality -Take 2 (ignore the previouse-mail), Scott Nicholas
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