This chapter accounts for the analytical term governmentality and its distinctive usefulness in grasping and analyzing the modern arts and practices of governing. It was first coined in 1978 by the French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault in his lecture series at the Collège de France focusing on how shifting forms of (secular) thinking had informed the governing of states and their populations in Western Europe since the Renaissance. The term governmentality enables us to address often overlooked dimensions of power exercised under the heading of governance. In particular, it clears a space for analyzing how various forms of knowledge and theories clustered under the broad church of governance may more or less directly inform the exercise of power in concrete political and administrative reforms. In order to fully grasp and exploit the analytical potential of the term governmentality, it is necessary to be acquainted with genealogy, that is, the analytical underpinnings of Foucault’s published works. This implies paying attention to historical shifts and specificity, focusing on the practices and thoughts of governing (the state), and addressing how governmentalities link various forms of power. Most studies of the term governmentality suffer from one or more of the following three methodological problems: unclear research objectives, neglect of non-liberal forms of power, and inadequate attention to the practices of government. Accordingly, there is much room for methodological clarification and development.
Tina Søndergård Madsen and Peter Triantafillou
Søndergård Madsen and Triantafillou stress the importance of how power and empowerment take shape in interactive governance. In Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, a number of empowerment programmes and self-help community groups have sprung up during the past decade. Søndergård Madsen and Triantafillou examine how and with what political effects empowerment was linked to poverty alleviation in Nepal through the Local Governance and Community Development Programme (LGCDP). They argue that the alleviation of poverty was not an immediate, but rather a long-term, objective of the programme. Building on Foucault’s analytics of power and freedom, they critically reflect on the political implications of empowerment-based poverty alleviation for the strategies that the poor can legitimately adopt in order to improve their economic situation. The authors argue that the program is based on a strong advanced liberal rationale, which favours certain forms of participation and citizenship over other forms thus limiting the individual’s freedom by excluding various practices of action and protest.