Edited by Christopher Ansell and Jacob Torfing
Chapter 29: Governmentality
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.
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