Beheading the King and Enthroning the Market: A Critique of Foucauldian Governmentality

Science and Society 63 (2):173 - 202 (1999)
The work of Michel Foucault, particularly his research into what he termed governmentality, has stimulated considerable interest from within the left. Governmentality is held, by Foucault and his followers, to offer insight into the ways in which contemporary authorities have sought to shape and regulate society and to do so in a way not possible through the mediation of state theory. However, while this work addresses important issues, it does so in a way that limits its critical and emancipatory potential. Governmentality is seen to be based on a "top-down" and dualist conception of power, one that externalizes and marginalizes contradiction and struggle to become a theory of social reproduction rather than of transcendence. Governmentality therefore has to be subject to critique and reconceptualized as a social form of struggle; that is, in terms of a negative dialectic of movement and transcendence grounded in the subjectivity of labor.
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