The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Governmentality: An Unwritten Chapter in Foucault’s Genealogy of the Modern State

Critical Horizons 23 (2):134-156 (2022)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT One of the productive political-philosophical concepts Foucault developed is that of governmentality. According to Foucault, governmentality is in many respects the heir of pastoral power. However, Foucault has never conclusively demonstrated the genealogical link between pastoral power and governmentality. The hypothesis that I want to put forward is that the “missing link” in this genealogy should be situated in the governmental transformations that took place in the period of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, more specifically in the period of the “confessionalization”. To substantiate this claim, I briefly discuss the ideal-typical relationship between pastoral power and governmentality while indicating how Foucault accounts for this relationship. I then criticise his account by showing that it fails to expose the genealogical link between pastoral power and governmentality. Finally, I show how, from a genealogical point of view, the confessionalization theory makes a convincing connection between the revival of pastoral power during the Reformation and the development of a “confessional governmentality” in which religious and secular authorities intersect.

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