Governmentality

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Governmentality is a concept first developed by French philosopher Michel Foucault in the late twentieth century and stems from his ethical, political and historical thoughts from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. His most widely known formulation of this notion is his lecture entitled "Governmentality" (1978). Foucault discussed governmentality in a wide sense with an idea of "government" that is not limited to state politics alone, but also includes a range of control techniques which apply to a variety of objects; from one's control of the self, to the "biopolitical" control of populations. The notion of governmentality gained attention in the English-speaking academic world mainly through the book The Foucault Effect by Graham Burchell (1991). Hunt and Wickham defined governmentality in Foucault and Law (1994) as “the dramatic expansion in the scope of government, featuring an increase in the number and size of the governmental calculation mechanisms” (Hunt 76), closely linking the creation and growth of the modern bureaucracies in the mid-eighteenth century. Mitchell Dean’s understanding of the term incorporates both other forms of governance and the idea of mentalities of government by addressing the ideas of “collective activity,” “technologies of power,” and the reflexive nature of governmentality (Dean 16). He expands on Hunt and Wickham’s approach by defining the term as “how we think about governing others and ourselves in a wide variety of contexts..." (Dean 212). This reflects that the term government to Foucault meant not so much the political or administrative structures of the modern state as the way in which the conduct of individuals or of groups may be directed.

Works Cited

Burchell, Graham. The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press, 1991.

Dean, M. Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society. London: Sage, 1991.

Foucault, M. 'Governmentality', trans. Rosi Braidotti and...
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