||A neologism coined by the French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-84), who used it: (a) as an organizing concept for his work in the late 1970s and early 1980s on \'the government of the self\' by the self and by others; and (b) to describe a distinctly \'governmental form of rationality\' which emerged in Europe between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries and was central to the development of biopower and the human sciences.
Foucault (1989) argued that \'government\' is neither identical with political sovereignty nor an intrinsic property of the state but is instead an historically shifting ensemble of practices. In volumes 2 and 3 of his History of sexuality, which deal with late Antiquity, Foucault explores modes of ethical self-conduct, and at the end of his life he suggested that his work could be read as an attempt to analyse the modes of \'governance\' through which the human subject is constituted in relation to itself and constellations of power (Foucault, 1994).
Foucault discussed a number of historical ruptures in \'the art of government\' in western societies from Antiquity to the present. He showed how modern (post-1750) systems of government rest on \'micro-physical\' â€” disciplinary â€” techniques of individualization that aim \'to rule [the body and soul] in a continuous and permanent way\', and \'macro-physical\' strategies of state knowledge-building and regulation â€” or totalization and centralization â€” that deal with people as legal subjects and are concerned with the health and productivity of populations and territories (Foucault, 1988). The former techniques stem from the \'pastoral modality of power\' of the Christian Church: \'techniques of examination, confession, guidance, [and] obedience\', with the pastor as a shepherd who must consider what each and every member of his flock needs, knows and does. The latter stems from doctrines of \'reason of state\', which attempted to define how state government differed from the government of God and that of the family, and \'theories of police\', which mapped \'the objects of the state\'s rational activity\' and fashioned its fields of intervention and instruments of regulation (cf. policing, geography of).
On Foucault\'s account, these two processes of \'governmentalization\' became intertwined during the sixteenth century and should be understood in relation to the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the growth of administrative states and colonial empires, and the Reformation and Counter-Reformation (Foucault, 1991a). By the eighteenth century, there had been a transition from what Foucault called \'the Ã©tatization of society\' (the advance of the state into more and more areas of life) to \'the \'governmentalization\' of the state\' (the proliferation of \'apparatuses â€¦ institutions, procedures, analyses and calculations\' that were both internal and external to the state, and that regarded \'economy\' and \'population\' as autonomous levels of reality). Foucault focused on Europe, but Scott (1995) draws on his work to sketch shifts in the nature of \'colonial governmentality\'.
This modern era of governmentality fostered a \'critical attitude\' towards state power which Foucault associated with Kant and adopted as an approximate definition of critique: an \'art of not being governed like that and at that cost\' â€” of finding ways of nestling away from an art of government which \'now reaches the very grain of the individual\' (Foucault, 1997). The idea that the state governs too much was one of the founding rationales of western liberalism, and Foucault\'s sympathetic appreciation of Kant and liberal thought seems at odds with his historical work on the disciplinary cast of modernity and the dark side of Enlightenment (see Pizzorno, 1992; cf. genealogy). Yet Foucault drew on this tradition of critique to conceptualize contemporary social protests â€” particularly the student revolts in Paris and Tunisia of the late 1960s. He argued that it is the recognition that power is now exercised \'within the social body through extremely different channels\', and that these channels (the media now being an important one) produce individuals and solicit compliance, that lies at the heart of our \'discomfort\' about government (Foucault, 1991b).
Foucault worked on these issues with a team of scholars (see Burchall et al., 1991). They have questioned some of his historical generalizations but share his suspicion of cultural and political programmes â€” most recently neo-liberal programmes â€” that claim to speak for each and all. Foucault\'s ideas about governmentality inform recent work in political geography. Ã“ Tuathail (1996), for instance, tracks the \'modern governmentalization of geography\' â€” by which he means the administration of space by states and other agents of power, and the spatialization of national and political identities by geographers and cartographers (cf. spatiality) â€” from the sixteenth century onwards; and Herod et al. (1998) consider the advent of \'geographies of governance\' that are no longer organized along strictly \'state-centric\' lines (on a model of Ã©tatization) but work through diverse channels of globalization. Such work elaborates the geographical texture of Foucault\'s arguments but arguably deflates Foucault\'s ethical concern with how to govern. Foucault\'s work on \'governmentality\' should push geographers into a closer engagement with moral philosophy â€” particularly the genealogy of western liberalism.Â (DC)
References Burchall, G., Gordon, C. and Miller, P., eds, 1991: The Foucault effect: studies in governmentality. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Â Florence, M. [Foucault, M] 1994: Foucault, Michel, 1926-, trans. C. Porter. In G. Gutting, ed., The Cambridge companion to Foucault. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 314-19.Â Foucault, M. 1988 [orig. pub. 1981]: Politics and reason. In M. Foucault, Politics, philosophy, culture: interviews and other writings, 1977-1984, ed. L. Kritzman. London and New York: Routledge, 57-85.Â Foucault, M. 1989: RÃ©sumÃ© des cours, 1970-1982. Paris: Julliard, 99-144.Â Foucault, M. 1991a [orig. pub. 1979]: Governmentality. In G. Burchall, C. Gordon, and P. Miller, eds, The Foucault effect: studies in governmentality. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 87-104.Â Foucault, M. 1991b: Between \'words\' and \'things\' during May \'68. In M. Foucault, Remarks on Marx: conversations with Duccio Trombadori, trans. R.J. Goldstein and J. Cascaito. New York: Semiotext(e), 131-46. Interview 1978.Â Foucault, M. 1997: What is critique? In M. Foucault, The politics of truth, ed. S. Lotringer and L. Hochroth. New York: Semiotiext(e), 23-82. Orig. pub. Fr. 1990.Â Herod, A., Ã“ Tuathail, G. and Roberts S., eds, 1998: Unruly world: globalization, governance and geography. London and New York: Routledge.Â Ã“ Tuathail, G. 1996: Critical geopolitics: the politics of writing global space. London and New York: Routledge.Â Pizzorno, A. 1992: Foucault and the liberal view of the individual. In T. Armstrong, ed. and trans., Michel Foucault: Philosopher. New York: Routledge, 204-11.Â Scott, D. 1995: Colonial governmentality. Social Text 43: 191-220.
Suggested Reading Foucault (1988), (1991a).