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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Foucault, Governmentality, and Life Politics. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except as permitted by the UK Copyright, Designs, and Patents Actwithout the prior permission of the publisher.

Includes bibliographical references and index. Furthermore, the publisher ensures that the text paper and cover board used have met acceptable environmental accreditation standards. For further information on Blackwell Publishing, visit our website: Nelson 10 Technologies of Invisibility: They all contributed greatly to the development of this volume. I would also like to express my gratitude to Jane Huber, my editor at Blackwell, for her enthusiastic support of the project. Finally, I am quite grateful to the Ford Foundation.

I began this book while on a Ford Postdoctoral Fellowship. The editor and publisher gratefully acknowledge the permission granted to reproduce the copyright material in this book: Princeton University Press, Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

Goodman, Deborah Heath, and M. Anthropology and Science beyond the Two-Culture Divide. University of California Press, Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright material.

An Introduction Jonathan Xavier Inda This book is intended as a reflection on the question of modernity. It has two general orientations. What this means, simply put for now, is three things. First, it means that the essays gathered here treat modernity not in abstract terms but tangibly as an governmentslity object. Their aim, in other words, is not to come up with some grand, general account of modernity but to analyze its concrete manifestations.

Second, it means that foucaulr essays examine the materialization of the modern not just in the West, as tends to be the case in most disciplines, but worldwide. Indeed, the bent of the volume is determinedly global, its empirical sites ranging from Italy and Ukraine to India, Brazil, and French Guiana.

Finally, to be anthropological in orientation means that at the stake in the analysis of modernity is the value and form of the anthropos or human being Collier and Ong ; Rabinow Said otherwise, the book is centrally concerned with the modern constitution of the social and biological life of the human.

The other orientation of the book is Governentality. This means that the intel- lectual point of departure for the essays in the volume is the work of French philosopher Governmentaltiy Foucault.

The essays gathered here pursue, each in their own way, the particular style of investigation Foucault brought to bear on contemporary rule.

Anthropologies of Modernity: Foucault, Governmentality, and Life Politics – Google Books

Of particular importance to such an analytics are three dimensions of govern- ment. First, there are the reasons of government. This dimension encompasses all those forms knowledge, expertise, and calculation that render human beings thinkable in such a manner as to make them amenable to political programming.

Second, there are the technics of government. The technical is that domain of practical mechanisms, instruments, and programs through which authorities of various types seek to shape and instrumentalize human conduct. Finally, there are the subjects of government. This dimension covers the diverse types of individual and collective identity that arise out of and inform governmental activity.


All told, then, the essays gathered here amount to what could be called Foucauldian anthropologies of modernity. They are concerned with subjecting modern government — as a heterogeneous field of thought and action — to ethnographic scrutiny in a variety of gocernmentality settings. In this introductory chapter, I would like to shed light on these Foucauldian anthropologies. Some attention will be paid to how political power has assigned itself the duty of administering life.

And in the final section, I will provide a discussion of the anthropologies that make up the volume. The discussion will be focused around five main themes: His opening move is to locate the tovernmentality of this art in sixteenth-century Europe.

There, as signaled in numerous political treatises of the time, certain questions regarding government exploded with particular force. These questions — which had to do with who can govern, how best to govern, how to be governed, and how to govern oneself and others — were discussed with respect to a broad array of issues: One was the breakdown of feudal institutions, which led to the formation of the modern state; the other was the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, which resulted in the spread of religious dissidence.

As Foucault articulates it: This raising of questions with respect to government signals, for Foucault, a major shift in thinking about political rule.

The shift is from a sovereign notion of power to an art of government. What anthtopologies does is show that the idea of the art of government arose in explicit opposition to the theory of sovereign rule articu- lated by Machiavelli. The idea here is that sovereignty is first and foremost exercised on a territory and only as a conse- quence on the subjects who populate it. Everything else is a mere variable. This is not to say that subjects do not really matter.

They do, but only as it concerns the law. The common good means, in other words, compliance with the law, either that of the worldly sovereign or that of God, the supreme ruler. This suggests that when it comes to the inhabitants of a territory what matters is that the law be observed.

It indicates that the good for the prince is essentially that people should obey him. For sovereignty, then, the object is to preserve the principality or territory and concomitantly to subject the people to the law. Its end anthropolgies really self-preservation through the force of law. The idea of the art of government stands in sharp contrast to this sovereign modernitj of power articulated in The Prince.

One crucial difference is that whereas sovereignty is exercised over a territory and, consequently, over the subjects who dwell in it, government is effected on a complex made up of men and their relation to things. As Foucault puts it: What government has to do with is not territory but, rather, a sort of complex composed of men and things.

What really counts poliitics this complex of men and things.

Indeed, it is this complex that is the fundamental target of government. Everything else, including territory, is simply a variable. A second key difference is that whereas the end of sovereignty is the common good, the object of foufault is the efficient and productive disposition of things.

Project MUSE – Anthropologies of Modernity: Foucault, Governmentality, and Life Politics (review)

This means that with government it is not a matter of imposing law on people but of arranging things so as to produce an end appropriate to and convenient for each of the things governed. Entailed in this disposal of things is a multiplicity of specific goals: Said otherwise, to dispose things means to properly manage wealth and resources, modes of living and habitation, and all those eventualities — accidents, epidemics, death, and the like — that tend to befall humans.


For government, then, neither territory nor law hold much significance. The important thing is that men and things be administered in a correct and efficient way.

Anthropologies of Modernity: Foucault, Governmentality, and Life Politics

Anthropolohies thinking as regards the art of government, according to Foucault, was not to remain a purely theoretical exercise. From the sixteenth century on, it became linked directly to the formation of the territorial, administrative state and the growth of governmental apparatuses.

However, with the expansion of capitalism and the demographic growth of the eighteenth century, the practice of the art of govern- ment experienced a recentering: What happened is that, through statistical forms of represen- tation, population was identified as a specific objectivity: As governmejtality, the domain of population was shown to involve a range of aggregate effects — such as epidemics, mounting spirals of wealth and labor, and endemic levels of mortality — that were not reducible to the dimension of the family.

It was to dislodge the family from its supreme position as model of government and to resituate it as goovernmentality element internal to population. Significantly, once this dislodging took place, the practice of the art of government grew to be above all concerned with populations.

Its primary end became pilitics manage such assem- blages in ways that augmented their prosperity, longevity, safety, productivity, and so forth. In contrast to sovereignty, government has as its purpose not the act of government itself, but the welfare of the population, the improvement of its condition, the increase of its wealth, longevity, health, and so on; and the means the government uses to governmenrality these ends are themselves all, in some sense, immanent to the population; it is the population itself on which government will act either directly, through large-scale campaigns, or indirectly, through techniques that will make possible, without the full awareness of the people, the stimulation of birth rates, the directing of poliitics flow of population into certain regions or activities, and so on.

It becomes the object that governmeentality must bear in mind — where knowledge and practice are concerned — in order to be capable of managing rationally and effectively.

Important to note here is that, as the care and growth of population becomes a fundamental concern of government, a novel technology of power takes hold. Foucault names this technology biopower.

The point is that at stake in the management of populations is essentially nothing lie than life itself. It is that the vital processes of human existence are what really matter when it comes to governing.

This technology of biopower has assumed two basic forms. Here biopower takes as its target the population regarded as a species body: Put otherwise, biopolitics attends to the biological processes of the collective social body.

It is concerned with regulating the phenomena that typify groups of living human beings: Here biopower centers not on the population per se but on the individual bodies that compose it. Indeed, the target of discipline is not the collective mass but the individual human body: The goal of discipline is to produce human beings whose bodies are at once useful and docile.

It is to optimize the life of the body: Biopower thus amounts to nothing less than ploitics taking charge of life by political power. It points to how government has assigned itself the duty of administering bodies and managing collective life. What we get with this analysis foucahlt a rather particular understanding of modern political power.

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