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From micro-powers to governmentality: Foucault's work on statehood, state formation, statecraft and state power.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date18/09/2006
JournalPolitical Geography
Number of pages7
Original languageEnglish


This article revisits Foucault's analytics of power in the light of his lectures on governmentality and biopolitics in Society must be Defended (1975-6), Securité,territoire, population (1977-8) and Naissance de la biopolitique (1978-9). Foucault is renowned for his criticisms of state theory and advocacy of a bottom-up approach to social power; and for his hostility to many theoretical and practical manifestations of orthodox Marxism. Yet these lectures, especially those on governmentality, are directly and explicitly concerned with statehood, state formation, statecraft, and state power and the subsequent role of new forms of government and political calculation in guiding capitalist reproduction. They cast new light on Foucault's alleged antistatism and anti-Marxism and offer new insights into his restless intellectual development. Accordingly, this article reviews Foucault's hostility to Marxism and theories of the state, considers his apparent turn from the micro-physics and microdiversity of power relations to their macro-physics and strategic codification through the governmentalized state, and suggests how to develop an evolutionary account of state formation on the basis of these new arguments about emerging forms of statecraft.

Bibliographic note

The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Political Geography, 26 (1), 2007, © ELSEVIER.