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From micro-powers to govemmentality: Foucault’s work on statehood, state formation, statecraft and state power

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter

Publication date12/03/2014
Host publicationMichel Foucault
EditorsDavid Owen
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages7
ISBN (electronic)9781351917841
ISBN (print)9780754628200
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Foucault is renowned for his criticisms of state theory and advocacy of a bottom-up approach to social power as well as for his hostility to orthodox Marxism and communist political practice. Yet there have always been indications in his work that matters are not so simple, especially in his work during the mid-to-late 1970s. The recent publication in full of his lectures on governmentality and biopolitics in Society Must be Defended (1975e1976), Securite, territoire, population (1977e1978) and Naissance de la biopolitique (1978e1979) cast new light on this topic. For they mark a decisive turn, especially those on governmentality, to interest in changing forms of statehood and statecraft and their subsequent role in guiding capitalist reproduction. They cast new light on Foucault’s alleged anti-statism and anti-Marxism and offer new insights into his restless intellectual development. To show this, I review Foucault’s hostility to Marxism and theories of the state, consider his apparent turn from the micro-physics and microdiversity of power relations to their macro-physics and strategic codification through the governmentalized state, and suggest how to develop an evolutionary account of state formation on the basis of these new arguments about emerging forms of statecraft. This intervention does not aim to reveal the essence of Foucault’s interest in governmentality

Bibliographic note

Reprint of article in Political Geography, 2007