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What Can Foucault Do for IR

What Can Foucault Do for IR

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Published by: Nicholas Deal on Jul 07, 2011
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What Can Governmentality Do for IR?

For the scholar, Foucault’s work represents an act of liberation from complicity with managerial and depoliticizing programmatic epistemes, and an opening up of intellectual entrepreneurship. Of course, to be freed from the set texts of power and governance is then to be paradoxically enslaved by hidden, unknown, and uncertain texts, and knowledge beyond the liberal texts, and indeed any text. This is surely the point of research, on and for, peace if it is to speak at all to power and to help unravel the current paradoxes of the liberal peace. References
Boucher, David. (2006) Property and Propriety in IR. In Classical Theory in IR, edited by Beate Jahn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chandler, David. (2006) Empire in Denial. London: Pluto. Cox, Robert. (1981) Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 10(2): 126–155. Foucault, Michel. (1984) History of Sexuality, Vol. 1. London: Penguin. Foucault, Michel. (1986) History of Sexuality. Vol. 3: The Care of the Self. New York: Pantheon Books. Foucault, Michel. (1991) Governmentality. In The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, edited by Gaham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Jabri, Vivienne. (2007) Michel Foucault’s Analytics of War: The Social, the International, and the Racial. International Political Sociology 1(1): 67–81. Jahn, Beate. (2006) Classical Smoke, Classical Mirror. In Classical Theory in IR, edited by Beate Jahn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Plant, Sadie. (1992) The Most Radical Gesture. London: Routledge. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. (1988) Can the Subaltern Speak? In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

What Can Governmentality Do for IR?
Jonathan Joseph University of Kent

Two interesting things have happened recently that are relevant for this Forum. One has been the release of Michel Foucault’s lectures at the College de France. ` The other is the increasing interest in governmentality among IR scholars. We could talk more generally about the use of Foucault in IR theory, but that is not particularly interesting. Instead this intervention will not only look at the potential that Foucault’s work on governmentality offers to IR scholars, but also sound a warning based on how this has so far been done. There is certainly no possibility of being able to make any substantial claims here. Instead, this space allows the opportunity to raise some important questions for those looking to import the idea of governmentality into IR. The release of Foucault’s lectures not only adds a lot to our understanding of what is meant by governmentality, but also increases our problems in trying to interpret this work. For one thing, Foucault has specific things to say about neoliberalism. It also becomes clear that the wide scope of Foucault’s discussion, combined with the lack of any clear guidelines on how to apply the concept means that we have to decide for ourselves how best to use the idea of governmentality. When reading through Foucault’s lectures, there are some crucial points for IR theorists to consider. Most significant is the difference between a general sense of governmentalty and the specific liberal and neoliberal

explain how governmentality connects with sovereignty and disciplinary power and how governmentality is to be distinguished from the more general working of biopower. What is it precisely that governmentality brings? Is it the idea of population regulated from a distance through the responsibilization of free conduct? If so. discipline. power infused. does it revert to disciplinary power? As well as this axis of three types of power. Leaving aside debates about who are the main actors. then it is important to consider the difficulties of bringing governmentality to the international given the big differences between the neoliberal centers of governmentality. My advice to the governmentality theorists is then: do not try and make it do too much. Distinguish between governmentality in a generic sense and neoliberal forms. This is particularly important for IR because it is by no means clear what can be gained from employing a general concept of governmentality that can be applied to a wide range of situations. how much of the world can be explained in these terms? Having raised a few conceptual questions. let us look at how governmentality is applied. limited government and ‘‘responsibilized’’ individual conduct. if we are applying it to IR. we need to be clear about what we mean by the international. which all give governmentality a more liberal or neoliberal character. Explain its limits and how it intersects with other processes. and the very different social conditions in the rest of the world. Governmentality theorists in IR have to ask what it is that they want the concept to do. government as the management of freedom (2008:63). we ought to develop a sociological approach that sees the international as an uneven terrain made up of different societies each at different stages of development with different institutional features. Above all else. The two concepts are often applied together. governmentality is always part of an axis comprising sovereignty. Which of these predominates? The uneven. Is it to explain social relations in different countries. there is also the relationship between governmentality and biopower. can such technologies ever work? The specific character of the international means that it enables combined as well as uneven development.Jonathan Joseph 203 associations that the concept has. Foucault then talks of the emergence of new forms of governmentality and sets out its specifically modern features like the principle of limitation (Foucault 2008:10). the market economy as a general index for judging government (2008:121). especially if this means interpreting the global as one single society rather than as a series of different societies with different social conditions. If governmentality does not work in some parts of the world. for Foucault. frugality of government (2008:29). and government. IR theorists should be interested in looking at the relationship between the dominant dynamics in the international system and the specific conditions in different places. or to explain IR between countries—an altogether more difficult task? This would mean arguing that (global) governmentality is a dominant form of power in the international system. usually with reference to Agambem or Hardt and Negri. This means that we need to consider the specific socio-historical conditions of each country. Then we have to remember that. But biopower does not necessarily entail the techniques of governing from a distance. Even if international organizations like the IMF wish to impose governmentality on developing counties. through the ideas of freedom. it exposes developing states to neoliberal techniques developed elsewhere and allows international organizations to . A general understanding of governmentality as the rise to prominence of a set of apparatuses that have population as their main target allows Foucault to trace developments from the sixteenth century (Foucault 2007). nature of the international system makes this issue crucial. If the dominant expression of governmentality is the neoliberal one. However. that is to say. and subjecting society to the dynamic of competition (2008:147). In particular. Define clearly how it works.

This allows us to see how international organizations are unable to break from a particular way of seeing things even if this does not work in practice. why try and do so much? But this is no different from asking. with the combined questions of governmentality’s necessary conditions of possibility and its social and international limitations. Another way of understanding the imposition of good governance practices on developing counties is to say that the actors within the international organizations are so much within their episteme that they are incapable of seeing the world except through a neoliberal lens. combined with more coercive forms of disciplinary power aims not at improving the health. Tore. and the inappropriateness of these technologies at a local level due to very different social conditions. What type of society does it emerge in? What social forces does it involve? How does it relate to economic factors and institutional structure? Not only do many IR governmentality approaches not raise these issues. In terms of power relations. (2007) Poverty Reduction Through Liberalisation? Neoliberalism and the Myth of Global Convergence. therefore. (2006) Empire in Denial. this work has not really developed the macro picture to explain why this is being done. The first is as a variant of the exercise of dominant power in the world system. Kiely. we need to distinguish between the process that leads to the imposition of neoliberal programmes that reflect the dominant rationality of advanced liberal societies. We could say that global governmentality. (2008) Neoliberal Governance of States: The Role of Competitiveness Indexing and Country Benchmarking. goals. why do IR? References Chandler. benchmarks. and well-being of populations but at regulating the behavior of states and their governments. Foucault. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Millennium 37(2): 303–326. Foucault. They suggest that governmentality aims at regulating the behavior of states by setting targets. (2007) Security. . To complete the picture we need to turn to those working within more Marxist frameworks such as Chandler (2006) and Kiely (2007) who link the strategies of ‘‘good governance’’ to the integration of states into networks of external regulation that shift responsibility for development by ‘‘empowering’’ local actors to do the right thing. Michel. wealth. Of course one can ask. (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics. London: Pluto.204 What Can Governmentality Do for IR? impose governmentality on non-neoliberal areas even when highly inappropriate. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. only that it reflects a particular rationality. Fougner 2008. There are two ways to understand this. However. Jonathan. Review of International Studies 33(3): 415–434. Fougner. also Joseph 2009). (2009) Governmentality of What? Populations. they often explicitly oppose such questions as ‘‘ontological’’ or ‘‘why’’ questions (Walters 2005:157). To make this argument work. and other means of measuring and ‘‘responsibilizing’’ state behavior (Merlingen 2003. Joseph. It is impossible for IR theorists to deal with the question of the appropriateness of governmentality either as an explanation or in practice without examining macro questions to do with governmentality’s conditions of possibility. these can be seen as a middle layer of a wider social ontology that helps explain the complex and contradictory workings of capitalist social relations in the twenty-first century. I conclude. David. Rather. Global Society 23(4): 413–417. Territory. States and International Organisations. Population. Michel. But governmentality theory does not have to be confined to the surface level of technologies and rationalities. we need to follow Miller and Rose (2008:32) in distinguishing between the rationalities or programmes of government and the technologies of enactment. Some governmentality theorists in IR have done this through the idea of global governmentality and good governance. Ray.

As Foucault states. and Nikolas Rose. but how the world impinges upon and is reflected within disciplines. edited by Wendy Larner and William Walters. IR was preliberal. had no difficulty institutionalizing Marx in the academy)? Foucault tells us the answers (and they are replayed in discussions of the possibility or impossibility of ‘‘scaling up’’ Foucault in investigations of global governmentalism). as Foucaultians. in our era. It is not an injunction. Miller. Forget Foucault. We asked. The pre-liberal nature of IR. Why has IR ‘‘colonized’’ Foucault so easily. no political or legal field of relationships between government and governed: IR lacked a sovereign. it was Mercantilist. IR would always play the ‘‘country cousin’’ in relation to the discipline of liberalism. the ‘‘disciplining’’ or ‘‘colonizing’’ of Foucault. doomed to be repeated. and. as long as we lived in a liberal world. within IR. and yet found Marx so indigestible that he has been a constant mystery to the discipline itself? What is it about IR today that facilitates an appropriation of Foucault’s epistemological framework in ways which have been much more problematic within political theory (which. in contradistinction to the fullness of the world bounded by the sovereign state. the pursuit of individual interests did not lead to the collective good. the bloating of the discipline of IR. of course. no community. and so on and so on. Michael. Cooperation and Conflict 38(4): 361–384. it is possible for us to understand how the transformation of Marxist thought into dogma was a necessary reflection of the degeneration of the liberatory political project of The Communist Manifesto. (2008) Governing the Present. no sovereign. In this pre-liberal world. As Marxists. have nothing to do with academia per se. it is not an academic problem. In Global Governmentality: Governing International Spaces. IR was not amenable to liberal frameworks because there was no sovereign and no society. no progress. In our era. Marx could only repeat his distance from ‘‘Marxists’’ and the defeats of that other era turned Marxism into a dogma. Walters. as we knew it then. Forget Foucault… David Chandler University of Westminster It is a mantra. its emptiness. on the contrary the only thing at stake was life itself: collective destruction. overdetermining the transformation of both what we call ‘‘IR’’ and what we call ‘‘political theory’’ and their inter-relationship. there was no history. It is not a plea. Forget Foucault. as if we did not know: ‘‘Why is there no IR theory?’’ We answered that in IR. meant that. In the same way. William. and the boom of dogmatic Foucaultianism within this. We said that IR was defined precisely by its lack of content.David Chandler 205 Merlingen. . Peter. it is possible for us to understand how. a sphere of zero-sum relations. no ethics. (2003) Governmentality: Towards a Foucauldian Framework for the Study of NGOs. Cambridge: Polity. its lack of a sovereign. the transformation of Foucault into the dogmas of ‘‘Foucaultians’’ and ‘‘post-Foucaultians’’ cannot be ended by the work of academics. London and New York: Routledge. (2005) Political Rationality of European Integration. is not a contradiction or a puzzle or an occasion for the allocation of blame but is a necessity. the discipline shaped and bounded by the sovereign: political theory. in another era. We cannot ‘‘forget’’ Foucault in the same way as.

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