Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Eight

• Why this topic? The methodological reason is to give ‘concrete content to relations of power’ by understanding how the ‘grid of governmentality’ operates at the level of economic policy or social management. He also wants to get beyond the moralizing of critiques of the state because:
1. It defines the state as the opposite of civil society;
2. It wrongly conflates different kinds of states, particularly liberal-administrative states and fascist-totalitarian states;
3. It promotes a paranoiac mode of thinking that eludes concrete empirical analysis (i.e. the state is becoming more fascist);
4. There is a need to understand critiques of the state as ways of promoting different thinking about state policy e.g. German neo-liberal critique extends a critique of Nazism into a critique of the interventionist state more generally.

• Foucault argues that we have not seen the growth of the state and raison d’Etat but rather its reduction – liberal governmentality involves setting limits to state control, rather than expanding the state’s domains of influence

• Some tendencies towards diffusion of German neo-liberal model to France, but in practice this has been limited by: (1) the much stronger traditions of state-centred governmentality in post-WWII France; (2) the absence of a clear sense of crisis; and (3) the fact that it is state bureaucrats who are being asked to reform themselves, rather than change being driven by exogenous forces. In France, the question of economic liberalism has also been liked historically to being an open or protected economy, and social policy has been seen as a corrective rather than as a correlate of the market economy.

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