Cadman L, 2010, "How (not) to be governed: Foucault, critique, and the political" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28(3) 539 – 556
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How (not) to be governed: Foucault, critique, and the political
Received 29 April 2009; in revised form 23 October 2009; published online 1 March 2010
Abstract. In this paper I offer an interpretation of Foucault’s 1978 and 1979 lectures at the Collège de France: Security, Territory, Population and The Birth of Biopolitics. Through doing so, I suspend the mainstay of social scientific research that falls within the field of governmentality studies and turn instead to the historico-critical basis for Foucault’s researches. Embracing notions of governmental ‘counter-conducts’ and the ‘critical attitude’, I show how a positive desubjugating form of critique, which temporarily suspends the power of governmental norms, is wholly immanent to the formation and development of modern political governmentality. Furthermore, the ethos of this critique is key to understanding Foucault’s genealogical method and his conception of the political. To advance these claims, throughout this paper I draw on the example of rights. I move away from the normative approach to rights in an era of (liberal) political governmentality towards a more performative understanding—what Foucault terms the ‘right to question’ governmental regimes of truth. I finish by describing Foucault’s own questioning of governmental regimes and offer a rereading of his defence of the Vietnamese boat people in the early 1980s.
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