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governmentality


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Introduced in the later work of Michel Foucault as a more refined way of understanding his earlier idea of power/knowledge. Government refers to a complex set of processes through which human behaviour is systematically controlled in ever wider areas of social and personal life. For Foucault, such government is not limited to the body of state ministers, or even to the state, but permeates the whole of a society and operates through dispersed mechanisms of power. It comprises both sovereign powers of command, of the kind that figure in traditional political science and political sociology, and disciplinary powers of training and self-control. Sovereign power is coercive and repressive, involving exclusion through external controls and inducements. Disciplinary power, on the other hand, concerns the formation of motives, desires, and character in individuals through techniques of the self. Disciplined individuals have acquired the habits, capacities, and skills that allow them to act in socially appropriate ways without the need for any exercise of external, coercive power. Disciplinary power developed in the modern period through such means as schools, hospitals, military barracks, and prisons, and a particularly important focus is the family itself. It is through the disciplinary agency of the family that selves and bodies are regulated at the most intimate level. Foucault traces the emergence of a whole array of ‘experts’, based in scientific ‘disciplines’ and involved in the disciplining of individuals. It is through all these means that governmentality takes place. A particularly interesting account of governmentality can be found in Political Power beyond the State by Nikolas Rose and Peter Miller (1991) and in Nikolas Rose 's Powers of Freedom (1999).

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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