Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Gane, N. The governmentalities of neoliberalism: Panopticism, post-panopticism and beyond, Sociological Review, Volume 60, Issue 4, November 2012, Pages 611-634

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This paper draws on the writings of Michel Foucault, in particular his lectures on biopolitics at the Collège de France from 1978-79, to examine liberalism and neoliberalism as governmental forms that operate through different models of surveillance. First, this paper re-reads Foucault’s Discipline and Punish in the light of his analysis of the art of liberal government that is advanced through the course of these lectures. It is argued that the Panopticon is not just an architecture of power centred on discipline and normalization, as is commonly understood, but a normative model of the relation of the state to the market which, for Foucault, is ‘the very formula of liberal government’. Second, the limits of panopticism, and by extension liberal governance, are explored through analysis of Gilles Deleuze’s account of the shift from disciplinary to ‘control’ societies, and Zygmunt Bauman’s writings on individualization and the ‘Synopticon’. In response to Deleuze and Bauman, the final section of this paper returns to Foucault’s lectures on biopolitics to argue that contemporary capitalist society is characterized not simply by the decline of state powers (the control society) or the passing down of responsibilities from the state to the individual (the individualization thesis), but by the neoliberal marketization of the state and its institutions; a development which is underpinned by a specific form of governmentality. In conclusion, a four-fold typology of surveillance is advanced: surveillance as discipline, as control, as interactivity, and as a mechanism for promoting competition. It is argued that while these types of surveillance are not mutually exclusive, they are underpinned by different governmentalities that can be used to address different aspects of the relationship between the state and the market, and with this the social and cultural logics of contemporary forms of market capitalism more broadly. © 2012 The Author. The Sociological Review © 2012 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review.

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