Foucault News

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

Foucault, Governmentality,Biopolitics – Analytical strategies for critique of power (Ph.d. course, 11-13 December 2013)

Further info

• Jeffrey Bussolini, Associate Professor, Staten Island, City University of New York, USA.
• Mitchell Dean, Professor of Public Governance, CBS/University of Newcastle, Denmark/Australia,
• Thomas Dumm, Professor, Department of Political Science, Amherst College, USA.
• Marius Gudmand-Høyer, Post.Doc, Dept. of Management, Politics & Philosophy, CBS, Denmark.
• Kaspar Villadsen, Associate Professor, Dept. of Management, Politics & Philosophy, CBS, Denmark.

Place: Department of Management, Politics & Philosophy, CBS, Copenhagen

Course Coordinators: Kaspar Villadsen & Mitchell Dean

Prerequisite/progression of the course:
Only PhD students can participate in the course.
It is a precondition for receiving the course diploma that the PhD student attends the whole course.

Aim of the course
The course will provide the participants with:

a) An updated introduction to key analytical concepts in the Governmentality literature, and the potentials and weaknesses of these concepts will be discussed.

b) Possibilities for supplementing the governmentality approach with other analytical sources will be discussed.

c) Furthermore, a detailed consideration of the current status of governmentality studies and post-Foucauldian studies will be given, in particular in light of recent claims for a crisis of critique.

d) Finally, suggestions will be presented on how to elaborate or move beyond the framework of governmentality by activating concepts of bio-power and sovereignty, reconsidering the social and notions of society, and focusing on international dimensions of governmentality.

In brief, the course aims to provide participants with a thorough understanding of the governmentality framework, that is, its analytical possibilities, its current status, and its possible directions of development.

Course content, structure and teaching
Over the last 20 years, post-Foucauldian “governmentality studies” have come to growing prominence. These studies have been effective in critically analyzing new types of liberal government, in particular by demonstrating ‘the active side of laissez faire’. They describe how the motto of ‘pulling back the state’ has been accompanied by a series of governmental strategies and technologies aimed at shaping institutions and subjects in particular ways. Perhaps most noticeably, they have presented a diagnosis of a proliferation of regimes of enterprise and accounting in new and surprising places. But a wide range of other domains have been subjected to governmentality analysis spanning from genetic screening and risk calculation, new crime prevention strategies, to health promotion by self-responsibilization. To be sure, the concepts in governmentality studies continue to constitute effective tools for critical social analysis.

Nevertheless, in recent years critical objections have been raised against the governmentality approach. It has been noted by some observers that the Foucauldian and post-structuralist language, originally used for critical academic purposes, seems to be increasingly appropriated by ‘the powers’ that were the object of such critique. Most notably, this point has been voiced (although in different versions) by Zizek, Boltanski, and Hardt & Negri.

These thinkers suggest that a post-structural ’politics of difference’ increasingly seems to be an integral part of the ways, in which institutions and companies organize themselves. If modern liberal government has begun to speak for the dissolution of binary essentials, the destabilization of rigid power structures, the creation of space for the subject’s self-transforming work upon itself, and so on. In light of this development, we need to think of ways to revitalize the Foucauldian concepts of critique/criticism or to push a critical perspective beyond Foucault.

A central theme of the PhD course is the search for effective analytical strategies for critique of power (some perhaps less noticed) in the works of Foucault and other writers within and outside the governmentality tradition. Of particular interest is Giorgio Agamben’s recent critique and extension of Foucault’s genealogy of government.

The course requires the submission of a paper that deals with conceptual problems or analytical designs in relation to Foucauldian inspired/governmentality studies. Furthermore, papers that apply Foucauldian concepts to empirical problems in a variety of domains are welcomed.

It is also possible to participate on the basis of an abstract stating the theme of the PhD project. An abstract should be approximately 1 page, whereas a paper should be approx. 5 pages. In both cases, the PhD student should state his main analytical challenge/concern at his/her current stage in the project.

must be in English. DEADLINE is 2 December 2013.

Lecture plan

Wednesday 11th December.
10:00-12:30 Kaspar Villadsen Analytical approaches in governmentality studies
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-16:00 Mitchell Dean Concepts of power:‘The signature of power’‘
16:00-17:00 Kaspar Villadsen & Mitchell Dean Papers from Ph.D. scholars

Thursday 12th December.
10.00-12.30 Thomas Dumm Foucault, Neo-liberalism and Freedom.
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13.30-15.00 Kaspar Villadsen Technologies and organisations in Foucault’s thinking
15.00-17.00 Kaspar Villadsen, Thomas Dumm & Mitchell Dean Papers from Ph.D. scholars

Friday 13th December
10:00-11:30 Jeffrey Bussolini Biopolitics: Foucault meets Agamben
11:00-12:30 Mitchell Dean Governmentality meets theology
12.30-13.30 Lunch
13:30-15:00 Marius Gudmand-Høyer Dispositive analysis: the key concept in Foucault?
15.00-16.00 Kaspar Villadsen, Jeffrey Bussolini & Mitchell Dean, Papers from Ph.D. scholars
16:00-17:00 Kaspar Villadsen & Mitchell Dean Concluding discussion and evaluation

Teaching methods
The course will use lectures given by specialists in the field, roundtable discussions, and presentation of papers from PhD students. Participation in the course requires a paper with an outline of PhD project or parts of the project.
See more details above.

Course literature

Agamben, G. (2011) The Kingdom and the Glory: a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government. Stanford University Press, especially pages 109-114; Appendix.

Bussolini, J. (2010) ‘Critical encounter between Giorgio Agamben and Michel Foucault: Review of recent works by Giorgio Agamben’, Foucault Studies 10: 108-143.

Dean, M. (2012) ‘Governmentality meets theology: the king reigns but does not govern’, Theory, Culture and Society 29 (3):145-58.

Dean, M. (2012) ‘The signature of power’, Journal of Political Power 5 (1): 101-117.

Foucault, M. (2007) Security, Territory, Population. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (especially lecture 5)

Foucault, M. (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (especially lecture 12).

Villadsen, K. & Karlsen, M.P. (2008) “Who Should Do the Talking? The proliferation of dialogue as governmental technology”, in: Culture & Organization, no. 14, vol. 4.

Villadsen, K. (2008) “Doing without the State and Civil Society as Universals: ‘Dispositifs’ of care across the classic sector divide”, Journal of Civil Society, no. 4, vol. 3.

ECTS awarded


Maximum and Minimum number of participants
Min: 19

DKK 3,900 (covers the course, coffee, tea, lunch and one dinner)

Enrol no later than
1 November 2013
Contact: See Link

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