Foucault News

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

Stephen John Kelly, Governing civil society: How literacy, education and security were brought together, PhD Thesis, Queensland University of Technology, 2015

Abstract
This study investigates the representation and deployment of the categories literacy, education and security in government policy. Each of these categories is the foci of significant inquiry and occupies distinct spaces in academic literature. Taken independently, questions about education, literacy and security generate academic, political, public and private debate over concerns about the material effects of government policy and intervention. The question of how human subjects and civil society are discursively and non – discursively produced, are shared by investigations in education, literacy and security. The study questions how the categories of security, education and literacy, can be thought about together as related elements of a whole – of – government strategy in the production of civil society.

The key focus of this study was to examine the deployment of literacy and education by the Australian Government when expressing concerns about the security of the nation and its geopolitical interests. A Foucauldian conceptualisation of discourse and governmentality was used to form the theoretical basis for the analysis of political texts, while Foucault’s conceptions of genealogy and archaeology informed the epistemology and research design. The primary analytical focus was on texts selected from 1995 – 2007, although texts from the beginning of the Enlightenment, starting with Hobbes’ Leviathan in 1651 to the emergence of human security in 1994 were used to establish a network of relations and continuities in political discourse. Three key discursive fields are identified in the analysis: human capital, national identity and the government of human security. These fields are examined for the way dispersed government practices can be connected by a whole – of – government strategy. In addition key political statements were examined at length for whether they drew together realms of government activity into an intelligible statement about the role of government. In staging an analysis of diverse practices and key texts , the study was concerned to identify an emergent relationship between education, literacy and the government of security. The analysis questioned how representations of “problems” in political discourse produced consequences for human subjects and the nature of civil society. The examination of texts was concerned about the government of human life through the formation of cultural and geographical spaces; containment of uncertainty and complexity; the management of population through distribution of risk across social fields and the discursive and non – discursive responses to situations of perceived crisis. Assumptions about the nature of rule, liberalism, national identity and the effects of globalisation are examined for their use in government strategies that deploy constructs of literacy, education and security.

The study argues that the categories of education and literacy have been used in diverse ways in the production of national, social, economic and geopolitical security interests. As dialogue about security has intensified, rationalizations about the national interest have engaged notions of security leading to the legitimation, proliferation, re – contextualisation and implementation of a diverse set of policy instruments, incorporating literacy as a cultural and political tool engaging notions of capability, economic productivity, and cultural capital. The analysis suggests that government apparatuses have been strategically used in order to contain the rise of complex social forces and protect a set of homogenous cultural values. The purposes of education and uses of literacy are seen as instruments for the inscription of a coded set of values understood to be synonymous with neoliberal civil society. The incorporation of education and literacy into a whole – of – government security strategy can be seen as a feature of biopolitical government interested in governing the conduct of diverse and unpredictable populations.

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