Foucault News

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

Methmann, Chris. “The Sky Is the Limit: Global Warming as Global Governmentality.” European Journal of International Relations 19, no. 1 (March 2013): 69–91.


Open access

The concept of governmentality has gained significant influence among scholars of International Relations. Recently, however, there is a growing literature engaging critically with the notion of a global governmentality. This article seeks to inform this debate with insights from global climate change politics as a paradigmatic case for applying governmentality to global politics. Drawing on an analysis of the Clean Development Mechanism, it makes three arguments, which seek to refine the global governmentality concept. First, governmentality does not necessarily centre on the notion of the ‘population’, but can also function as a governmentality of other ‘technological zones’. Second, the seeming failure of a governmentality in its own terms is better understood within a ‘post-foundational’ framework of depoliticization. Third, governmentality and sovereignty are not mutually exclusive. Instead, the former allows the latter to ‘govern at a distance’. The Clean Development Mechanism illustrates these points perfectly. Although it is based on a global ‘carbon governmentality’, it is able to conduct individual conduct directly. Its apparent failure in terms of carbon emission reductions is in fact a success of depoliticizing climate politics, excluding fundamental social structures. And although it is based on an international treaty, it establishes an advanced liberal government of the climate.

Clean Development Mechanism, climate change, depoliticization, governmentality

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