Foucault News

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

Laurence Barry (2019) The rationality of the digital governmentality, Journal for Cultural Research, 23:4, 365-380. Published online: 13 Jan 2020

DOI: 10.1080/14797585.2020.1714878

While it is often claimed that the emerging digital governmentality functions as a new apparatus of surveillance, the aim of this paper is to characterise this regime in relation to Foucault’s disciplinary, liberal and neoliberal governmentality, hence insisting on the transformation of disciplinary surveillance implied by current technological developments. My claim is that statistics, previously employed for the management of populations, is now absorbed into predictive analytics as a new technology for the management of collectives, through personalisation and statistical individuation. The conduct of conducts thus takes the form of a constant incitation to action, adjusted to the individual statistical profile. Contrary to discipline, the new regime is therefore statistical, yet applied to the individual. Furthermore, while liberal and neo-liberal governmentality both assumed a rational subject, digital government focuses on the management of impulses and desires, thus producing a digital subject at odds with the liberal and neoliberal homo oeconomicus.

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