Foucault News

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

Patrice Ladwig (2021) Thinking with Foucault Beyond Christianity and the Secular: Notes on Religious Governmentality and Buddhist Monasticism, Political Theology, Published online 1/1/21

DOI: 10.1080/1462317X.2020.1866809

In Michel Foucault’s original formulation of the concept, governmentality is intrinsically linked to religious practices and institutions. Although Christian practices associated with the pastorate and monasticism feature prominently as precursors of modern administration and statecraft in his oeuvre, later works that employ the concept have overwhelmingly focused on the secular, and rational-scientific side of governmentality. This essay argues that by transposing governmentality to a non-European context, and by fleshing out a comparative perspectives beyond Christianity and the secular, it might be possible to recover some of the original religious implications of the concept. With reference to Theravāda Buddhism in Southeast Asia, the essay briefly discusses the potential role of monks and monasteries in establishing religious and monastic governmentality. Although there are obviously vast differences between Christianity and Buddhism, the essay concludes that exploring these ‘alternative governmentalities’ comparatively allows for novel interpretations beyond the secular religion divide and alleged Western rationality.

Christianity, Buddhism. governmentality, monasticism, Foucault, comparison, secular

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