Foucault Essay On Governmentality

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To summarize Foucault’s thought from an objective point of view, his political works would all seem to have two things in common: (1) an historical perspective, studying social phenomena in historical contexts, focusing on the way they have changed throughout history; (2) a discursive methodology, with the study of texts, particularly academic texts, being the raw material for his inquiries.

As such the general political import of Foucault’s thought across its various turns is to understand how the historical formation of discourses have shaped the political thinking and political institutions we have today.

Foucault’s thought was overtly political during one phase of his career, coinciding exactly with the decade of the 1970s, and corresponding to a methodology he designated “genealogy”.

It is during this period that, alongside the study of discourses, he analysed power as such in its historical permutations.

Still, in his first book, which appeared in 1954, less than two years after Foucault had left the Party, his theoretical perspective remained Marxist.

This book was a history of psychology, published in English as .

The question of Foucault’s overall political stance remains hotly contested.

Scholars disagree both on the level of consistency of his position over his career, and the particular position he could be said to have taken at any particular time.

Critics dispute not so much the novelty of his views as their coherence.

Some critics see Foucault as effectively belonging to the political right because of his rejection of traditional left-liberal conceptions of freedom and justice.


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