Finding New Mainstreams
Perestroika, Phronesis, and Political
Science in the United States
Timothy W. Luke
The entanglements of control and freedom in complicated technological, social, and economic systems cannot be separated from governance, whether it is the exercise of coercive state sovereignty or the implementation of corporate productivity goals. These linkages are extremely complex. So complex, in fact, that almost all researchers in contemporary political science turn away from them. Yet, in doing so, they ignore many social theories about these practices that would enhance the discipline's critical vision and operational utility.
Examining such questions of control and freedom requires unique approaches to critique, and one of the most insightful ones is Foucault's vision of a “critical ontology” of ourselves, which is “the critique of what we are” as well as “the historical analysis of the limits imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them” (1984b, 50). Because Foucault approaches modernity as an “attitude” or an “ethos,” he sees the material conditions of control and freedom as being entwined within the means of “relating to contemporary reality; a voluntary choice made by certain people; in the end, a way of thinking and feeling; a way, too, of acting and behaving that at one and the same time marks a relation of belonging and presents itself as a task” (1984a, 39). To make political science matter, one must follow Foucault's mode of critique to explore how modernity intertwines its complex possibilities and prohibitions with the ethos of control and freedom found in the systems of systems that mediate governmentality.