Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought

Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought

Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought

Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought

Synopsis

This book presents an impressive synthesis of an important and influential school of thought, derived from Foucault's writings on governmentality, which extends into new and challenging domains. Nikolas Rose ranges across the many fields on which governmentality theory has been been brought to bear, including expertise, culture and government, economic management, psychology, and community. Unusually, he suggests that freedom is not the opposite of government but one of its key inventions and most significant resources. His book will serve as an intelligent introduction to governmentality for students and scholars alike.

Excerpt

As we enter the twenty-first century, many of the conventional ways of analysing politics and power seem obsolescent. They were forged in the period when the boundaries of the nation state seemed to set the natural frame for political systems, and when geo-politics seemed inevitably to be conducted in terms of alliances and conflicts amongst national states. They took their model of political power from an idea of the state formed in nineteenth-century philosophical and constitutional discourse. This imagined a centralized body within any nation, a collective actor with a monopoly of the legitimate use of force in a demarcated territory. This apparent monopoly of force was presumed to underpin the unique capacity of the state to make general and binding laws and rules across its territory. It also seemed to imply that all other legitimate authority was implicitly or explicitly authorized by the power of the state. Such styles of thinking about political power also embodied particular ideas about the human beings who were the subjects of power. These were structured by the image of the individualized, autonomous and self-possessed political subject of right, will and agency. Political conceptions of human collectivities also tended to see them as singularities with identities which provided the basis for political interests and political actions: classes, races, orders, interest groups. Within such styles of thought, freedom was defined in essentially negative terms. Freedom was imagined as the absence of coercion or domination; it was a condition in which the essential subjective will of an individual, a group or a people could express itself and was not silenced, subordinated or enslaved by an alien power. the central problems of such analyses were: 'Who holds power? in whose interests do they wield it? How is it legitimated? Who does it represent? To what extent does it hold sway across its territory and its population? How can it be secured or contested, or overthrown?' State/civil society; public/private; legal/ illegal; market/family; domination/emancipation; coercion/freedom: the horizons of political thought were established by this philosophical and sociological language.

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