View Full Version : Governmentality and Foucault

24-10-2006, 19:22:09
Do we have anyone interested in Michel Foucault? I think it's a vast subject including numerous interesting topics and ideas, thoughts and insight.

I'd like to discuss governmentality or 'the art of the government', control society and power/knowledge with anyone who is interested and knows some Foucault and the basic concepts. Or at least thinks they know, Foucault is a difficult one to handle.

Anyone read Discipline and Punishment? Or other books/articles?

Mr Poo
24-10-2006, 19:51:54
I would like to discuss scatological schadenfreude.

Lazarus and the Gimp
24-10-2006, 19:54:10
I've read other books and articles. In fact, I've just read one about crotch odour in prostitutes.

Lazarus and the Gimp
24-10-2006, 19:56:38
Originally posted by Mr Poo
I would like to discuss scatological schadenfreude.

Isn't that taking pleasure in the poo-ralated misfortune of others? Like having a good chuckle at someone touching cloth at an inconvenient moment?

Mr Poo
24-10-2006, 20:05:09
Yes, that and laughing at others because they are poo.

Scabrous Birdseed
25-10-2006, 08:19:08
All I've read is one of his methodological books. The Archaeology of Knowledge or whatever. I seem to remember writing an essay using it to prove something or other for philosophy class, but I've forgotten what, exactly.

25-10-2006, 08:19:57
Mate of mine studied Foucault a lot at uni. I think he's brilliant, love all the panopticon stuff.

Mr. Bas
25-10-2006, 09:54:25
The pendulum bloke?

C.G.B. Spender
25-10-2006, 10:03:03
Ah, Foucault you!

25-10-2006, 10:03:49
jesjes difficult stuf wizz the moon and the earth and all.
I think Vin D could kill foucault just by staring.

25-10-2006, 10:14:05
Damn you spender, I have been resisting making that pun and saying that I studied Foucault at university all morning!

C.G.B. Spender
25-10-2006, 10:14:40
Ah, funko!

25-10-2006, 12:01:38
King_Ghidra, right, right. Panopticon is very interesting, it's one of the starting points of surveillance studies. In fact Foucault can't be dismissed whe we talk about modern surveillance.

By the way, someone uploaded recently Chomsky vs Foucault on YouTube.... they talk about power and justice. Interesting stuff. Power of government, institutions etc.

It's important to be critical with him though.. He never created any grand theories, in fact he was not looking for any frameworks at all. Rather random ramblings :)

So some battles between him and Habermas, but after being critical, it sure brings up interesting views. Well, aside from panopticon, my special interest area is naturally what I already pointed out, govermentality.

25-10-2006, 12:04:45

C.G.B. Spender
25-10-2006, 12:14:03
compared to what?

25-10-2006, 12:17:10


25-10-2006, 12:23:31
I'm not really familiar with the governmentality stuff. Discipline and Punishment was the text my mate covered and that we discussed.

A quick look at governmentality on wiki was enough to send me scurrying away in terror.

25-10-2006, 13:59:49
Ok I'll give you a quick layout, trivialized and raping it. (I like rape).

Governmetality is a way to govern. As you know, panopticon, surveillance etc, a big part of it is to do social control. That is, the prisoners would alter their own behaviour in panopticon, out of paranoia etc.

Thus, we can control their behaviour to some extent and that is why it is social control.

Foucault also argues, interestingly enough, being in the field of psychiatry, that ever since the categorization of mental illnesses, that are man made categories, they are there to .. control people. THis means, that we can categorize you to be mentally ill, hospitalize you and try to 'make you better'. This would also be about control partially.

Panopticon leads to society of control. However, he does not say that the power moves like Marx would have suggested, top down. THe way power moves is different and we can't really control it, rather every person is just a relay in it. But it is not negative by default.

So, a way to govern would be to decide what the discourse is. We decide what the people know, we decide the questions they can ask (since they can't ask questions out of the discourse) etc.

So basically we decide everything if we can decide the discourse. THis is to control the society. If we wish to be on top, this is what we could do. We tell you what is right, what is wrong. This is part of bio-power, everything is black and white.

Now, governmentality is basically a way to .. control the society through all these means, by making the people, the subjects ot subjectify themselves, make the society alter itself into the mold you want, and the borders of that is the discourse usually.

It is to make the subjects codify and be obidient by all these ways that combined is the art of governing, governmentality.

This is just hte basic layout. Trivialized too, but that's the basic idea.

It's just an extension of panopticon and now you see why he was so interested in it.

It all comes down from .. 1700s, when society started to punish the mind instead of the body. We wouldn't just merely whip you to death, rather try to mold the mind of the broken one. And also punish that mind. And that is basically controlling.

What we call today information society, Foucault died in the late 80s, he would most likely say that we have moved form disciplinary society into effective control society.

25-10-2006, 14:05:10
One part of it is the concept of truth. This is rather interesting and I've talked about it numerous times...

This is that you are told that truth will set you free.

However, it will only set you free if the one asking it has more power than you.

Classic example, an authority questions you, and if you tell the truth, its for you own benefit. I'm not taking any side on the US laws where you can negotiate deals by telling the truth. This is not the universal justice model anyway.

But hte basic idea is, it is coded in our brains when we are born as a universal truth that if you tell the truth, it will set you free.

But the one asking for teh truth is also usually the one who has power over you and can punish you. It's not a one way street.

This would come from older times, like for example the King wants the peasents to reveal somtehing that would set the peasants themselves in danger. Ratting out that is. So the King says it is what will set us all free, the truth.

But we all know, logically thinking, that it is complete bullshit. Yet, we seem to take it as.. a general truth. We rarely examine these concepts and this makes sense, so I like Foucault a lot because he has taken many of these things under examination and reveals the power relations in them etc.

25-10-2006, 14:15:09
The Above Post Might Explode Most CG Poster's Brains

25-10-2006, 14:16:16
As if most CG posters would read all that.

25-10-2006, 14:18:14
:tizzy: Imminent

25-10-2006, 14:21:28
Well if you're being introduced to Foucault and want to perhaps get more tips on what to read, this serves that purpose well.

However I would agree that personally Discipline and Punish is the most interesting.. well to me. But lots of other good stuff as well.


Here be the first part of Chomsky vs Foucault.

As long as people remember that power, knowledge etc do not mean the same thing when we talk about it and when he talks about it. They are concepts, sometimes difficult to read/understand, but it's worth the struggle.

25-10-2006, 14:22:14
It is interesting, especially now when election campaigns are so based around about fighting to control what the issues discussed are going to be.

The Bush camp moulded the discourse around the last two elections absolutely brilliantly. I'm not a big fan of them or the tactic but it was impressive to watch.

25-10-2006, 14:29:13
Originally posted by mr_G

25-10-2006, 14:30:55
Funko, very much so. Though in this context, discourse is usually (with Foucault) what we know of the world. Basically we can not know things outside our discourse, that is the reality.

Better yet, he argues that for example knowledge is not something that we accumulate. It's more cyclic, periodic etc. Rather interesting thought that goes against the mainstream.

But as a strategy, for sure it is important to force the issues you want to talk about and forget the rest. And Bernays also would agree. In Bernays' Propaganda he said it quite well when he talked about government and power, that the .. tangible.. the visible government is not where the power is, the real power is in the invisible group of men who call the shots, deciding the issues. This doesn't mean x-files, cancer man etc, but in this case, it wasn't the president who made the discussion, it was the strategists behind him. In this case it would be Karl Rove for example who made the shots, decided the strategy and it worked 100%.

I would argue that it wasn't the battle of the candidates. Any one of them could have taken it. It was the battle between the strategists, and clearly the Republican camp had better strategists. You could even say that the Democrats had poor strategy.

25-10-2006, 14:35:27
Combination of that and the best looking candidate always wins the US election.

25-10-2006, 14:42:51
Possibly. But you can see it coming in the next election as well. Presidental that is. Which stratgies are chosen to be executed? The democrat 'door-to-door' at the last minute, working like a pyramid theory?

Or the one where you give the first punch, the second punch and punch as much as you can and never really wait for the counter measures?

I mean as a strategy, you would think that attacking Kerry's military service would stupid beyond belief. Because at the same time you expose your own military service under review. So how the hell did they pull that one out, where Kerry was shamed for his service and Bush was really not?

When you objectively look at the both services, there's no question which one is better.

However, they were able to push the issue forward and not really even bother to defend the own side in that same issue. Kerry's strategists where poor at best to counter or launch their own attacks.

And let's face it, you can't take the high road in election campagns if the other one is not. They tried to use it as a weapon to 'not attack'. But they ended up defending at all times, so that doesn't look good. It doesnt' even matter if you are guilty or not, simply suggesting that you might be, or that you are associated with someone that is guilty is enough.

US is still not the best of examples, as the processes and people are still quite transparent, even the strategists. Everyone knows who Karl Rove is.

In other countries, you find transparency beyond the main faces to be completely lacking. That is far more interesting in terms of power, the usage of it and how it works. It's certainly not the president who holds the power in most countries. You have to be a strong dictator to be the #1.

It's not the party, and it definitely is not the process or the people.

25-10-2006, 14:44:31
"It was the battle between the strategists, and clearly the Republican camp had better strategists. "

I would agree, but only to the extend the Democratic candidate was what he was (aka not very inspiring). IMO Clinton would have won handily against all the Roves in the world

25-10-2006, 14:49:45
Originally posted by maroule
(aka not very inspiring)

aka he had a big chin.

Totally agree on Clinton though, he'd have won.

25-10-2006, 14:54:16
Speaking of Clinton, I think he can do much better outside the white house. With his new global initiative, it remains to be seen how good thing that will turn out to be but I have pretty high hopes for it.

He knows the people, he is respected around the world, so he can do things given that he has the resources and so far he has been getting the resources even from private citizens.

He can focus on those main issues, I think this is much better for the issues themselves. Is it better for America? That I don't know, I think Clinton would do a better job right now so this might not be the best thing for the country but for the issues that are global, I do feel this is better.

Immortal Wombat
25-10-2006, 15:03:07
Originally posted by Mr. Bas
The pendulum bloke?
No. That would be the far more interesting Léon Foucault (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A9on_Foucault).

25-10-2006, 15:05:53
He was awesome.

25-10-2006, 15:06:11
damn you can't fewl the onsterfelijke

25-10-2006, 15:32:53
OK i hear the governmentality idea. I do have a lot of time for Foucault's theories on power relations and control mechanisms, especialy as you say, the idea that power does not just flow top down, and the idea you paraphrased with the 'mentally ill' example, i think he talked about that kind of Professional control, where people's rights are determined by professionals in fields such as law and medicine and finance etc. rather than by authority figures. This is the kind of tyranny of beauracracy that people feel, that frustration at the smothering power of red tape and administrative process.

I like the idea of control via control of the limits of discourse. Even from wittgenstien that idea flowed that people can only express what they can articulate. Of course Foucault is talking about a macro level, a discourse of ideas and social processes, but it's broadly the same thing. It's a rare individual who is able to think outside the box, though i would say that something like the internet is a great liberator in that sense, in that (despite all the crap) it allows people to be exposed to things outside of their society's discourse.

25-10-2006, 15:42:18
Right right.

It is an interesting point you bring with the internet. There are lots of activists, hackers and well, hacktivists who believe (as well as myself) that the internet should remain free and without any control from governments or other entities such as corporations. The recent suggestions of two-tier internet has been somewhat puzzling.

As a way of control, internet would be the primary stage of setting discourses and controlling what we know. In early days, it was seen and still is by many people as a device of greater equality, because people from all over the world could possibly communicate without any interference, sharing ideas and knowledge. So starting to control that is to impose the will of the few with the gain of what? The only gain with that is that of control for some.

The internet is already blamed for things such as criminal activity, child pornography, propaganda etc. It can be used in many ways, however, those downsides still are far outweighed by the good sides, so I argue we should let it be as it is.

An interesting point of information society is that it is widely argued that Foucault today would say that it is excatly the society of control rather than information society that we have today, the key points being effortles and fast ability to communicate.

With that, you bring the possibility of the ones in power or the ones who want power to dominate, if possible, the discourse. If you could dominate by regulation, claiming authority over the internet, you basically would become the filter and decide what can go on and even alter the context and decide where the limits will be drawn at, thus gaining even bigger control than before.

25-10-2006, 15:46:35
One example of that is hiring armies of bloggers. Blogging is seen as independent activity, a good thing. Yet, if you could harness masses of bloggers to drum your message, you make it less transparent and certainly more appealing to people who are watching out for official messages.

By taking out that transparency and giving the idea of independency of what is written lowers the guards of the readers. So in a way it would make a lot of sense to hire as many bloggers as you can to support you or even better to trash your opponents, if you were running against someone for a seat.

25-10-2006, 15:50:54
Also I should point out that might not have been too obvious, that governmentality is used to create a society that the one in power wishes to have.

So if I was in power, I would have to think what kind of society I want, or how I want to direct that society. In that quest, I would use that into shaping it towards the goal.

25-10-2006, 15:52:13
Corporate blogging is a big thing these days too. We've been interested in it from a recruitment point of view (for our clients). Companies are trying to use it to make their company seem like an attractive place to work.

It's especially useful in attracting graduates or people who haven't worked before and have no idea how to judge what working for a company might be like. Especially in companies that might have bad names.

People are finding all kinds of problems with defining controls on what can be said on corporate blogs, or even people's private blogs about their work or workplace or workmates.

25-10-2006, 15:53:13
your sig is missing a 't' by the way, supercitizen

25-10-2006, 15:55:40
yeah that's an interesting point mike, we have been converting heavily to visual studio for our development environment and i noticed that M$ have a VS blog where their own guys would be tlaking about VS and helping people get it up and running. it certainly is the kind of hip face of tech support

25-10-2006, 15:56:16
Yes this is common phenomonen. There are also lots of .. blogs for the intranet. It brings workers (with access to company computers and intranet) closer to the management and if it's a big company, to other departments and developments of that company as well.

I guess it's supposed to bring some kind of 'warmth' and make it more personal.

Not a bad idea. However, in reality it also creates just a new set of marketing, inside marketing and also like you say, you can't say negative things on those blogs. Of course it's common sense, but then again it kind of gives you the illusion of independent mind giving you honest thoughts, when it is only to promote and for marketing.

But interestingly enough it is interpreted in a more personal way and therefore treated more as a blog than anything, when it really isn't a blog.

25-10-2006, 15:59:53
Originally posted by SuperCitizen
Not a bad idea. However, in reality it also creates just a new set of marketing, inside marketing and also like you say, you can't say negative things on those blogs. Of course it's common sense, but then again it kind of gives you the illusion of independent mind giving you honest thoughts, when it is only to promote and for marketing.

But interestingly enough it is interpreted in a more personal way and therefore treated more as a blog than anything, when it really isn't a blog.

Yes, exactly why I mentioned it.

25-10-2006, 16:02:36
I don't necessarily see the blogs to be a bad thing though.

But it does bring up questions like.. first of all the blogs will be written by the managers or R&D etc. So the workers really are not writing them. So there's no issue that we want an open discussion. That is not the point, yet it is done by the methods of it.

The second thing, it might create some kind of .. what is similar to cults. Let's take Steve Jobs for example. In those old days, he would have LOVED his own blog for the company employees to read.

So by letting employees to read your thoughts that are motivated by the good of the company or yourself, it basically gives a platform of shaping what people should think about you or the company. And that is not driven by truth but the market and the competition. I find it a bad idea for company leaders to be any kind of cult figures :)

25-10-2006, 16:03:42
No, they aren't necessarily bad but you just have to treat them with the same kind of caution you would any other source of information.

25-10-2006, 16:04:35
Yes you should. But it is awfully misleading and has a habit of creating illusions.

But done 'right', it can be a great thing. It's a place where you can give credit to everyone or some spesified group. And we know that acceptance and the feeling of it works as a motivator. So if you don't want to give out prizes, raises, threats, power, you can always give some credit publicly to all so easily and it can have similar affect, and I don't see that as a bad thing. Recoginition is important.

25-10-2006, 16:09:14
It's funny really. All blogging does is give people incredibly easy content managed websites.

Nothing people couldn't do on personal websites in the past, and nothing people haven't been doing for years and years, it's just got so easy now to set one up that it's exploded into a massive phenomenon.

It's doesn't seem that long ago that personal websites where you talk about yourself were passé but now everyone has one.

25-10-2006, 16:12:35
:D true

i suppose the diary format of a blog has some kind of more acceptable quality to it than a 'hi, i'm phil, i like mirrors and strap-ons and i'm a leo' kind of thing

25-10-2006, 16:14:37
Plus anyone can set one up so having a blog doesn't imply any level of nerdiness.

25-10-2006, 20:39:43
Nice way to kill the thread Funko!

Tau Ceti
25-10-2006, 20:55:46
All threads at CG die at 5 pm every day.

25-10-2006, 23:24:49
Originally posted by Warning
The Above Post Might Explode Most CG Poster's Brains :lol: @ login.