Governmentality and the Management of the Circulation of ‘Extreme’ Ideas

In his lectures at Collège de France, Foucault examined the ‘how’ of government: how government happens, how it is thought.5 Government does not simply signify juridico-political structures or the management of states, rather it signifies a regulatory or conducting power at ‘a variety of sites and through rationalities not limited to those formally countenanced as political’.6 Interrogating the problem of government, Foucault articulates a key notion or thought ‘fragment’: governmentality. Governmentality is a technique of power which, unlike the sovereign command or act, or disciplinary intervention (but without substituting these processes) seeks to indirectly and at a distance manage and guide populations (understood as encompassing both people and the field of ‘social’) through the ‘conduct of conduct’. Governmentality as an art of government then ‘structures the field of possible action, [and] act[s] on our own or others’ capacities for action’.7 It does so not by coercively restricting the freedom of subjects but by presupposing and requiring the freedom of the subject, of the population, while managing the possible outcomes ‘within a more or less open field of possibilities’.8 This form of power sees that the role of the ruler replaced with that of a ‘regulator of a milieu’

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