Governmentality, Biopolitics and Disciplinary Mechanisms

  • John G. Glenn
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


This chapter sets out the theoretical framework that will inform the substantive chapters that follow. In so doing, the chapter examines three key aspects of Foucault’s later works: governmentality, biopolitics and disciplinary mechanisms. Although, biopolitics and disciplinary mechanisms (as well as sovereign power) were, of course, studied in their own right, it is possible to understand these concepts under the wider umbrella of governmentality. The chapter argues that Foucault’s concept of governmentality should not be elided with a statist understanding of government. Rather, it has a far broader meaning and is concerned with both the government of others and government of oneself. As such, it examines regimes of practices, that is, institutionalized practices involving ‘routinized and ritualized’ ways of doing things, and this includes the way in which these institutional practices ‘can be thought, made into objects of knowledge, and made subject to problematizations’ (Dean, Governmentality: power and rule in modern society. Sage, Los Angeles, 2010, p 31). Analysis of such regimes of practices therefore involves the way in which problems are enframed—ways of thinking about issues and a subjectification process involving the formation of identities and inculcation of values which can involve discipline and punishment at one end of the spectrum and non-coercive recommendation, encouragement and felicitation at the other end.

The chapter concludes with the key focus for the rest of the book—explaining how we can further our understanding of international political economy by using a Foucauldian analytics of government to political, social and economic transformations in prevailing neo-liberal regimes of practice that tend to emerge during and after major historical moments/conjunctures. The recent global financial crisis and the European crisis that followed is one such historical moment. During such periods, a questioning of rationalities of government and associated subjectivities tend to occur whereby sedimented practices are re-examined, questioned, reformed and possibly replaced. The rest of the book therefore investigates the degree to which these crises have challenged or altered the dominant rationalities and subjectivities associated with neo-liberalism.


Foucault Discipline and punishment Biopolitics Governmentality IPE 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John G. Glenn
    • 1
  1. 1.Politics and International RelationsUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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