From Sovereignty to Security and Police

  • Henrik Paul Bang
Part of the International Political Theory book series (IPoT)


Already in the analysis of biopower Foucault begins to focus on the problem of regulating a population, but mostly as a kind of ‘technical management’ exercised in the shadow of sovereignty. But his study of the physiocrats’ enlightened despotism, their notion of raison d’état and their implicit distinction between sovereignty and the new combined political art and science of governing that they introduce into the study of the political economy, shifts his glance toward the management of populations. The question becomes how one best governs a population in the face of the ‘naturalness’ of their desire and of the spontaneous production of common goals by desire. This constitutes a complete break with the repressive hypothesis and with the interpretation of domination and hegemony as features of the commanding sovereign authority only (STP: 115–116):

Assuming that ‘governing’ is different from ‘reigning or ruling,’ and not the same as ‘commanding’ or ‘laying down the law,’ or being a sovereign, suzerain, lord, judge, general, landowner, master, or a teacher, assuming therefore that governing is a specific activity, we now need to know something about the type of power the notion covers.


Political Economy Liberal Democracy Political Authority Spontaneous Production Bare Life 
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Copyright information

© Henrik Paul Bang 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henrik Paul Bang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Governance and Policy AnalysisUniversity of CanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenDenmark

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