Despotic Enlightenment: Rethinking Globalization after Foucault

  • Roger Deacon
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


Globalization is no less than a development of the Enlightenment project of modern social theory and practice, the urge to control the world so as to explain it, to explain the world so as to promote change, and to change the world so as to control it. During the Enlightenment, that ‘moment when the West for the first time affirmed the autonomy and sovereignty of its own rationality’,1 a series of ancient disciplinary technologies (aimed at rationalizing the management of individuals) was first consolidated on a national scale. According to Michel Foucault, the Enlightenment has also become central to contemporary preoccupations due to widespread disillusionment with its promise of revolutionary social and political transformation, and a questioning of its cultural and scientific universals, associated with Western economic and political hegemony. This chapter focuses upon three central effects of globalization — the transformation of politics and the state, the reconceptualization of sovereignty, and the incipient militarization of human rights — and argues that they can be best understood in terms of their Enlightenment rationality, ‘the autonomy of whose structures carries with it a history of dogmatism and despotism’.2


Liberal Democracy Disciplinary Technology Political Practice State Sovereignty North Atlantic Treaty Organization 
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© Roger Deacon 2005

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  • Roger Deacon

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