Governmentality (Part 1)
by Michel Foucault
In a previous lecture on 'apparatuses of security', I tried to explain the emergence of a set of problems specific to the issue of population, and on closer inspection it turned out that we would also need to take into account the problematic of government. In short, one needed to analyze the series: security, population, government. I would now like to try to begin making an inventory of this question of government.
Throughout the Middle Ages and classical antiquity, we find a multitude of treatises presented as 'advice to the prince ', concerning his proper conduct, the exercise of power, the means of securing the acceptance and respect of his subjects, the love of God and obedience to him, the application of divine law to the cities of men, etc. But a more striking fact is that, from the middle of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth, there develops and flourishes a notable series of political treatises that are no longer exactly 'advice to the prince ', and not yet treatises of political science, but are instead presented as works on the 'art of government'. Goverment as a general problem seems to me to exploded in the sixteenth century, posed by discutions of quite diverse questions. One has, for example, the question of the government of oneself, that ritualization of the problem of personal conduct which is characteristic of the sixteenth century Stoic revival. There is the problem of the goverment of souls and lives, the entire theme of Catholic and Protestant pastoral - doctrine. There is government of children and great problematic of pedagogy which emerges and develops - during the sixteenth century. And, perhaps only as the last of these questions to be taken up, there is the government of the state by the prince. How to govern oneself, how to be governed, how to govern others, by whom the people will accept being governed, how to become the best possible governor - all these problems, in their multiplicity and intensity, seem to me to be characteristic of the sixteenth century, which lies, to put it schematically, at the crossroads of two processes: the one which, shattering the structures of feudalism, leads to the establishment of the great territorial, administrative and colonial states; and that totally different movement which, with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, raises the issue of how one must be spiritually ruled and led on this earth in order to achieve eternal salvation.
There is a double movement, then, of state centralization on the one hand and of dispersion and religious dissidence on the other: it is, I believe, at the intersection of these two tendencies that the problem comes to pose itself with this peculiar intensity, of how to be ruled, how strictly, by whom, to what end, by what methods, etc. There is a problematic of government in general.
We must first of all remember that Machiavelli's The Prince was not immediately made an object of execration, but on the contrary was honoured by its immediate contemporaries and immediate successors, and also later at the end of the eighteenth century (or perhaps rather at the very beginning of the nineteenth century), at the very moment when all of this literature on the art of government was about to come to an end. The Prince re-emerges at the beginning of the nineteenth century, especially in Germany, where it is translated, prefaced and commented upon by writers such as Rehberg, Leo, Ranke and Kellerman, and also in Italy. It makes its appearance in a context which is worth analyzing, one which is partly Napoleonic, but also partly created by the Revolution and the problems of revolution in the United States, of how and under what conditions a ruler's sovereig'lty over the state can be maintained; but this is also the context in which there emerges, with Clausewitz, the problem (whose political importance was evident at the Congress of Vienna in 1815) of the relationship between politics and strategy, and the problem of relations of force and the calculation of these relations as a principle of intelligibility and rationalization in international relations; and lastly, in addition, it connects with the problem of Italian and German territorial unity, since Machiavelli had been one of those who tried to define the conditions under which Italian territorial unity could be restored.
This is the context in which Machiavelli re-emerges. But it is clear that, between the initial honour accorded him in the sixteenth century and his rediscovery at the start of the nineteenth, there was a whole 'affair' around his work, one which was complex and took various forms: some explicit praise of Machiavelli (Naude, Machon), numerous frontal attacks (from Catholic sources: Ambrozio Politi, Disputationes de Libris a Christiano detestandis; and from Protestant sources: Innocent Gentillet, Discours sur les moyens de bien gouverner contre Nicolas Machiavel, 1576), and also a number of implicit critiques (G. de La Perriere, Miroir politique, 1567; Th. Elyott, The Governor, 1580; P. Paruta, Della Perfezione della Vita politica, 1579).
This whole debate should not be viewed solely in terms of its relation to Machiavelli's text and what were felt to be its scandalous or radically unacceptable aspects. It needs to be seen in terms of something which it was trying to define in its specificity, namely an art of government. Some authors rejected the idea of a new art of government centred on the state and reason of state, which they stigmatized with the name of Machiavellianism; others rejected Machiavelli by showing that there existed an art of government which was both rational and legitimate, and of which Machiavelli's The Prince was only an imperfect approximation or caricature; finally, there were others who, in order to prove the legitimacy of a particular art of government, were willing to justify some at least of Machiavelli's writings (this was what Naude did to the Discourses on Livy; Machon went so far as to attempt to show that nothing was more Machiavellian than the way in which, according to the Bible, God himself and his prophets had guided the Jewish people).
All these authors shared a common concern to distance themselves from a certain conception of the art of government which, once shorn of its theological foundations and religious justifications, took the sole interest of the prince as its object and principle of rationality. Let us leave aside the question of whether the interpretation of Machiavelli in these debates was accurate or not. The essential thing is that they attempted to articulate a kind of rationality which was intrinsic to the art of government, without subordinating it to the problematic of the prince and of his relationship to the principality of which he is lord and master.
The art of government is therefore defined in a manner differentiating it from a certain capacity of the prince, which some think they can find expounded in Machiavelli's writings, which others are unable to find; while others again will criticize this art of government as a new form of Machiavellianism.
This politics of The Prince, fictitious or otherwise, from which people sought to distance themselves, was characterized by one principle: for Machiavelli, it was alleged, the prince stood in a relation of singularity and externality, and thus of transcendence, to his principality. The prince acquires his principality by inheritance or conquest, but in any case, he does not form part of it, he remains external to it. The link that binds him to his principality may have been established through violence, through family heritage or by treaty, with the complicity or the alliance of other princes; this makes no difference, the link, in any event, remains a purely synthetic one and there is no fundamental, essential, natural and juridical connection between the prince and his principality. As a corollary of this, given that this link is external, it will be fragile and continually under threat - from outside by the prince's enemies who seek to -conqueror re-capture his principality, and from within by subjects who have a priori reason to accept his rule. Finally, this principle and its corollary lead to a conclusion, deduced as an imperative: that the objective of the exercise of power is to reinforce, strengthen and protect the principality, but with this last understood to mean not the objective ensemble of its subjects and the territory, but rather the prince 's relation with what he owns, with the territory he has inherited or acquired, and with his - subjects. This fragile link is what the art of governing or of being a prince - espoused by Machiavelli has as its object. As. a consequence of this the mode of analysis of Machiavelli's text will be twofold: to identify dangers (where they come from, what they consist in, their severity: which are the greater, which the slighter), and, secondly, to develop the art of manipulating relations of force that will allow the prince to ensure the protection of his principality, understood as the link that binds him to his territory and his subjects.
Schematically, one can say that Machiavelli's The Prince, as profiled in all these implicitly or explicitly anti-Machiavellian treatises, is essentially a treatise about the prince 's ability to keep his principality. And it is this savoir-faire that the anti-Machiavellian literaiure wants to replace by something else and new, namely the art of government. Having the ability to retain one 's principality is not at all the same thing as possessing the art of governing. But what does this latter ability comprise? To get a view of this problem, which is still at a raw and early stage, let us consider one of the earliest texts of this great anti-Machiavellian literature: Guillaume de La Perriere's Miroir Politique.
This text, disappointingly thin in comparison with Machiavelli, prefigures a number of important ideas. First of all, what does La Perriere mean by 'to govern' and 'governor': what definition does he give of these terms? On page 24 of his text he writes: 'governor can signify monarch, emperor, king, prince, lord, magistrate, prelate, judge and the like'. Like La Perriere, others who write on the art of government constantly recall that one speaks also of 'governing' a household, souls, children, a province, a convent, a religious order, a family.
These points of simple vocabulary actually have important political implications: Machiavelli's Prince, at least as these authors interpret him, is by definition unique in his principality and occupies a position of externality and transcendence. We have seen, however, that practices of government are, on the one hand, multifarious and concern many kinds of people: the head of a family, the superior of a convent, the teacher or tutor of a child or pupil; so that there are several forms of government among which the prince's relation to his state is only one particular mode; while, on the other hand, all these other kinds of government are internal to the state or society. It is within the state that the father will rule the family, the superior the convent, etc. Thus we find at once a plurality of forms of government and their immanence to the state: the multiplicity and immanence of these activities distinguishes them radically from the transcendent singularity of Machiavelli's prince.
To be sure, among all these forms of government which interweave within the state and society, there remains one special and precise form: there is the question of defining the particular form of governing which can be applied to the state as a whole. Thus, seeking to produce a typology of forms of the art of government, La Mothe Le Vayer, in a text from the following century (consisting of educational writings intended for the French Dauphin), says that there are three fundamental types of government, each of which relates to a particular science or discipline: the art of self-government, connected with morality; the art of properly governing a family, which belongs to economy; and finally the science of ruling the state, which concerns politics. In comparison with morality and economy, politics evidently has its own specific nature, which La Mothe Le Vayer states clearly. What matters, notwithstanding this typology, is that the art of government is always characterized by the essential continuity of one type with the other, and of a second type with a third.
This means that, whereas the doctrine of the prince and the juridical theory of sovereignty are constantly attempting to draw the line betweell the power of the prince and any other form of power, because its task is to explain and justify this essential discontinuity, between them, in the art of goverment the task is to establish a continuity, in both an upwards and a downwards direction.
Upwards continuity means that a person who wishes to govern the state well must first learn how to govern himself, his goods and his patrimony, after which he will be successful in governing the state. This ascending line characterizes the pedagogies of the prince, which are an important issue at this time, as the example of La Mothe Le Vayer shows: he wrote for the Dauphin first a treatise of morality, then a book of economics and lastly a political treatise. It is the pedagogical formation of the prince, then, that will assure this upwards continuity. On the other hand, we also have a downwards continuity in the sense that, when a state is well run, the head of the family will know how to look after his family, his goods and his patrimony, which means that individuals will, in turn, behave as they should. This downwards line, which transmits to individual behaviour and the running of the family the same principles as the good government of the state, is just at this time beginning to be called police. The prince's pedagogical formation ensures the upwards continuity of the forms of government, and police the downwards one. The central term of this continuity is the government of the family, termed economy.
The art of government, as becomes apparent in this literature, is essentially concerned with answering the question of how to introduce economy - that is to say, the correct manner of managing individuals, goods and wealth within the family (which a good father is expected to do in relation to his wife, children, and servants) and of making the family fortunes prosper - how to introduce this meticulous attention or the
father towards his family into the management of the state.
This, I believe, is the essential issue' in the establishment of the art of government: the introduction of the economy into political practice. And if this is the case in the sixteenth century, it remains so in the eighteenth. In Rousseau's Encyclopedia article on 'Political economy,' the problem is still posed in the same terms. What he says here, roughly, that the word economy can only properly be used to signify the wise government of the family for the common welfare of all, and this is its actual use; the problem, writes Rousseau, is how to introduce it, mutatis mutandis, and with all the discontinuities that we will observe below, into the general running of the state. To govern a state will therefore mean to apply economy, to set up an economy at the level of the entire state, which means exercising towards its inhabitants, and the wealth and behaviour of each and all, a form of surveillance and control as attentive as that of the head of a family over his household and his goods.
excerpt from the book: THE FOUCAULT EFFECT, STUDIES IN GOVERNMENTALITY/ LECTURES BY MICHEL FOUCAULT
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