Although I agree with Francois' objection against equating state and
government I am bit sceptical about the implications of his following claim
State is certainly (still) a powerful force having effects in the field of
drugs today - but it is certainly not the only one]
I am sceptical because it implies an equaly disturbing separation of
government and state. More than this it implies deemphasis on state.
Foucault's analysis, I believe, is not aimed at deemphasising state, it is
aimed at reconceptualising 'state'.
Surely Francois' concedes that it is a complex issue. I have tried to
understand this complexity a bit in the following. Any comments welcome.
[Note this is only a response to first half of the post, the second half
needs separate response].
Foucault uses the word state in two senses: limited and broad. The limited
sense of the word state corresponds to the ensemble of coercive and
administrative institutions, what Foucault calls ?INSTITUTIONS of power? (HS
p. 141 emphasis retained). But Foucault claims that these great
?institutions of power? are supplemented by and depend upon "the rudiment of
anatomo ? and bio-politics created . . . as TECHNIQUES of power present at
every level of the social body and utilised by very diverse institutions
(the family and the army, school and the police, individual medicine and the
administration of collective bodies). . .? (ibid.). Foucault?s insight is
that the structures of legitimate obediences are not only saturated in the
?institutions of power? but on the other hand are permeated throughout the
social body. The penetration of these structures (relations) of legitimate
obediences was made possible by the invention of what Foucault
interchangeably calls ?society? and ?population?. Population is defined as
?a group of beings living in a given area? (PPC p. 83). Thus society can be
understood as individuals in their relations, where relations would include
both consensual and coercive relations. The innovation of the bourgeoisie
was to create this concept of society and ?population? and turn them into
the object of ?government?: "It was said that government not only has to
deal with a territory, with a domain and with its subjects, but that it also
has to deal with a complex and independent reality that has it own laws and
mechanisms of reactions its regulation as well as its possibilities of
disturbance" (FR p. 242). The concepts of ?society? and ?population? as the
object of government provide the way of penetration for the structures of
the legitimate obediences (power relations) deep into the social body. In
capitalist societies ?power relations are rooted in the system of social
networks? (SP p. 224). It is through these ?power? relations rooted in the
system of social network and its allied micro institutions of power such as
the school, the hospital, etc, that the state has been able to have access
to and the ability to structure relationships:
?It is certain that in the contemporary societies the state is not simply
one of the forms or the specific situations of the exercise of power ? even
if it is the most important ? but that in a certain way all other forms of
power relation must refer to it. But this is not because they are derived
from it; it is rather power relations have come more and more under state
control . . . . In referring here to the restricted sense of the word
GOVERNMENT one could say that power relations have been progressively
governmentalised, that is to say, elaborated, rationalised, and centralised
in the form of or under the auspices of state institution? (ibid. emphasis
In a similar fashion it is through the power relations rooted in the system
of social networks that the state has been able to have access to and
structure relations between self and self i.e. to individualise. As Foucault
?I don?t think that we should consider the ?modern state? as an entity which
was developed above individuals, ignoring what they are and even their very
existence, but on the contrary as a very sophisticated structure, in which
individual can be integrated, under the condition: that this individuality
would be shaped in a new form, and submitted to a set of very specific
patterns? (ibid. p. 214).
It is here that we arrive at the second and broader conception of the state.
In this broader sense the state would include both the state in the
restricted sense and the whole power relations rooted in the social network
system. This can be further elaborated/understood with reference to the
concept of government. While state in the limited sense corresponds to the
restricted sense of government referred to above in the quote from Foucault
(SP p. 224), the state in the broader sense of the word corresponds to the
broader sense of the government to include both the government of individual
(government of individualisation) and the government of ?population?. In
this way state in the broader sense is not an institution but a particular
rationality of government, a form of political power (PPC p. 24). It is to
this broader sense of the state Foucault is referring to when be writes:
? . . . since the sixteenth century a new political form of power has been
continuously developing. This new political structure . . . is the state?
(SP p. 213).
It is this tricky combination of state in limited and broader senses that
gives modern state its overwhelming power. Modern ?state power?, Foucault
writes, ?is both an individualising and a totalsing form of power. Never, I
think, in the history of human societies-even in the old Chinese society ?
has there been such a tricky combination in the same political structure of
individualising techniques, and of totalisation procedures" (SP p. 213).
Nothing escapes Modern state.
I think a point of view that deemphasises the importance and centrality of
state power in modern society misses this important Foucauldian insight.
Hope some of it makes sense.
Note on abbreviations:
HS: History of Sexuality vol. 1
FR: Foucault Reader
SP: Subject and power as Afterwards to Dreyfus and Rabinow's Foucault
PPC: Politics, Philosophy and Culture, (collection of interviews)
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