Foucault, Governmentality and Critique

It’s only been out a couple of years, but the copy of Thomas Lemke’s 2012 book in the JNU library is already well-thumbed and annotated.  In the chapter ‘Genealogy of the Modern State’, Lemke outlines Foucault’s work on the relationships between power and knowledge and the rise of modern forms of state-based governance.  The role of technologies and information in this process is central to constituting a field of intervention.  Consequently they are ‘performative’ in the sense of generating the objects that they name.  Technologies are understood as both material and ‘spiritual’ (‘the soul is the prison of the body’) with Latour and Callon’s work cited on objects and practices as ‘translating’ relationships (between individuals, groups, areas, etc) into other forms.  Lemke reads Foucault as suggesting (in line with Latour) that these translations can sometimes be hard to reverse.  Once a river is dammed, a road built, or a religion spread, it can be hard to undo.  This is a handy critical overview to Foucault’s work on governmentality and the body of commentary and adoption that has grown in it’s wake.  It’s concise (200 pages maybe) but still opens up debates and connects between texts deftly.  I wish I had read it when I was drafting my proposal!