Michel Foucault traces a genealogy of governmentality from feudal systems, the sovereign ruler, to the development of the art of government through the agency of the economy.
Foucault is interested in the state and how the state might, through multivalent means, put effect to government. He traces the way the feudal system gave way to this art of government with the interstitial manifestations of the art represented through the family as a metaphor for the economy. The family soon came to be seen as a thin, poorly structured means by which one might theorise the economy, and thus was born the notion of the population which could be observed and measured and assessed. Population then became the end game, the final outcome, for government, which must firstly consider the ways in which the wealth, well-being, and growth of this population might be effected. The family became a mere instrument in the collection of data and was lost altogether as the central unit for the economy.
“The population now represents more the end of government than the power of the sovereign; the population is the subject of needs, of aspirations, aware, vis-a-vis the government, of what it wants, but ignorant of what is being done to it” (p. 100).
And again, importantly I believe for my thesis:
“Interest at the level of the consciousness of of each individual who goes to make up the population, and interest considered as the interest of the population regardless of what the particular interests and aspirations may be of the individuals who compose it, this is the new target and the fundamental instrument of the governement of population: the birth of a new art, or at any rate of a range of absolutely new tactics and techniiques” (p. 100).
Foucault notes the impact of the emergence of the population as central to the governance of the state. Far from sovereignty being replaced by the political science of governance he notes its continued centrality through an attempt “to see what what juridical and institutional form, what foundation in the law. could be given to the sovereignty that characterizes a state” (p. 101). My interest here is on the word ‘state’. Foucault refers to a nation-state but equally the state could refer to a corporate-state against which bloggers are opposed. Corporate-states seek their own sovereignty from the laws of commerce and employment from which they derive the exercise of power over a personal blogger. In other words, a network of systems, agreements, and political aspirations stand opposed to the hoped-for right of free expression of the personal blogger. Sovereignty therefore is distributed, diffuse, multivalent.
The management of a population reinforced the centrality of the disciplines to governance through the arrangement and aggregation of things – assets, artifacts, people, groups.
Foucault, M. (1991). Governmentality. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon & P. Miller (Eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (pp. 87-105). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.