Foucault, Governmentality, Biopolitics – analytical strategies for critique of power (11 - 13 December 2013)


Mitchell Dean, Professor of Public Governance, CBS/University of Newcastle, Australia,
Thomas Dumm, Professor at Department of Political Science, Amherst College, USA.
Jeffrey Busolini, Associate Professor at City University of New York, USA.
Kaspar Villadsen, Associate Professor, Department of Management, Politics & Philosophy, CBS, Denmark.
Marius Gudmand-Høyer, Post.Doc. Scholar, Department of Management, Politics & Philosophy, CBS, Denmark

Course coordinator 
Kaspar Villadsen & Mitchell Dean

Only PhD students can participate in the course.

It is a precondition for receiving the course diploma that the PhD student attends the whole course.


The course will provide the participants with:

a) An updated introduction to key analytical concepts in the Governmentality literature, and the potentials and weaknesses of these concepts will be discussed.

b) Possibilities for supplementing the governmentality approach with other analytical sources will be discussed.

c) Furthermore, a detailed consideration of the current status of governmentality studies and post-Foucauldian studies will be given, in particular in light of recent claims for a crisis of critique.

d) Finally, suggestions will be presented on how to elaborate or move beyond the framework of governmentality by activating concepts of bio-power and sovereignty, reconsidering the social and notions of society, and focusing on international dimensions of governmentality.

In brief, the course aims to provide participants with a thorough understanding of the governmentality framework, that is, its analytical possibilities, its current status, and its possible directions of development.


Over the last 20 years, post-Foucauldian “governmentality studies” have come to growing prominence. These studies have been effective in critically analysing new types of liberal government, in particular by demonstrating ‘the active side of laissez faire’. They describe how the motto of ‘pulling back the state’ has been accompanied by a series of governmental strategies and technologies aimed at shaping institutions and subjects in particular ways. Perhaps most noticeably, they have presented a diagnosis of a proliferation of regimes of enterprise and accounting in new and surprising places. But a wide range of other domains have been subjected to governmentality analysis spanning from genetic screening and risk calculation, new crime prevention strategies, to health promotion by self-responsibilisation. To be sure, the concepts in governmentality studies continue to constitute effective tools for critical social analysis.

Nevertheless, in recent years critical objections have been raised against the governmentality approach. It has been noted by some observers that the Foucauldian and post-structuralist language, originally used for critical academic purposes, seems to be increasingly appropriated by ‘the powers’ that were the object of such critique. Most notably, this point has been voiced (although in different versions) by Zizek, Boltanski, and Hardt & Negri. These thinkers suggest that a post-structural ’politics of difference’ increasingly seems to be an integral part of the ways, in which institutions and companies organise themselves. If modern liberal government has begun to speak for the dissolution of binary essentials, the destabilisation of rigid power structures, the creation of space for the subject’s self-transforming work upon itself, and so on. In light of this development, we need to think of ways to revitalise the Foucauldian concepts of critique/criticism or to push a critical perspective beyond Foucault.

A central theme of the PhD course is the search for effective analytical strategies for critique of power (some perhaps less noticed) in the works of Foucault and other writers within and outside the governmentality tradition. Of particular interest is Giorgio Agamben’s recent critique and extension of Foucault’s genealogy of government.

The course requires the submission of a paper that deals with conceptual problems or analytical designs in relation to Foucauldian inspired/governmentality studies. Furthermore, papers that apply Foucauldian concepts to empirical problems in a variety of domains are welcomed.

It is also possible to participate on the basis of an abstract stating the theme of the PhD project. An abstract should be approximately 1 page, whereas a paper should be approx. 5 pages. In both cases, the PhD student should state his main analytical challenge/concern at his/her current stage in the project.

Papers/abstracts must be in English. DEADLINE is 2 December 2013.

Teaching style 

The course will use lectures given by specialists in the field, roundtable discussions, and presentation of papers from PhD students. Participation in the course requires a paper with an outline of PhD project or parts of the project. See more details above.

Lecture plan 

Wednesday 11 December         
10:00-12:30       Kaspar Villadsen: Analytical approaches in governmentality studies  

12:30-13:30       Lunch
13:30-16:00       Marius Gudmand-Høyer: Dispositive analysis: the key concept in Foucault?

16:00-17:00       Kaspar Villadsen,  Thomas Dumm, Jeffrey Bussolini & Mitchell Dean: Papers from PhD scholars
Thursday 12 December              
10.00-12.30       Thomas Dumm: Foucault, neo-liberalism and freedom

12:30-13:30       Lunch
13.30-15.00       Mitchell Dean: Concepts of power: ‘The signature of power’
15.00-17.00       Kaspar Villadsen, Thomas Dumm, Jeffrey Bussolini & Mitchell Dean: Papers from PhD scholars  

Friday 13 December                 
10:00-11:15       Jeffrey Busoloni: Biopolitics: Foucault meets Agamben

11:30-12:30       Mitchell Dean: Governmentality meets theology

12.30-13.30       Lunch   
13:30-15:00       Kaspar Villadsen: Technologies and organisations in Foucault’s thinking
15.00-16.00       Kaspar Villadsen, Jeffrey Busolini, Thomas Dumm, Marius Gudmand-Høyer & Mitchell Dean: Papers from PhD scholars

16:00-17:00       Kaspar Villadsen & Mitchell Dean: Concluding discussion and evaluation  


Course literature 

Agamben, G. (2011) The Kingdom and the Glory: a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government. Stanford University Press (especially pages 109-114; Appendix; not provided by the CBS).

Bussolini, J. (2010) ’What is a dispositive?’, Foucault Studies, No. 10, pp. 85-107

Dean, M. (2012) ‘Governmentality meets theology: the king reigns but does not govern’, Theory, Culture and Society, 29(3): 145-58.

Dean, M. (2012) ‘Economies of Power’, in M. Dean: The Signature of Power. London: Sage (p. 45-69).

Dumm, T. (2007) ’Freedom and Space’, in T. Dumm: Foucault and the Politics of Freedom. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers (p. 29-69).

Foucault, M. (2007) Security, Territory, Population. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (especially lecture 1 and 5; only 5 is provided by the CBS)

Foucault, M. (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (especially lecture 12).

Villadsen, K. & Karlsen, M.P. (2008) ’Who Should Do the Talking? The proliferation of dialogue as governmental technology’, Culture & Organization, 14(4).

Villadsen, K. (2008) "Doing without the State and Civil Society as Universals: 'Dispositifs' of care across the classic sector divide", Journal of Civil Society, 4(3).

PhD School 
PhD School in Organisation and Management Studies
Enroll no later than 
Fredag, 1 november, 2013 - 23:45