F. Chapter 6 Governmentality, Power Relations and the Urban Subject




‘…both in its ‘individualizing and totalizing’ form stressing (Foucault’s) belief that the system of power in existence in contemporary power has never entered the realm of individualization nor had the totalizing reach to such an extent as it has today’. (Foucault, 1982; pp. 213).

Given that Western cities to different degrees are pursuing and producing the neoliberalization of their cityspaces, we can ask how these shifts relate to the shifts in what it means to be a citizen in these new urban spaces. Neoliberal logics are not only dictated from above, or from any single source, but are part of a system of networks which are simultaneously responding to local and global geopolitical and economic shifts, a unifying factor being the desire to increase capital accumulation through the ‘deregulation’ of the economy. Western city government’s are in the position of both responding and creating in that they are a participating agent in producing neoliberalism as well as responding to it in terms of international economic conditions. The city negotiates, navigates and competes in these constantly changing ‘freer’ market pressures by producing particular urban restructuring strategies and projects which require to varying degrees certain kinds of consensus in terms of the city’s residential population, acceptance, or at least compliance. In this chapter we will outline a theoretical base upon which to consider Western urban restructuring in terms of contemporary strategies and modalities of city government. Foucault’s discussed ‘governmentality’ generally as a concept to capture the particular logics in the relationship between ‘multiple levels’ of government and how ‘lower-level’ orders worked to support the broad agendas of the State. His theorization was the power to govern in contemporary terms uses ‘self-governing’ strategies based upon particular constructions of ‘subjectivity’. If there are shifts we can describe as neoliberal in terms of the restructuring of cityspace, it would make sense that we could consider whether there existed neoliberal subjectivities to work as governing mechanisms for the neoliberal city. Since governing has to do with how power relations are produced and maintained, Foucault suggested that they could be studied within the ‘antagonisms’ between institutions and their resistances. We asked then, if we could find the growing edges of neoliberalization within the points of contention between the city’s forms of urbanization and the resistance it encountered. If so, then would we find a coherency in talking about a neoliberal type of ‘subjectivity’? In this chapter we will give a brief overview primarily of Foucault’s theorization of governmentality and power relations. We took Foucault a bit more like Rose, as a base from which to think about how power relations in the contexts we studied seemed to be ‘playing out’ in terms of discursive reproduction and resistance. I advocate a relation to his work (Foucault’s) that is looser, more inventive and more empirical. It is less concerned with being faithful to a source of authority than with working within a certain ethos of enquiry, with fabricating some conceptual tools that can be set to work in relation to the particular questions that trouble contemporary thought and politics.-(Rose, 1999; pp.5) In the spirit of ‘fabricating tools’, we begin with the more general conceptualizations of Foucault on ‘governmentality’ and the ‘apparatuses of security’ than look at the more analytical detailed techniques of subjectification. ‘Governmentality’ and its apparatuses ´It is certain that in contemporary societies the state is not simply one of the forms or 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 because power relations have come more and more under state control…one could say that power relations have been progressively governmentalized, that is to say, elaborated, rationalized, and centralized in the form of, or under the auspices of, state institutions´ (Foucault, 1982; pg. 793). Foucault offered a critique of the history of Western power relations centered on the concept of what he called ‘governmentality’. He stated clearly that he was not interested in analyzing the phenomena of power; in contrast, his objective was ‘to create a history of the different modes through which in our culture, human beings are converted into subjects.’ (Foucault, 2001; pg.241). He focused on a historical analysis of Western power relations and claimed that contemporary power relations in the West rely on constructions of ‘subjectivity’ as one of the primary mechanisms in which domination is reproduced and where in turn subversion is possible. He defined a historical shift in power relations from the physical domination of its ‘citizens’ by ruling parties characteristic of the pre-16th century powers of Europe to the modern subject who ‘self governs’ due to their belief in the ‘truth regimes’ of disperse experts and authorities who often are not identified with the State or government. In this shift, government itself relied less on its power to dominate directly over subjects, and took on the identity of ‘good government’ with the premise that it function was to improve the well being of its citizens partly by creating the ‘good society’. ‘What was once a ‘power’ of death’, -the sovereign right to take away life of his or her subjects-now become a ‘power of life’ , the states responsibility to care for, to cultivate and even enhance, the life of its citizens (Hook, 2004, pp.245). Foucault saw contemporary government as based on ‘freedom’ and ‘free individual’ who chooses to consent rather than being made to comply by force . The basis for State interventionism shifted towards the ‘betterment’ of the human condition, thus those in power and in particular a growing broad range of experts were created who through scientific ‘rational’ knowledge could provide guidance and the norms from which the ‘good society’ would ‘advance’. Increasingly Western ‘experts’ came to define and order the norms of knowledge itself, entered new and expanded areas of the society becoming the ‘governing’ basis for the functions and definitions of education, psychology, health and medicine, citizenship. Foucault believed that contemporary power relations were forwarded by State ‘logics’; but reproduced through diffuse multidirectional exchanges throughout all levels of society, thus placing the importance on ‘a multiplicity of diverse and multi-modal forms of social control working in a state of ‘unorchestrated synchronicity’ (Hook, 2004;pp. 250). Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’ is summarized by Hook as ‘...the overarching rationality behind the use of multiple forms of government; an awareness of how the conjoined effects of lower-order (micro-political) forms of government work to support the broadest agendas of the state’ (Hook,2004; pp.242). Although Hooks use of ‘rationality’ is confused by the second expression ‘awareness’ in terms of definition, we can see that Foucault was interested in seeing how forms of social relations on multiple levels work in potentially contradictory, or indirect forms while supporting the ‘overarching agendas of the state’. To serve as mediator (or as Hook calls them, ‘pivots’) between the larger and smaller scales of power relations, Foucault believed there were ‘apparatuses of security’, which served this function made up of ‘thoroughly heterogenous ensemble(s) consisting of discourses, institutions...regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions’ (Foucault, 1980; pg.194). These apparatuses regulate across different functions (values, common sense, popular discourse, philosophy, law, etc.) and they hold a specific type of rationality that permeates a wide range of institutions and practices. They do not function in an intentional fashion nor directly, they are ‘dispositional’, yet they ‘maintain an impressive dependability, both because of the sheer number of ‘minor govermentalities’ – minor offices of power and regulation spread throughout different levels of the populace – and because of the heterogenous and strategic nature of these links’ (Hook, 2004; pg.260). For example, the police are a fundamental aspect of the apparatuses, as they have come to be seen not only punitively, but as ‘helpers’ and protectors as extended by Foucault’s concept of pastoral power to a multitude of helping institutions as in psychologies and social services, to oversee for the benefit of all. The subject ‘…one has to take into account the interaction between these two types of techniques – techniques of domination and techniques of the self... the points where the technologies of domination of individuals over one another have recourse to processes by which the individual acts upon himself. And conversely, one has to take into account the points where the techniques of the self are integrated into structures of coercion or domination. The contact point, where the individuals are driven [and known] by others is tied to the way they conduct themselves [and know themselves], in what we can call, I think, government. Governing people, in the broad meaning of the word, governing people is not a way to force people to do what the governor wants; it is always a versatile equilibrium, with complementarity and conflicts between techniques which assure coercion and processes through which the self is constructed and modified by oneself’. (Foucault, 1999; pp.162) Foucault was interested in what he considered the increasing multitudes of levels in which power relations are reproduced, the social interactions that constantly reify, construct and forward power relations. For him, government worked primarily through the formation of self regulating subjects. The subject comes to orient around normative standards of ‘self’ which formulate perhaps, as Hook mentions, the most fundament aspect of who the Western subject comes to be. ‘...the ‘profound belief in the self’ means that the ‘self is taken to be the basis of our personhood; we regard the self as the most fundamental thing about us. Here then we a sense of how powerful psychology actually is, given that it is the discourse of the self, at least in much of the Western world. It is for this reason that the self has become such a key mechanism in the operations of power-this is what we have in mind when we speak of ‘technologies of self’ (Hook, 2004; pp.262) Thus critical psychologists potentially can play an important role in unravelling the manner in which ‘psychological’ knowledges are producing and working toward particular type of governmentality. In speaking about regimes of truth, Rose adds that ‘Truth is not only the outcome of construction, but of contestation…entails a social process of exclusion in which arguments, evidences, theories and beliefs are thrust to the margins, not allowed to enter ‘the true’ . For Rose the project of critical psychologists is to ‘try (s) to gain a purchase on the forces that traverse the multitudes of encounters where conduct is subject to government, (that) try to track force relations at the molecular level, as they flow through a multitude of human technologies, in all the practices, arenas and spaces where programmes for the administration of others intersect with techniques for the administration of ourselves. (Rose, 1999; pg.5). Foucault refers to ‘techniques of self’ in his analysis of how ‘human beings turn themselves into subjects, develop relationships with the self, self reflection, self-knowledge, self-examination for ‘the transformation one seeks to accomplish with oneself as object’ (Foucault, 1988; pg.29). These techniques are a ‘broad set of self-regulative practices; attempts to adjust or shape ourselves according to the techniques propounded by experts of the soul’ (Hook, 2004; pp.262). Furthermore, ‘these techniques involve the operating of a kind of power which connects the normalizing objectives of certain authorities to the ideals we have for ourselves’ (Hook, 2004; pp.262). Foucault elaborated three modes of objectification which are essential in ‘making’ a subject; modes of inquiry, dividing practices, and the ways in which ‘a human being turns himself into a subject’: The first is the modes of inquiry which try to give themselves the status of sciences; for example, the objectivizing of the speaking subject in grammaire generale, philology, and linguistics. In the second part of my work, I have studied the objectivizing of the subject in what I shall call "dividing practices." The subject is either divided inside himself or divided from others. This process objectivizes him. Finally, ‘I have sought to study-it is my current work-the way a human being turns himself into a subject. (Foucault, 1982.pp. 777-778) So through apparatuses norms and ‘truisms’ are formed which in turn work to create particular subjectivities, so that the system of government is not only diffuse, but constantly identifying itself as functioning in the self interest of the citizen, in contrast to forwarding the interests of the ‘State’. Potentials and the resistive subject Subjective positions do not refer to any particular individual, rather positions from where one can speak. In this way the individual uses available discursive positions to exercise particular actions. These are ‘subject positions’ in contrast to any one particular subject so that the ‘origin of the statement, who enounces, is not necessarily considered a form of subjectivity but rather as a place where the enunciators are replaceable and interchangeable’ (Iñiguez, 1997, pp 150). In terms of power relations then we can consider what subject positions are being made available in a certain social context and what contingencies or ‘techniques’ are at work making these positions possible in the forms they exist, while others are closed or limited in particular ways. Judith Butler used with the concept of ‘performance’ to emphasize that a subject tends ‘to produce that which it declares’ (Butler, 1993, pg.107). Youdell (2006) examined the topic of ‘subjectivation’ in Butler’s work in relation to Althusser and Foucault. She points initially to the fact that Derrida (1988) and Foucault (1990) read discursive agency as always ‘open to misfire’, that is to say that discourses function variably and are fluid rather than fixed, they may be over the long duration stable, or not. Youdell summarizes what she considers out of Butler’s work to be a ‘hopeful’ political theorization; Subjectiviation is effected through discursive practices, and understanding the performative is an important tool for understanding the constitutive effects of these discursive practices. But it is the more explicit sense of the way that power is implicated in subjectivation that I find particularly helpful…a politics in subjectivation in which discursively constituted and constrained subjects deploy discursive agency and act within and at the borders of the constraint of their subjectivation’ (Youdell, 2006, pg. 526-527). There are extensive philosophical and political debates concerning the ‘paradoxical’ nature of subjectivity as constructed, and subjectivity as agency in the sense of the individual’s ability to choose or act ‘progressively’, to change his/her subject positions. Butler explains this as occurring in ‘slippages’ and Foucault in the variability and ‘misfirings’ of discursive acts. It would not be possible for power relations to exist without points of insubordination which, by definition, are means of escape. Accordingly, every intensification, every extension of power relations to make the insubordinates submit can only result in the limits of power (Foucault, 1982; pp.794). These means of ‘escape’ for the individual amidst subjective ordering gives us room to consider both subject positions and the manifestations of reproduction and resistance which might occur in any given social context. The potential for resistance is a kind of departure point to take up the question of how one might focus ones research to study these forms of ‘governmentality’, their apparatuses, and techniques of subjectivity. The study of power relations Foucault’s focus was always on ways in which power relations could be understood so that they could be changed. He was interested in forwarding the conceptualization of a ‘new economy of power relations’ which he suggested should have its starting point as the study of ‘forms of resistance against different forms of power’. The individual always had the potential to resist subjective positioning partly by understanding how they were being subjected. I would like to suggest another way to go further toward a new economy of power relations, a way which is more empirical, more directly related to our present situation, and which implies more relations between theory and practice. It consists of taking the forms of resistance against different forms of power as a starting point. To use another metaphor, it consists of using this resistance as a chemical catalyst so as to bring to light power relations, locate their position, and find out their point of application and the methods used. Rather than analyzing power from the point of view of its internal rationality, it consists of analyzing power relations through the antagonism of strategies. (Foucault,1982; pp. 780). Foucault proposed the study of power relations rather than power, in this he made his object ‘relationship’; the historical analysis of where power relations existed at a particular point in time, making his project ‘more empirical, more related to or present situation’ and always in terms of an ‘active verb’, The exercise of power is not simply a relationship between partners, individual or collective; it is a way in which certain actions modify others. Which is to say, of course, that something called Power, with or without a capital letter, which is assumed to exist universally in a concentrated or diffused form, does not exist. Power exists only when it is put into action,….power is not a function of consent (which does not prevent the possibility that consent may be a condition for the existence or the maintenance of power); the relationship of power can be the result of a prior or permanent consent, but it is not by nature the manifestation of a consensus. (Foucault, 1982, pg. 788). The ‘antagonisms’ between power and resistance were places where ‘subjects’ were being ‘modified’ through the normative influence of experts. The resistance to these normative experts comes not in terms of ‘reversal’ or doing the opposite, but through what he called ‘positive resistance’, in which a certain degree of autonomy is reached through ‘immanent critique’. ....power functions by structuring a field of possible action in which a subject must act. The structuration of the field, however, does not imply external coercion by power itself – power functions by guiding the actions of a fundamentally free subject, but always with the possibility that the subject can traverse the field in new and creative ways...Resistance – positive resistance – is no longer merely reversal, but consists in a subject’s becoming-autonomous within a structured set of institutions and practices through immanent critique. Foucault was clear that the ‘fundamental point of anchorage’ for studying power relations was to be found ‘outside’ the institution and in the establishment of a ‘certain number of points’ of study be established: ‘…one must analyze institutions from the standpoint of power relations, rather than vice versa, and that the fundamental point of anchorage of the relationships, even if they are embodied and crystallized in an institution, is to be found outside the institution (Foucault,1982; pp. 791) The analysis of power relations demands that a certain number of points be established concretely: the system of differentiations which permits one to act upon the actions of others; the types of objectives pursued by those who act upon the actions of others; the means of bringing power relations into being; the forms of institutionalization; the degree of rationalization (Foucault.1982; pp.792). These ‘points’ take into account a broad type of social analysis having to do with understanding the historical conditions which have created social orders, bodies, and rules; the mechanisms which allow these relations to come ‘into being’; the structural analysis of the institutions themselves; and the types of discourses being used to justify and rationalize the institutions ways of acting ‘upon’ others. Setting the antagonistic strategies of resistance against ‘power’ or institutions, provides an object and frame from which to consider the how power relations themselves are manifest in ‘present’ social terms. Taking Foucault into the ‘barrio’ Foucault’s theorization of power relations provides many avenues for critical exploration into urban political relations. His historical focus on how the ‘State’ forwards particular forms of power relations captures what intuitively one senses in the manner in which many contemporary government discourses promote their urban interventions; set to convince residents how what they are doing is always in their best interests. His elaboration of the circular subjective nature of how these ‘normative’ trends become reproduced within all levels of society lends itself toward a more specific examination and consideration as to how urban power relations themselves are produced and resisted. Making visible the more exact ways in which ‘experts’ forward the production and strategies of subjectivity at multiple social levels, and how these become reproduced in subjective identifications, helped put our attention on the ways in which strategies of urban power relations function. Foucault historical work was not to formulate a universal theory of power, but to analyze historically how efforts to modify others actions could be understood to eventually locate them within their contemporary forms. To discuss how conduct is modified by particular antagonisms in relationships, places the ways in which power exercises itself not in the abstract, but in the day to day discourses used to make language, meaning and power hold, or in the case of resistance, break or subvert the hold. Although Foucault wrote broader theoretical genealogies of power, he provided a means to examine how power relations were being produced and resisted in their multiple forms; from day to day conversations to large political debates, and media documentations. Foucault’s theorization of power relations and ‘governmentality’ gave us a type of rough theoretical relational ‘road map’ from which we used to reflect upon while in the quagmires of an actual urban context. We took Foucault as a base from which to open questions about actual urban power relations, rather than a more theoretical work in which our readings of text reflected back to Foucault’s theorization, that would be better done by Foucauldian scholars. Our interest was in how theory could be made applicable towards critical political agendas in actual urban restructuring, how Foucault could be used to make visible power, and disrupt the reproduction of dominant power relations.