Lika Rodin 1
  • 1 University of Skövde, Högskolevägen, Box 408, Högskolan i Skövde, Sweden 54128

Studies on Governmentality: Six Epistemological Pitfalls

2017, vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 9–28 [issue contents]
The notion of governmentality, developed in the works of Michel Foucault, is actively employed across academic disciplines. Reviewing the secondary literature, this paper specifies and systematizes some particularities of Foucault’s theoretical account which are reflected in contemporary studies on governmentality. Six latent epistemological obstacles in research on governmentality are described—the essentialization of power; the impossibility of agency and counteraction; latent idealism; the inconsistent presentation of governmentality; the shortage of explanatory perspective on the micro–macro linkage; and a vanishing critical standpoint—to stimulate an academic discussion on possible methodological insights capable of overcoming some of those difficulties. Those limitations are seen to be immanent in Foucault’s overall theoretical account rather than the effects of deviation from it. Examples of studies associated with the fields of international relations and sociology support the central arguments of the paper. As demonstrated, the regrounding of a Foucault-inspired analysis of power in the updated version of historical materialism might have the potential to ensure rigor in governmentality research and redefine its critical intent. Further, a consensus is needed on the fundamental notions of governmentality studies to stabilize the research agenda. Recognizing the importance of Foucault’s overall contribution to the understanding of contemporary phenomena and practices, scholars need to acknowledge its conceptual and social limitations.
Citation: Rodin L. (2017) Studies on Governmentality: Six Epistemological Pitfalls [Исследования правительственности: шесть «подводных камней» эпистемологии]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 16, no 2, pp. 9-28 (in Russian)
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