Public law II: Bureaucracy/Governmentality

Bureaucracy and Governmentality

Notable individuals:

1. Adam Smith (1723-1790): philosopher and political economy pioneer. 'pin factory'

2. Jeremy Bentham (1747-1832): philosopher, social reformer + founder of modern utilitarianism 'prison=panopticon'

3. Max Webber (1864-1920): German philosopher, economist, Weberian bureaucracy 'modern tradition of liberalism' and 'pessimist of direct democratic participation' 

4. Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950): 20th century influential economist. 'inflexible modes of bureaucratic and managerial government'

5. Michel Foucault (1926-1984): French philosopher and influential social theorist. 'developed Webber's ideas about relationship between government, bureaucracy and rationalisation' 'dominationn in modern societies existing within framework of liberalism and liberal rights'

6. David Held (1951-) British political theorist and professor

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Typical Exam Question....

1. How does the idea of 'governmentality' help us to re-think the role and operation of the modern state


1. What is governmentality? (concept first developed by Michel Foucault)

2. Key themes of governmentality: 'conduct of conduct'

3. History of governmentality i.e. Greek democracy to now

4. Developed on Webbers bureaucracy and Schumpeter

5. Benthams prison idea and effect on modern states to how we re-think. Linked to Rosseau's 18th century 'man is born free but everywhere he is in chains'...

6. Adam Smith's 'pin factory'/division of labour/management of people

7. Modern occurrences i.e. schools, health, medicine, normality's 

8. Recent articles on dominationn and how this power is being exerted (Held & Rouse)

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The semantics (meaning) of governmentality

Key ideas on WHAT governmentality is.....

  • the way governments try to produce the citizen best suited to fulfill governments' policies
  • the organized practices (mentalities, rationalities, + techniques) through which subjects are governed
  • the "art of government"
  • Governmentality = new form of power. A new understanding of power...
  • Not merely hierarchical power but social control in disciplinary institutions (schools, prisons)
  • the "how" of governing (calculated means of directing how we behave and act)
  • "governmental rationality"
  • "a 'guideline' by way of historical reconstructions embracing a period starting from Ancient Greece right through to modern neo-liberalism"
  • "the techniques and strategies by which a society is rendered governable"
  • linking of governing and modes of thought 
  • the 'conduct of conduct': governments conduct influences peoples conduct and autonomy
  • Government as a form of indirect discipline through: psychologists, health authorities, security companies, churches, schools etc etc. as well as forms of knowledge
  • Control of government not merely exercised via state politics but 'bio-politics' using various control techniques. 
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Foucault on governmentality...

Foucault defined governmentality as:

  • 1. The ensemble formed by the institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections, the calculations and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific albeit complex form of power, which has as its target population, as its principal form of knowledge political economy, and as its essential technical means apparatuses of security.
  • 2. The tendency which, over a long period and throughout the West, has steadily led towards the pre-eminence over all other forms (sovereignty, discipline, etc) of this type of power which may be termed government, resulting, on the one hand, in formation of a whole series of specific governmental apparatuses, and, on the other, in the development of a whole complex of savoirs.
  • 3. The process, or rather the result of the process, through which the state of justice of the Middle Ages, transformed into the administrative state during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, gradually becomes 'governmentalized 
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Foucault on governmentality...

  • The History of Sexuality: Foucault in 1976: 'At bottom, despite the differences in epochs (eras) and objectives, the representation of power has remained under the spell of monarchy. In political thought and analysis, we still have not cut off the head of the king’He argued that power should be conceptualised as ''power as effect' not 'power as property' . The figure of the sovereign, whose power is exercised as an exceptional prohibition of freedom, continues to organize the ways we attempt to intervene in the field of political power. As long as we continue to read power solely in terms of the juridical theory of sovereignty, Foucault argues, we will be unable to confront the mechanisms of exclusion and regulation that persist in the guise of formal equality and liberal humanism. That is: GOVERNMENTALITY!!!!
  • Foucault looked at the dark side of political power as a form of DOMINATIONN through other channels/institutions
  • Power can manifest itself by producing knowledge. Knowledge enables people to govern themselves
  • Discipline and Punish: The birth of the Prison: Foucault in 1975: discusses the change in discipline of a soldier. The soldier used to be in the 16th century a man of lively, alert manner, erect head and recognised from afar and only had to learn the profession little by little. By the late 18th century, the soldier is someone who can be made out of formless clay, an inapt body, machine required can be constructed, posture is corrected and turning silently into the automatism of habit. Natural born soldier to recruited and moulded disciplined man.
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Foucault on domination and discipline...

Discipline and Punish: The birth of the Prison: Foucault in 1975: Discipline has been long in existence in armies, workshops etc but in the course of the 17th and 18th century, disciplines became a general formula of dominatioonn, evolving from slavery to coercive power of the government. The human body was entering a machinery of power that explores it, breaks it down and rearranges it. A political anatomy and mechanics of power was born which defined how one may have a hold over others' bodies. Thus discipline produces subjected and practised bodies, docile bodies. Disciplinary coercion establishes in the body the constricting link between and increased aptitude/capacity and an increased dominatioonn = a new political anatomy. This 'new political anatomy' is not a sudden discovery and has been around a long time and can be diluted into a multiplicity of a minor process. These 'minor processes' were at work in secondary education and slowly invested the space of the hospital and finally restructured the military organisation and were adopted in response to PARTICULAR NEEDS such as new diseases or industrial innovation. DISCIPLINE IS A POLITICAL ANATOMY OF DETAIL. DISCIPLINE ORGANISES AN ANALYTICAL SPACE or ENCLOSURE. 

- Hierarchised, continuous and functional surveillance may not be one of the great technical inventions of the 18th century, but its insidious extension owed its importance to the mechanisms of power that it brought with it. These 'surveillances' ensured that disciplinary power became an integrated system'. 

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Foucault on discipline

Discipline and Punish: The birth of the Prison: Foucault in 1975

- The inability to carry out the 'norms' such as a soldiers required levels becomes an 'offence'. A pupils inability to carry out the tasks set becomes an 'offence'. 'To punish is to exercise'.

- The examination: combines the techniques of an observing hierarchy and those of a normalizing judgement. People write experiments on those who are born blind, wolf-children or under hypnosis, but who writes more generally and detrimentally to history of 'the examination'- its methods, its characters and their roles, its play of questions and answers, its system of marking and classification. For in this slender technique is to be found a whole domain of knowledge, a whole type of power. Similarly, the school became a sort of apparatus of uninterrupted examination that duplicated along its entire length, the operation of teaching. The examination transformed the economy of visibility into the exercise of power. Traditionally, power was what was seen, shown and manifested and found the principle of its force in the movement by which it deployed that force. Disciplinary power on the other hand is exercised through invisibility, it is the subjects who have to be seen and their visibility assures the hold of the power exercised over them. Examination is the technique by which power, instead of emitting the signs of its potency, instead of imposing its mark on its subjects, holds them in a mechanism of objectification. In this space of dominatioonn, disciplinary power manifests its potency, essentially by arranging objects. 

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Foucault on power and discipline

Discipline and Punish: The birth of the Prison: Foucault in 1975

-The examination clearly indicates the appearance of a new modality of power in which each individual receives as his status his own individuality, and in which he is linked by his status to the features, the measurements, the gaps, the 'marks' that characterize him and make him a 'case'. The examination combines hierarchical surveillance and normalizing judgement .

- In a disciplinary regime, power becomes more anonymous and more functional and is exercised by surveillance rather than ceremonies, by observation rather than commemorative accounts, by comparative measures that have the 'norm' as the reference. Substitution of individuality of the memorable man to that of the calculable man. The moment when the sciences of man became possible is the moment when a new technology of power and a new political anatomy of the body was implemented. 

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Foucault general ideas

-Conduct of conduct: the government influences peoples conduct. Not merely state force but the influence on autonomy of people. Government as a form of discipline and control. 

- Power of knowledge = mentalities of government for example: medical discourses, psychological discourses and theories of child development: knowledge influences/controls individuals which is VERY powerful in the hands of the government

-Knowledge wields power over individuals i.e. moral upbringing of children and exercising a form of control and power in schools. Disciplining bodies begin to discipline minds. Military is an example of a disciplining body disciplining minds to perform the 'norms' such as posture, saluting etc and this disciplining model on behaviour which then ensures the individual chooses to behave in that way = power = governing control. 

-Ranges from behaviours that are rational and irrational. Foucault believes we should get rid of irrational behaviours. Writing with your left hand is seen as perverse and weak. 

-Shape people like a bonsai plant in one way, as opposed to another way. Disciplinary institutions such as prisons, medical, schools that try to abolish abnormal behaviour by exerting power!!!! a new political anatomy! Making external ideas become internal ideas through power and exercising these internal ideas.... 

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Max Webber, Joseph Schumpter and Adam Smith:

- Focus on the problems that bureaucracy creates for law!

- Bureaucracy and relations with democracy. 

- Bureaucracy limits freedom and choice by creating a 'cage'. Most consititutions deal with bureacracy poorly!

- Schumpter adopts Webber's ideas in relation to USA

- Webber and Schumpter very pesimistic and draw down on economics and sociology to gain a realisitic view of law and politics. 

- Webber argued that society was flushed with social conflict

- Webber developed Adam Smiths 'pin factory idea of 1 person doing everything vs many doing many things and thus 'division of labour'. Specialised roles and production of labour has divided in order to make more money and be more efficient. Specialisation of tasks in not just factories as Adam Smith evoked but in governments... instead of 1 person doing a variety of tasks, 1 person does specialised task and this is known as rationalisation. 

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Bureaucracy further

- Webber argues that power operates via the government through bureacracy and management in private companies and administrative tasks are divided to become anti-democratic and hierarchical (top down told what to do) and so Greek democracy is obliterated and so we need a counter balance to anti-democracy.

- Key Q for Webber is modern constitutionalism, Rule of law, procedures and legal exercise of authority. Involving the development of model of governing and rules of procedure become standardised. 

- Webbers ideal type: one based on merit, competence and procedure.

- Webber argues power is not exercised in modern society by kings and lords anymore: its bureacrtic and specialised AND consequences of this is increasing power in bureaucratic offices with little open participation to these decisions. Power that is exercised via hiearchy and not democratic- the exec makes the decisions and less and less autonomy of decision makers

- Iron cage model- specialisation means for Webber that you cant see the whole process only your 'part' i.e. renewing a visa.. no matter how heartfelt and genuine..there are procedures and rules that makes the visa employee heartless and uncaring, impersonal and ensures the inability of people to see more than their small parts which is very limiting.... 

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Weber and Foucault Links

  • Weber's analysis of bureaucracy is framed in terms of the legal and rational accounting requirements of political and economic organisations which furnish legal dominatioonn with its aura of administrative rationality and adequacy. Webers studies analysed features of bureacractic disciplines in the army, church, university and political parties. Foucaults studies of the hospital, prison, school and factories aim to extend Weber's concept of rational-legal disicipline through studies of discursive practices that construct a physiology of power/knowledge. Weber, credited with having founded organization theory, did so inadvertently, as the study of the ideal type of bureaucracy.
  • The contemporary theorist who has come nearest to carrying out a Weberian project with respect to the analysis of organizations, without acknowledging that this was so, was Foucault. Foucault's imputed foundations for the analysis of organizations bring into effect two liberations from the Weberian legacyThe first liberation is from analysis of organizations principally as structure, the predominant interpretation of Weber in the literature. The second liberation is not to lapse into the obverse of the structuralist view, a perspective that seeks to interpret individuals through the practice of verstehende.
  • Weber shows how power is legitimized and strengthened by bureaucracy and how it effects the relations between individuals and the state. Foucault underlines the importance of the power relations in the society and the discursive power of the authorities in various aspects
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Weber and Foucault Links 2

  • Foucault and Weber both focused on: what are the techniques by which man has subjected himself to the rational discipline of the applied human sciences (law, medicine, education)
  • Foucaults studies of the disciplinary society complimented Webers formal analysis of the modern bureaucratic state and economy. 
  • Foucaults studies compliment Webers formal-rational concept of bureaucracy and legal dominatioonn with a psyciology of buearacracy and power as the definitive feature of the disciplinary society. 
  • Weber and Foucault look at concepts of power and dominatioonn in different but complementary perspectives. Weber claims that power comes into existence with the existence of bureaucratic instruments and bureaucracy itself. Foucault suggests that the power relations are everywhere in the society with discursive elements that we have no chance but to internalize. Foucault draws a picture of “power” in a broader sense than Weber's projection in just bureaucracy and legitimation. Foucault underlines the relationship between rationalization and the excesses of power in the society. Foucault argues that power relations are rooted in the system of social networks and it would be an abstraction if we think of society without power relations. Foucault looks at the power concept from a functional approach as he identifies it with the functional practices processed by the authority and emphasizes that discursive power is largely used by the authority and the practices of discourses help to maintain the dominance.
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Weber and Foucault Links 3

Weber: What is misleading about bureaucracy is that while it is meant to maintain law and order for the citizens, it is also a political element that keeps the authority and dominationn of the state. In today's modern societies, the legal-rational authority is being used that helps to maintain bureaucracy and dominationn. There are clearly defined sets of rules like constitutions that are executed by institutions to maintain the dominatioonn. The legality of rules in the bureaucratic continuum that are imposed by the state and its components like institutions. Bureaucracy is not only the purpose to maintain power, but also the instrument to legitimize the power and dominatioonn of the state with rules and legality to be accepted by the society.

Foucault: First winds up the concept of power relations which, he insists, are not necessarily derived from state practices but under state control. To show functional examples, he looks at everyday lives of individuals that are spent in schools, prisons, hospitals and factories. All these places have ring bells to signify an end or start, which is aimed for control and exercise of power. Advancements in technology and rise of rationalization in the modern societies made it possible for efficient means of control and dominancee. Underlines the role of punishment in modern societies that are to effect individuals' behaviors and make them become subjects to their own bodies. Power relations + exercises of dominatioonn are materialized in all areas of line in discursive ways such as languages, institutions and through social systems of control. Reality is constructed artificially that is substantiated in discourses establishing disciplinary methods.

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Bureaucracy and lack of responsibility/accountabil

-Lack of responsibility and accountability according to Webber. The iron cage of bureaucracy can spread responsibility everywhere

-hence why ministerial responsibility is so problematic and contentious- a whole chain of people involved but no one individual is responsible- collective ministerial responsibility!).

-OR Baby P scenario- too many chiefs and not enough indians: no one could be held accountable as everyone is responsible but no one is responsible. Wide range of government officials in institutions with many specialised roles and lack of understanding of others roles

- Jewish Holocaust (mass murder in WW2 by Hitler of Jews and others over 6 million!) whereby people did small tasks and did not have to think about the wider consequences/implications of their actions. No one knew what was going on- mechanic servicing a train, work in gas company, supplier of part to train- who was responsible for this highly bureaucratic organisation?

- Societies can be understood as involving 'classes' and 'status groups' (similar to Karl Marx) with shared values and group solidarity which encourage aspects of political conflict. 

- European Capitalism is modernity: is important to Webber and Schumpter (merchant thinks of profit and farmer thinks of looking after land)

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Jeremy Bentham Prison

  • 'The Panopticon' designed in 18th century: equally applicable to hospitals, schools, sanatoriums, day cares, and asylums but particularly prisons! Not ever actually built but Foucault believes this is representative of governmentality in modern society!
  • - Prisoners do not know when they are being watched but surveillance helps to internalise and create a form of behaviour that responds to this exertion of power i.e. act as if they were being watched!!!! 
  • - Foucault: metaphor for modern “disciplinary” societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and normalise. “On the whole, therefore, one can speak of the formation of a disciplinary society in this movement that stretches from the enclosed disciplines, a sort of social 'quarantine', to an indefinitely generalizable mechanism of 'panopticism'. The Panopticon is an ideal architectural figure of modern disciplinary power. The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more. Foucault believes that society is flushed with this new kind of domination through power and knowledge. 
  • - Technology has allowed for the deployment of panoptic structures invisibly throughout society. Surveillance by CCTVcameras in public spaces is an example of a technology that brings the gaze of a superior into the daily lives of the populace. Calls are even recorded!


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Foucault criticisms of modern society

  • Bio-politics: "Biopower" is a term that relates to the practice of modern nation states and their regulation of their subjects through "an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation's of bodies and the control of populations. In Foucault's work, it has been used to refer to practices of public health, regulation of heredity, risk regulation, among many other regulatory mechanisms, linked less directly with literal physical health
  • For Foucault, biopower is a technology of power, which is a way of managing people as a group (similar to Webbers bureaucracy and organising/managing people). The distinctive quality of this political technology is that it allows for the control of entire populations. It is thus an integral feature and essential to the workings of—and makes possible—the emergence of the modern nation state and capitalism, etc
  • Basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy
  • Emphasis on disciplinary institutions: schools, prisons, army, PR companies, private security, advertising, economists, psychologists etc. = beyond the traditional state.... a delegation of power over individuals 'norms'

Obvious shift from sovereign-individual rights holds to sovereignty as the control of populations and manipulation of life i.e. the garden and gardener. Gardener grows, tends to and species are bed and replaced based on judgements about utility and production and growth. The dignity of plants is irrelevant...intensified version of this is the radical Nazi eugenics 'life unworthy of life'

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Calculation and control

- Technical decisions about the cost of making a certain type of drug. Focus is upon CALCULATING harm to parts of population and extent of 'acceptable' deaths. So life and death becomes calculated!!!!!!! 

- Public health approaches in relation to smoking, obesity or control of immigration in the UK. The focus is less on individual rights and more on control of target population when certain behaviours are deemed 'deviant'..... but what level of power/control is healthy?

- Foucault argues we need a constitution that at least acknowledges these ideas of power over the individual that is indirect with direct implications on conduct of the individual.


-Argued that Foucaults discussions on power, knowledge and discourse and analysis of power structures could aid the struggle against inequality. Claim that through discourse analysis, hierarchies may be uncovered and questioned by way of analyzing the corresponding fields of knowledge through which they are legitimated

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Critique of Foucault's work

- Philosopher Roger Scruton argued that Foucault was a "fraud" because he exploited known difficulties of philosophy in order to "disguise unexamined premises as hard-won conclusions

Philosopher Richard Rorty has argued that Foucault's 'archaeology of knowledge' is fundamentally negative, and thus fails to adequately establish any 'new' theory of knowledge per se. Rather, Foucault simply provides a few valuable maxims regarding the reading of history. 'As far as I can see, all he has to offer are brilliant redescriptions of the past, supplemented by helpful hints on how to avoid being trapped by old historiographical assumptions.'

-Foucault is argued to be reliant on the very Enlightenment principles he attempts to deconstruct

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