Governmentality Meets Theology: ‘The King Reigns, but He Does Not Govern’

Mitchell Dean*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


While this ‘extraordinary’ book appears as an intermezzo within the Homo Sacer series (Negri, 2008), it supports two fundamental theses with its own philological, epigraphic, liturgical and religious-historical research, and a close reading of figures such as Ernst Kantorowicz and Marcel Mauss. These theses concern political power first as an articulation of sovereign reign and economic government and, secondly, as constituted by acclamations and glorification. These can be approached theoretically through its author's engagement with Michel Foucault's genealogy of governmentality and with the Erik Peterson/Carl Schmitt debate on the closure of political theology. Agamben's reformulation of power and his derivation of liberal governmentality from the theological oikonomia prove convincing. A renewed analytics of power and politics of resistance should be possible, however, without recourse to a project seeking to deactivate all profane powers including those of public bureaucracies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-158
Number of pages14
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • acclamation
  • glory
  • government
  • power
  • reign
  • sovereignty


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