Liberal government and authoritarianism

Mitchell Dean*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

266 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the intelligibility of authoritarian measures within Foucauldian analyses of the liberal government of the state. Such measures are understood as following from a liberal understanding of the task of government itself. This understanding rests on a distinction between the legal and political order (of 'the state') and a 'liberal police' of what is exterior to it, classically conceived as 'civil society'. The relation between these two aspects is conceived as a series of 'foldings' between the two sides of a liberal governing, which turn the injunction to govern through freedom into a set of binding obligations potentially or actually enforceable by coercive or sovereign instruments. The paper places this perspective within aspects of the genealogies of economy, poverty, welfare and police and discusses the trajectories of such foldings in the present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-61
Number of pages25
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2002


  • Authoritarianism
  • Freedom
  • Government
  • Liberal police
  • Liberalism


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