Powers of life and death beyond governmentality

Mitchell Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The work of Foucault on liberal government, and that of his followers, is subject to two dangers. The first is to regard the critical character of liberalism (as governing through freedom) as providing safeguards against the despotic potentials of biopower and sovereignty. The second is to regard these heterogenous powers of life and death as somehow simply relocated or reinscribed within the field of liberal governmentality. The latter point is a major methodological error; the former closes the gap between the analytics of government and the normativity of liberalism itself. By working through these dangers, our understanding of the ethos of liberal government is transformed. That ethos today requires us to link governing through freedom to the powers of life and death, the exercise of choice to the sovereign decision, the contract to violence, economic citizenship to moral discipline and obligation, and rights and liberties to enforcement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-138
Number of pages20
JournalCultural values
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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