William Walters and Martina Tazzioli (eds.), Handbook on Governmentality – Edward Elgar, April 2023
Now published, though as an expensive hardback and e-book. The front matter, Introduction and first chapter by Daniele Lorenzini are available open access.
My piece in here is entitled “The Yoke of Law and the Lustre of Glory: Foucault and Dumézil on Sovereignty”. It’s the first in a series of pieces exploring the links between Foucault and Dumézil through Foucault’s career. I’m happy to share if you email me.
The Handbook on Governmentality discusses the development of an interdisciplinary field of research, focusing on Michel Foucault’s post-foundationalist concept of governmentality and the ways it has been used to write genealogies of modern states, the governance of societal problems and the governance of the self.
Contributors include: Claudia Aradau, Carol Bacchi, Wendy Brown, Graham Burchell, Partha Chatterjee, Sahil Jai Dutta, Stuart Elden, Ben Golder, Colin Gordon, Jef Huysmans, Jonathan Xavier Inda, Hans-Martin Jaeger, Samuel Knafo, Susanne Krasmann, Clara Lecadet, Emanuele Leonardi, Daniele Lorenzini, Ian Alexander Lovering, Brett Neilson, Luigi Pellizzoni, Cristina Rojas, Nikolas Rose, Srila Roy, Ranabir Samaddar, Maurice Stierl, Martina Tazzioli, Miriam Ticktin, William Walters, Richard Weiskopf, Chenchen Zhang
‘Nearly forty years after his death, governmentality remains Michel Foucault’s most elusive and productive theoretical concept; especially in generating interdisciplinary empirical scholarship. Now with its revelatory introductory chapter and powerhouse collection of leading contemporary scholars, Walters and Tazzioli’s Handbook on Governmentality has demystified the topic and opened governmentality to a new generation of critical researchers across the social sciences and humanities.’
– Jonathan Simon, University of California, Berkeley, US
‘Governmentality has become a ubiquitous term in social and political theory. Stemming from Foucault, the concept has been stretched and even squeezed over the last years. This impressive Handbook lays the basis for a new season in governmentality studies, exploring new geographical and conceptual frontiers. An amazing achievement!’
– Sandro Mezzadra, University of Bologna, Italy
And the abstract for my chapter:
In his 1975-76 course ‘Society Must Be Defended’ Foucault briefly comments on Indo-European sovereignty. His auditors would have recognised a reference to Georges Dumézil, and the editors provide a reference indicating his work. In a series of books, Dumézil proposed his influential tripartite hypothesis, with a division between kings and priests, warriors, and farmers or traders. The first function of sovereignty is itself split between a worldly, juridical form and a magical, supernatural one. It is this distinction, particularly discussed in Mitra-Varuna: An Essay on Two Indo-European Representations of Sovereignty, to which Foucault alludes. Dumézil and Foucault met in the mid-1950s, and Foucault pays tribute to Dumézil in key places, including the History of Madness and his inaugural lecture to the Collège de France. Here the focus is an examination of the sense of sovereignty Foucault develops from Dumézil, and how it relates to the notion of governmentality.
We have now had several decades of Handbooks, and they are always too expensive for anybody except university libraries to afford. The two in my field from the major publishers had pdfs immediately posted on Riseup.net in 2015, which made them almost impossible to take down as an activist decentralised network. This was fantastic for accessibility. I am beginning to think there has to be a better way though – I have seen a few ‘rolling’ handbook and compendium online resources, but we also need for entries to be recognised as decent scholarly contributions by our employers. Most handbook entries are not classed as ‘individual research’ but some lesser variant, summarising ideas in a field.
I agree with the critique of the pricing of handbooks, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve declined quite a lot of invitations to write for, and a couple of requests to edit, similar projects. This one was a bit different for me – I wanted to be part of the project and to support the editors. But a key part of the appeal was it gave me a chance to write a piece on what was, at the time I wrote it, a new idea, and that helped with a proposal for both another publication and funding. I’m well aware my piece in here will be seen as ‘just a book chapter’ in research assessment terms, but it’s definitely ‘individual research’ and was, for me, a step towards something else.