Introduction: The International as an Object for Thought

Philippe Bonditti

This is not a book on Foucault, nor is it a book on “international relations.” This edited volume is both more and less ambitious. It is less ambitious in the sense that it aims neither to advance an exegesis of Foucault’s immense work nor to offer a systematic and empirically grounded analysis of “international relations” as the latter seem to be reconfiguring in our deeply and rapidly transforming world. It is more ambitious in that it tries to make a wide variety of Foucaults live and to build on all these possible Foucaults to suggest other ways of engaging with “international relations” and the implicit conception of the “international” that enabled the constitution of “International Relations” as a field of study (hereafter referred to as IR[1] [2]) which somehow has gradually monopolized knowledge about deeply social and political phenomena that develop beyond the spatially situated sites of materialization of power. In other words, this volume is all about pluralization: pluralizing Foucault, rather than confining his multiple- thought (pensee multiple) to the arbitrary unity of a book on Foucault,2 and pluralizing knowledge about the International—rather than reproducing the kind of knowledge developed within IR.

In this spirit, for example, my own Foucault in this volume shares very little with the Foucaults of Nicholas Onuf, Frederic Gros, Beatrice Hibou or Michael Dillon; and none of these Foucaults have anything to do with the neoliberal Foucault some have been striving to configure in order to make The Birth of Biopolitics’ the textbook of neoliberalism, and the author of The Archaeology of Knowledge4 its finest theoretician. Similarly, it is unlikely that the reader will identify an overarching conception of the “International” among the contributors to this volume. Didier Bigo, Mitchell Dean, Armand Mattelart or Rob Walker hardly share the same conception of it, although the four of them—indeed all contributors in this volume—oppose the unreflective character of both IR and the social practices of those who claim to work and act internationally.

It is therefore both the challenge and, I want to believe, the merit of this book to account for the multiple ways in which Foucault’s concepts and methods have been and might be (re-)appropriated and (re-)deployed to address the difficult problems identified with the International, while simultaneously working against all forms of dogmatic appropriations of the work of Michel Foucault. This is also a challenge, a merit and a difficulty that confronts me in writing this introduction to a highly diverse array of contributions. I will thus limit myself to brief discussions of the genesis of the book, the problems it seeks to engage and how the present contributions offer to engage and (re)configure these problems.

  • [1] P. Bonditti (*) ESPOL, Catholic University of Lille, Lille, Francee-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it
  • [2] © The Author(s) 2017 P. Bonditti et al. (eds.), Foucault and the Modern International, The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and PoliticalEconomy, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-56153-4_1
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