Governance and Governmentality, Welfare, Risk and (Flexi)security

Rediscovering Foucault, a series of authors willing to discuss the practices of the European Union more specifically began to substitute “governance” by “governmentality.” This triggered heavy criticism and ongoing controversy.29 Ole Jacob Sending and Iver B. Neumann were among the most trenchant critics of the narrative of global governance and its subsequent multilevel EU governance, which began to prevail in some articles in which the name of Foucault and the term governmentality were quoted, but in which Foucault was used as equivalent to a traditional IR approach to power.30 They detailed why the claim that the state had lost power to the benefit of non-state actors and that political authority was increasingly institutionalized in spheres not controlled by states was untenable. Along with others, they introduced the idea that the notion of governmentality is about the rationalities and processes that led to governance, and not an equivalent of a change from state power to multilateral governance.31 Despite many warnings and critical approaches deconstructing the confusion about central Foucaldian terms, some scholars in the mid-2000s came to use the concepts of governmentality and conduct of conduct as if they were conveying the ideas of “being influent,” of a “soft power” or, even more crudely, of “a way of lobbying in an open environment” as a member of the European Union (EU) Commission once claimed.32

Governmentality became a “talking point” for the EU Commission to describe “methods” to achieve governance, de facto referring to “policy tools” deployed in a neo-liberal framework of action. It was perceived as a capacity to “manage,” as a “good multilevel-governance” more opened and more “productive” than the traditional intergovernmental sphere especially when it was claiming to “bring civil society” into the decision process. Along this debate, a portrait of a “managerial” Foucault emerged in support of a neo-institutionalist and pro-integrationist position against a state-power position in a very classic opposition reproducing both the traditional notion of transfer of power and the classic discourse on the teleology of the EU as an integration mode. Foucault’s methodological struggles were ignored, and he was eventually enrolled for a “cause” he had clearly taken distance with.33

Fortunately, critics of this mid-2000 “Foucaultian turn” (as Foucaldian became foucaultian) in European studies, strongly claimed that Foucault’s legacy was not, neither in his own work nor in the works that had popularized him in the English-speaking world,34 to glorify neoliberalism, but on the contrary a fierce and subtle critic of Thatcherism, Reaganomics and austere-Austrian policies (to come). The works of Nikolas Rose and Mitchell Dean were therefore mobilized by the critics to stop this diluting move that had configured governmentality as a mode of (democratic and good) governance—a rhetoric that a certain third way and post-Blairism continued to evoke by recovering their agenda with a Foucaldian superficial language.35

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