Neoliberalism, State and Technologies of the Self. A Critical Survey of Governmentality Studies

While the reception of Foucaultís work in Germany is still dominated by highly polarized philosophical and academic debates, many studies in the social and political sciences in the Anglo-Saxon world are inspired by his concepts and ideas. Part of this general theoretical interest are the so called governmentality studies referring to the notion of governmentality coined by Foucault.
This articles begins with an outline of the theoretical principles underpinning this research framework. Foucault uses the concept of government in a comprehensive sense adumbrating the close link between forms of knowledge, power techniques and processes of subjectivation. In the second part follows a brief presentation of some subsequent work inspired by Foucaultís account. By confronting Ulrich Beckís notion of risk society with the governmentality approach it will be demonstrated that this kind of theoretical perspective could be very useful for a critical analysis of neo-liberal modes of regulation. It links political rationalities to the micro-techniques of every day life and explores the field of the government which ranges from "governing the self" to "governing others" encompassing the state and civil society. Yet, there still remain unsolved problems and ambiguities, especially the role of the state and the question of resistance in the governmentality studies. These points are taken up in the third part of the text.