The King’s Head – Right, Discipline and Government in Foucault


In the social sciences and philosophy Foucault is still regarded as someone who in his last works abandoned the genealogy of power in favor of a theory of the subject. On the basis of a comprehensive reconstruction of the Foucauldian problematics of power this article sets out to present a better account of the theoretical shift in question. After reviewing Foucault’s criticism towards the juridical conception of power, it argues that the concentration on discipline in the context of a »microphysics of power« leads to theoretical problems that seriously limit Foucault‘s analysis, especially the account of subjectivity and the state. In the end of the 70s Foucault introduces the notion of government to actively address these problems. By expanding his conception of the state and subjectivity in a perspective that permits to pose the question of their precise relationship, Foucault’s later work does not represent a discontinuity but an elaboration and extention of the problematics of power.