Governmentality and Consumer Culture


University of Sydney, Australia

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs140

Governmentality describes the practice of government that uses tactics, knowledges, and procedures to “conduct the conduct” of individuals and populations (Foucault 2007, 29ff.). Operating continually, yet at a distance, governmentality mobilizes an ensemble of power relations and mundane objects. Food labels, smartphones, carbon offsetting, online genomics, and countless other consumer objects and practices serve as avenues through which conduct is conducted.

Michel Foucault first introduced the term in his 1977–78 Collège de France lectures, published in English as Security, Territory, Population (2007). In these lectures Foucault articulates the practice of governing a people as distinct from governing the nation-state. Unlike state rule, which extends laws over juridical subjects within a territory, governmentality operates within intricate relations among individuals, objects, and populations. This mentality of governance is diffuse rather than hierarchical and requires specific knowledge of human behavior and populations to make them governable realities. Foucault traces the historical interaction of the knowledge of population and the practices of governance from the Christian pastor through to the behavioral economics of the Chicago School's neoliberal theory.

Foucault's analysis of neoliberal governmentality in his 1978–79 lectures, published as ...

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