The Uses and Misuses of Foucault for Thinking Management : A Case for a Theory of Managerial Governmentality

Working Paper, February 2012, 19 p.

Thèmes liés : Management

From the beginning of the 1970s, Michel Foucault works on power. Repressing, ruling, dominating : the discipline, his first developed conception of power, is an essentially negative mechanism. By the mid-70s, Foucault strives to escape the binary and overbearing conception of power he inherited from the theories of sovereignty. He thus balances and nuances this understanding. The power then no longer takes the shape of the prison panopticon, but that of the government - in the narrow sense of State activity, and in the broad sense of a behavioural technology applied to free individuals. Yet, until his death, he remains encumbered by this regal rationality whose influence on the contemporary understanding of power he continues to criticize. Among the main notions he elaborates to cut off the king’s head, the concept of governmentality stands as the most drawn upon today. It is time for management thinkers and historians to seize it and develop a thorough theory of the managerial governmentality, rather than simply focus on the panopticon, subjectivation processes and the power/knowledge paradigm. Far from using the Foucault tool-box as an intellectual straitjacket, management students should use it as a liberating set of sketches to be questioned, complemented, and diverted if necessary.
Key-words : Foucault, discipline, governmentality, management