Inventing the social, managing the subject

Governing mentalities

Authored by: Jackie Orr

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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What forms of cultural analysis can make sense of and interrupt contemporary practices of governance aiming to manage – in old and new ways – mentalities, mobilities, and resistant imaginings of radical elsewheres? This chapter traces the influential notion of “governmentality” as theorized by Michel Foucault in the late 1970s, while selectively engaging the enormous body of social science literature over the last several decades that has deployed governmentality to understand phenomena ranging from therapeutic cultures to the economization of everyday life, carceral feminism, US youth of color activism, and global security regimes. Attending to theorizations of neoliberal governmentality, including work focused beyond Euro-North American circuits, the chapter also considers how recent research critically reorients the concept to address histories of colonial and postcolonial power. Throughout, the implications of governmentality for the politics of knowledge production are foregrounded. The chapter ends with questions that cultural sociology might ask itself in the face of the contemporary assemblages of power – including authoritarian governmentality – that animate subjects, scholarship, and social and geopolitical relations today.

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