domenica 1 gennaio 2012

Topologies of Power by Stephen J. Collier @ Theory, Culture & Society Vol. 26 (2009)

Topologies of Power 
Foucault’s Analysis of Political Government 
beyond ‘Governmentality’ 
Stephen J. Collier 

The publication of Michel Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France in the 
late 1970s has provided new insight into crucial developments in his late 
work, including the return to an analysis of the state and the introduction 
of biopolitics as a central theme. According to one dominant interpretation, 
these shifts did not entail a fundamental methodological break; the 
approach Foucault developed in his work on knowledge/power was simply 
applied to new objects. The present article argues that this reading – which 
is colored by the overwhelming privilege afforded to Discipline and Punish 
in secondary literature – obscures an important modification in Foucault’s 
method and diagnostic style that occurred between the introduction of 
biopolitics in 1976 (in Society Must Be Defended) and the lectures of 1978 
(Security, Territory, Population) and 1979 (Birth of Biopolitics). Foucault’s 
initial analysis of biopolitics was couched in surprisingly epochal and total- 
izing claims about the characteristic forms of power in modernity. The later 
lectures, by contrast, suggest what I propose to call a ‘topological’ analysis 
that examines the ‘patterns of correlation’ in which heterogeneous elements 
– techniques, material forms, institutional structures and technologies of 
power – are configured, as well as the redeployments through which these 
patterns are transformed. I also indicate how attention to the topological 
dimension of Foucault’s analysis might change our understanding of key 
themes in his late work: biopolitics, the analysis of thinking, and the concept 
of governmentality. 

Theory, Culture & Society 2009 
Vol. 26(6): 78–108 

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