03/02/2010 17:15

Foucault: Politics of the Police

Andrew Johnson
Louisiana State University

Foucault: Politics of the Police

This is a shorter version of a project I have been working on in relation to Foucault and his College de France lectures. It is my argument that Michel Foucault addresses the institution and practice of the police, throughout his entire career, as an important element of his political-historical philosophy. The first part of my essay proves how the police play a fundamental role in his history of the prison and the analytics of disciplinary power. The second part of my essay addresses the methodological questions raised by the recent publication of Foucault’s College de France lectures. Foucault unearths a “secret history” of the police and I argue that the role it plays in his narrative of bio-politics complicates the traditional interpretations of Foucault’s analysis of power. The third part of my essay provides a new interpretation of Foucault’s divergent masks of power, specifically as it relates to the police. The police is best understood as a type of governmental reason (Governmentality), rather than a specific institution of the State. I argue that Foucault’s account of the police in terms of the neo-liberal economic theory described by Gary Becker breaks down when compared to the expansive privatization of security apparatuses after Foucault’s death. This disjunction illustrates the importance of Foucault’s philosophy of the police in terms of contemporary political science.