Foucault's Three Ways of Decentering the State: Potentials for Contemporary Political Studies

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    It is well known that Michel Foucault challenged the centrality of the state, advancing a view of the state as ‘decentered’. He said: “The state has no heart, as we well know, but not just in the sense that it has no feelings, either good or bad, but it has no heart in the sense that it has no interior” (Foucault, 2008: 90). In the stream of scholarship inspired by Foucault it has become an interpretative orthodoxy that the state should be viewed as decentered, without a unifying center, resting upon networks of mobile power relations. In this way, political decision making is delocalized, and sovereignty is dissolved in dispersed and mundane practices. Here, I wish to examine the three routes by which Foucault during the 1970s reached his renowned ‘decentered’ approach to the state. These routes never arrived at any ultimate conception of the state, since they were experimental explorations of different perspectives on the state and state-power. They offer, I suggest, distinct analytical frameworks for contemporary analysis of state-formation, nationalism, territoriality and crises of the state.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2017
    Number of pages13
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    EventGénéalogies de l’État, avec et après Foucault - The American University of Paris, Paris, France
    Duration: 29 Sept 201729 Sept 2017


    SeminarGénéalogies de l’État, avec et après Foucault
    LocationThe American University of Paris
    SponsorThe American University of Paris
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