Public Policy and Foucaultian Critique: Towards a Happy Marriage?

Kaspar Villadsen, Mads Peter Karlsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article suggests that certain intertwinements can be discerned between contemporary public policies and post-structural thinking, emblematically represented by Foucault and scholars drawing upon his work. The article demonstrates that the post-structural perspective on power, while recognising its strengths and efficacy, confines observers to a particular form of analytical critique, which sets specific limits for what can be observed and debated. The position of Nikolas Rose is discussed with a specific attention to his diagnosis of the adoption of ‘community’ as a governmental category and his understanding of the relationship between power and critique. A significant challenge for this form of critique is the recent embracing of concepts of ‘diversity’ and ‘pluralism’, both in welfare reforms and service arrangements. Another difficulty is posed by how to engage with the material conditions of critical practice which implies analytical critique and resistance through creative self-formation. The article suggests some dislocations of the generalized Foucaultian position on public policy that seem increasingly necessary in the present situation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of European Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)138-147
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Public Policy
  • Foucault
  • Post structuralism
  • Critique
  • Diversity

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