Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality is widely used throughout the social sciences to analyse the state, liberalism, and individual subjectivity. Surprisingly, what remains ignored are the repeated claims made by Foucault throughout his seminal Security, Territory, Population lectures (2007) that governmentality depends more fundamentally on a specific form of time, than on the state or the subject. By paying closer attention to Foucault’s comments on political temporality, this article reveals that governmentality emerged from, and depends upon, a very specific cosmological order that experiences time as indefinite: what Foucault calls our modern ‘indefinite governmentality’. This is elaborated here in three ways. First, by reviewing the transformation from a linear Christian cosmology to our modern indefinite governmentality through what Foucault calls the ‘de-governmentalization of the cosmos’. Second, by arguing that our experience of indefinite temporality was concretised by the geological discovery of ‘deep time’. Third, by engaging a contemporary geological concept that returns humanity to its lost cosmological centrality, thereby re-governing the cosmos: the Anthropocene, or the ‘human epoch’. Analysed using indefinite governmentality, Foucault’s forewarning of an ‘end of history’ is implicit in the new concept of the Anthropocene’s origins and ends. If it is the paradigm shift its proponents claim, then it threatens to end the temporality of the state, the subject, and governmentality itself.
Millennium: Journal of International Studies – SAGE
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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