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Political power beyond the State: problematics of government

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This paper sets out an approach to the analysis of political power in terms of problematics of government. It argues against an overvaluation of the ‘problem of the State’ in political debate and social theory. A number of conceptual tools are suggested for the analysis of the many and varied alliances between political and other authorities that seek to govern economic activity, social life and individual conduct. Modern political rationalities and governmental technologies are shown to be intrinsically linked to developments in knowledge and to the powers of expertise. The characteristics of liberal problematics of government are investigated, and it is argued that they are dependent upon technologies for ‘governing at a distance’, seeking to create locales, entities and persons able to operate a regulated autonomy. The analysis is exemplified through an investigation of welfarism as a mode of ‘social’ government. The paper concludes with a brief consideration of neo-liberalism which demonstrates that the analytical language structured by the philosophical opposition of state and civil society is unable to comprehend contemporary transformations in modes of exercise of political power.

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