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Governmental rationality and popular sovereignty

No Social Science without Critical Theory

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1483-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-538-3

Publication date: 28 July 2008


This essay investigates the meaning of rationality in Michel Foucault's notion of “governmental rationality,” both in what he takes rationalities to be and in how they relate to practices of governing. I try to resolve these questions in a sympathetic manner by detailing some of the social dynamics implicit in practices of governing. Pierre Bourdieu provides means to connect such practices with a detailed understanding of social struggle and resistance to power. These insights reveal strong lines of continuity between governmental rationality and collective political resistance to it. On this basis, I suggest a new path of investigation into forms of popular sovereignty as relatively neglected examples of governmental rationality.


Olson, K. (2008), "Governmental rationality and popular sovereignty", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) No Social Science without Critical Theory (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 25), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 329-352.



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