The development of global governance is part
of the evolution of human efforts to organize
life on the planet, and that process will
always be going on. Our work is no more than
a transit stop on that journey.
— The Commission for Global Governance
Unlike one or two of my fellow authors, I argue in what follows that globalization is in no way in tension with governance, indeed each is the logic of the other. I argue that the root of this equivalence can be found deep within the genealogy of the modern state. In tracing this equivalence I suggest not only that we re-examine popular notions concerning the decline of public authority and the hollowing out of states, but also that we pay greater attention to the political genealogy of concepts such as individualism, freedom and democratic peace.
In so doing we can open a space for a fresh evaluation of contemporary discourses and practices of global governance. The latter endeavour is particularly important, for it is not only what is lost or not said in the Commission’s report that is of interest. Equally significant are the actions and values sanctioned and affirmed. Above all, it is this ‘positive’ program of both the Commission and a range of other actors that I wish to subject to a political and historical reading. What I aim to disturb is not so much a silence as a monologue of reason that has concealed the intervention of power, transformed so many real lives, real people, and given dignity, if not legitimacy, to the violence of a kind of disciplinary governance that has become our destiny and destination. The ‘evolution of human efforts to organize life on the planet’ is indeed the type of governance in question, at least in this essay.
I will attempt to outline the archaeology of this reason to the extent that it highlights an alternative reading of the politics of globalization and its intersection with the reality and politics of bringing order to the world.
Governance and the power to govern
In the first volume of The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault described what he saw as a profound transformation at the heart of political governance. ‘Since the classical age’, he wrote,
For Foucault this ascendance marked the threshold of modernity and what he termed the ‘age of bio-power’. Two poles of political intervention emerged; a ‘great bipolar technology’ of power over life. The first centred on the ‘body as a machine’; an ‘anatomo-politics’ aimed to extort forces and optimize capabilities. The second centred on the ‘adjustment of the phenomena of population’; a ‘bio-politics’ focused on demography (distribution, longevity, procreation), economy (the synchronization of resources and citizens), and social security (the social constitution of contracts and interests), wherein the health and well-being of the civitas became a ‘general objective of policy’ and domain of investment.
In Foucault’s philosophical and historical works this theme of the positive constitution of modern society is well established. From Madness and Civilization is as much a tour-de-force on the birth of ‘industrious society’ as a history of insanity. The Birth of the Clinic charts the emergence of a medical perception as much concerned with illuminating social as corporeal pathology. Discipline and Punish — the history of the prison — is first and foremost concerned with the training (positive sign) of bodies and souls; the dream of a kind of automatic social functioning. And finally — perhaps most profoundly — we have The History of Sexuality, which traces the birth of the ‘knowing subject’; the body that constitutes itself as an object of knowledge. Power — at least since the 18thC — is seen as productive; inscripted in knowledge, revealed as truth, operative at the level of the everyday mundane. Foucault gave the name ‘governmentalization’ to the general process of the emergence of self-organizing, self-reliant networks of governance, in which individuals themselves were to play positive roles. Government, was for Foucault the ‘overall effect’ of a complex interplay of rationalities and technicalities, as well as — of course — political contingency. The single thread that linked all modern experiences of politics was the targeting of life above and beyond death.
This theme dominated Foucault’s lecture and seminar series at the Collège de France between the years 1976 and 1980. Although no comprehensive study emerged from Foucault’s researches, we have — as well as transcripts of his lectures — several short essays and papers (Foucault, 1988, 1989, 1991). These writings are particularly significant in that they entailed a refocusing of Foucault’s own historical gaze. Rather than be satisfied with the archaeology of the ‘dark, but firm web of our experience’ (Foucault, 1973, p. 199), Foucault increasingly turned his attention to the question of order; its historical politics, techniques and practices. Still concerned with ‘bio-power’, Foucault sought to uncover the inscribed history of the birth of modern society; the ‘absolutely conscious strategy’ attested in both political texts and the ‘mass of unknown documents’ constitutive of the ‘effective discourse of a political action’ (Foucault, 1996, p. 149). This ordering was to be found — argued Foucault — in,
2) The tendency which, over a long period and throughout the West, has steadily led towards the pre-eminence over all other forms (sovereignty, discipline, etc.) of this type of power which may be termed government, resulting, on the one hand in the formation of a whole series of specific governmental apparatuses, and, on the other, in the development of a whole complex of savoirs.
3) The process, or rather the result of the process, through which the state of justice of the Middle Ages, transformed into the administrative state during the fifteenth and sixteenth century, gradually becomes ‘governmentalized’ .. (Foucault, 1991, pp. 102-3).
The first step toward this ‘governmentalization of the state’ is taken when populations emerge as a statistical problem.1 Foucault traces this emergence first in the notion of raison d’état, where the greatness of cities and states is linked to the strength and productivity of the civitas.2 Added to the ‘great eighteenth-century demographic upswing in Western Europe’ — no doubt in part a consequence of this new concern with the collective power of people — and ‘the necessity for co-ordinating and integrating it into the apparatus of production and the urgency of controlling it with finer and more adequate power mechanisms’,
Epitomized in the writings of Seckendorff (1656), Wolff (1719), Dithmar (1731), Darjes (1749, 1756, 1776), Zinke (1751), Moser (1758), Bergius (1767-74), and Mueller (1790), among others, the aim of this new technology of population — known to contemporaries as ‘cameralistics’, polizeiwissenschaft, or ‘police science’ — was to make individuals ‘useful for the world’ in such a way that ‘their development also fosters the strength of the state’ (Foucault, 1981, p. 252).3 This strength of the state was conceived in two ways: on the one hand, as the material result of the harnessing and channeling of energies (industry) into the productive economy, and on the other, as the securitization of governance through workfare, occupation and the incentive to profit (enrichment). Productivity, diligence and happiness emerged as the objectives of the mode of government that dominated the classical age; simultaneously differentiated (in the classification and organization of bodies) and aggregated (in the policing of rhythms and processes of populations). Freedom, inner strength and security emerged as dominant principles in the discursive constitution of civic order; conditioning the historical development of practical and political government from the 18th century onward.
“Belief in the world”: The everyday politics of globalism
14 June 2002
Power is in the Street: An interview with Julie Murphy Erfani
21 September 2000
Globalization as governance: An archaeology of contemporary political reason
27 September 1998
Police science and the genealogy of automotion
14 November 1997
What Foucault’s historical studies describe in essence, is the simultaneous spatialization and deterritorialization of political government throughout the course of modernity. In the first instance, government widens its reach (and gaze); intervening in an ever greater number of spaces (psychology, pathology, sexuality, education, etc.), and locations (the asylum, the clinic, the prison, the school, the factory, the boulevard, the playground, and so on). On the other hand, government becomes integral; diffused at the level of the social body as a whole (in law, morality, customs, habits and social knowledge), and assumed within an individual code or structure of command (in disposition, humor, temperament). For heuristic purposes this double movement corresponds to Foucault’s identification of ‘specific governmental practices’ on the one hand, and ‘a whole complex of savoirs’ on the other, with spatialization constituting the former, and deterritorialization the latter.
What I suggest — again for heuristic purposes, rather than as a strict categorization of the history of power — is that this distinction might also be useful in helping us think of the significance of the ascendance of a discourse of ‘governance’ over that of ‘government’. The latter is indicative of a political reason concerned with the margins and boundaries of civil security (the delinquent, the libertine, the madman). In this sense it is spatialized and territorialized. The former is indicative of a political reason concerned with strengthening the ‘normality’ of the mass. In this sense it is deterritorialized and temporalized (normality defined according to historical expediency). Michel Foucault himself never felt the need to conceptually separate these out, no doubt for good reason. Indeed his notion of ‘governmentalization’ rightly emphasizes both elements of this emerging power over life. I would like to suggest that contemporary discussions of governance would do well to remember this centrality of government; both in the sense of the spatiality of power, and in the ‘government’ essentially served in its deterritorialization (the passing of the command structure into the very constitution of the individual).
In this paper, however, I aim to do more than simply raise that objection. I want also to make a preliminary move to understanding the technicalities of what I take to be a form of political intervention concerned less with the homology of civil space than with the constitution of civil time — its rhythms, its pace, its motion. In this I want to emphasize the notion of ‘governance’ while not divorcing it from the ‘specific governmental practices’ that lurk behind the outward surface of this deterritorialization. Maintaining this focus on government while trying to describe the parameters of governance is indeed essential as both emerge from the same political reason (the targeting of populations by power).
Let us begin by revisiting the Commission on Global Governance.
Our global neighbourhood
As the report of the Commission continued, I realized that I was reading an historical document, essentially the same in nature to the decrees and lost registers whose vibrations Foucault felt, and whose intensity he dreamt of restoring. I imagined myself surrounded by its forebears — their names rising up through the centuries — Botero, Darjes, Saint-Simon, Bentham. From the discussion of ‘civic ethics’ to ‘economic stability’, from ‘development assistance’ to the ‘enforcement of law’, from the ‘empowerment of people’ to ‘enlightened leadership’, here was encapsulated the grand themes of the modern epoch. The aims of this Commission were clear: to develop a ‘multifaceted strategy for global governance’, one that would ‘draw on the skill of a diversity of people and institutions at many levels .. [building] .. networks of institutions and processes — that enable global actors to pool information, knowledge, and capacities’ (Commission for Global Governance, 1995, pp. 4-5). ‘Governance’, in their terms, was to be found in the promotion of security ‘in its widest sense’.
On the Commission’s account this was a text about ‘a new world’; one caught up in the midst of a profound revolution. ‘Never before’ it attests, ‘has change come so rapidly — in some ways, all at once — on such a global scale, and with such global visibility’ (Commission on Global Governance, 1995, p. 12). Yet the echoes of all those brief lives, those lowly figures upon whom power, many centuries hence, had turned its attention, kept jumping up as I read. Something was amiss. Though it took me some time to see it, the outline of an equivalence between global governance and the genealogy of modern governmentality and bio-politics was materializing on the very page before me. Where once the theoreticians of police had conceived of the dignity, power and dynamism of the state in terms of facilitating happiness and self-sustenance, now we were being told,
In response, ‘Nation-states must adjust to the appearance of all these forces and take advantage of their capabilities’ (Commission for Global Governance, 1995, p. xvi). Leaders, argued the Commission, must recognise the ‘collective power of people’. ‘Mobilizing that power to make life in the twenty-first century more democratic, more secure, and sustainable, is the foremost challenge of this generation’ (Commission on Global Governance, 1995, p. 1).
Despite the fact that ‘bio-power’ emerges as a political rationale and practical strategy in the 18th century, popularising government in its very modus operandi (advanced liberal democracy), the picture sketched by the Commission is one of the crisis of government as a whole because of its decentralization. In this proposition it is not alone. This mistake is particularly prevalent in contemporary discussion of the state and globalization in the disciplines of international relations and political economy. Susan Strange, for example, in an essay entitled ‘The Defective State’ writes, ‘state authority has leaked away, upwards, sideways, and downwards. In some matters, it seems even to have gone nowhere, just evaporated. The realm of anarchy in society and economy has become more extensive as that of all kinds of authority has diminished’ (Strange, 1995, p. 56). The state, for Strange, is ‘hollowing out’. In Strange’s view we are witness to a process by which centralised authority over society and economy has become ‘diffused’ in a ‘neomedieval fashion’, with ‘some necessary authority once exercised by states .. now exercised by no one’ (Strange, 1995, p. 71). Governments are the ‘victims’ of a shift in the ‘state-market balance of power’.
Alternatively, take the writings of Phil Cerny. ‘The essence of the state — and the main practical condition for its viability’ he writes,
Left all alone, the future for the state, in Cerny’s view, is bleak. The essential presumption is set up in the first line; states are nothing if not territorially (and ethnically) discreet. Similar themes are developed by Theodore Levitt. ‘Cosmopolitanism’, he writes,
Here again the metaphor is one of penetration. The hold of the ship of state (its homology) has been fractured. Per axiom this entails a crisis of government, indeed its obsolescence. ‘The Nation State’ writes Kenichi Ohmae, ‘has become an unnatural, even dysfunctional unit for organising human activity and managing economic endeavour in a borderless world’ (Ohmae, 1993, p. 78). From its role in the constitution and policing of boundaries, ‘politics .. [itself] .. has entered an age of increasing limits’ (Riddell, 1995, p. 14). The key index of this limit — it is argued — is found in the inability of governments to control forms of movement. In the words of Mathew Horsman and Andrew Marshall,
Yet we might ask, from where did man learn the value of motion? Let’s return to the question of the deterritorialization of government and the birth of modern notions of governance.
The discovery of motion
In the words of Martin Heidegger, ‘The breeding of human beings is not a taming in the sense of a suppression and hobbling of sensuality; rather, breeding is the accumulation and purification of energies in the univocity of the strictly controllable ‘automatism’ of every activity’ (Heidegger, 1991, pp. 230-1). Not least the most important innovation of the classical age was the emergence of a form of political reason that would take as its focus the knowledge and facilitation of this automatism. From Leonardo’s anatomical notes and drawings, Versalius’ first public anatomy and De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543), Descartes’ declaration that the body is no more than an ensemble of ‘moving machines’, Hobbes’ assertion that the universe is ‘corporeal’, the flashpoints in that history are no doubt well known. What was emerging was a new spatial imagination of human existence, but also a temporal one. As Jonathan Sawday has so rightly described,
One doesn’t have to take too many guesses to find the link between the new body of regular motion and the birth of the disciplined and tranquil society dreamed of by the 18th century practitioners of ‘police science’.4 With the discovery of planetary motion, the psychology of perception and duration, the social diffusion of the clock, the rise of artistic perspectivism, and the mathematical and geometrical revolutions, a new interest in the possibilities and aesthetics of uniform motion was born (Reiss, 1997, Mumford, 1934, 1961). Uniformity through space (the automata of movement) fast came to define the parameters of ‘public safety’, good order, and the functioning society.
Though often overlooked, this link between motion and civic order was highlighted in a number of historical works by Michel Foucault. In Madness and Civilization (1967, pp. 123-34, pp. 160-77), for example, Foucault described how reason itself was constituted in the classical age in reference to extremes of movement; mania related to an ‘excessive mobility of the fibres’, leading to a lightness in disposition, and melancholia to a congestion and thickening of the blood, and subsequent dullness of character. What emerged was not only a medical perception of the corporeal body, but a series of practices, suggestions and knowledges aimed to regulate motion in the body-politic. The testing ground was the body of unreason, where mobility,
The result, as Foucault described (and also in Discipline and Punish) was the gradual emergence of a ‘science of time’ mediating man’s relation to motion within the confines of acceptable limits to reason and order defined in the movements of the natural world and celestial heavens. The condemnation of idleness as the ‘source of all disorders’, culminating in the obligation to work (Huizinga, 1927, Foucault, 1967, 1973) is perhaps the most conspicuous indication of the links newly forged between motion, good order and the individual. As Mumford describes, ‘Time as pure duration, time dedicated to contemplation and reverie, time divorced from mechanical operations, was treated as a heinous waste’ (Mumford, 1934, p. 197). Ever more, ‘the “power” of the soul gave way to a sequence of mechanical movements .. the silent forces of springs, wheels, and cogs, operating as a contrived whole’. As Sawday continues, ‘The modern body had emerged: a body which worked rather than existed’ (Sawday, 1995, p. 32).
In Flesh and Stone, Richard Sennett takes up the point of how these references to motion (through medical perception and the birth of the productive economy) came to define the early-modern city. In doing so, Sennett, like Foucault, makes the crucial link between the organization of bodies and that of the broader body-politic. New principles of urban planning and policing were emerging based upon new medical metaphors of ‘circulation’ and ‘flow’ (Harvey, 1628, Willis, 1684). The health of the body became the comparison against which the greatness of cities and states would be measured. The ‘veins’ and ‘arteries’ of the new urban design were to be freed from all sources of possible blockage,
The regularisation of cleanliness and sanitation, and the removal of madmen, beggars and idlers from the highway are but two general projects born of the question of the efficiency of movement that dominates the historical imaginary of the classical age. As Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1748) would remark, only organized matter was endowed with the principle of motion. We may also add that matter endowed with the principle of motion was increasingly regarded as ‘ordered’. What was emerging was a particular relation between politics, space and time. Expressed with perfection in the words of Guillaute (a French police officer writing in 1749), ‘Public order will reign if we are careful to distribute our human time and space by a severe regulation of transit; if we are attentive to schedules as well as to alignments and signal systems; if by environmental standardization the entire city is made transparent, that is, familiar to the policeman’s eye’ (Guillaute, quoted in Virilio, 1986, p. 18).
Let us not also forget the military, both in its impact on cities and its impact on bodies. In terms of the former, as Mumford describes,
And before these men could be commanded to run at the enemy they had first to be taught to stand firm in space and time. The neostoic revival in military discipline and drill embodied in the practices and procedures of Lipsius, Maurice of Nassau, Gustavus and Montecuccoli, and passed through to Eugene, Marlborough, Guibert and the French Revolutionaries, also helped set the technical parameters of government.5 Practiced first on the military courtyard, and then in the field, the hospital, the workhouse, the almshouse, the prison, the birth of a new age of military logistics is inseparable from the episteme of organized motion emerging as a political technology of civic order.6 The image of society was one of a complex of relays; each to be synchronised, made efficient and effective. In the remarkable words of Johann von Justi, ‘A properly constituted state must be exactly analogous to a machine, in which all the wheels and gears are precisely adjusted to one another; and the ruler must be the foreman, and the main-spring, or the soul .. which sets everything in motion’ (Justi, quoted in Parry, 1963, p. 182).
Frederick the Great was surely the first statesman to bring together the two themes that would dominate the historical horizon of the modern period; bio-power and moving-power. By the turn of the 19thC these themes were running in parallel, a fact of which Foucault seemed well aware,
A ‘collective, obligatory rhythm’ was emerging; a ‘meticulous meshing’. ‘We have passed’, Foucault continues,
It was exactly this implementation of a new economy of movement through time that enabled Frederick to dominate the 18thC.
Yet if Frederick was the foreman of this newly constituted machine-in-motion, Napoleon would surely become it’s soul. More than anyone prior, he would embody the next phase of history, defined not so much by the ‘art of governing’, as what we might describe — with rightful misgiving — as the ‘art of motorizing’.7 Again, the crucial link is the birth of bio-politics, and the transformation of the power to govern. In the words of Carl von Clausewitz (1968, p. 384), ‘War had suddenly become an affair of the people, and that of a people numbering thirty millions, every one of whom regarded himself as a citizen of the State’. Under the Committee of Public Safety the levée en masse is established providing the first clear model of modern conscription. Perfected by the hand of Bonaparte, the energy thrown into the conduct of war was ‘immensely increased’, with whole populations ‘mobilized for the purpose of wholesale slaughter’ (Foucault, 1979, p. 137).
And not only in warfare did the principles of efficiency and movement dominate, but also in his Civil Code — the Code Napoléon — of which he claimed the, ‘most compact government with the most rapid circulation and the most energetic movement that ever existed’ (Napoleon, quoted in Crawley, 1965, p. 319). All of this was unthinkable without the elaborate ensemble of powers in which the new kinetic state was anchored; the disciplinary codes that would come to define modern governance. Prefigured perfectly in the words of French military reformer Comte de Guilbert,
‘The best soldier’ Napoleon would declare, ‘is not so much the one who fights as the one who marches’ (Napoleon, quoted in Durant, 1975, p. 247). There is no doubt that this marks a threshold in the ‘evolution of human efforts to organize life on the planet’, both militarily and governmentally.
Prolegomenon to global governance
It is this moment in history that serves as urbanist Paul Virilio’s point of departure. Like Foucault, Mumford and Sennett, Virilio is also concerned with the birth of a new technical, geometric, chronographic imagination of men and things. What Virilio adds to the story is a more focused description of the 19th and 20th century experience of moving, and its correspondence with political technology and the genealogy of governance. Virilio also serves as the link to my main argument: that this experience of motion, and its greater facilitation and extension throughout every level of society, is the hidden history of globalism and global governance. Though Virilio has only recently turned his attention to the discourses of globalization (1995b), his writings — I suggest — provide the political and historical reading so lacking in our present discussions. For lack of space let me pick out its main themes.
‘Up until the nineteenth century’, Virilio writes, ‘society was founded on the brake’ (Virilio and Lotringer, 1983, pp. 44-5). Agrarian society then gives way to industrial or transportational society (or what Virilio calls, ‘dromocratic society’).8 This society is built upon the possibility of ‘fabricating speed’. ‘And so they can pass from the age of the brakes to the age of the accelerator. In other words, power will be invested in acceleration itself’ (Virilio, in Virilio and Lotringer, 1983, pp. 44-5). An ‘unrecognised order of political circulation’ was emerging, crystallised in the French Revolution. The events of 1789, he writes,
The stage was set for Bonaparte. ‘With Napoleon’, write the Durants, ‘the ecstasy of liberty yielded to the dictatorship of order’ (Durant, 1975, p. 240).
From this consolidation point (of a broader political investment in motion running parallel to the rise of the money economy, the militant-bureaucratic state, and new advances in the physical and medical sciences), Virilio goes on to chart the active planning of the time and space horizons of whole societies; what he calls the, ‘primordial control of the masses by the organisms of urban defense’ (Virilio, 1986, p. 15). For Virilio then, as for Foucault, the aims of modern political rationality are clear; to make mobile the citizenry within the parameters of order, reason and tranquillity. Deterritorializing in a double sense (the investment in motion and the targeting of the populace), individuals become subordinated to a higher realm of ordering beyond territorialism: speed. ‘Revolution’ replaces ‘circulation’, automotion supplants motion — the increase in pace acting to secure tranquillity through compulsion; what Virilio (1986, p. 46) has termed the ‘peace of exhaustion’. In essence (though largely unrecognised, perhaps even by himself) Virilio’s work describes in outline the political technique through which the ‘problem’ of early modernity (of how to maximise the power of individuals for the prestige of the state within the confines of stability and good order) was transcended and neutralised.
Over the modern period proper, no longer is the dilemma of government how to mediate between the extremes of rapidity and stasis, productionism and docility, circulation and revolution. By the time of Napoleon, not only now would political rationality understand the motion of matter and of bodies, it would seek above all to perfect the mechanisms of producing it. The ‘movement-of-movement’ as a technical achievement, emerges at this time (the early 19thC) as a societal principle, reordering the whole of the modern world. ‘What, then’ writes N.H. Gibbs, ‘was Napoleon’s distinguishing mark as a “great captain”?’,
Motion had become speed, and in focussing upon it in the most radical way possible, Paul Virilio begins to answer the question of how efficiency in the governing of men and things was established at the heart of modernity.
Let us imagine the flagpoints of this history in summary form: in early modernity we find a rabble populace, poorly disciplined, wandering, and blighted by the spectres of unreason, idleness and environmental destitution. The aim of political reason — in the context of broader societal transformations (the discovery of order through production, the rise of the money economy, commercialism and early mercantilism9 … ) — is to navigate a course between the extremes of revolution and stagnancy. Having recognised that (in the words of Botero) the ‘true strength of a ruler consists in his people’, political rationality aims also to ‘multiply’ the citizenry as a productive force. A new politics of order, both of detail (looking into men’s souls), and of generality (the new concern with the biology of populations) becomes a technical necessity. Working together, these techniques of intervention (‘anatomo-power’ and ‘bio-power’) produced at the heart of the classical age an initial stasis; seen best in the military courtyard, the hospital, the prison and the school. The power of movement was subject to a territorial codification (in the city, in the workhouse, in the asylum, in the manufactory).
By the beginnings of the 19thC the place of the state and political reason in constituting spaces for existence had been secured, and a second ‘reordering’ could now be effected, heralding perhaps less the age of bio-politics as the age of bio-kinesis. Rather than charting the middle ground between rapidity and stasis, power would aim to ‘release’ the full productive, dynamic efficiency of the (national) population in and through time. ‘Motion’ (or more precisely, motorization) had emerged as the destiny and law of a new politics of order. The full equivalence of Virilio’s ‘metabolic vehicles’ to Foucault’s ‘bearers of order’ becomes clear. ‘Dromological power’ — or in Foucault, ‘capillary power’ — had emerged as the practical basis and first principle of capitalist modernity established simultaneously with the apparatus of modern governance. Mobility, in other words, had become simultaneously the means to liberation and the means to domination; the accumulation of men running hand-in-hand with the accumulation of movement, and the illusion of its sovereign release.
Speed was to be taught as a virtue because it had in itself emerged as a discipline.
Discourses and practices of contemporary political reason
No doubt this is when ‘globalism’ (though yet to find its linguistic expression) first emerged as the imaginary endpoint to liberal freedom. ‘To be truly free requires a life without boundaries’: the passport to that future is the technical control of motion.10 As Paul Virilio (1986, p. 73) describes, ‘the dromocrat’s look .. causes distances to approach.’ This negation of ‘the world as a field’ is contained nowhere better than in the very image of the Earth as seen from space. Indeed, if this blue orb is an icon of anything it is of the final frontier in the ascendance of kinetic political technology. Hardly a surprise then that Martin Heidegger feared this image more than he did the atom bomb. As he described so perfectly, the ‘uprooting of man has taken place’ (Heidegger, 1993, pp. 105-6).
This uprooting, or incitement to motion, is well represented in the discourses and practices of contemporary political reason. Again, our classical themes prevail: deterritorialization (disappearances of all kinds of materiality) and spatialization (self-constitution and regulation). The former can be regarded as the ‘modality of becoming’ of globalism — the emptying out of all kinds of territory (first of the state, then the world itself). The latter corresponds to the channeling of energies, the optimization of forces, the temporal parameters of modern governance. In practice, like the somewhat shaky distinction between governance and government, these impulses are often intermixed. ‘You wanted to travel?’, asks a promotion for Sky television, ‘No need to bother.’ Here speed not only consumes distance, but in bringing everything to hand that is distant (without even the need for physical movement) assures the ideal political state of life without boundaries: immobilism. For Paul Virilio this is clearly worrying,
As a critique of the dream of globalization Virilio’s analysis of the emergence of the ‘terminal-citizen’ is unmatched.11 Not only does it help us reflect politically upon the dominant discourses of our epoch, but again — like Foucault — it allows us to raise, at least for a moment, the question of the implications of contemporary practices for the constitution of contemporary political governance. What interests are better served by this immobilization of humanity under the illusion of the freedom of speed?
This ‘space-distortion’, for Virilio, finds its origins in the military, but can equally be seen across whole sections of society. ‘We believe’ runs a promotion for Kawasaki, ‘that to fulfill our potential as a global corporation, we have to continually push back frontiers of space’ (The Economist, 1994, p. 8). ‘For U.S. Corporations’ The Herald Tribune affirms, ‘the Modern-Day Byword Is “Globalize or Die”’ (International Herald Tribune, 1994, p. 15). In 1989 chairman and CEO of General Electric Jack Welch, talks of the ‘global moment’, of ‘lightening speed’, ‘fast action’, and ‘acting with speed’. ‘The world moves much faster today’ (Tichy and Charan, 1989, p. 115). In 1991 President and CEO of Asea Brown Boveri Percy Barnevik, prompts, ‘Why emphasize speed over precision? Because the costs of delay exceed the costs of mistakes’ (Taylor, 1991, p. 104). In 1994, Vice President Al Gore talks of a ‘planetary information network that transmits messages and images at the speed of light’, allowing ‘families and friends’ to ‘transcend the barriers of time and distance’ (Gore, 1994). In 1995 a special issue of TIME on technology and the ‘global agenda’ begins the cover story article with one word, followed by a full stop. The word is ‘acceleration’.
From Mumford’s desire to ‘get somewhere’ to cameralism’s investment in motion, a deeper history and practical development lies behind this new vernacular of global-neoliberal dromoscopic-space; a fact of which even the advertisers seem occasionally aware. Note, for example, the astounding words that accompanied one of the first promotions to use the image of the globe as seen from ‘deep space’,
A similar point was made more recently in the equally astonishing words of a promotion for Daimler Benz published widely during 1995. Under a double-page spread of the ‘NASA earthrise’, and the subtitle ‘Progress is the realization of utopia’, the dialogue ran,
Automotion fulfills history in the liberation of man from the Earth! Who can fail to be moved by the visuality of the technical result? Clearly the image of the globe is itself essential, now almost obligatory, in the ‘image bank’ of every major corporation. We have the power, it says, to go beyond the critical threshold of orbital speed (the ‘speed of liberation’, ‘escape velocity’), and in doing so not only separate our existence from the Earth, but destroy in one movement the expanse of the planet. Once even the most seasoned philosophers dared not estimate the size of our Earth. It seemed infinite, immeasurable. But in the middle of this century, we escaped all that, so that now we find — whether we like it or not (and we usually do) — just how small our terrestrial habitat really is. In the words of Buzz Aldrin, ‘The Earth would eventually be so small I could blot it out of the universe simply by holding up my thumb’ (Aldrin, in Kelley, 1988, plate 37).
We should ask questions about this disappearance of geometrical space. We might ask whether communications have not long prepared us for this moment where the necessity of immediacy takes its place as the technical achievement of a political governance in which the absence of distance, of space and expanse serves specifically to establish and maintain the equivalence between motion and good order. Are not our discourses of globalism the contemporary monologue of reason that have concealed the political history of the movement of bodies and the extortion of their productive forces? Is not that single snapshot — the NASA Earth — the visual representation of the final stages of the governmentalization of the state and our systems of politics, as globalism, motion and tranquillity become synonymous? Even if we’re shy about asking such questions, one can surely see that the implications of the discourses, practices and aesthetics of contemporary political reason have been immense.
Perhaps most conspicuous has been the historical reversal of ‘motivational crises’ (Habermas, 1975), achieved through an intensification of general anxiety about immediacy and the distortion of distance. The spectre of ‘global competition’ (“Work smarter, not just harder”12 … ), ‘risk society’, the ‘fear of unemployment’, subcontracting, outsourcing and ‘just-in-time’ production; all have collided in the discourses and practices of neo-liberal globalization. The result has not only been an enormous injection of energy into the process of capital accumulation, pulling the failing welfare economies of 1970s into the age of hyper-efficiency. Along with the trajectory we find a wholesale transformation of our perceptions of reality, both in a negative sense of what is disavowed (‘There is no alternative’, ‘You have no choice’, there is ‘no place to hide’13 … ), and the positive sense of what becomes necessary (‘Create a sense of urgency’, ‘involve everyone in everything’, establish ‘friction-free capitalism’).14
The distant echo of those technicians of government who dreamt of the assembly of men and things in dynamic repose becomes an uproar in every global city, and all their peripheries. ‘Activité, activité, vitesse’ — Napoleon’s watchword15 — has indeed become the law of our own world. ‘Man’, write Peters and Waterman (1982), ‘is waiting for motivation’. The long and steady disappearance of the visible markers of the state serves well to conceal the politics behind the decentralization, diffusion and mobilization of the populace as a whole. Yet in the eyes of our favoured detectives (Cerny, Strange, Ohmae, etc.), authority is nothing if not holistic, defined negatively against all other constituencies. A naivety that is politically dangerous. All government is equated with negative power (the power to restrict, to confine, to separate and beat-down). It is this presupposition that helps validate globalism as something in which individuals should invest faith. Yet in failing to consider either the history or consequences of the outward deterritorialization it effects, commentators have surely succumbed to the illusion no doubt marked out for them in advance, in order to conceal the real nature of what is at stake; the substitution of governance for government, automatism for autonomy, immediacy for history, dromocracy for democracy.16
Rethinking globalization as governance
That innovations in political technology were essential to the development of political economy was one of Michel Foucault’s lasting contributions to critical politics. As he himself described,
All of this, for Foucault, was something more than the rise of an ascetic ideal. What occurred in the 18th century,
Why is it that our contemporary commentators believe that this history of political intervention has suddenly ‘evaporated’?
The reason, as we have seen, is their failure to think deeply about governance and the power to govern. Contemporary transformations, for these commentators, are indicative of (and follow from) a generalized shift in the locus of command from the state to the people. Understood as such it would be misguided to view the consequences of such changes as anything other than, on the one hand, the accidental outcome of technological and market forces, or on the other, as the logic of these forces played out (transhistorically) over the longue durée. Yet as we have seen, such a view cannot survive even a cursory reading of the genealogy of governance. Al Gore is indeed right to point out, ‘Governments didn’t do this. People did’. But this says nothing about the decline of authority, for as we have seen, this authority, at least from the 18th century onward specifically targeted individuals to become the vectors of their own processes of transformation. The technology of self-constitution, that Foucault in Discipline and Punish described as ‘panopticism’, runs hand-in-hand with the ascendance of liberal freedom. As Foucault would describe, ‘The Enlightenment which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines’ (Foucault, 1977, p. 222). In this light — of the development of mechanics of self-constitution, subjectification, the passing of the command structure into the minds of individuals (what I have referred to in the essay as ‘governance’) — the state cannot be defined merely as the institutions of government. Governance is in that sense a broader phenomenon; precisely the ‘efforts to organize life on the planet’ that so concerns the Commission for Global Governance.
The question of ‘authority’ then, can only to be viewed in its historical setting and against its developmental transformations. That genealogy reveals that for 300 years at least the implicit objective of political reason has been to pass the responsibilities of government onto the shoulders of individuals. Formulated best in the words of von Justi, modern political reason was to be, ‘concerned chiefly with the conduct and sustenance of the subjects, and its great purpose is to put both in such equilibrium and correlation that the subjects of the republic will be useful, and in a position easily to support themselves.’ (Justi, quoted in Small, 1909, p. 328). The contemporary dissolution of the face of government (institutional fragmentation, dispersion of state authority, diminishing policy autonomy, and so on), says nothing of this longer history of diffusion that lies at the heart of the modern rational order imagined in the classical age. As Paul Virilio has described, the age of visibility (institutions, governments) gives way to the age of disappearance (networks, dispersions), but not as reduction in power. Just as the replacement of the scaffold by the prison was, ‘not to punish less, but to punish better .. to insert the power to punish more deeply into the social body’ (Foucault, 1977, p. 82), so the disappearance of the state has run parallel with the ascendance of new modalities of governance based on the positive constitution of individuals themselves (globalism, competitiveness, self-motivation, rapidity, agility, responsiveness, proactivity, etc.).
Ironically we can agree — in part — with the assessment of Strange, Cerny, Ohmae and others. The state is increasingly hollow! What they have failed to consider, however, is the historical reason why it is so. Having considered some of these reasons here (the birth of bio-power made necessary by the birth of the commercial economy and the emergence of populations as a statistical problem) I dispute that our contemporary epoch is a ‘return to medievalism’ (cf. Kobrin’s chapter in this volume). What we are witnessing at the level of institutions is simply the replicant process of deterritorialization effected first at the level of individuals during the course of the transition from the classical to the modern epoch whereby sovereign power was supplanted by bio-power. As Foucault described, ‘we should not be deceived by all the Constitutions framed throughout the world since the French Revolution, the Codes written and revised, a whole continual and clamorous legislative activity: these were the forms that made an essentially normalizing power acceptable’ (Foucault, 1979, p. 144). Perhaps we can now add that our notions of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘territoriality’ have similarly obscured the fate of the state, progressively emptying itself out in its own bio-political mutation.
I suggest, then, that the birth of bio-power at the level of subjectivity is the rightful precursor of the globalization of the state. From the point at which this transition took place (with the emergence of the notion of reason of state, police science and the question of ‘government’) this endpoint was established as the logic of political reason. The governmentalization of the state is indeed the globalization of the state. The neomedieval metaphor, in mistaking this deterritorialization for a ‘return’ to anarchical disorganization, merely obscures further the relations of power that first ‘discovered society’ (Polanyi, 1957) as the true site of modern governance, followed by ‘global society’ as the object of global governance.
For those that would maintain that this discovery of (global) society signals the decline in state power, let us remember that Bodin’s notion of ‘sovereignty’ was not first and foremost one of territory, but one of the supreme power of the state over its subjects (‘unique and absolved from the laws’). As Meinecke describes, ‘Bodin did not distinguish the question of what is the supreme authority within the State from the question of what is the supreme authority of the State’ (Meinecke, 1957, p. 57). That said, for Bodin the reforms of the cameral thinkers and philosophes of the Enlightenment (the birth of active society) would have been unthinkable. The very idea of participatory ‘civil society’ was, for him, abhorrent. Yet again, we must return to the notion of bio-power, and note that the birth of active society — called forth in the writings of the first technicians of the modern state — was conceived in its origin in terms of the ‘strength of the state’, both commercially and governmentally. In that sense Bodin and the scientists of police and modern governance would surely have agreed on the basic premise that underpins each of their actions; the pursuit of public security (salus populi) and the productive society.17 As Friedrich Meinecke might say, ‘The difference between the two lay only in the means, not the ends’ (Meinecke, 1957, p. 214).18
Conceiving ‘governance’ as ‘diffusion’, and diffusion as ‘civic security’, one can see that globalization actually extends, rather than fragments, state-ordered power. This form of ‘government’ cannot be reduced instrumentally to the actions of institutions. As Colin Gordon suggests, ‘the state has no essence’ (Gordon, 1991, p. 4). Authority, then — at least over the modern period — has to be traced beyond the state, into the ‘positive unconscious’ and codes of a culture, ‘its schemas of perception, its exchanges, its techniques, its values, the hierarchy of its practices .. the space of knowledge’ (Foucault, 1970, pp. xx-xxii). ‘The question of power’, Foucault reflects,
In setting up a simple distinction between diffusion (anarchy) and centralization (authority), Strange, Cerny, Ohmae and others simply misread the history of the modern state, and the genealogy of modern power.
‘Until the last few years’ writes Cerny, ‘the long-term development of the “modern” world order has been characterized by a process of centralization and hierachization of power’ (cf. Cerny’s chapter in this volume). The reverse is the case. The modern world order has been characterized over the long term by a political project of decentralization and diffusion. In highlighting this process as it reaches its final threshold, Cerny actually ends up diverting attention from its own logic, which indeed we are beginning to witness now. This is the reversal now effecting itself at the level of individuals, where this whole technology of power was born. Now, we witness not so much a diffusion and deterritorialization (this has already been achieved). Rather, as Virilio is beginning to describe, we witness a deeper, true centralization and hierachization. The former is effected in the homogenization of whole societies caught up in the necessities of global competitiveness, and ‘global time’ (as well as the imposition of a kind of physical incarceration now that everything arrives without us having to leave). The latter is effected in the very structure of global governance that has emerged to replace the territorial nation-state; the dromological order where the fastest win and the slowest lose, effecting a new and more violent hierarchization of the world.
The pathology of global governance
The final question that a political reading would raise, if only to leave hanging, is the value of global governance in itself. As the history that I have attempted to sketch attests, the development of systems of governance is hardly a neutral process. Any discussion, therefore, of global governance has to confront the question; ‘to what problem is global governance the solution’? It is that question that makes necessary the opening out of the field of discussion into the interrogation of our deepest presuppositions on the value and politics of governing the relations of men and things. ‘Imagine order’ wrote Robert Musil,
Our greatest danger might be to underestimate the extent to which order — perhaps entropy — is served by the deterritorialization of the state. This decentralization was imagined first by an ensemble of thinkers who referred to their own work as the ‘theory of police’.
But Musil‘s words raise the final question, unanswerable here; what are the consequences of universal governance? The works of Paul Virilio — in shifting our attention from the organization of space to the constitution of time — stand, I suggest, as documents charting exactly that universalization of order over the modern period as a whole. Foucault can also act as a reference, in his studies of the internalization of command that goes hand-in-hand with the governmentalization of the state. In each we find a body of work that can be turned profitably to comment on the politics of globalization, and not only that, but a political comment on the nature of governance, that in our current discussions we’d do well to remember. Perhaps it is time, in the words of Gayatri Spivak (1990, p. 30), that ‘the Western theoretical establishment take a moratorium on producing a global solution’, if not out of modesty, then the hope of recapturing life’s authenticity.
We must keep open the debate on globalization and governance.
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- cf., Hacking (1990). ↩
- The publications of Giovanni Botero’s The Greatness of Cities (1588), and Reason of State (1589) are usually taken as a threshold, though he himself emerged in a wider context (e.g., Rosello, Piccolomini, Paschalius and Segni). cf., Viroli (1992) and Tuck (1993). ↩
- cf., Small (1909), Parry (1963), Johnson (1964), Raeff (1975), Knemeyer (1980), Tribe (1984), Pasquino (1991), and Oestreich (1984). ↩
- Sawday even goes so far as to suggest that the move from sovereign to republican notions of governance might find their origin in this reformulation of knowledge of the body. In the broader project upon which this chapter draws I investigate corresponding transformations with the emergence of ‘kinesthetics’ and the sciences of human physiology and motion in the mid-19th century, and notions of information processing in the mid- to late-20th century. On the correspondence between metaphors of the body and those of the body-politic, cf., Marcovich (1982). ↩
- cf., Paret (1986), pp. 32-213. ↩
- For detailed historical discussion cf., Crawley (1965), Ward, Prothers and Leathers (1909), and Durant (1963, 1975). ↩
- Michel Serres (1975) argues a similar point in analysing the transition from the ‘clockwork age’ to the ‘motor age’. cf., Alborn (1994), Virilio (1986, 1991b, 1995a). ↩
- from the Greek dromos, ‘the race’. ↩
- In the words of Botero (1956, p. 102), ‘Cities full of tradesmen and craftsmen and merchants love peace and tranquillity.’ ↩
- RAC. marketing, 1997. The RAC’s main theme, ‘Welcome to the future in motion’, sits well with a range of ‘space/time’ marketing campaigns of recent years, from Microsoft’s ‘Where do you want to go today?’, to British Airways’ ‘The world is closer than you think’. ↩
- Virilio (1997), p. 19. ↩
- British Telecommunications Ltd. marketing, 1995-6. ↩
- Peters (1987), p. 189, Wriston (1988), p. 71. ↩
- Peters (1987), pp. 471-477. ↩
- Durant (1975), p. 248. ↩
- Virilio (1986), p. 46. ↩
- Saint-Simon is a typical figure; entirely opposed to the overbearing absolutism of the classical age, yet crucially linked to it in his conviction that ‘industry’ (broadly defined) was the best way to ensure individual and civic security. cf., Krygier (1979), pp. 34-44. ↩
- The point is surely reinforced when one notes that the discussion from which this quotation is lifted is one in which Meinecke is comparing the Hobbesian ‘Leviathan’ with the ‘Nightwatchman State’ of liberal rationalism. ↩