chapter  2
23 Pages

Power, discourse, government: A Foucauldian perspective on sustainable development and summitry

Summits are familiar subjects in the study of international relations. Historians, diplomats, political scientists, and analysts of global governance are well accustomed to discussing these meetings of the great and good, and the backroom dealings and well-rehearsed public statements that they entail. The tools of analysis developed to explain the triumphs or defeats of particular states in negotiations, or the construction of legal regimes and institutions to promote sustainable development, are well developed and sophisticated.1 Yet such tools often leave much unsaid about the multiplicity of ways in which power operates at, and through, summits. As well as providing a venue for competing and negotiating actors, summits also shape identities, practices of government, and discursive formations. They are political sites in which the very nature and boundaries of politics are imagined, reproduced, contested, and subverted. The analysis of the Johannesburg Summit in this book, therefore, begins by exploring how a theoretical perspective informed by Michel Foucault might enable a rethinking of the broader politics of moments like the Johannesburg Summit, and their role in governing sustainable development.