chapter  14
10 Pages

Michel Foucault


The work of Michel Foucault has been influential in almost every area of the humanities and social sciences. Of all the twentieth century thinkers presented in this book, the legacy of Foucault is perhaps the most intellectually promiscuous. Few thinkers can have been taken up in so many diverse fields of study and practice, from literature and philosophy to psychiatry and healthcare. Within the discipline of international relations alone, there are many diverse interpretations of his work, even among the closest of colleagues. This makes a definitive account extremely difficult, but also undesirable. Foucault has become plural, heterogeneous and dispersed. There could not be a more fitting testament to the implications of his work. With this ‘pluralization’ in mind, the importance of Foucault for interna-

tional relations can be considered from three angles. First, the work of Foucault disrupts some of the central concepts of the discipline, particularly its notions of power, sovereignty, structure and history. Second, in addition to this disruptive role, Foucault offers ways of thinking about forms of power and political practice that do not easily fit into traditional categories, such as governmentality and biopower. Finally, Foucault is to many an invaluable methodological resource, offering a ‘toolbox’ of concepts and techniques such as ‘archaeology’, ‘genealogy’, ‘discourse’ and ‘problematization’.