Cover of State Phobia and Civil Society by Mitchell Dean and Kaspar Villadsen
State Phobia and Civil Society
The Political Legacy of Michel Foucault
Mitchell Dean and Kaspar Villadsen


208 pages.
from $26.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804789493
Paperback ISBN: 9780804796972
Ebook ISBN: 9780804796996

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Excerpts and More

State Phobia and Civil Society draws extensively upon the work of Michel Foucault to argue for the necessity of the concept of the state in political and social analysis. In so doing, it takes on not only the dominant view in the human sciences that the concept of the state is outmoded, but also the large interpretative literature on Foucault, which claims that he displaces the state for a de-centered analytics of power. Understanding Foucault means understanding all his interlocutors—whether Marxists, Maoists, neoliberals, or social democrats. It requires turning to Foucault's colleagues, including Deleuze and Guattari, François Ewald, and Blandine Kreigel, in relation to whom he carved out a position. And it entails an examination of his legacy in Hardt and Negri, the theorists of Empire, or in Nikolas Rose, the influential English sociologist. Foucault's own view is highly ambiguous: he claims to be concerned with the exercise of political sovereignty, yet his work cannot make visible the concept of the state. Moving beyond Foucault, the authors outline new ways of conceiving the state's role in establishing social order and in mediating between an inequality-producing capitalist economy and the juridical equality and political rights of individuals. Arguing that states and their cooperation remain of vital importance to resolving contemporary crises, they demonstrate the interdependence of state and civil society and the necessity of social forms of governance.

About the authors

Mitchell Dean is Professor of Public Governance at the Copenhagen Business School and Professor of Sociology at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Kaspar Villadsen is Professor of Management, Politics, and Philosophy at the Copenhagen Business School.

"This important book will stand as a milestone in Foucault studies and social and political theory more generally."

—Sanford Schram, Hunter College

"This strong and timely work is a valuable corrective to many of the excesses of Foucault scholarship that have emerged and taken root in recent decades."

—Jeffrey Bussolini, City University of New York

"Dean and Villadsen cleverly interrogate the ambiguities of Michel Foucault's writing on the devolved power of the state to the local sites of surveillance and control. Arguing against these academic fashions, they restore the centrality of the state to social and political theory. State Phobia is a timely investigation of the state in a period of austerity packages, welfare cuts, pension restrictions and admonitions to citizens for self-maintenance."

—Bryan S. Turner, The Graduate Center, CUNY

"State Phobia addresses what I consider the most urgent issue of the contemporary Left: how to deal with state power? Traditional Social Democracy comfortably played the parliamentary game, Stalinist Communists imposed ruthless dictatorship, while the New Left demonized the State and imagined direct non-representative democracy. The recent experience of Syriza in Greece has made it clear how difficult it is for the "radical" anti-statist Left to exercise state power in a way that is different from Social Democracy or Stalinism. Dean and Villadsen convincingly demonstrate that the anti-statist attitude must be abandoned: instead of dreaming of 'overcoming' the state, we must learn to use it in a new way. I can only describe State Phobia in terms usually reserved for bestsellers: un-put-downable, a cause of sleepless nights."

—Slavoj Žižek, University of Ljubljana

"Dean and Villadsen help us to understand that Foucault sees neoliberalism not as political program but rather as a framework, a useful 'governmentally' which might prove capable of limiting existing state techniques of subjugation."

—Daniel Zamora Vargas, Contemporary European History