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Towards an Archaeological--Realist Foucauldian Analytics of Government

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 47 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2007 Pages: 617-633
Jon Frauley
Date Published
July 2007
17 pages
This paper addresses the concept of indirect rule described in French thinker Michel Foucault's writings on the nature of modern government power and regulation, as well as how Foucault's reasoning is sympathetic to realist metatheory in criminological and sociological research and theory.
The major reference point for what many criminologists and sociologists hold to be a neo-Foucauldian movement is not Foucault's work so much as Rose and Miller's (1990) perspective on Foucault's understanding of indirect rule. This paper begins with an overview of some of the main tenets of critical realism and highlights some differences between metatheory and descriptive theory. This is done in order to introduce differing orders of theory, so as to place critical realism as a metatheory that offers transcendental arguments useful for reformulating the general and descriptive theories offered by Foucault and others. Critical realism is a distinctive school of thought whose significance has been increasing since 1975. One tenet of critical realism is that reality exists independently of human knowledge of it, such that knowledge can never claim to correspond with what actually exists. Another tenet is that objects belong to a stratified reality independent of our perception of them at a given point in time, i.e., what is real is subject to change. After explaining critical realism in the domain of sociological realism, the author demonstrates his claim that the dominant understanding of indirect rule is empiricist and that in rejecting sociological realism, it discards what Foucault termed "archaeology." The paper then illustrates how this empiricism and rejection of sociological realism are not compatible with Foucault's ontological position. Attention is drawn away from government as a stratified process that is operating prior to the emergence of perceived objects of regulation. 65 references


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