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The Management of Circulations: Biopolitical

Variations After Foucault
Impact Factor: 3.58 DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2011.00320.x




Iain Munro
Newcastle University

Available from: Iain Munro

Retrieved on: 06 October 2015

The Management of Circulations: Biopolitical Variations after Foucault

By Iain Munro
Published in, International Journal of Management Reviews, 2012, 14(3), 345-362.
This paper provides a review of the reception of Foucaults later work on biopolitics within
management and organization studies and contrasts this with the reception of these ideas
in sister fields of research in the social sciences. In his later work, Foucault developed
original conceptions of power, including biopolitics, the apparatus of security and neoliberal governmentality, which marked a departure from his conception of disciplinary
power. This paper explores these concepts and elaborates the implications of these ideas
for management studies. The structure of this argument is divided as follows. The first
section outlines Foucaults concept of biopolitics and neo-liberal governmentality,
distinguishing these systems of control clearly from the concept of disciplinary power. The
second section then undertakes a synthesis and evaluation of the extent to which these
ideas have been developed within the field of management and organization studies. The
final section provides a discussion of how these concepts have been used within other
social sciences, distinguishing between three key approaches to their development in
terms of: (a) the concept of governmentality; (b) the concept of immaterial labour; and (c)
the concept of biocapital. Based on this analysis, a framework is developed which can
serve as a basis for future research into the significance of these new biopolitical systems
of control for management studies.
Foucaults later work on biopolitics and neo-liberalism, particularly that contained in his
most recently published lectures, has not yet been given much detailed analysis within
management and organization studies (Barratt 2008; McKinlay 2010). Arguably, these later
studies are of great significance to Foucauldian scholarship within management studies,
since they represent his attempt to deal with power relationships as they have developed
in the most recent past, rather than the more distant historical studies in which his
conception of disciplinary power was developed. This paper shows that, although the
concept of disciplinary power has already been well explored within management studies,
the conceptions of power that Foucault developed in his later lectures, notably, the
apparatus of security, biopolitics and neo-liberal govern- mentality, have yet to be
explored in detail. In conducting this review, this paper highlights the controversies which
have appeared within this literature, showing how they revolve largely around the
limitations of the concept of disciplinary power. Following from this analysis, the paper
explores the diversity of ways in which Foucaults later work has been developed in sister
fields of social science, including sociology and political theory. The strategy adopted for
undertaking this review is thematic analysis, which is a commonly used approach for
undertaking systematic reviews (Dixon-Woods et al. 2004; Macpherson and Jones 2010).
This approach identifies and differentiates prominent themes within the literature under
study, and develops key categories in terms of which the different themes can be
understood. Dixon- Woods et al. (2004, p. 15) observed that this approach to a literature
review offers several advantages: (i) it allows clear identification of prominent themes, and
organised and structured ways of dealing with the literature under these themes and (ii) it
is flexible and can incorporate different types of evidence with ease. Based upon the
thematic analysis, a framework is developed which highlights different approaches to

biopolitical organization within the literature and which can serve as a basis for further
research and development of these concepts within the field of management studies itself.
The argument of this paper is therefore structured according to three main sections: (i) the
first providing an overview of Foucaults own conception of biopolitics and neo-liberal
governmentality; (ii) the second reviewing how these concepts have been appropriated
within the field of management and organization studies; and (iii) the third providing a
thematic review of the ways in which these concepts have been developed in the sister
fields of social sciences. This paper develops a framework for understanding these
techniques of biopolitical control and outlines methodological principles to support future
inquiry. We now turn to an analysis of Foucaults original concepts of the apparatus of
security and biopolitics before turning to a review of how this work has been appropriated
within the management literature.
From discipline to the apparatus of security
In Foucaults later work on power and his lectures on governmentality, he argued that, by
the dawn of the 20th century, modern society had already begun to move away from being
centred on disciplinary power, towards a new apparatus of power which he characterized
as biopolitical (Foucault 1981, 2004, 2007, 2008). That is not to say that disciplinary
techniques of power were no longer being used, but that these were being supplemented
and to some extent supplanted by this new apparatus. According to Foucault (2004),
disciplinary power, which was focused upon an anatomo-politics of the body, is being
transformed by biopolitical techniques for the management of populations. These
techniques were developed within new biopolitical sciences, including statistics,
demography, medicine, psychiatry, criminology and eugenics. Biopolitical techniques of
power were developed hand in hand with new statistical methods for analysing
populations. This also led him to reformulate some of his earlier concepts, such as that of
normalization. He renamed the norms of disciplinary society that were concerned with the
treatment of individual bodies normation, and then labelled the statistical norms for the
regulation of populations genuine normalization (Foucault 2007). Power thus operates
both at the level of the individual body and upon the population as a statistical whole. The
concept of a healthy equilibrium and other associated norms became a regulative principle
for the new science of political economy. Theories of the self-regulation of the organism
parallel the political economic theories of both liberalism and neo-liberalism.
Foucault outlined the evolution of biopolitics in terms of diverse but related conceptions of
the productive population. Biopolitics develops new techniques that focus on the
management of the population, regulating the circulation of people, commodities,
diseases, crimes and so on. Liberalism itself provides the general framework of
biopolitics. (Foucault 2007, p. 383). In Society Must be Defended, where he first
elaborated a concept of biopolitics, he outlined four social domains in which its techniques
become active: (i) the birth rate; (ii) the mortality rate; (iii) accidents, infirmities and
anomalies; and (iv) the effects of the environment. This brings into the scope of biopolitics
not only medical considerations, but also social insurance mechanisms and a broader
concern for environmental and living conditions. Just as he identified disciplinary
technologies as crucial for the training of docile, productive bodies for capitalism, so he
saw biopower as playing a similar role on the level of the population. Foucault (2007)
associated the development of biopolitical techniques for the management of populations
with the rise of a new concept of power which he called the apparatus of security. He
contrasted the disciplinary apparatus that encloses, fixes, confines, with the emerging
security apparatus that organizes the circulation of commodities, consumers and
producers. Whereas the disciplinary apparatus acts as a centripetal force, the security

apparatus acts as a centrifugal force. Foucault observed that the disciplinary apparatus
alone could not explain the remarkable growth of national and international markets and
the rapid development of capitalism:
Discipline is essentially centripetal. I mean that discipline functions to the extent that it
isolates space, that it determines a segment. Discipline concentrates, focuses, and
encloses . . . In contrast, you can see that the apparatuses of security, as I have tried to
reconstruct them, have the constant tendency to expand; they are centrifugal. New
elements are constantly being integrated: production, psychology, behavior, the ways of
doing things of producers, buyers, consumers, importers, and exporters, and the world
market. (Foucault 2007, pp. 4445)
The organization of centrifugal forces becomes an increasingly significant problem with the
multiplication of commodity markets and the role that towns play as focal points of these
Within the disciplinary apparatus, every departure from the norm demands some form of
corrective intervention, whereas in the security apparatus, before any interventions are
made, the risks of such an intervention must be calculated. Foucault demonstrated how
the problem of security was conceived in terms of the protection of the collective interest
against individual interests (Foucault 2008, p. 65), where interests are defined in the
utilitarian terms of costs and benefits. In contrast to a strictly disciplinary rationality, the
apparatus of security will only intervene when the dangers of letting things happen
outweigh the costs of intervention. These risks are calculated for events which take place
at the level of the population, such as the scarcity of food or epidemics of disease. This is
the economic rationality underlying the idea of non-interventionist, laissez faire
government. Foucaults (2007) genealogy of liberalism revealed a close association
between the discourse of laissez faire economics and the emergence of the apparatus of
security. Freedom was essential to the liberal forms of government, but this is a freedom
which had become inextricably bound up with the extension of procedures of control,
constraint and coercion (Foucault 2008, p. 67). Mechanisms of control were conceived not
as a limit upon individual freedom because liberalism entailed a new art of government of
mechanisms with the function of producing, breathing life into, and increasing freedom, of
introducing additional freedom through additional control and intervention. That is to say,
control is no longer just the necessary counterweight to freedom, as in the case of
panopticism: it becomes its mainspring. (Foucault 2008, p. 67)
The apparatus of security therefore provided a diffuse system of power in which control
was no longer understood as a restraint upon an individuals freedom, but was conceived
as providing the necessary framework within which freedom might then be exercised. This
crucial point of Foucaults argument is returned to later in the paper in the section devoted
to an analysis of different conceptions of biopolitics.
Both biopolitics and the liberal apparatus of security emerged to deal with the population
as the problem of government. In many respects, liberal political thought presented a
challenge to the existing raison dtat and its disciplinary apparatus. Liberal- ism
concerned itself with the self-limitation of government or, in the terms set out by Benjamin
Franklin the art of frugal government. But on what grounds and which forms of knowledge
could this self-limitation be founded? The simple answer is that the discourse of political
economy provided the theoretical and practical grounds for the self-limitation of
government; the market thus became the judge of the art of government and its successful
intervention within the social body. The market itself was sup- posed to emerge as a part of

the natural order of things; for instance, Adam Smiths (1776/1999) groundbreaking work
on the market economy justified this by what he described as the wisdom of nature. Smith
made frequent analogy with natural processes in the development of his market system,
and claimed that this social system behaved as if it were a natural phenomenon. He
argued that society is like a body and so a healthy society can be developed in much the
same way as a healthy body. In Smiths own words, In the political body . . . the wisdom of
nature has fortunately made ample provision for remedying many of the bad effects of the
folly and injustice of man, in the same manner as it has done in the natural body for
remedying those of his sloth and intemperance (Smith 1776/1999, p. 260). This natural
remedy being perfect liberty and the avoidance of the interventions of well-meaning
quacks. With Adam Smith and his new science of political economy, the wisdom of nature
became the regulative principle of economic affairs. Foucault (2007) himself identified a
certain naturalism running throughout the new discourse of liberalism in a range of
political writings of this era, most influentially in the work of Adam Smith and Kants
writings on Perpetual Peace. If the market could naturally self- regulate in the same way
that an organism could, then external interference would become unnecessary and
unjustified. This highlights the major difference between the rationality of the disciplinary
apparatus based on continuous intervention and the art of liberal government which
prefers non-intervention.
However, the analogy between the market and the organism, which originally helped to
justify the idea of a self-regulating market under liberalism, does not play such an
important role in the later neo-liberal approaches to political economy.
The rise of neo-liberal governmentality and the apparatus of control
In his lectures on the transition from liberalism to neo-liberalism, Foucault showed how
economic policy and the conception of homo oeconomicus were key elements in the new
systems of governmentality. One of the key differences that Foucault (2008) highlighted
between liberal thinkers and neo-liberal theorists is their basic conception of the
ontological status of the market. As we have already seen, liberalism viewed the market as
a natural phenomenon that could take care of itself if left alone. However, with the rise of
neo-liberalism, this conception of the market was radically altered, where neo-liberal
economists asserted that the rules of the game must first be established and the market
itself must be continually reinforced in order to promote competition and a culture of
entrepreneurship. Foucault (2007, p. 353) explained this rather striking transformation of
the concept of the market in the following way: The essential objective of this [economic]
management will be not so much to prevent things as to ensure that the necessary and
natural regulations work, or even to create regulations that enable natural regulations to
work. So, the myth of a natural market is maintained in neo-liberalism, but in its neo-liberal
incarnation it needs a little help from government to get itself started and to promote a
competitive ethos throughout the social fabric.
According to Foucault (2007), the move from liberal economic policy to neo-liberalism can
be broadly described in terms of a transformation of the social contract. While the liberal
conception of homo oeconomicus conceived man simply as a partner in an exchange
relationship, the neo-liberal conception of homo oeconomicus is conceived as an
entrepreneurial self, the living embodiment of human capital. This transformation in the
social contract was extremely important, since the development of human capital
demands continuous intervention and economic regulation within the social fabric to
promote competitive social relations and entrepreneurial culture. Foucault (2008) analysed
the neo- liberal conception of human capital of the hugely influential Chicago School and

its disciples, and their extension of the rationality of the marketplace to an ever-increasing
range of social interactions, such as the education of children, the treatment of crime, and
the institution of marriage all in terms of the development of capital. For instance, he
shows the way in which neo-liberal theorists have analysed child rearing, where the
number of hours that a mother spends with her child has been identified as a key variable
in the development of its social skills and thus an important investment in the formation of
human capital. Following a similar logic, the punishment of crime has been interpreted not
simply as dealing with infractions of the disciplinary code, but as an economic problem
where the aim became to raise the cost of crime in order to make it an unprofitable
enterprise for the potential criminal. In situations where the costs of the enforcement of
legal sanctions outweigh its expected benefits, a purely neo-liberal response would be one
of toleration.
Foucault noted that this type of economic government was a clear departure from a purely
disciplinary rationality, where the latter would have demanded ever more intervention to
deal with even the slightest deviation from the norm. Foucault described this as a key
movement in neo-liberal thought, in which human beings and capital have become fused:
capital . . . is inseparable from the person who possesses it (Foucault 2008, p. 224).
Foucault thus contrasted the disciplinary mechanism which concentrates, focuses and
encloses with a more diffuse apparatus of control which modifies the rules of the game
(Foucault 2007, 2008). This apparatus operates indirectly through the manipulation of
culture, inculcating the values of competition, entrepreneurship and human capital more
generally. Under neo-liberal forms of governmentality, control is exercised by means of
interventions upon the milieu within which people make decisions. This is developed by
Foucault (2008) in his analysis of the importance of the concept of human capital to the
neo-liberal dis- course, where the role of state intervention is aimed at the development of
this peculiar form of capital. Thus, neo-liberal discourse reformulates social problems from
the birth rate to drug crime in terms of investments or disinvestments in human capital. As
Foucault (2008, p. 259) explained, we must act on the market milieu in which the
individual homo oeconomicus is making his or her decision, in order to guide people
towards economically and socially desirable behaviours. He thus highlighted the neoliberal requirement for continuous government intervention in society in order to promote
and intensify market relations. Ultimately, this requires the com- plete transformation of
social relations and culture itself in terms that are entirely mediated by the marketplace. In
this respect, Foucault pointed to a remarkable passage by the pioneering economist, Gary
Becker, who defined homo oeconomicus as someone who accepts reality (Foucault 2008,
p. 269) and who responds systematically to modifications in the variables of the
environment (Foucault 2008, p. 270). Foucault observed that, while this neo-liberal
conception of homo oeconomicus may not exist in practice, this ideal individual, as defined
by economists, is someone who is eminently governable (Foucault 2008, p. 270). This
neo-liberal system of governmentality is far more diffuse than the disciplinary apparatus,
since it attempts to manipulate the milieu within which decisions are being taken. The
avowed aim of such programmes is an intensification of human capital which finds its way
into every sphere of social life. Taking this logic to its most extreme, he speculated on the
emergence of genetic human capital, which he observed was a problematic that is
currently being elaborated while he was writing in the 1970s (Foucault 2008, p. 228).
As we shall see later in this paper, the ideas that were first set out in these lectures on
biopolitics by Foucault have since been taken up and developed along different lines by a
diversity of subsequent scholars in what Colin Gordon has characterized as the
Foucauldian diaspora (Donzelot and Gordon 2008, p. 56). Now that we have traced out
the mutations in the apparatus of power that Foucault outlined in his later works, and the

importance this has been given in subsequent analyses of liberal technologies of power,
we are in a position to evaluate the contribution of this work to the study of management.
The following section will discuss the neglect of the concepts of biopolitics and neo-liberal
governmentality within the field of management and organization studies to date, and the
ways in which these concepts might be used to enrich the analysis of the field.
The later Foucault in management studies
A comprehensive review of the appropriation of Foucaults ideas within management and
organization studies is well beyond the scope of a single paper, but a narrower
commentary upon the relative neglect of his work on biopolitics and neo-liberalism is
feasible within these bounds. Foucaults work has been applied to a vast range of
management studies, including accountancy (Covaleski et al. 1998; Hoskin and Macve
1986; McKinlay and Starkey 1998; Miller and OLeary 1987, 1994), human resource
management (Barratt 2002, 2003; Findlay and Newton 1998; Townley 1994, 1998, 2005),
the professional career (McKinlay 2002a; Savage 1998), organization studies (Burrell
1988; Clegg 1994, 1998; Hatchuel 1999), business strategy (Knights 1992; McCabe 2007,
2010) and business history (Hassard and Rowlinson 2002; McKinlay 2006). The majority
of these studies have been particularly concerned with the concepts of disciplinary power
and the Panopticon in order to help explain work- place phenomena and management
practice. The task of professional management has thus been broadly conceived in
Foucauldian terms of training docile bodies and creating a useful workforce. In response to
the rise of Foucauldian scholarship within management and organization studies, there
has already been some criticism of its perceived over- reliance on a very limited aspect of
Foucaults work. For example, David Knights (2002, p. 590) has observed that, Too many
organizational theorists have focused simply on the most popular of Foucaults output
Discipline and Punish. This problem has led some Foucauldian scholars to be somewhat
dismissive of much of the existing research (e.g. McKinlay 2002b; Townley 2005).
The appropriation of Foucaults ideas within management and organization studies has
been accompanied by a great deal of disagreement and factionalism. Not long after the
first papers were published within management studies that claimed a Foucauldian
influence, they were dismissed by antagonistic scholars from labour process theory as
being little more than a fatal distraction (Carter 2008; Thompson 1993). Even the most
prominent authors in this field of research have criticized the way in which Foucaults ideas
have been appropriated. For instance McKinlay (2002b, p. 87) refers to those he believes
give too much credence to the effectiveness of formal techniques of surveillance as petit
Foucauldians, and in a more ironic tone Townley (2005, p. 647) has remarked that, We
have never been Foucauldian. These debates within the field of management studies and
the tensions they surface provide a fruitful position from which to clarify the significance of
his later studies of biopolitics and neo-liberalism.
No attempt is made here to adjudicate between the different camps, but the tensions that
they highlight do provide some useful positions from which to review the contours of the
field as it lies today. It is revealing to note that this debate often revolves around
arguments over the precise limitations of the concept of disciplinary power. For instance,
Findlay and Newton (1998, p. 225) have criticized the work of both Barbara Townley and
Chris Grey by noting that, power relations in the workplace are far more complex than the
concepts of either monarchic or disciplinary power would suggest. In contrast, Townley
has been equally critical of research that oversteps the rightful limits of the disciplinary
framework of analysis. For instance, Townley has criticized those scholars within
management studies who have interpreted disciplinary power in terms of control, which

she argues is not a Foucauldian concept at all (Townley 2005, p. 643). These concerns
with the concept of control are summarized as follows:
are not the concepts control and resistance so heavily imbued in a framework of interests
and sovereign agents, be this management, class or the organization/corporation, that
they take the sovereign subject as the focus? Even as we have been offered power/
knowledge analyses, an implicit control perspective pervades. Foucaults . . . conclusion
on political theory that we need to cut off the kings head is still relevant. (Townley 2005,
p. 646)
This diagnosis leads Townley to the conclusion that, within organization studies, we have
never been truly Foucauldian. This remark is aimed at those within the academic
community who equate the concept disciplinary power with that of control (e.g. Roberts
2005). However, Townley also appears to be alluding to Foucaults unusual commentary in
the introduction of The Archaeology of Knowledge, where he writes, Do not ask who I am
and do not ask me to remain the same . . . (Foucault 1972, p. 17). Such a statement
problematizes any idea that we could be truly Foucauldian.
These controversies rest upon the perceived limits of the sovereign and disciplinary
conceptions of power, and an apparent reluctance to move beyond them. In these
debates, the work of Foucault that deals explicitly with the apparatus of control which
emerged from the dawn of the 20th century has been largely neglected. Part of the reason
for this may be that some of these writings have been published in English only recently
(Foucault 2004, 2007, 2008). The above debates describe the conceptual knots that have
arisen from attempting to fit contemporary neo-liberal mechanisms of control into either a
disciplinary or a sovereign conception of power. Ed Barratts review of the Foucauldian
scholarship within management studies has drawn a similar distinction between those who
are exponents of the disciplinary framework of analysis and others he highlights the work
of Paul du Gay who have suggested the emergence of what Barratt (2002, p. 193)
terms, a post- disciplinary epoch. Similarly, we argue that, while it is important to
distinguish between the different apparatuses of power, as Foucault does in his original
work, they are not necessarily exclusive frames of analysis. In both Discipline and Punish
and Security, Territory, Population, Foucault explained that elements of older systems of
power have actually continued to coexist with the development of new regimes of power.
Thus, traces of the monarchic system continued to exist during the growth of the
disciplinary regime, and sometimes were even fused together, as was the case during the
Napoleonic era in France (Foucault 1977, p. 216). Similarly, the techniques of disciplinary
power have continued to thrive even as the liberal apparatus of security began to come
into being; both were key features of the early development of capitalist forms of
organization (Foucault 2007, pp. 107108). Foucault noted that all three regimes of power,
sovereign, disciplinary and the apparatus of security, have coexisted and developed
together. However, each new regime had the effect of transforming the deployment of the
techniques of power that were developed within the previous regimes. The emergence of
new technologies of power does not entail the wholesale rejection of older disciplinary
elements that still subsist in many modern techniques of management, such as
accountancy, human resource management, and so on.
With the emergence of the apparatus of security and neo-liberal governmentality,
technologies of power have developed that have as their focus the control of flows rather
than the discipline of bodies. In his lectures on liberalism, he described a move away from
a strictly disciplinary apparatus to the apparatus of security under which, it is no longer [a
problem] of fixing and demarcating a territory, but of allowing circulations to take place, of

Disciplinary Apparatus


Organization of Objects

Centripetal forces of

Centrifugal forces of market

discipline - enclosed

- flexible networks for the

sites, isolating and fixing

circulation of capital

Level of Intervention

Forms of Intervention

The forces of the body,

The population, the milieu

the individual

in which decisions are made

Hierarchical surveillance

Techniques for performance

and normalization,

measurement, audit

exercise, the confessional mechanisms, quasi-markets

Type of Normalization

Normation of

Normalization of population

individual bodies

according to statistical

according to discourses


on abnormality
Forms of Subjectification The docile, useful,
normalized individual

Entrepreneur of ones self,

competitive social relations,
human capital

Table 1. Disciplinary and neo-liberal dimensions of debate

controlling them, sifting the good from the bad, ensuring they are always in movement,
constantly moving around . . . in such a way that the inherent dangers of this circulation
are canceled out. (Foucault 2007, p. 65).
Foucaults interest in the control of flows has been noted by former colleagues and other
commentators, including Deleuze (1995), Hardt and Negri (2000) and Terranova (2004).
Rather than intervene directly on the individual person, the neo-liberal apparatus of control
seeks to modify the milieu or the rules of the game, in which the individual makes
choices. In Table 1, a number of key differences are highlighted between the disciplinary
apparatus of power and the neo-liberal regime of governmentality. This table is a
simplification of two very complex concepts, and is derived specifically for the purposes of
the current argument to help navigate the types of issues raised in the debates over the
use of Foucaults ideas within the field of management studies discussed above.

Table 1 briefly contrasts the disciplinary apparatus and its focus on centripetal forces with
the system of neo-liberal governmentality and its focus on centrifugal forces. While there is
a substantial body of work within management studies that draws on the work of Foucault
for its conceptual underpinning, this work has tended to focus on the concepts of
disciplinary power and Panopticism and, as yet, very little attention has been paid to his
conception of biopolitics.
These findings can be usefully contextualized and elucidated by taking a look at the
available biblio- metric data of works published on biopolitics within the field of
management studies. Existing biblio- metric analyses have shown that the works of
Foucault have had a significant impact upon management studies and related fields of
inquiry (Cronin and Meho 2009; Gendron and Baker 2005; Usdiken and Pasadeos 1995).
To undertake a bibliometric analysis of research relating to Foucaults later studies on
biopolitics, a series of search protocols were employed to use the Web of Science
database based on the key terms governmentality, biopolitics, immaterial labor/labour
and biocapital.(1) These search terms are Foucauldian concepts which have been
highlighted as key themes by the chief exponents of the scholarship on biopolitics (Hardt
and Negri 2000, 2004, 2009; Miller and Rose 2008; Rajan 2006; Rose 2007). To ensure
that research of an appropriate quality has been selected for review, the prime criteria for
selection has been publication in refereed academic journals. (2) Scholarly mono- graphs
were also included in the selection where these have been influential on authors
publishing in this area.
A bibliometric analysis of the key terms revealed that the concept of governmentality has
had by far the most extensive coverage within the disciplines of sociology, geography,
anthropology and political science, yielding a total of 855 published articles. The
predominant outlets for the publication of such studies were in the fields of geography and
sociology, but no business or management journals appeared within the top 20 journals of
the analysis for these key terms. The journal Accounting, Organization and Society is the
only journal within the field of business and management which has published more than a
handful of studies focused on governmentality and biopolitics. Within the fields of
management, finance and business, citation to this literature began in 1995, some years
after its emergence in other areas of social science such as sociology and geography.
Take for instance the field of sociology where the analysis shows that 155 journal articles
have been published which focus on governmentality, with a total of 1568 citations
compared with only 30 journal articles published in the field of management, finance and
business, garnering a total of 166 citations. Over 43% of the research published within the
domain of business and management has received one or fewer citations, and three
articles make up for the majority (53%) of the citations in this area (Clegg et al. 2002;
Hollinshead 1999; Knights and McCabe 2003). The bibliometric analysis revealed only a
marginal presence for the remaining search terms (biopolitics, bio- capital and immaterial
labour) within the field of management and organization studies three articles, yielding a
total of 16 citations. This bibliometric data indicate that, while there has been some
recognition of the concepts of biopolitics and governmentality within the field of
management studies, its development has been far more limited when com- pared with its
reception in other fields of social science. Therefore, we can see that, although Foucault is
one of the most influential theorists within management and organization studies (Carter
2008), the bibliometric analysis reveals that the concern for his later work on biopolitics
and govern- mentality still remains marginal to this field. With this contextual information in
mind, we proceed with a more detailed review of the literature on biopolitics and the way in
which it has been taken up and devel- oped within the social sciences.

Biopolitical variations
This section discusses three distinctive ways in which the concepts of biopolitics and the
neo-liberal apparatus of governmentality have been adapted and developed within other
social sciences to explain recent developments in forms of organization and production.3
This includes (i) the emerging field of governmentality which has been pioneered by
Mitchel Dean (1999, 2007), Miller and Rose (2008) and others, to explain the rise of liberal
techniques of government associated with enterprise culture, (ii) Hardt and Negris (2000)
conception of immaterial labour to explain the development of post-Fordist networks of
production, (iii) and the concern for biocapital and biosocial culture developed in the
works of Rabinow (1996a,b), Rajan (2006) and Rose (2007) which highlight the frontiers in
the development of genetic human capital. These present three very different conceptions
of biopolitics, where each has adapted Foucaults ideas in a distinctive manner, and each
fruitfully highlights different aspects of the mutations in techniques of biopolitical control
that we can draw upon as a conceptual toolbox for our own field of study.4 Of these three
themes, the concept of governmentality has received the most attention within the social
sciences. The second theme, immaterial labour, has been identified as an alternative
theme for this review, in part because this concept has merited much attention in sister
social sciences (Hardt and Negri 2000, 2004; Terranova 2004), and in part because it has
been identified by the theorists of governmentality themselves as a competing approach to
the study of biopolitics (Rabinow and Rose 2006; Rose 2007). The third biopolitical theme,
which is focused upon the emergence of biocapital, can be seen as a subcategory of the
broader theme of governmentality (e.g. Rose 2007), however, for the purposes of this
review it has been dealt with as a distinct theme in its own right because its specific focus
on biocapital differentiates it from other studies of neo-liberal governmentality, and
because prominent exponents of this concept move outside the tenets of governmentality
incorporating elements of both anthropology (Rabinow 1996a,b) and Marxist theory (Rajan
2006). Each of these three biopolitical variations has produced distinctive approaches to
the study of organization, and they have been addressed as such in the present review. A
glossary of the key concepts reviewed in this section can be found in Appendix 1.
Governmentality and enterprise culture
Foucaults later work on liberalism and biopolitical techniques of control has been taken up
by sociolo- gists who have developed these ideas under the umbrella term of
governmentality. Most of this research has emerged from the field of sociology (Dean
1999; du Gay 1996, 2000, 2004; Gordon 1991; Lemke 2001; Miller and Rose 2008; Rose
1999), and a small but influential group of account- ing scholars (e.g. Miller 2001; Miller
and OLeary 1987, 1994). To a large extent, this work has stemmed from the publication of
The Foucault Effect in 1991, in which a chapter from Foucaults later lectures on liberalism
was published alongside a series of related essays on technologies of control associated
with ideas of risk and enterprise (Burchell et al. 1991). The ideas set out in this early
publication were then elaborated into more extensive works on the concept of
governmentality by Dean (1999, 2007), Rose (1999) and Miller and Rose (2008), all of
which develop the notion of advanced liberalism and the emergence of neo-liberal
techniques of governmentality. These techniques are centred largely on the rise of
entrepreneurship and enter- prise culture during the 1980s and 1990s and associated
techniques for the management and privatization of risk. Increasingly, managers and
workers are being defined as entrepreneurs, who are responsible for managing their own
risks and making rational cost benefit decisions regarding their behaviour. These authors
have traced the evolution of a whole series of new techniques of control associated with
neo-liberal governmentality, including the proliferation of performance measures, an

increased use of audit mechanisms, a rise in short-term con- tracts, forms of precarious
employment, and the privatization of risk throughout the social body.
Neo-liberal technologies of control tend to be focused on engineering aspects of culture
along the same lines as that of a business enterprise. The enterprise culture was exactly
the type of neo- liberal rhetoric espoused by the governments of Margaret Thatcher and
Ronald Regan during the course of the 1980s in the UK and the USA (Dean 1999; du Gay
1996). The work of Paul du Gay (1996, 2000, 2004) has documented the emergence of
the discourse of excellence, self-realization and related forms of management expertise
that are directly associated with these neo-liberal cultural reforms. Du Gay et al. (1996)
described the turn to competency in management theory and practice during the 1980s
and 1990s which became an important means for the implementation of the discourse of
enterprise into everyday organizational practice. Drawing upon Foucaults conception of
discursive practice, they argue that the enterprise discourse is a discourse which has
transformed the meaning and practice of management across a range of social
institutions, not only within the corporate world. In a similar vein, Mitchell Deans (1999)
work on governmentality argues that:
The aims of cultural reform of this latter kind [enterprise culture] are to revive and extend
the norms and values associated with the market including those of responsibility,
initiative, competitiveness and risk-taking, and industrious effort, to use the list of one of its
major political architects . . . (p. 162)
Deans exemplary analysis of Foucaults later work distinguishes modern forms of
technologies of performance from the older disciplinary technologies. These technologies
of performance include mechanisms such as the devolution of budgets, the use of
performance indicators, benchmarking, the establishing of quasi-markets in expertise and
service provision, and similar mechanisms. Dean explains that, These technologies of
performance . . . are utilized from above, as an indirect means of regulating agencies, of
transforming professionals into calculating individuals within calculable spaces, subject
to particular calculative regimes. . . . (Dean 1999, p. 169). It is through such technologies
of performance that general policy ideals are being translated into specific changes at the
institutional level. What is clear from these commentaries is that we have moved a long
way from the analysis of organizations in terms of the centripetal forces of disciplinary
power. These new techniques of neo-liberal governmentality are designed precisely to
encourage the circulation of flows of capital particularly human capital within the
market- place. Instead of fixing bodies and confining them, they are being encouraged to
circulate, to exchange and, most importantly, to compete.
McKinlay et al. (2010, p. 1026) have noted that within the field of management studies
governmentality has had by far its greatest impact on critical accounting, particularly in
the work of the London School of accountants at the LSE. While the work of this small
group of scholars is well known, as yet there have been few attempts to use this
framework within the field of management studies in a systematic manner outside those of
the London School (Clegg et al. 2002; du Gay 2000, 2004; Knights and McCabe 2003).
Perhaps one reason for this tendency is that the early work of the London School
developed research networks within the field of sociology rather than management
(Gendron and Baker 2005). For instance, much of the pioneering work of Peter Miller was
published in sociology journals (e.g. Miller 2001; Miller and Rose 1988, 1990; Rose and
Miller 1992). The specific case of Miller is also reflected in a more general finding from a
bibliometric analysis of the literature that there are significantly more publications on the
subject of governmentality in the sociology literature than in the management literature.

Within the smaller range of studies published in the management literature, the London
School predominates, but there has also been some important research, published by
other scholars, most notably that of Clegg et al. (2002) and Knights and McCabe (2003),
which explores the use of management techniques of teamworking and project
management as forms of governing at a distance. These works emphasize that such
management techniques are less concerned with any disciplinary, carceral measures of
control and far more focused upon the modification and promotion of forms of
entrepreneurial activity.
The relative neglect of governmentality within management and organization studies has
been pointed out in a number of reviews of the field of govenmentality studies. For
instance, a highly critical review of this work by McKinlay and Pezet (2010, p. 489) has
commented upon the insularity of governmentalism. McKinlay and Pezet (2010, p. 489)
propose that the insularity of governmentality arises in part due to its epistemological
differences with other theoretical positions, but they go on to suggest that it might also be
a tactic to avoid the distractions of conventional academic debate, which might impede
the further development of the theory. Similar criticisms have appeared in another review
of this work by McKinlay (2010) in the pages of the journal Organization Studies, to which
Miller and Rose (2010, p. 1159) responded by conceding that, as yet, their work has had
relatively limited impact on organization studies. Another extensive review of the field of
governmentality studies by a group of its leading exponents makes reference to only a
very narrow range of scholarship from within management and organization studies (Rose
et al. 2006). Again, these references were almost exclusively limited to scholars from the
London School of governmentality. Despite this, the review concluded that, we need to
investigate the role of the gray sciences, the minor professions, the accountants and
insurers, the managers and psychologists, in the mundane business of governing
everyday economic and social life . . . (Rose et al. 2006, p. 101). A sub- sequent review of
the field of governmentality, by Stuart Elden observed that this school has been influential
across a range of disciplines (Elden 2007, p. 29), including sociology, political science
and geography, but makes no reference to the field of management studies whatsoever.
These reviews confirm that, while governmentality studies have had a wide impact across
the social sciences, the potential of this approach has yet to be fully developed within
management and organization studies. Now we shall turn to another quite different
approach to Foucaults conception of biopolitics, as has been developed in the works of
Hardt and Negri (2000, 2004, 2009), Terranova (2004) and others.
Control and the hegemony of immaterial labour
In contrast to governmentality studies, the work of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri has
developed Foucaults idea of biopolitics along more Marxian lines (Hardt and Negri 2000,
2004, 2009). These scholars have adapted Foucaults conception of biopolitics to explain
the emergence of post-Fordist regimes of production, which they characterize in terms of
immaterial labour. Post-Fordist forms of organization revolve around the productive
power of networks, rather than being confined purely within disciplinary institutions such as
the factory. That is not to say that the factory is no longer important, but only that its
significance as an organizational form has been transformed with the rise of new
management techniques that place emphasis on the importance of communication,
information, innovation and flexibility. According to Hardt and Negri (2000), immaterial
labour is composed of three general domains of productivity: (i) communicative labour; (ii)
symbolic analysis; and (iii) the manipulation of affects.

Communicative labour can be found both in indus- trial manufacturing and in the service
sector. Hardt and Negri (2000) give the example of the transition from the Fordist model of
mass production to the post-Fordist model in which communication plays a much more
central role in production. For example, under the Toyota system of manufacture,
communication is important to the organization itself, in which teamwork and employee
feedback are crucial components of an efficient system of production. Another way in
which communication is used to increase the competitiveness of companies is by
integrating consumers more closely into the production process. Information technologies
are used to establish rapid feedback loops between the various processes of production,
which extend throughout the entire production and consumption process. Symbolic labour,
the second element of immaterial labour, can be distinguished from communicative labour,
because it is primarily concerned with problem solving skills and the production of
knowledge (Hardt and Negri 2000). We can see the new-found importance of these
activities with the rapid growth of management consultancy services since the 1980s as
well as the rise of new management techniques such as knowledge management. Thirdly,
both communicative and symbolic labour can be distinguished from and supplemented by
affective labour. Affective labour entails fostering relationships of care. These relationships
may involve the creation of feelings of ease, well- being or excitement. These types of
relationships can be found in diverse areas of the economy from health care to the
entertainment industry. Ultimately, these affects form the basis for the creation of
communities and networks. We can see these types of transformations within the
management literature, where culture is often claimed to be an economic resource like any
other, which can be tinkered with to make organizations more or less productive (du Gay
1996; Fournier and Grey 1999; Grey 2005).
Hardt and Negri (2004, p. 66) explain that, Immaterial labor is biopolitical in that it is
oriented toward the creation of forms of social life; such labor, then, tends no longer to be
limited to the economic but also becomes immediately a social, cultural, and political
force. They make a distinction that is not explicit in Foucaults own approach between the
concepts of biopower and that of biopolitics, where the former refers to the apparatus of
power, and the latter is reconceived as the resistance of life to power (Negri 2004, p. 64).
Both Lazzarato (2002) and Negri (2004) have developed this distinction in the light of
remarks made by Foucault in his later essays and interviews on the instability of power
relations and the key role that resistance plays in the mutation of forms of governmentality.
They note that it is precisely in this respect that Foucault (1982) identified points of
resistance and possibilities for reversals in strategic relations and changes in the
apparatus of power.
Hardt and Negri (2000, 2009) argue that immaterial labour has become the hegemonic
form of production today. By this they do not mean that it is the most common form of
labour, but that the influence of immaterial labour is making itself felt throughout all forms
of industry, and that communication net- works are transforming the production methods of
other sectors, such as manufacturing and agriculture, as well as their own. A key feature of
these forms of immaterial labour is the increasing importance that subjectivity plays within
them. For instance, the pro- vision of services or the creation of brands demand that
workers bring their personality into their work in ways that factory labour does not.
Whereas previous forms of production concerned the transformation of nature, immaterial
production directly concerns the transformation of human nature. In the words of Hardt and
Negri (2009, p. 172), One might still conceive of economic production as an engagement
of the subject of nature, a transformation of the object through labor, but increasingly the
nature that biopolitical labor transforms is subjectivity itself . This transformation of
subjectivity is precisely the object of the management practices associated with culture

management programmes and other forms of identity regulation (Alvesson and Willmott
The work of Hardt and Negri has been as controversial as it has been influential. Perhaps
it has been most successfully developed by sociological studies of cyberspace and the
novel forms of production that have been emerging on the Internet. Tiziana Terranovas
(2000, 2004) research into network culture explains how unpaid immaterial labour has
been exploited by large media conglomerates in the creation of the online communities
that form their customer base. The work of Hardt and Negri has also had a huge reception
within the field of critical social theory (Mustapha and Eken 2001). In this respect Nick
Dyer-Withefords (2005, p. 158) critical review of their work remarked that, It is in fact hard
to envisage what form a twenty-first-century communism might take other than as a
distributed but interconnected system of collective communication devoted to solving
problems of a material and immaterial resource allocation. Despite the wide reception of
this work in other social sciences, it has as yet had a very limited reception within
management and organization studies. Scattered research exists introducing the concept
of immaterial labour as an analytic tool for management studies (e.g. Hanlon 2007; Harney
2005, 2007; Iedema et al. 2006). Harney (2005, p. 589) develops this concept in his
critique of management as clich, in which he asserts that all management can do is lay
claim to labor already in circulation. Harney (2007) also draws on the concept of
immaterial labour to propose an alternative agenda for management education grounded
in a critique of the role that business schools play in the creation of managerial
subjectivities. Dowling et al. (2007) have observed that this body of research could provide
rich conceptual resources for organization studies particularly for areas such as the
significance of worker subjectivity in immaterial forms of labour, the generation of social
networks by forms of free labour, and the potential of worker resistance within
autonomous forms of production. We shall now turn to a third approach to the study of
biopolitics which focuses exclusively on the health and biotechnology industries rather
than the analysis of government and economic relations more generally.
Biosocial culture and biocapital
The anthropologist and Foucauldian scholar Paul Rabinow has drawn upon Foucaults
work on biopolitics to suggest that modern technological innovations are moving rapidly
towards a biosocial culture in which nature is itself becoming an artificial product
(Rabinow 1996a,b, 2003). He has argued that, the new genetics will prove to be a greater
force for reshaping society and life than was the revolution in physics (1996a, p. 98).
Rabinow has suggested that the recent emergence of biosocial communities that are
based around specific genetic disorders are symptomatic of a move towards a
postdisciplinary society. The idea of biosocial culture is a problematic that has been taken
up and extended in subsequent analyses of biocapital by Kaushik Sunder Rajan (2006)
and Nikolas Rose (2007), to which we now turn.
Nikolas Roses conception of biopolitics is more narrowly defined than Foucaults in terms
of techniques for the improvement of health, and strategies for the ways in which human
vitality, morbidity and mortality should be problematized and subject to intervention (Rose
2007, p. 54). Roses main concern is to demonstrate that the new genetics is not at all
equivalent to the 20th-century biopolitics of eugenics, and is not modelled upon ideals of
racial purification or degeneracy. Roses analysis of biopolitics contains detailed accounts
of the nascent growth of biosocial communities that are devoted to coping with certain
genetic disorders such as Huntingtons Disease or Tay Sachs Disease. His analysis is
highly critical of thinkers such as Hardt and Negri who, in his view, over emphasize the

eugenic and racist aspects of modern genetic engineering and medicine. In certain
respects, this approach would seem to be closer to Foucaults own position, which denied
that the concept of eugenics could play a helpful role in understanding modern techniques
of genetic engineering (Foucault 2008, p. 228). Rose observes that, Almost any capacity
of the human body or soul strength, endurance, attention, intelligence, and the lifespan
itself seems potentially open to improvement by technological intervention (Rose 2007,
p. 20). While this statement is undoubtedly true, it might be criticized for underplaying the
power relations that tend to be associated with the development of new technologies. As
Foucault himself noted, the development of new capacities are inextricably linked to the
growth of power relations, and the extent to which biosocial culture and biocapitalism could
be a beneficial development has been a point of contention among its exponents (Duster
2003; Rabinow and Rose 2006; Rajan 2006; Rose 2007).
Rose also explores the intimate relationship between capital and the new biotechnological
revolution, and he provides an insightful analysis of the formation of what he terms
biocapital and the bio- economy. The global pharmaceutical industry has become a
multi-billion dollar business, in which bio- technology is playing an increasingly significant
role, in terms of the genetic engineering of crops, animals and medicines. Rose discusses
the emerging links between the business world, research institutes, non-profit
organizations and universities, and the mingling of these various interests at new
conferences such as the International Conference on Bio- capital, which is specifically
used as a platform to unite these diverse institutions. In 2008, there were about 1450
biotechnology firms in the US alone, with an estimated capitalization of US$360 billion. In
the European Union, there were an equivalent number of firms but valued at around a
quarter of the total capital of the US biotech industry. These circuits of biocapital may be
seen as an extension of the type of links between capitalism and biopolitics that Foucault
(1981) remarked upon in his original studies of biopolitics. The more recent revolution in
genetic engineering is further intensifying the relationship between capitalist forms of
organizing and biopolitics. For instance, Rose (2007, p. 139) describes the emergence of
techniques for genetic engineering where the population is now understood as a source of
genetic raw material which has become a resource for profitable biomedical exploitation.
The analysis of molecular biopolitics that is associated with modern developments in the
biotechnology industry has been taken even further in the work of Dillon and LoboGuerrero (2008), who have argued that we are already moving away from a strictly
biopolitical form of governmentality into an era of recombinant biopolitics. This argument
shares many similarities with that developed by Rajan (2006) and Rose (2007) in its
discussion of the increased importance of biotechnology in the management of
populations. Dillan and Lobo- Guerrero argue that, with these new technologies,
recombinant biopolitics is concerned with mechanisms of heterogenesis which are
focused on the production and transformation of living material at the genetic level rather
than at the level of the species.
Another insightful reading of Foucault has been undertaken by Kaushik Sunder Rajan
(2006) in his book on Biocapital. This work brings to light the complex network of
relationships between capital markets, research institutions and the biotechnology
industry, which Rajan argues, is leading to the formation of a new phase of capitalism
which he terms biocapitalist governance (Rajan 2006, p. 80). Rajan discusses a vast
range of new technological assemblages that are building this new phase of capitalism,
including DNA patents, biotech start-up companies, genetically engineered crops and
animals, global benefit-sharing agreements, automated sequencing machines, genomicbased diagnostic tests, consumer genomics and population genomics, among other
things. This research concludes that, through these new technologies, life is becoming

reconceived in terms where the very grammars of the life sciences and of capital are coconstituted; life becomes a business plan (Rajan 2006, p. 283). This work is perhaps a
little more sceptical of the advances being made in this field than that of Rose, focusing
more upon bio- politics elsewhere in places that are not advanced liberal
societies (Rajan 2006, p. 284). He thus notes that, while the populations of poorer
countries such as India are being exploited by corporations as a valuable resource for
genetic information and even experimentation, they are unlikely to be the direct
beneficiaries of the medical advances that come from such research, owing to their own
limited financial resources.
Both Rajan and Rose identify risk as a key ana- lytic theme running throughout the
emergence of new biosocial technologies and cultures. For instance, Rajan (2006, p. 174)
describes risk as the defining heuristic around which the consumer subjectivity of
personalized medicine takes shape. Rajan notes that this conception of risk is entirely in
keeping with neo-liberal forms of governmentality, mediated by the marketplace and the
presumption of rational self- governance. Similarly, Rose (2007, p. 107) argues that, the
availability of predictive genetic testing introduces a qualitative new dimension into genetic
risk, creating new categories of individuals and according genetic risk a new calculability.
These new technologies sit easily within the liberal frame- work of market relations and
consumer choice. As such, this approach to the study of biopolitics is complementary with
the approach of governmental studies, of which Rose is also a key exponent. Rose
highlights the associated problematic of possible genetic discrimination, especially with
respect to access to health insurance. He cites recent legislation that outlaws any form of
discrimination on genetic grounds, such as GINA 2005 (Genetic Information NonDiscrimination Act) in the US. However, other commentators on the new genetics have
been more anxious about this issue, especially the work of Duster (2003) and Rajan
(2006). Perhaps it is a little premature to dismiss the dangers or the likelihood of
discrimination on a genetic basis when the necessary tools to easily do so are not yet
widely available. Troy Duster (2003) has already documented numerous instances of
genetic discrimination, despite the fact we are still in the very early days of the genetic
revolution. The work of Rabinow, Rajan and Rose on biosocial culture and biocapital is
very much in keeping with Foucaults (2008) speculations on the emergence of genetic
human capital during his 1978 lecture course, in which he remarked that genes
possessing certain desirable qualities would become economically scarce and thus enter
the circuits of economic calculation. However, this particular approach to research on
biopolitics has yet to be developed within management studies.
Discussion and conclusions
Michel Foucaults works continue to be of great interest to scholars within the field of
management and organization studies, although the conceptions of power that he
developed in his later studies are yet to be fully exploited within this field. In a certain
sense, the term biopolitics may be seen as a continuation of the type of biological
metaphors that have been a predominant feature of the development of much organization
theory (Morgan 1980; Tsoukas 1994). Theorists such as Gareth Morgan (1980) have been
critical of an over-reliance on these types of functionalist metaphors for creating an
orthodoxy within management studies which stifles creative thinking. However, Foucaults
genealogical studies are them- selves highly critical of the way in which biological
concepts and metaphors have found their way into the human sciences, especially the
metaphors of the body, the norm and health (e.g. Foucault 1981, 2007). Indeed, his
genealogy of liberalism highlights how thinkers as different as Adam Smith and Immanuel
Kant drew precisely on the analogy between the healthy body and society when

formulating and justifying their conception of a self-regulating society by the mechanism of

free trade (Foucault 2007). He shows how a certain naturalism provided a ground- ing for
these theories. With regard to the term bio- politics, Foucault does not himself use this as
a kind of analogy, but instead employs it as an empirical description of the government of
populations, in which he shows how biopolitics quite literally concerns those historical
developments where biological existence was reflected in political existence (Foucault
1981, p. 142).
This paper has reviewed the present status of these later works within management and
organization studies, which has so far tended to focus on his earlier work on disciplinary
power. The review has contrasted the relatively narrow use of Foucaults ideas within
management studies with the far broader treatment that they have received within the
social sciences more generally. These sister social sciences have more fully developed
Foucaults concern for biopolitics and neo-liberal governmentality which have followed
markedly different themes. Three general approaches to the concept of biopolitics and
neo-liberal governmentality have been identified in this review, each of which develops a
distinctive theme that was first set out in Foucaults original research. These three
approaches to biopolitics are: (i) the work on liberal governmentality, which has traced the
emergence of techniques of control such as the use of performance measures, audit
mechanisms, the privatization of risk and promulgation of enterprise culture; (ii) the rise of
immaterial labour and its emphasis on the development of social networks by free labour
and the trans- formation of social relationships into forms of capital; and (iii) the work on
the emergence of bio- social culture and biocapital which illustrates how the logic of
capitalism is extending into the development of genetic human capital and more broadly
into the politics of life itself .
Each of these three approaches to biopolitics that have been reviewed in this paper has
been analysed for summary purposes, and it should be noted that the individual authors
discussed within each approach have their own distinctive interpretation of Foucaults
original work, and each has put his concepts to work in their own nuanced fashion. Dean
(2002) has remarked that, while the concepts of governmentality and biopolitics have
much in common, they are by no means synonymous, owing to the formers concern for
economic choice and the latters strict focus on the fostering of life and letting die. The
commonalities of the three approaches derive from their grounding in Foucaults concern
for the emergence of a post-disciplinary apparatus of governmentality which he analysed
in his later lectures, but there are also some major areas of disagreement in how these
ideas have been adapted, which have been alluded to in the preceding discussion. The
extent to which these different approaches might be commensurable is far from clear, and
these authors are sometimes highly critical of each others works (for instance, see Rose
2007, pp. 166167). For the purposes of this review, we have not attempted to arbitrate
between these different approaches to biopolitics, but have presented them in a pluralist
fashion, highlighting the relevant conceptual resources that each has to offer for the study
of organization. This review has thus showed that Foucaults initial conception of biopolitics
and governmentality has received a wide diversity of treatments within other social
sciences, each of which has much to offer the field of management studies, particularly
concerning emerging techniques of control within new forms of organization and
production. We are now in a position to present an overview of these different approaches
to biopolitics and the range of concepts that each provides for the study of organization, as
summarized in Table 2.
Table 2 summarizes the three approaches to biopolitics that we have reviewed,
highlighting the key organizational concepts that have been developed within each

approach. These approaches to the study of biopolitics and neo-liberalism can make a
contribution to management studies in a number of respects: (i) in terms of methodology,
these approaches are concerned with the milieu within which individuals make decisions
rather than the disciplinary techniques that existing organization studies has so far largely
focused upon; (ii) in terms of the object of study, organization is conceived in terms of
flows and circulations, with a specific concern for the regulation of flows of human capital;
(iii) in terms of the subjects under study, there is a recognition of the profound significance
of subjectivity in forms of post-Fordist biopolitical organization; (iv) in terms of the
apparatus of power, each of these approaches is concerned with the emergence of an
apparatus of control rather than only the apparatus of discipline which has been the focus
of much of the existing work within management and organization studies. Based on a
reframing of management studies using the concepts provided by the later Foucault,
research questions are opened up less in terms of his earlier disciplinary framework, and
more in terms of the circulation of human capital and the milieu in which people make
decisions. Much of the existing scholarship in management studies has developed
genealogical studies of the evolution of disciplinary capitalism and the factory (e.g.
Hatchuel 1999; Hoskin and Macve 1986; McKinlay and Starkey 1998), however, in
contrast to these studies, the biopolitical theories that have been reviewed here suggest
Conception of

Key Organizational Concepts

Apparatus of Power
Advanced liberal

Privatization of risk, technologies of performance and


responsibilization, enterprise culture, the enterprising


Post-Fordist mode of

Immaterial labour, affective labour, communicational,


labour, symbolic labour, the general intellect, the

transformation of subjectivity


Genetic risk; genetic human capital, biocapital,


biosocial communities; biotechnologies (genetic

screening, therapy, engineering, etcetera), Life as a
business plan

Table 2. Biopolitical variations

research directions which require undertaking a genealogy of network organizational forms
and post-industrial techniques of management. Foucaults work on biopolitics and neoliberalism is important not least because it is focused upon mutations in power relations
that have taken place in recent history, and is thus more directly concerned with the

techniques of power in contemporary forms of organization. This review has shown that,
while the persistence of the disciplinary apparatus of power has been thoroughly explored
within management and organization studies, research questions that address the
emergence of post-disciplinary forms of organization and control are as yet in the early
stages of development.
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Appendix 1
Glossary of key terms
Biopolitics. This concept concerns the historical emergence of the population as a political
problem in which mans biological existence is reflected in his political existence. It can be
defined as, what brought life and its mechanisms into the realm of explicit calculations and
made knowledge-power an agent of the transformation of human life (Foucault 1981, p.
Governmentality. This term was initially defined by Foucault in the following manner, by
governmentality I understand the ensemble formed by institutions, procedures, analyses
and reflections, calculations, and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific albeit
very complex, power that has the population as its target, political economy as its major
form of knowledge, and apparatus of security as its essential technical
instrument (Foucault 2007, p. 108).
Neo-liberal governmentality. Foucault distinguishes between several forms of
governmentality including classical liberalism, ordoliberalism and American neo-liberalism.
He defines the latter as the extension of the rationality of the market into areas that are not
primarily economic, such as the family, education and penal policy. The promotion of
competitive relations and human capital are identified as being key elements of neo-liberal
Genetic human capital. Foucault makes a distinction between acquired elements of
human capital which are learned and innate elements that are inherited. He thus defines
the emerging problematic of genetic human capital as follows: the control, screening, and
improvement of the human capital of individuals, as a function of unions and consequent
reproduction . . . So the political problem of the use of genetics arises in terms of the
formation, growth, accumulation, and improvement of human capital (Foucault 2008, p.
Biosocial culture. This concept refers to the inter- action between cultural values,
biotechnological sciences and the natural world, by means of which, [n]ature will be
known and remade through technique and will finally become artificial, just as culture
becomes natural (Rabinow 1996a, p. 99).
Biocapital. Rajan has produced the most extensive commentary on the term biocapital and
defines it thus: Biocapital is the articulation of a technoscientific regime, having to do with
the life sciences and drug development, with an economic regime, over- determined by the
market (Rajan 2006, p. 111).
Communicative labour. Labour requiring linguistic skills and interpersonal skills.
Symbolic labour. Labour requiring problem solving skills and knowledge production.
Affective labour. Labour requiring the production of affects such as care, ease, excitement
and satisfaction.

(1)The bibliometric analysis undertaken here builds on the software tools provided for by
the Web of Science, which uses the Social Science Citation Index as the basis for its
(2)The search protocol for the bibliometric analysis was restricted to articles published in
academic journals listed on the Web of Science database, and as such it did not recognize
unpublished materials, books or unlisted journals. The search results were further refined
to focus on the field of management studies by analysing the results of each search under
the subject areas of management, finance and business.
(3) While this article has focused on Foucaults conception of biopolitics, it is important to
note that this term was originally coined by Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kyellen.
According to Esposito (2008), this earlier work on biopolitics naturalized the role of the
state by drawing upon explicitly biological metaphors and theories. Esposito locates this
research as being a part of a group of theories developed in the 1930s which justified
racist state policies, describing those who were then considered to be socially undesirable
elements as being parasites or as constituting a disease within the state. Foucaults own
work does not refer to the earlier uses of the term, instead completely reworking the
concept for a genealogical analysis of different forms of government.
(4) Note that, for the purposes of this paper, we have focused upon theories of biopolitics
that have engaged directly with issues of work organization and political economy, and
have not included other conceptions of biopolitics such as those offered by Agamben
(1998) or Esposito (2008), whose studies would require us to move far from the territory of
management and organization studies into critical philosophy.