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Governmentality, subject-building, and the discourses and practices of devolution in the UK

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This paper uses a Foucauldian governmentality framework to analyse and interrogate the discourses and strategies adopted by the state and sections of the business community in their attempts to shape and influence emerging agendas of governance in post-devolution Scotland. Much of the work on governmentality has examined the ways in which governments have developed particular techniques, rationales and mechanisms to enable the functioning of governance programmes. This paper expands upon such analyses by also looking at the ways in which particular interests may use similar procedures, discourses and practices to promote their own agendas and develop new forms of resistance, contestation and challenge to emerging policy frameworks. Using the example of business interest mobilization in post-devolution Scotland, it is argued that governments may seek to mobilize defined forms of expertise and knowledge, linking them to wider political debates. This, however, creates new opportunities for interests to shape and contest the discourses and practices of government. The governmentalization of politics can, therefore, be seen as more of a dialectical process of definition and contestation than is often apparent in existing Foucault-inspired writing.

Keywords: Foucault; Scotland; business politics; competitiveness; devolution; governmentality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AB, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2003

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