ASTK15345U Course: Foucault's Political Challenge:Sovereign

Volume 2015/2016

Elective course in the specialisation "Political Theory"

Elective in the Specialisation "International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies"

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


Michel Foucault is a highly contested intellectual figure in many fields – history, sociology, philosophy, literary criticism, geography and more. However, this course will present him as a path-breaking political theorist and scientist, who from his very first analyses of Madness in the 1960s asked: how are policies authorized and normalized under varying historical conditions? This question made Foucault develop his own kind of endogenous political critique  which is tied to the output side of political processes, and which continuously problematizes how policies are authoritatively articulated, performed, delivered and evaluated in time-space. The course will follow the development of Foucault’s critique from his older conception of sovereignty, discipline and biopower to his newer conception of security, police and meta-policy. Foucault’s framework will be discussed theoretically in light of governmentality analysis and the model of agonistic democracy, and empirically in relation to the tension between new and old forms of social movement and political participation.  

Learning Outcome

The course will enhance students’ ability to perceive and understand political problems at multiple levels from the personal to the global and beyond old conceptions of politics as anarchy, hierarchy and solidarity. The course will be a good staring point for discussing the increasing tensions between representative interest and identity politics (conflict vs. consensus) and network based risk and security governance (hegemony vs. connective political community)

An extensive list of primary and secondary texts will be available at the start of the course. But the following books will be central:


Bang, H. P. Foucault’s Political Challenge (Houndmills, Basingstoke  Palgrave Macmillan 2015)

Foucault, M.Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at TheCollège de France 1977-1978 (Houndmills, Basingstoke  Palgrave Macmillan 2007)

Foucault, M. The Government of Self and Others. (Houndsmill: Palgrave/Macmillan 2010)


A basic knowledge of the study of comparative politics, policy analysis and democratic research is required
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner