Carl Death, Counter-conducts: A Foucauldian Analytics of Protest, Social Movement Studies Vol. 9 , Iss. 3, 2010
The influence of Foucault on studies of social movements, dissent and protest is not as direct as might be imagined. He is generally regarded as focusing more on the analysis of power and government than forms of resistance. This is reflected in the governmentality literature, which tends to treat dissent and protest as an afterthought, or failure of government. However, Foucault’s notion of ‘counter-conducts’ has much to offer the study of dispersed, heterogeneous and variegated forms of resistance in contemporary global politics. Using the protests that have accompanied summits including Seattle, Johannesburg, Prague, London and Copenhagen to illustrate an analytics of protest in operation, this article shows how a Foucauldian perspective can map the close interrelationship between regimes of government and practices of resistance. By adopting a practices and mentalities focus, rather than an actor-centric approach, and by seeking to destabilize the binaries of power and resistance, and government and freedom, that have structured much of political thought, an analytics of protest approach illuminates the mutually constitutive relationship between dominant power relationships and counter-conducts, and shows how protests both disrupt and reinforce the status quo, at the same time.
Keywords: Foucault, counter-conducts, protest, summits, resistance, governmentality