Foucault’s ‘German Moment’: Genealogy of a Disjuncture


  • Matthew G. Hannah Aberystwyth University



Foucault’s lectures from early 1979 on the German Ordo-liberalen are typically taken to comprise his most comprehensive account of why Germany is important for understanding neo-liberal governmentality more broadly. This paper argues, to the contrary, that the 1979 lectures actually obscure a potentially more complete account of German, neo-liberal governmentality Foucault had begun to sketch in 1977. To support this reading and to offer an explanation of why Foucault would have decided to alter his presentation of West German neo-liberalism, the paper undertakes a genealogy of Foucault’s involvement with West German political issues in 1977 and 1978. The core claims that structure the argument are as follows: (1) Key aspects of the “security state” that Foucault began to work out in 1977, must have been at least partly modeled on West German “militant” or “battle-ready” democracy; (2) Yet, in his 1979 lectures, there is no longer any trace of these repressive, extralegal dimensions; (3) This shift was motivated to a significant extent by his 1977 disagreement with Deleuze, Guattari, and others over whether the West German state of the late 1970s could be considered “fascist.” This concern to contest the accusation of fascism is carried forward in his 1979 lectures in a critique of “state phobia.”

Author Biography

Matthew G. Hannah, Aberystwyth University

Matthew G. Hannah is Professor of Human Geography at Aberystwyth University in Wales. In winter semester 2010/2011 he was Guest Professor at the Institut für Humangeographie, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. His research has focused on the political history of censuses and other forms of state information-gathering in the US and Germany. His 2000 book Governmentality and the Mastery of Territory in the Nineteenth Century America was published by Cambridge University Press. His 2010 book on the informational and territorial politics of census boycott movements in West Germany (Dark Territory in the Information Age: Learning from the West German census controversies of the 1980s) was published by Ashgate, and was awarded the Julian Minghi Outstanding Research Prize by the Political Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers. The research for this work was funded by the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Hannah has published articles developing spatial dimensions of a broadly Foucauldian analysis of modern power relations in a range of journals, including Political Geography, the Journal of Historical Geography, the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Antipode, and others. He is currently in the early stages of a long-term project aimed at following Foucault’s suggestion that it would be worthwhile developing a comparative genealogy of the Frankfurt and Freiburg Schools.




How to Cite

Hannah, M. G. (2012). Foucault’s ‘German Moment’: Genealogy of a Disjuncture. Foucault Studies, (13), 116–137.