From Counter-Conduct to Critical Attitude: Michel Foucault and the Art of Not Being Governed Quite So Much

  • Daniele Lorenzini Université Paris-Est Créteil
Keywords: counter-conduct, critical attitude, governmentality, will, resistance


In this article I reconstruct the philosophical conditions for the emergence of the notion of counter-conduct within the framework of Michel Foucault’s study of governmentality, and I explore the reasons for its disappearance after 1978. In particular, I argue that the concept of conduct becomes crucial for Foucault in order to redefine governmental power relations as specific ways to conduct the conduct of individuals: it is initially within this context that, in Security, Territory, Population, he rethinks the problem of resistance in terms of counter-conduct. However, a few months later, in What is Critique?, Foucault (implicitly) replaces the notion of counter-conduct with that of critical attitude, defined as the particular form that counter-conduct takes in modern times. This notion allows him to highlight the role played by the will (to be or not to be governed like that) in resistance to governmental strategies. But since the notion of counter-conduct is conceptually wider than that of critical attitude, I suggest in conclusion that it could be worth reactivating it as a “historical category which, in various forms and with diverse objectives, runs through the whole of Western history.”
Special Issue on Counter-Conduct