The soldier's tale: Problematising Foucault's military foundations

Brieg Powel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)
49 Downloads (Pure)


The popularity of Foucauldian understandings of government in International Relations (IR) has led to a vibrant debate over the utility of Foucault’s work for the discipline, especially over its applicability outside Western liberal societies. By concentrating on governmentality’s international applicability, however, IR scholarship has neglected Foucault’s account of the foundations of modern social mentalities, apparatuses, and techniques. Foucault frequently based his ideas on historical research, with warfare and military affairs featuring prominently in his accounts of discipline and governmentality.
Based on a problematization of the military aspects of Foucault’s thought, this article challenges Foucauldian IR scholarship to revisit governmentality’s foundations and re-consider the contemporary relevance of Foucault’s account of government. Foucault neglected the heterogeneity of European militaries, such as their reliance on impermanent, auxiliary, and non-Western forces. He thereby missed the opportunity to develop a more sophisticated account of the relationship between force, the military, government, discipline, and biopolitics. Moreover, this article challenges Foucauldian IR scholarship to revisit the empirical foundations of Foucault's work and re-consider the geographical and temporal extent of the relevance of Foucault’s account of government as a result.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-854
Number of pages22
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number5
Early online date06 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017


  • Foucault
  • Governmentality
  • Domestic/international
  • History
  • materialism


Dive into the research topics of 'The soldier's tale: Problematising Foucault's military foundations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this