‘Governmentality’ and the Problem of Crime: Foucault, Criminology, Sociology

David Garland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The article traces the main themes of the ‘governmentality’ literature, as developed by Michel Foucault and subsequent writers, and outlines a series of related ideas about ‘the social’ as a realm of government; statistics and bio-power; actuarial forms of reasoning; and government-at-a-distance. It goes on to illustrate the criminological value of these ideas by means of an analysis of some of the governmental rationalities and technologies that are currently emerging in the field of crime control. These include ‘economic’ forms of reasoning about crime and its control, the emergence of ‘the criminogenic situation’ as a practicable object of government and the use of ‘technologies of the self’ in penal settings. The final part of the article identifies some of the limitations and problems of the ‘governmentality’ literature. It argues that studies of governmentality beg certain sociological questions; that the governmentality analytic is quite compatible with certain forms of sociological analysis; and that the project of writing a history of the present is best pursued — in the field of crime control at least — by combining these forms of enquiry.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)173-214
    Number of pages42
    JournalTheoretical Criminology
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - May 1997


    • Foucault
    • crime control
    • criminology
    • governmentality
    • sociology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Law


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