Michel Foucault's Considerable Sway on International Relations Theory


  • Philippe Fournier University of Quebec in Montreal




Foucault, International Relations theory, discourse analysis, governmentality, sovereign power,


The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the considerable influence that Michel Foucault has had on International Relations theory. To do this, I will present a selection of important contributions to the discipline that have been inspired by his work. Firstly, I will show that the critique of rationalist and scientific paradigms in International Relations was in great part led by commentators who displayed strong foucaultian inspirations. Second, I will introduce a series of scholars who have made cogent uses of discourse analysis, which Foucault developed in philosophical and genealogical works. Lastly, I discuss the uses and interpretations of governmentality, biopolitics and sovereign power in the analysis of emerging networks of power at the international level. In this article, my central argument is that the application of Foucault’s thought to International Relations has given way to a rich and ever-evolving research program and has had considerable impact on the opening and redefinition of the discipline.