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The art of governing conduct : liberalism and the paradox of regulated freedom

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Standish, Christine (2000) The art of governing conduct : liberalism and the paradox of regulated freedom. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This project draws on Michel Foucault's work on "governmentality," as well as
his scattered texts on liberalism, to explore a central liberal concern: the
"freedom-regulation" problematic. Foucault took liberalism to be an art of
government that promises prosperity and well being for the whole through
liberty of the individual. From this perspective there is a problem in
determining just what is free, what has to be free and what needs to be
regulated, The two central poles of the liberal freedom-regulation problem are
located in the principle of economic liberty - achieving the objective of
unregulated economic activity; and the rule of law - which is necessary to
ensure order, predictability and certainty. It is this relation that yields the
paradox this thesis sets out to investigate. For on the one hand it is central to
liberalism that individuals be as free as possible to pursue their own interests in
the economic sphere. Indeed the prosperity and well being of society depends
upon it. On the other hand, it is less clear what degree of freedom should be
extended to the private realm of morality and personal conduct.
The thesis will show that the development of liberal political economic systems
presented a challenge to the inventive capacities of moral philosophers and
political economists who sought to devise ever new technologies of government
which could control and restrict behaviour whilst continuing to embrace the
spirit of "natural" individual liberty. Given that liberalism was concerned with
discovering the best way to govern, in line with its central principles of
individual economic liberty and the rule of law, the most effective form of
regulation was seen as self-regulation, or self-discipline. However, as I will
demonstrate an analysis of liberal thought, from the late seventeenth century
until the present day, reveals that despite their rhetoric major thinkers within
the Anglo-Scottish tradition considered the principle of self-regulation to be an
impossible ideal that could not be widely deployed in the general community.
Basically, they see it as an untrustworthy governmental technique as only an
elite few are possessed with the strength of character to render them capable of
such ethical practice. In general there is recognition that for the majority of the
population behaviour and conduct needs to be overtly controlled through
governmental techniques of regulation and order. Hence the importance of
investigating the paradox of regulated freedom that continues to be deeply
embedded in the fabric of liberalism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Foucault, Michel, 1926-1984, Individualism, Reason of state, Economic policy, Free enterprise, Liberalism
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). 2000.

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2000. Includes bibliographical references

Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2015 03:24
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:54
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