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The Government of DesireA Genealogy of the Liberal Subject$
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Miguel de Beistegui

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226547374

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226547404.001.0001

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Man’s “Vain and Insatiable Desires,” or the “Oeconomy of Greatness”

Man’s “Vain and Insatiable Desires,” or the “Oeconomy of Greatness”

Chapter:
(p.45) 2 Man’s “Vain and Insatiable Desires,” or the “Oeconomy of Greatness”
Source:
The Government of Desire
Author(s):

Miguel de Beistegui

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226547404.003.0003

Once the object of government is identified as population, the question becomes one of knowing whether, beneath all the natural variables that define a population, there is something like an invariant, or a “mainspring of action” shared by the population as a whole. That, Foucault claims, is precisely desire. In the philosophical anthropology and moral psychology of the eighteenth century, desire is integrated as a key mechanism for the government of individuals, but only at the cost of being associated with new concepts, corresponding to a new conception of human nature, namely, self-interest and utility. The natural conclusion to draw from those observations is that, since human beings are naturally governed by interest, it would be unwise, if not altogether foolish (or simply ineffective) to govern them any differently than according to their own interest and relative selfishness, especially regarding private property and the acquisition of riches. Thus, a new conception and technology of government were born, which continue to operate today. Crucial, in that respect, is the role of the market, now seen as the place where the maximization and realization of interest and utility takes place, and the vehicle for the realization of one's desires.

Keywords:   desire, self-interest, utility, Adam Smith, individualism, utilitarianism, pleasure and pain, crime and punishment, disciplinary power, Foucault

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