MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

Free Us from Power: Governmentality, Counter‐conduct, and Simulation in European Democracy and Reform Promotion in the Arab World

International Political Sociology

Published online on


For over a decade, Arab governments have been enrolled into EU initiatives aimed at promoting democratic reform in the region. Common to these initiatives are their claims to be uninvolved with power and external imposition, professing instead to be based on voluntary notions of local demand and ownership. This article challenges this core liberalist assumption of the absence of power. Drawing on Foucault's reflections on liberal governmentality, it shows how power operates through a technology of “contractualization” which produces a distinct Arab subjectivity in the form of a lack (of reform will). Yet governing technologies are never complete, and possibilities of reversal and resistance always exist. In the second part, the article engages with the emerging debate on Foucault's concept of counter‐conduct, opening up the concept to more subtle and less spectacular forms of resistance. Drawing inspiration from Derrida's analysis of (in)hospitality and Baudrillard's logic of simulation, the article shows how the liberal assumptions of “invitation,” “ownership,” and “gradualism” inherent in European reform initiatives enable resistance in the form of: (i) selection of entry; (ii) setting conditions; and (iii) simulating reform.