Conor Bean

Conor Bean

Graduate Student

Research Interests: Political Theory, Marxism, 20th Century French Radical Theory, Security Studies and the War on Terror, Biopolitics, Theories of Materialism

The dissertation develops a concept of “affective governance”, meaning the strategic stimulation, circulation, and modulation of affects in a population by the state. The first chapter turns to Benedict de Spinoza to excavate an implicit matrix in his Political Treatise of possibilities for directing a polity’s affects in common that does not rely on inducing overarching terror of the sovereign but instead redirects circuits of fear and hope in a multitude to other objects, thereby sustaining an equilibrium of obedience. The second chapter moves to Michel Foucault to elaborate how this circulation and solicitation of affects has taken hold in governmental strategies in late modernity, arguing that this underlying affectability is presupposed in Foucault’s theory of biopolitics and governmentality. With this model of population-level affective governance in Foucault, I explore his passing but important mentions of 'the public' as the terrain on which these strategies can take hold, drawing linkages between this vision of the public and contemporary democratic theories of the public sphere. The third and fourth chapters take this framework and apply it to reconsider two pressing problems in contemporary political theory: the role of police power in conditions of racial capitalism (chapter 3) and the deployment of emergency powers as a quasi-permanent mode of governance (chapter 4). In reframing contemporary policing and emergency powers in the U.S. as significantly involving the management of public affects, I hope to demonstrate the promise of the concept of affective governance to political concerns not strictly limited to the realm of political theory and to speak meaningfully to broad areas of research in the discipline of political science as a whole.

Dean's Teaching Fellow Spring 2023 for "Revolution: Political Theory and Practice on the French Left 1789-1968"

Review of Thomas Lemke's The Government of Things: Foucault and the New Materialisms in Foucault Studies (