I posted a version of the below to the Foucault list this morning as I have reached another aporia in my ‘thesis thinking’. I thought I’d post a version up here, too. Maybe one of my regular readers (or some random) will be able to point me in the direction of some related work. 🙂
My specific problem is that I have been dealing with what in Australia we call ‘hoons’ (in the UK and NZ they are called ‘boy racers’ in the US it is sometimes the more traditional ‘hot rodder’). Basically the ‘hoon’ is an iconic cultural figure: a loud and aggressive young man, driving a loud and aggressive car in a loud and aggressive way (often playing loud and aggressive music on a booming car stereo;). Anyway, the problem is that I can see there is a shift across three phases in the power relations from the ‘normative’ governance of the system of automobility (ala Jeremy Packer’s essay on road safety) through general anxieties about the ‘at risk’ group labelled ‘young drivers’ to the moral panics that have recently emerged in Australia around this figure of the hoon.
What I am interested in finding out is if anyone on the list had come across any work that attempts to reconcile a Foucaultian governmentality methodology with traditional moral panic theory. My problem is in the way power relations operate differently in the two situations. I have been thinking Agamben’s work on the state of exception may be a useful way to think about how moral panics are the expression of a kind of localised state of exception within the institutionalised cultural formations of a given society. By ‘localised state of exception’ I mean organised around a particular social problem and discursively constructed around a necessarily problematic figure, such as the hoon. This would be thinking about folk devils as some way equivalent to Agamben’s conception of homo sacer, and, well, generally offering a specific (but I think productive) misreading of Agamben. These things can be worked around. However it becomes very problematic when Agamben and Foucault’s respective approaches are thought alongside the neo-Gramscian approaches of the British cultural studies tradition, specifically the work of Hall and others on the ‘Exceptional State’ and the ‘Law and Order Society’.
Hmmm, I may just leave it as an unresolved, but productive tension in my thesis. But if someone has come across some work or has some thoughts on how to think through this tension I would love to discuss it with them.