In common usage, the word “government” often refers to the individuals or parties that operate the state (as in “I support this government”). But it can equally refer to the institutional features of the state (as in a “constitutional” or “aristocratic” form of government). One result of this dual usage is that the practices of governance and the institution of the state are often treated as the same thing, even though their implications are quite different. The modern state, as a form of governance, is typically bound to the idea of the nation and its popular sovereignty. By contrast, government understood as an act of governing originally referred to such diverse activities as moral self-control, household management, or even the sailing of a ship (Oxford English Dictionary). One can today still talk about “governing” one’s behavior, a budget, or an organization. “Government” thus refers first and foremost to the regulation of activity. The fact that the term has become so closely tied to the state, despite these broader meanings, reveals much about the path taken by modern strategies of power.

This essay may be found on page 129 of the printed volume.

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