English summary:

The project society

Anders Fogh Jensen
Ph.D. dissertation
University of Copenhagen



The Projective Society sets out to answer the question: what comes after discipline? It makes a diagnosis of the present, examining the ways in which man is organised and governed, not just in business and organisations but in a broad cultural spectrum, including dance, sports, football, coupling, architecture, education, social services, warfare and the fight against epidemics. The answer put forth in the dissertation is: society is organised around projects, and this has profound philosophical implications for the configuration of space, time, agency and relations.

In its diagnosis of the present, the dissertation takes its point of departure from Michel Foucault’s delineations of discipline, and more generally in the systematic forms of organ-isations, dispositifs, which, in this context, are treated as systems of governance. It is demonstrated that the organisation of projects takes place against a disciplinary back-ground as well as in a transgression of discipline, exceeding discipline. ‘The project’ is treated in the dissertation not only as a sociological category but as a philosophical one as well, operating according to a differentiation between ‘system of governance’ (first part), for example ‘the projective system’ (second part), and its actual societal manifestations (third part).

The first part of the dissertation is concerned with the history of systems of governance, based on Foucault’s distinction between systems of law, discipline and security. The law system operates in a mode of binary divisions, whereas the disciplinary system splits the social into minute elements, establishing and recomposing hierarchies, and finally the sys-tem of security (including liberal governance) influences the probabilities of development through its contributions to social circulations. The three systems are singled out as self-contained systems and can be recognised within one another. The thesis then goes through the history of the fight against epidemics – leprosy, plague, cholera, yellow fever, malaria, smallpox and aids – to demonstrate how systems of governance can be recognised within the different strategies particular to fighting epidemics.

The second part sets up the post disciplinary system, which has been dominant in the second half of the 20th century, that is, the projective system. Using the enterprise as its master case, the development from bureaucratic planned organisation to project-based organisation in enterprises is analysed, drawing inspiration from Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello. In the main chapter, the narrow meaning of ‘project’ is then expanded and the-orized as a philosophical concept which reconfigures space, time, agency and relations. The project does not take place in any preconfigured space and time, it unfolds space and time through its activity. The project, which is temporary, can now be described as a par-ticular system that causes passage, connexion, network, de-connexion, freedom, security and exploitation to function in conditions of provisionality.

Through the eight chapters of the third part it is outlined how the transition from the disciplinary system to the projective system has taken place in eight different parts of soci-ety, that is to say, how space, time agency and connexion are reconfigured in different but similar ways. Dance: in contrast to figure dance and the codified couple dances of dance schools, dances are based on energy within the projective system. Sports: feats of strength and the regulated sport events in sport fields are structured around a disciplinary system, whereas sport events that favour timing and waves articulate the projective system. Foot-ball: the transition from positions, man-to-man marking and zone marking to a ‘football of movement’ via Dutch total football is a transition from a disciplinary division of labour to competition of movement. Coupling: the transition from the notion of a solitary life to the latest ‘singles’ life style gives new meaning to the idea of passage and inaugurates a com-plicated game of connexions and de-connexions. Architecture: the planning of spaces of passage and rooms open to reconfiguration facilitates connexions in transit and makes temporary projects easy. Education: the transition from disciplinary learning to a concern with coaching the development of competences through the child’s own learning is mir-rored in the way schools are reshaped for pupils to work in temporary and collective pro-jects. Social services: a restructuring has taken place from an accentuation of rights and duties to the responsibility of the client for his or her own self-development. Warfare: the reconfiguration of armies to police forces, expectations to middle management initiative during wars and the outsourcing of certain tasks reflect the development of firms and en-terprises into project-organised organisms. Socially homologous transitions like these make it reasonable to speak of a general transition from a disciplinary society to a projec-tive society.


Coming out in spring 2012: The Project Society in English.