HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 10 no. 1 (2010)

Frontier Governmentality: The Art of Governing the Self through the Eyes of a Philippine Governing Elite

Pak Nung Wong

Discipline: Social Science, Politics, Philippine Government



One of the shortcomings of the postmodern and poststructuralist intellectual movements is the decentering of the subject, which privileges structuralist and semiotic analyses over human agency and historical changes. This essay aims to provide a remedial theoretical and person-centered interventional scheme which I call frontier governmentality. With respect to existing approaches of Philippine politics and Foucault’s relevant work on subjectivity, frontier governmentality refers to the uncertain state-self contact zone where the arts of governing the self, the others and the state meet. Through an ethnographic biography of Tuguegarao city mayor Delfin Ting, I will argue that the art of caring for the soul is the often neglected but deeper form of human agency which would enable a more comprehensive understanding of Philippine postcolonial state formation. Frontier governmentality calls attention to the soulful agency – the often spiritual working of searching, identifying and caring for the soul to discern one’s fate, as the underlying guide for the postcolonial art of government. In the light of one’s fate, the courage and freedom to renounce the earthly self and attached interests would be instructive for grooming political talents needed to build a stronger Philippine state.