Drawing on Foucault’s notions of governmentality and governmental rationality, this paper examines how urban spaces and subjects were problematized in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Various practices aiming to foster appropriate subjectivities and regulate troublesome behaviours are informed by ‘operative rationales’ that ascribe to qualities of environments and spaces causal effects on the conduct of subjects. Three forms of spatial rationality are identified—dispositional, generative and vitalist—and each is illustrated with an exemplary instance, in order to reveal the mobilization of spatial and environmental ‘truths’ in the government of individuals and populations.
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