I retrace the development of Foucault’s concept of subjectivation, showing that his use of the term underwent substantive changes between its introduction in 1978 up until its stabilization around 1982. Originally used to refer to a form of “individualization” mediated by the internalization and production of certain types of truth, the notion of subjectivation underwent two main changes: (1) it came to encompass all “processes whereby individuals come to be constituted as subjects,” (2) it came to denote a form of self-government, rather than ways of being governed. Finally, I show that Foucault eventually also came to distinguish between active and passive forms of subjectivation, so that on his view, even the individual who ‘freely’ undertakes a project of self-government and self-constitution risks doing so merely passively, thereby forsaking in advance the possibility of living a genuinely autonomous life. 

Truth and Selfhood as Instruments of Domination: Foucault’s Concept of Subjectivation