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'Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainity and agitation distinquish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones ... All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.' Marx

biopower, Foucault « Previous | |Next »
August 11, 2009

Keith Crome in The Nihilistic Affirmation of Life: Biopower and Biopolitics in the Will to Knowledge in Parrhesia (No 6, 2009) says that biopower is part related to what Foucault calls “a history of the present”, grasping the present in its contingency, unsettling it from its prejudices and exploding their hold on reality, understanding how we have become what we are rather than importing our prejudices on to the past, in the guise of their being eternal truths apprehended by a supra-historical intellect.

With the term ‘biopower’ Foucault designates the set of mechanisms, techniques and technologies through which the basic biological features of the human species become the object of political strategies in modern Western societies. Biopower is, then, for Foucault the application of power to the human considered as a living being:

Like disciplinary techniques and procedures, the technologies of biopower are addressed to a multiplicity, but they are addressed to that multiplicity in so far as it forms a global mass affected by the biological processes of life itself: birth and death, health and illness. To the techniques of discipline that came to hold sway over the human body and which are individualising are added the techniques and technologies of biopower which, on the contrary, but in a complimentary way, are massifying, directed towards humans in the genetic and species sense....Biopower is thus tied to the emergence of the discipline of statistical demography, and there begins the quantification of the phenomena of birth-rate, longevity, the reproductive rates and fertility of a given population, its state of health, patterns of diet and habitation

both disciplinary technologies and the techniques and mechanisms of biopower are forms of power over the body. The former, disciplinary technologies, centre on the individual body: they treat it as a machine, considering it as a being consisting of parts, organized in a certain fashion, requiring energy in order to operate and capable of producing certain effects, that is, of working. Decomposing it into its parts, and subjecting them to training, to discipline, it seeks to render the body both docile and utile. Biopower, on the other hand, focuses on the body as the vehicle of species life. Given the nature of the phenomena with which it is concerned it is regulatory rather than disciplinary.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:11 PM |