From: "Mitchell D. Wilson" <lobster@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 30 May 1999 19:33:19 -0500
From: Andrew Pollock <ahpollock@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sunday, May 30, 1999 4:48 PM
Subject: Re: Biopower and genocide
>I have been following the brief discussion of biopower with interest . . .
Hello, Andrew. What were you interested in? Earlier we had questions about
"biopower" as discussed in the last section of HS1. (I won't go back into
all that here.) But here's a question: did biopower, as discussed in the
final section of HS1, represent a shift in Foucault's concept of power; is
biopower some new form of power that has implications for Foucault's concept
of power previous to HS1? Here are some relevant quotes.
In Paul Rabinow's introduction to The Foucault Reader (17) he quotes
Foucault but begins with:
"As the fostering of life and the growth and care of population becomes a
central concern of the state [eighteenth century France], articulated in the
art of government, a new regime of power takes hold. Foucault calls this
regime "biopower" which he explains as 'what brought life and its mechanisms
into the realm of explicit calculations and made knowledge-power an agent of
transformation of human life' (The Foucault Reader, 17).
And from Foucault, the end of the same paragraph that Rabinow quoted:
"For millennia, man remained what he was for Aristotle: a living animal with
the additional capacity for a political existence; modern man is an animal
whose politics places his existence as a living being into question (HS1:
For me, the above is pretty clear. In the management of "man," in this
Modern world we live, the management of the species is political. So, I take
this as meaning that Foucault's concept of "biopower" doesn't operate as
much on the level of individuals--as does power--but more on the level of
populations. Hitler was "managing" the populations to maximise racial
purity--a concept on the level of populations and so bedfellows with
biopower. Perhaps that is why Foucault mentioned Nazis?
>and thought that I might suggest that anyone interested in the subject read
>Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life by Giorgio Agamben. He is very
>explicit about his debt to Foucault, and most particularly his debt to the
>Foucault who is concerned with biopolitics. As with anything Agamben
>writes, it is beautiful and overwhelming. Although he clearly works with
>Foucault's ideas his project extends to places that Foucault's death
>prevented Foucault himself from reaching.
That sounds interesting. I've never read Giorgio Agamben. I'll have to check