Re: what is bio-power

Following up on "the question of style" (and no doubt, in a discussion of
Nietzsche and Foucault, Derrida must eventually intervene at some point), I
thought a few passages from Halperin's recent book, "Saint Foucault," might be

Halperin writes:
It may be tempting to see in Foucault's delineation of an aesthetic or stylistic
mode of ethical practice in general, and in his valuation of lesbian and gay
styles of lie in particular, a mere recapitulation of the much-execrated
fin-de-siecle aestheticism typcially associated with Oscar Wilde--or a revival
more specifically, of the "dandyism" championed by Baudelaire... But it would
be a political mistake as well as an exegetical error to treat Foucault's
ethical aestheticism recutively, or to underestimate the radical possibilities
contained in all these varieties of ethical stylistics. ...Foucault in effect
seizes on the most abjectedand devalued feature of gay male self-fashioning,
namely, STYLE and finds in it a rigorous, austere, and transformative technology
of the self which produces concrete possibilities for the development of
personal autonomy. Ultimately, what sets Foucault;s own stylistics of the self
apart from a reductively construed notion of "decadent style," and what allows
the self to become a genuinely new strategic possibility, not merely an outmoded
Romantic one, is the thoroughly IMPERSONAL conception of "the self" on which
Foucault's entire model of stylistics rests. ...[and he goes on to explain
this last sentence as follows] ...according to Foucault's conception, "the
self" which is to be cultivated by means of an "art of life" (whether in the
ancient world or in the modern) is not a personal IDENTITY so much as it is a
RELATION OF REFLEXIVITY, a relation of the human subject to itself in its power
and its freedom. Foucault's "self" is not an Emorsonian "self": it is not a
personal substance or essence but, exactly as Veyne emphasizes, a strategic
possibility. ...To practice a stylistics of the self ultimately means to
cultivate that part of oneself that leads beyond oneself, that transcends
oneself: it is to elaborate the strategic possibilities of what is the most
IMPERSONAL dimension of personal life--namely, the capacity to "realize onself"
by becoming other than what one is.[and, to me at least, this last sentence
sounds strikingly like a sophisticated gloss on Nietzschean

By elaborating on the potentialities of resistance located within Foucault's
turn to "aesthetics"--and especially to ascesis as an ethical alternative to
juridical codes of behavior--Halperin also links up the early and late Foucault
(though not in any simple, linear way).

Sam Chambers
University of Minnesota

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