RE: Comments? Essay on Biopower, Knowledge, and Genetics...Help ASAP!


Yeah, pretty abstract. You utter a lot of catch phrases and
use a lot of pretty technical vocabulary, usually with absolutely
no explanation. I suggest you dumb it down a lot and explain
the phenomena (e.g. the exertion of bio-power) that you seem
content to only name.

It's decent though. Perhaps a little long?

From a philosophical perspective, I'd say, however, that this
is pretty dogmatic. You just kind of state the problem of bio-power,
toss out some catch phrases about the efficacy of local
makes me wonder how much of this is really thought out. Foucault
can be a useful tool for your analysis, but I suggest you subordinate
him to your subject matter, rather than vise versa. Explain the
necessity of local resistance in the context of genetics before
trumpeting the conventional wisdom about how "power is fluid"
(another unexplained statement).




"If some woman tried to kick my ass, I'd be like, 'Hey...woman!
Don't you dress me a mailman...and make me dance for
you...while you go smoke the bedroom...and have sex
with some guy...I don't even know...on my dad's bed!'"

~Eric Cartman

>--- Original Message ---
>From: Zach Hale <queengayboi@xxxxxxxxx>
>To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>Date: 4/25/01 1:27:53 AM

>I'm a high school Junior and I'm doing my IB extended essay,
>anyone have any comments on my paper? My teachers seem to think
>too abstract and they don't really comprehend it nor foucault's

>ideas, so the insight or commentary (good or bad) I get from
them is
>minimal. Thanks for your help! - Zach (queengayboi@xxxxxxxxx)
>Genetics is about to bring a revolution far more powerful and

>encompassing than even the revolution in physics in the early
>century. Its power to manipulate the human body brings about

>questions about the nature of our being. However, society tends
>to object to genetics in regards to certain uses, like cloning
>eugenics. The problem lies in the fact that analysis tends
to follow
>the flawed notion of power. The key question that needs to
be asked
>is how do Michel Foucault's concepts of power, genealogy, and

>resistance apply to genetics?
>This paper uses Foucault's analysis of power and power relations
>order to actively criticize and resist the project in unforeseen

>ways. The genealogy-the specific context and power structures
>allow something to come into play and for knowledge to be produces-of

>genetics is analyzed in order to determine within what structure
>knowledge is intended to operate.
>It is concluded that genetics has major power-knowledge implications

>and it arose out of a need for an even more precise measure
>maintaining, controlling, and developing the health and security
>the population. This system of bio-power has been in place
for the
>past two centuries and genetics could quite possibly be the
end point
>of this process, totalizing control of the human body. In a
>designed to maintain and "cure" the population through different

>institutions-prisons, asylums, schools, hospitals-this has major

>implications-changing the relationship we have with ourselves.
>change could bring about a new conceptional framework for the
>just like the revolutions and other advances did at the end
of the
>18th century-marking the shift from the classical episteme to
>current humanist episteme. Constant criticism and resistance
>conceptualized by Foucault is needed.
>French intellectual Michel Foucault provided the world with
>revolutionary analysis of how power works in contemporary society.

>Enraging both conservatives and the liberals that thought he
>their ally, he conjured up some of the most shocking concepts
in the
>20th century. His analysis of bio-power-the management, maintenance,

>and control of the social body, as the way power works in modern

>society-is one of his most original contributions. He doesn't
>to explain everything, or even to do it correctly, but his ideas

>unlike any before seem to make things fall into place.
>The Human Genome Project has been the site of much hope and
>distress in recent years. It offers the potential to have complete

>control over the physical body. Yet the project itself continues
>without much objection to its information gathering on who or
what we
>are. Unfortunately, Foucault did not live long enough to talk
>the possibilities and dangers of genetics nor was he able to
>on his concept of bio-power. This paper's purpose serves as
>instrument to encourage critical engagement of the project and
>possible effects. Significantly, genetic information and
>engineering, as institutions of power, will have significant

>implications in terms of Michel Foucault's analysis of bio-power
>power-knowledge and can only be resisted by understanding the

>workings of power.
>An Analysis of "Power"
>Jana Sawicki, professor of philosophy at Williams College, explains

>that our modern conception of power, the "juridico-discursive"
>has three basic assumptions: Power is possessed (individuals,
>class, the people), it is controlled by a centralized source
in a top
>to bottom fashion (the law, the economy, the state), and that
it is
>primarily repressive in nature. Foucault noted that this model
>hardly adequate to describe power in society. He does not deny
>this is one type of power, but he does not think that it explains
>forms of power that make centralized and repressive forms of
>possible --- mainly the multitude of power relations operating
on the
>micro level of society (Disciplining 20).
>Instead, power should be viewed as the relations that control
>Power is nothing substantive, but scattered (Caputo and Yount

>5). "[It] is the thin, inescapable film that covers all human

>interactions, whether inside institutions or out" (Caputo and
>5). It must be viewed as something that is not repressive but
>productive. For example, in order to create knowledge of the
>it had to be seen through military and educational disciplines.
>was power over the body that produced medical knowledge
>(Power/Knowledge 59). It is not situated at any source, it
>however, just a web of relations pervading society and interactions.

>Power can't be analyzed in terms of a source, but rather sources
>be analyzed in terms of power (Caputo and Yount 4-5).
>Foucault puts a twist on Bacon's "knowledge is power". One
of his
>most startling revelations was his concept that power produces

>knowledge and uses it to disperse itself. Truth is not something

>that liberates. Without power, no "truth" could exist. "Knowledge

>is what power relations produce in order to spread and disseminate

>more effectively" (Caputo and Yount 7). This means that knowledge

>claims are always linked with power and that knowledge only
exists if
>power relations allow it to. Certain large institutions tend
>produce a lot of knowledge, and thus tend to exert an enormous
>of power. In modern society such institutions could be psychology,

>medicine, economics and perhaps the human genome project. These

>institutions, however, don't exert their own power, but instead
>the means that power uses (Caputo and Yount 4-5).
>Genetics as an Institution of Power & Science's Power Effects
>Genetics is situating itself to be a tremendous locus of power
and in
>some ways it already is. There are many reasons why this may
>true, most significantly in regards to Foucault's concept of
>power, to be discussed later on. But generally society uncritically

>accepts the goals and methods of science and scientific research.
>don't think that science is problematic outside of its uses.
We want
>to know everything. We are willing to let science work and
deal with
>the consequences later, while believing our current social
>institutions can absorb these advances. Therefore, the genome

>project is a product of our "collective and uniform moral and

>scientific expectations" (Murphy 3). Despite being wrong, science

>always appears to be right, and therefore all-powerful---and

>sometimes had ended up extremely bloody as a tool of power (Appleyard

>68). Most ethical analysis tends to shy away from problematization

>of the project itself (Murphy 3).
>"The silence [surrounding the Human Genome Project] is more
>likely the result of our society's homogeneous views as regards
>morality of scientific inquiry [^] the result of the erroneous
>that scientific inquiry is itself value free and only morally

>significant with regards to its consequences" (Murphy 5). The

>federal government helped to create a scientific orthodoxy with
>funding of the project. Making our pitfall more dangerous,
>time there are converts to a scientific project, voices of dissent

>capable of correcting and advancing human knowledge and wisdom
may be
>lost" (Murphy 4). Genetics is a big science with big consequences,

>and it can form a moral ideology because of its single-natured
>conforming people and their discourse and their expectations
>Furthermore, the scientist is given the role of a specific
>intellectual-given authority because of their value and their
>and less because of reason (Foucault Reader 23). They are situated

>at the level of knowledge and thus have tremendous power effects
>their claims to truth. But more importantly they are also the

>product of power relations. Timothy Murphy, professor of philosophy

>at the University of Illinois, notes:
>"There are many ways to represent the nature of human beings,
>none of them are value neutral. Even a genomatic characterization
>already always determined by our social and conceptual background.

>What we see, therefore, in a genomatic characterization of human

>beings depends on what we are accustomed to and interested in

>seeing. This for both the species as a whole and an individual
>particular. There is no escaping the immersion in the social
>conceptual preconditions of observation, representation, science,
>language; we cannot ever hope to achieve the position of an
>unconditional, uninterested observer" (7).
>Medicine has always been a tool for the exercise of public opinion
>more focused on order than truth (History of Sexuality 54).
It will
>be these scientists and society as a whole determining what

>is "normal" as opposed to the "abnormal". We continue on our

>commitment to orthodox science, hoping for the production of

>knowledge, its positive effects, to the point at which we remain

>complacent in regards to how this knowledge will effect society

>(Murphy 5).
>Throughout the course of history, science has changed abruptly
>several junctures. This is true for both the human and the
>sciences, and each shows a complete conceptional discontinuity
>former practices (Foucault Reader 9). Only Foucault's model
of power
>can adequately explain why this type of transition occurs and
>destroy the population's faith in science. Knowledge is contingent

>on the power structures that create it, and the discontinuities
>significant events in the struggle of power. This is extremely

>important in regards to genetics in particular. We need to
>that it is ridiculous to say that science today is not like
>mistakes of the past because they were based on "wrong" science.

>Five hundred or even fifty years from now the same will be said
of us
>(Appleyard 68).
>Moreover, Foucault noted that conceptions of what is "normal"

>and "abnormal" have changed over time. These arbitrary categories

>are defined in order to separate the abnormal, and within our
>system, are used as tools for normalization of the "abnormal"
>order to make these social "misfits" more acceptable (Ransom
>This process of normalization is part of the process of bio-power,

>which is what Foucault saw as the apparatus of power operating
>modern society. This is what I perceive as the most dangerous

>application of genetics, as I will discuss later.
>Genetics has the potential to have many other power effects.
It is
>impossible to determine what exactly is going to happen because
>is everywhere and the infinite power relations ensure that perception

>will be different than actuality. But it is possible to theorize

>some of the possible power-knowledge consequences. Paul Rabinow,
>professor of anthropology at the University of California and
>Foucault scholar, writes that older categories such as race,
>and age may be combined with the vast array of new ones bringing

>about new forms of racism, sexism, and ageism. Our preexistent

>categories won't be replaced with the new ones, but instead

>will "cross-cut, partially supersede, and eventually redefine"
>(Essays 103).
>Consistent with Foucault's concept of genealogy-the process
>discovering the point of creation of a concept or event and
why and
>how power relations were situated in order for this to occur-I
>determine the origin of genetics. With a little help from Foucault

>himself, this is not too difficult. In the last section of
>History of Sexuality, Foucault gives a startling insight into
>power, the power of the social body in managing, ensuring,
>maintaining, and developing life. He views this as the power

>structures as situated in our day. Genetics can be seen as
>continuation of this process, and possibly the absolute totalized

>application of bio-power.
>Foucault's most amazing and shocking contribution is this concept
>bio-power. "For a long time, one of the characteristic privileges
>sovereign power was the right to decide life and death" (History
>Sexuality 135). The king exercised his power by the power to

>extinguish life, his right to kill. But at the end of 18th
>all of that changed. Since the classical age we have undergone
>serious transformation in power mechanisms. As Nietzche proclaimed

>the death of God, man turned inwards on himself, seeking to
>the social body-"working to incite, reinforce, control, monitor,

>optimize, and organize the forces under it: a power bent on

>generating forces, making them grow, and ordering them, rather
>one dedicated to impeding them, making them submit, or destroying

>them" (136). This coincided with the ability of European food

>production to keep stable for the population. "This death that
>based on the right of the sovereign is now manifested as simply
>reverse of the right of the social body to ensure, maintain,
>develop its life" (136). This is humanism.
>Various institutions have been created to exert this power.
>is perhaps the most pervasive of these. The body is viewed
>relation to life-population, health, age-and disciplines through

>which power is exercised provide a power whose intention is
not death
>but an investment in life. The body is viewed as a machine-
>discipline, optimization, utility, docility, integration into

>efficient systems, and economic controls-are all ensured by
>procedures of anatomo-politics (139). This is a process of

>normalization, of eliminating that outside of the "norm."
>Institutions and centers of power--medicine, psychiatry, economics,

>schools-form the young into complacent subjects of normalization.

>Institutions-asylums, hospitals, prisons-also reform the abnormal
>stray beyond the limits of normalcy (Caputo and Yount 6). The
>of political power is to raise the health of the population
>ensure well-being. Power apparatuses are called upon to control

>bodies in order to ensure health. Health becomes the duty of
>and the objective of all (Power/Knowledge ?). It is easy to
see how
>genetics falls quite easily into the mechanisms of bio-power.
>It is important to recognize that no one directs this type of
>but everyone is increasingly enmeshed in it, which only leads
to the
>increase of the power and the order. Our normalizing society
is the
>outcome of these procedures of power centered on life. Law
>as a norm rather than as a controlling factor. It is situated
at the
>level of rights---"the 'right' to life, to one's body, to health,
>happiness, to the satisfaction of needs, and beyond all the

>oppressions or 'alienations,' the 'right' to rediscover what
one is
>and all that one can be." All of our democratic Constitutions,

>revisions, and our continuous legislative activity, these are
all the
>forms that make "an essentially normalizing power acceptable"-and

>were produced merely in reaction to these new power structures
>the classical juridical system was "utterly incapable of
>understanding" (History of Sexuality 144-145).
>Foucault also points out the effects of this humanist system.
>are bloodier than they have ever been, we no longer fight under
>name of the sovereign, but instead for the sanctity of the human

>race, for human existence. Never before have regimes exerted
>massive slaughters on their own populations. "If genocide is
>the dream of modern powers, this is not because of a return
of an
>ancient right to kill; it is because power is situated and exercised

>at the level of life, the species, the race, and the large-scale

>phenomena of population." Strikingly, only under this system
>power is the atomic situation possible. " The power to expose
>whole population to death is the underside of the power to guarantee

>an individual's continued existence." One has to kill to go
>living, this is the rule of the world of today (136-137). Foucault

>boldly declares, "For millennia, man remained what he was for

>Aristotle: a living animal with the additional capacity for
>political existence; modern man is an animal whose politics
>his existence as a living being in question" (143).
>Genetics and Bio-Power
>Bio-power has allowed for the existence of genetics. It is
only in
>this system of control of health and of the body that such a

>technology would surface. Most people believe that eugenics-the

>process of creating a "master race" or of "perfecting" the human

>being-through genetics would not happen in our society. But
>what we know about the situation of bio-power, is it really
>improbable? The problem with the current conception of power
is that
>it rests on the axiom that power is controlled, so the only
type of
>eugenics people conceive of is that of state-sponsored eugenics
>the lines of Hitlerean politics. But bio-power is eugenics,
it is a
>process by which the population is normalized, controlled, perfected,

>and inserted into an economic and political machine. We as a
>have been committing eugenics for 200 years.
>Genetics has many bio-political implications. It is so dangerous

>because it does provide the perfect technology for social control
>the manipulation of the body. Once we are able to manipulate
DNA, we
>will have complete control over the body. Like the doctor over
>past couple centuries, the geneticist will become the expert,
>advisor responsible for improving the social body and maintaining
>health. It offers control like never before and it offers
>normalization like never before.
>"The model of the gene as the blueprint, as a determining factor
>a source of good and evil, nicely fits into our pursuit for
>over life and health and security" (Jochemsen 80). The truth
is that
>genetics is already being set up to become an extremely large
>of power. A diverse group of disciplines are making claims
of the
>connection between an array of social problems (crime, mental

>illness, alcoholism, gender relations, intelligence), even though
>of these claims are valid. These claims of scientific truth
>exercise power to entrench societal morality in the guise of
>medical norm. As mentioned before, with changes in power,
>formulations of what is "abnormal" and what is "normal" have

>changed. Therefore our current conceptions of these categories
>limited to the power relations we exist in. The genomatic
>characterization will represent not the individual, but the
>form," allowing interpretation of desirable/undesirable and

>normalcy/difference (Murphy 7). A trait we consider a "problem"
>be exterminated now might not be so from another viewpoint in
>The advances can have parents choose desirable traits based
>society's comparative terms (Kevles 25). The population will
>out eugenics with seemingly autonomous choices, however abuses
>coercion will occur with no government interference (Dyck 30).

>People generally desire the same things for their children-
>intelligence, health, normalcy-this will form eugenics in the
>body (Appleyard 83). In the context of a free market economy,
>situation becomes even more perilous. Striven for competition
>this genetically engineered environment, parents fearful of
>kids being left behind will ensure that their genetic makeup
will not
>be of disadvantage. "Problems" will be corrected, and "desirable"

>traits will be added. We are marching down a path of normalization
>which people will be engineered "autonomously" to be the same.
>absolute control of the body-combined with institutions like
>schools, the prisons, the factories, and asylums that are set
>place to improve and develop the social body-is the completion
of the
>biopolitical dream.
>This is the opposite of state-sponsored eugenics. The eugenics
of the
>free market combined with genetic knowledge has major implications.

>Public tolerance may be there, but privately we would not want
>have a gay child-if only so that they would not have to experience

>hardships. This would be a perfect program of eugenics-more

>effective than Hitler. "The free market takes off where Nazism
>off" (Appleyard 84).
>The homosexuality example is a good one to demonstrate the side

>effects of this process. The extermination of homosexuality
>prevent the birth of important people whose contribution to
>is tied to their sexuality. This would "push society towards
>preconceived idea of morality" (83). We admire those with genius,

>the abnormal-Mozart, Michaelangelo, James Joyce. When it comes
>genius, the closest to normal was Shakespeare, and most think
he was
>bisexual. Yet we will want the low-risk "normal approach" to
>social integration (86). Without resistance, a concept I will
get to
>later, prevailing power structures will only serve to reentrench

>Genetics as a Possible Opening to a New Episteme
>The power that genetics can exert makes it very precarious.
>makes the claim that man can die just as God did for Nietzsche,
>the humanist episteme-the complete framework of knowledge, the
>power is situated, the way the world is conceptualized-will
>crashing down just as the classical episteme did at the end
of the
>18th century. He doesn't know where or how, but it will be
>over a period of just a few years (Order of Things 386-387).
>concludes The Order of Things with one of the most powerful

>statements in philosophy:
>"If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if
>event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the

>possibility- without knowing whether what its form will be or
>its premises-were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of

>Classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century,
then one
>can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn
>sand at the edge of the sea" (387).
>Genetics, I wager, could be that event destroying our conception
>humanity. Its control is enormous enough, its power so total
>the complete system of bio-power will no longer be necessary.

>Rabinow comes close to making this point when he says that the
>genetics will cease being just a biological metaphor for modern

>society, but instead it will be its own system that he
>terms "biosociality" in contrast to the current term of
>sociobiology. "If sociobiology is culture constructed on the
>of a metaphor of nature, then in biosociality, nature will be
>on culture understood as practice" (Essays 99).
>Rabinow also claims that of the three foci that Foucault thinks
>would open the way for a new episteme-life, labor, language-life
>the most "potent present site of new knowledges and powers"
>Foucault had mistakenly predicted language would be the one
to cause
>the change, and he acknowledged his error a decade after The
Order of
>Things (92). Rabinow points out that the object of knowledge-the

>human genome-is to be known in a matter so that it can be
>modified. "Representing and intervening, knowledge and power,

>understanding and reform, are built in, from the start, as
>simultaneous goals and means" (93). More than anything before,

>genetics has the ability to changes man's conception of himself
>also change man's relation to society.
>If genetics truly does bring an end to our episteme there is
no way
>that we can conceptualize what is to replace it. But the end
>of our current path is quite clear, a completely normalized
>with a lack of diversity and a complacent population. This
>like an actualization of Nietzsche's concept of "The Last Man."

>Critical resistance is needed to counteract current power structures,

>but we need to understand how power works in order to resist
>effects. Significantly and traumatically, genetic technology
>transform man's conception of himself. "The self that has been

>changed is the self that is trying to understand that change"

>(Appleyard 5). Therefore we must engage in resistance and criticism

>now, beginning a difficult and never-ending process.
>Resistance & Criticism
>Reading this paper is the first step. Our solutions are tied
to how
>we understand the problem, we must question that method. We
need to
>ask how the problems in society that supposedly need to be solved

>came to be problems in the first place-we need to find their

>genealogy (Hoy 89). Even though there is a lot of conflict
>certain issues, there is a striking consensus on which issues
>fight about, this creates an inability to apprehend new things

>(French DNA 178).
>Foucault's analysis expanding the political to include the power

>struggles in the microlevel of society helps to open up space
>resistance and self-creation by attacking the constraining effect
>totalizing theories and the juridico-discursive model of power

>(Disciplining 62). "Resistance must be carried out in local

>struggles against the many forms of power exercised at the everyday

>level of social relations" (Disciplining 23). Resistance needs
to be
>perpetually acted out, as a power-free society is impossible,
and we
>must never grow complacent-"victories are overturned; changes
>take on different faces over time" (27-28).
>Foucault maintained that there is definite value in negative

>criticism-that which is not necessarily coupled with an alternative

>or a solution (Feminism 65-66). Through analyses such as this
>we can open the space for resistance---we can criticize the
>power/knowledge regimes. The value of which is stated no better
>Foucault himself, "[Critique] should be an instrument for those
>fight, those who resist and refuse what is. Its use should
be in
>processes of conflict and confrontation, essays in refusal.
>doesn't have to lay down the law for the law. It isn't a stage
>programming. It is a challenge directed to what is" (qtd. in
>Genetics has clear power-knowledge implications within our current

>framework of bio-power. It is so powerful it will cause the
>realization of bio-power and quite possibly the death of man-the

>death of our humanist episteme. Like the wave washing over the

>drawing in sand on the beach, man is a fragile invention. This
>neither good nor bad, but dangerous if only because we don't
>what will replace it or what is going to happen. Power is a
>that can't be grasped nor destroyed so micropolitical resistance
>the only way to combat current power structures bent on normalization

>and the proliferation of such discourse in the realm of genetics.
>Works Cited
>Appleyard, Bryan. Brave New Worlds. England: Penguin Books.
>Caputo, John, and Mark Yount, eds. Foucault and the Critique
>Institutions. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.

>Davis, Joel. Mapping the Code. New York: John Wiley and Sons,
>Dyck, Arthur. "Eugenics in Historical and Ethical Perspective."

>Genetic Ethics: Do the Ends Justify the Genes? John Kilner,
>D. Penic, and Frank Yount, eds. Michigan: Paternoster Press.
>Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of
>Perception. New York: Vintage Books. 1978.
>-------. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. New York:

>Vintage Books. 1978.
>-------. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences.

>New York: Vintage Books. 1970.
>-------. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings,

>1972-1977. New York: Pantheon Books. 1981.
>-------. Power. James Faubion, ed. New York: New York Press.

>-------. The Use of Pleasure: The History of Sexuality. New
>Vintage Books. 1985.
>Hoy, David. Michel Foucault: Critical Assessments. Volume 3.
>Barry Smart. New York: Routledge. 1994.
>Jochemsen, Hank. "Reducing People to Genetics." Genetic Ethics:
>the Ends Justify the Genes? John Kilner, Rebecca D. Penic,
and Frank
>Yount, eds. Michigan: Paternoster Press. 1997.
>Kevles, Daniel. "Eugenics and the Human Genome Project is the
>Prologue." Justice and the Human Genome Project. Ed. Timothy

>Murphy. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1994.
>Mehlman, Maxwell, and Jeffrey Botkin. Access to the Genome:
>Challenge to Equality. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University

>Press. 1998.
>Murphy, Timothy. "The Genome Project and the Meaning of
>Difference." Justice and the Human Genome Project. Berkeley:

>University of California Press. 1994.
>Rabinow, Paul. Essays on the Anthropology of Reason. New Jersey:

>Princeton University Press. 1996.
>-------, ed. The Foucault Reader. New York: Pantheon Books.
>-------. French DNA: Trouble in Purgatory. Chicago: University
>Chicago Press. 1999.
>Ransom, John S. Foucault's Discipline: The Politics of
>Subjectivity. Durham: Duke University Press. 1997.
>Sawicki, Jana. Disciplining Foucault: Feminism, Power, and
>Body. New York: Routledge. 1991.
>-------. "Feminism, Foucault, and 'Subjects' of Power and Freedom."

>Feminist Interpretations of Michel Foucault. Ed. Susan J. Heckman.

>University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press.

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