Skip to main content
×
Home

Biopower Today

  • Paul Rabinow (a1) and Nikolas Rose (a2)
Abstract

In this article we undertake some conceptual clarification of the concepts of biopower and biopolitics, and argue for their utility in contemporary analysis. We consider Foucault's development of these concepts, and differentiate his view, which is close to ours, from the philosophical take-up of the terms by Giorgio Agamben and Antonio Negri. Biopower, we suggest, entails one or more truth discourses about the ‘vital’ character of living human beings; an array of authorities considered competent to speak that truth; strategies for intervention upon collective existence in the name of life and health; and modes of subjectification, in which individuals work on themselves in the name of individual or collective life or health. We argue that, while exceptional forms of biopower, especially in conditions of absolutist dictatorship, and when combined with certain technical resources, can lead to a murderous ‘thanatopolitics’—a politics of death—biopower in contemporary states takes a different form. It characteristically entails a relation between ‘letting die’ (laissez mourir) and making live (faire vivre)—that is to say strategies for the governing of life. Using examples from our own current research, we consider recent developments in biopower around three themes: race, population and reproduction, and genomic medicine.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Corresponding author.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

BioSocieties
  • ISSN: 1745-8552
  • EISSN: 1745-8560
  • URL: /core/journals/biosocieties
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 204 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 908 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.