Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction by Thomas Lemke

By Thomas Lemke

The organic positive aspects of people at the moment are measured, saw, and understood in methods by no means ahead of notion attainable, defining norms, developing criteria, and picking out general values of human lifestyles. whereas the suggestion of “biopolitics” has been associated with every thing from rational decision-making and the democratic association of social lifestyles to eugenics and racism, Thomas Lemke deals the first actual systematic review of the background of the thought of biopolitics, exploring its relevance in modern theoretical debates and delivering a far wanted primer at the topic.

Lemke explains that lifestyles has turn into an autonomous, target and measurable issue in addition to a collective fact that may be separated from concrete residing beings and the singularity of person adventure. He indicates how our realizing of the strategies of existence, the organizing of populations and the necessity to “govern” contributors and collectives bring about practices of correction, exclusion, normalization, and disciplining. during this lucidly written publication, Lemke outlines the stakes and the debates surrounding biopolitics, offering a scientific evaluation of the background of the proposal and making transparent its relevance for sociological and modern theoretical debates.

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Instead, it operates through an “economic government” that analyzes governmental action to find out whether it is necessary and useful or superfluous or even harmful. The liberal art of government takes society rather than true state as its starting point and asks, “Why must one govern? ” (2008, 319). A reduction of state power in no way follows from this historical shift, however. Paradoxically, the liberal recourse to nature makes it possible to leave nature behind or, more precisely, to leave behind a certain concept of nature that conceives of it as eternal, holy, or unchangeable.

Rather than adjusting reality to a predefined “should-be” value, the technologies of security take reality as the norm: as a statistical distribution of events, as average rate of diseases, births and deaths, and so on. They do not draw an absolute borderline between the permitted and the prohibited; rather, they specify an optimal middle within a spectrum of variations (2007, 55–63).

2 Despite these lacunae and deficits, it is clear that Foucault’s genealogy of modern racism contains a range of analytical assets. First, he conceives of racism neither as an ideological construct nor as an exceptional situation nor as a response to social crises. According to Foucault, racism is an expression of a schism within society that is provoked by the biopolitical idea of an ongoing 44 The Government of Living Beings: Michel Foucault and always incomplete cleansing of the social body.

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