The birth of biopolitics

Foucault, Michel 2008. The birth of biopolitics : lectures at the College de France 1978-1979 / Michel Foucault ; edited by Michel Senellart. New York : Picador, 2008

Käesolev teos on üks kahest (Tartus) saadavalolevast raamatust mis käsitleb biopoliitikat. Ootasin midagi teistsugust. Olin pärast esimest sada lehekülge juba tüdinud majanduse ja valitsemise vaheliste seoste üle arutlemisest. Leidsin, et selles teoses pole minu jaoks suurt midagi. Kahesajanda lehekülje juures ei paistnud situatsioon muutuvad ja mõtlesin juba alla anda. Ainult see, et leidsin enne lõplikult loobumist raamatut hindavalt läbi lapates sõna behavior, päästis olukorra. Ja mul on hea meel, et otsustasin lõpuni lugeda. Asi läks lõpus huvitavaks. Ta defineeris kapitali ja kõneles inimkapitalist, defineeris kuriteo (tegu mis väärib karistamist), selgitas subjekti mõiste päritolu ja kuidas see seostub tahte või huviga ning jõudis lõpuks ka võimuni. Reis oli pikk ja kohati üpris tüütu, kuid seda väärt. Nagu on saanud kombeks, tsitaadid:

You recall the strict sense in which I understood "art of government," since in using the word "to govern" I left out the thousand and one different modalities and possible ways that exist for guiding men, directing their conduct, constraining their actions and reactions, and so on. Thus I left to one side all that is usually understood, and that for a long time was understood, as the government of children, of families, of a household, of souls, of communities, and so forth. I only considered, and again this year will only consider the government of men insofar as it appears as the exercise of political sovereignty. (Foucault 2008: 1-2)

On the other hand, what is entailed by what we will now call internal policy, by the police state? Well, it entails precisely an objective or set of objectives that could be described as unlimited, since for those who govern in the police state it is not only a matter of taking into account and taking charge of the activity of groups and orders, that is to say, of different types of individuals with their particular status, but also of taking charge of activity of groups and orders, that is to say, of different types of individuals with their particular status, but also of taking charge of activity at the most detailed, individual level. All the great seventeenth and eighteenth century treatises of police that collate and try to systematize the different regulations are in agreement on this and say explicitly: The object of police is almost infinite. THat is to say, when it is a question of an independent power facing other powers, government according to raison d'État has limited objectives. But there is no limit to the objectives of government when it is a question of managing a public power that has to regulate the behavior of subjects. (Foucault 2008: 7)

The question here is the same as the question I addressed with regard to madness, disease, deliquency, and sexuality. In all of these cases, it was not a question of showing how these objects were for a long time hidden before finally being discovered, nor of showing how all these objects are only wicked illusions or ideological products to be dispelledin the [light] of reason finally having reached its zenith. It wa a matter of showing by what does not exist (madness, disease, deliquency, sexuality, etcetera), nonetheless become something, something however that continues to exist. That is to say, what I would like to show is not how an error - when I say that which does not exist becomes something, this does not mean showing how it was possible for an error to be constructed - or how an illusion could be born, but how a particular regime of truth, and therefore not an error, makes something that does not exist able to become something. It is not an illusion since it is precisely a set of practices, real practices, which establish it and thus imperiously marks it out in reality. (Foucault 2008: 19)

We should keep in mind that heterogeneity is never a principle of exclusion; it never prevents coexistence, conjunction, or connection. (Foucault 2008: 42)

More precisely, we can say that it is through interests that government can get a hold on everything that exists for it in the form of individuals, actions, words, wealth, resources, property, rights, and so forth. We can put this more clearly, if you like, with a very simple question: On what did the sovereign, the monarch, the state have a hold in the previous system, and on what was its right to exercise this hold based, legitimized, and founded? It was things, lands. The king was often, not always, considered to be the owner of the realm, and it was as such that he could intervene. Or at any rate he owned an estate. He could exercise a hold over the subjects since, as subjects, they had a personal relation to the sovereign that meant that whatever the rights of the subjects themselves he could exercise a hold over everything. In other words, there was a direct hold of power in the form of the sovereign, in the form of his ministers, a direct hold of government over things and people.
On the basis of the new governmental reason - and this is the point of separation between the old and the new, between raison d'État and reason of the least state - government must no longer intervene, and it no longer has a direct hold on things and people; it can only exert a hold, it is only legitimate, ounded in law and reason, to intervene, insofar as interest, or interests, the interplay of interests, make a particular individual, thing, good, wealth, or process of interest for individuals, or for the set of individuals, or for the interst of a given individual faced with the interest of all, etcetera. Government is only interested in interests. The new government, the new governmental reason, does not deal with what I would call the things in themselves of governmentality, such as individuals, things, wealth, and land. It no longer deals with these things in themselves. It deals with the phenomena of politics, that is to say, interests, which precisely constitute politics and its sakes; it deals with interests, or that respect in which a given individual, thing, wealth, and so on interests other individuals or the collective body of individuals. (Foucault 2008: 45)

What have the bourgeoise and capitalist economy and state produced? They have produced a society in which individuals have been torn from their natural community and borught together in the flat, anonymous form of the mass. Capitalism produces the mass. Capitalism consequently produces what Sombart does not exactly call one-dimensionality, but this is precisely what he defines. Capitalism and bourgeoise society have deprived individuals of direct and immediate communication with each other and they are forced to communicate through the intermediary of a centralized administrative apparatus. [They have] therefore reduced individuals to the state of atoms subject to an abstract authority in which they do not recognize themselves. Capitalist society has also forced individuals into a type of mass consumption with the functions of standardization and normalization. Finally, this bourgeoise and capitalist economy has doomed individuals to communicate with each other only through the play of signs and spectacles. (Foucault 2008: 113)

How is human capital made up? Well, they say, it is made up of innate elements and other, acquired elements. Let's talk about the innate elements. There are those we can call hereditary, and othes which are just innat; differences which are, of course, self-evident for anyone with the vaguest aquaitance with biology. I do not think that there are as yet any studies on the problem of the hereditary elements of human capital, bhut it is quite clear what form they could take and, above all, we can see through anxieties, concerns, problems, and so on, the birth of something which, according to your point of view, could be interesting or disturbing. In actual fact, in the - I was going to say, classical - analyses of these neo-liberals, in the analyses of Schultz or Becker, for example, it is indeed said that the formation of human capital only has interest and only becomes relevant for the economist inasmuch as this capital is formed thanks to the use of scarce means, to the alternative use of scarce means for a given end. Now obviously we do not have to pay to have the body we have, or we do not have to pay for out genetic make-up. It costs nothing. (Foucault 2008: 227)

We now adopt the point of view of the person who commits the crime, or who will commit the crime, while keeping the same content of the definition. We ask: What is the crime for him, that is to say, for the subject of an action, for the subject of a form of conduct or behavior? Well, it is whatever it is that puts him at risk of punishment. (Foucault 2008: 252)

What I think is fundamental in English empiricist philosophy - which I am treating completely superficially - is that it reveals something which absolutely did not exist before. This is the idea of a subject of interest, by which I mean a subject as the source of interest, the starting point of interest, or the site of a mechanism of interest. For sure, there is a series of discussions on the mechanism of interest itself and what may activate it: is it self-preservation, is it the body or the soul, or is it sympathy? But this is not what is important. What is important is the appearance of interest for the first time as a form of both immediately and absolutely subjective will. (Foucault 2008: 273)

Now you find the same kind of schema of an effect of totality, of a global reality arising through the blindness of each individual, but with regard to history. The history of humanity in its overall effects, its continuity, and in its general and recurrent forms - savage, barbarous, civilized, and so on - is nothing other than the perfectly logical, decipherable, and identifiable form or series of forms arising from blind initiatives, egoistic interests, and calculations which individuals only ever see in terms of themselves. (Foucault 2008: 307)

Well, let's say in a very general, overall way that for a long time the idea of regulating, measuring, and so limiting the indefinite exercise of power was sought in the wisdom of the person who would govern. Wisdom was the old answer. Wisdom means governing in accordance with the order of things. It means governing according to the knowledge of human and divine laws. It means governing according to God's prescriptions. It means governing according to what the general human and divine order may prescribe. In other words, when one sought to identify how the sovereign had to be wise and in what his wisdom consisted, one basically tried to regulate and model government in terms of the truth. It was the truth of religious texts, or revelation, and of the order of the world that had to be the principle of the regulation, or adjustment rather, of the exercise of power. (Foucault 2008: 311)


Simphiwe E Mini said...

This I find very interesting and I am amazed few geographers have taken up or responded and or deployed this framework for urban studies. Can somebody help me: Did Michel Foucault use the term`neoliberal-governmentality' or was used later by those who follwed and developed his work further.

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