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Power and Its Intesifications: The Evolution of Foucault's Thought

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by speed, Mar 3, 2008.

  1. speed

    speed Member

    Nov 19, 2001
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    I am posting a link to a very enlightening article on the transformations of Foucault's ideas on power below. The author of a new book on Foucault utilizes some of his late unpublished lectures, and the often neglected (including by me, mostly as I am not terribly thrilled with his incredibly flamboyent and reckless sexuality) History of Sexuality.

    Essentially, Foucault saw power moving beyong the traditional outward and exterior forms he so brilliantly wrote about in Discipline and Punish, to what the author of this article posits, was a kind of biopower. This biopower is the self-correcting or self-monitoring power of the extremely rational economic man. A man who inheritly polices himself, and sees everything in the light of rational economic choice.

    Behind the offender . . . stands the delinquent whose slow formation is shown in a biographical investigation. The introduction of the 'biographical' is important in the history of penality. Because it establishes the 'criminal' as existing before the crime and even outside it. (Discipline and Punish, p. 252)

    There he argues that there is a new figure, homo oeconomicus, that is beginning to emerge in place of the disciplined body. Homo oeconomicus is the neoliberal individual, the figure for whom everything is a matter of investment and return. For homo oeconomicus, everything from child-rearing to marriage to whether to abide by the law is a question of investment, risk, and reward. Foucault sums this idea up in saying that we are dealing with, "Not a society of the supermarket -- a society of enterprise. Homo oeconomicus . . . is not the man of exchange, he is not the consuming man, he is the man of enterprise and of production" Naissance de la biopolitique, p. 152). The figure of homo oeconomicus is, I believe, the figure that Nealon suggests in his discussion of biopower.

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