An Advanced Introduction
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
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In creating the “Biopolitics” book series for New York University Press, we hoped to achieve several intellectual and pragmatic goals. First, we wanted to solicit and encourage new book projects examining the potent intersection of medicine and technoscience with human bodies and lives. Second, we wanted to foster interdisciplinary...
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This book has emerged from a specific historical constellation. It addresses some crucial social and political events we have witnessed since the turn of the century. In the past ten years, intellectuals inside and outside the United States have used the notion of biopolitics to reflect on issues as heterogeneous as the war on terror after 9/11, the rise of neoliberalism, and biomedical...
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The notion of biopolitics has recently become a buzzword. A few years ago it was known only to a limited number of experts, but it is used today in many different disciplines and discourses. Beyond the limited domain of specialists, it is also attracting increasing interest among the general public. The term is used to discuss political asylum policies, as well as the...
1. Life as the Basis of Politics
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Although the concept of biopolitics has now become familiar, it may not be widely known that it has nearly a hundred-year history. Its initial appearance was as part of a general historical and theoretical constellation. By the second half of the 19th century, Lebensphilosophie (the philosophy of life) had already emerged as an independent philosophical tendency; its founders...
2. Life as an Object of Politics
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In the 1960s and early 1970s, the meaning of biopolitics assumed another form. It was not so much focused on the biological foundations of politics but rather disclosed life processes as a new object of political reflection and action. In light of the ecological crisis that was increasingly being addressed by political activists and social movements, biopolitics now came to...
3. The Government of Living Beings: Michel Foucault
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In the 1970s, the French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault introduced a concept of biopolitics that broke with the naturalist and politicist interpretations that were discussed in the preceding chapters. In contrast to the former conception of biopolitics, Foucault describes biopolitics as an explicit rupture with the attempt to trace political processes and structures...
4. Sovereign Power and Bare Life: Giorgio Agamben
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For some time now, the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has been receiving growing attention and appreciation.1 Yet it was only with the appearance of Homo Sacer in 1995 that he became known to a wider audience (Agamben 1998). The book was an international bestseller, and its author became an intellectual star. The reason for this lay...
5. Capitalism and the Living Multitude: Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
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If for Agamben biopolitics is marked by a catastrophic history that led to the Nazi extermination camps, it receives a very different treatment in yet another attempt at updating the concept. For the literary theorist Michael Hardt and the philosopher Antonio Negri, biopolitics does not stand for the overlapping of rule and exception but rather for a new...
6. The Disappearance and Transformation of Politics
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There can be no doubt that the writings of Giorgio Agamben and the works of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri are the most prominent contributions to the debates concerning the further development and actualization of Foucauldian biopolitics. However, numerous other attempts to grapple with the concept have been made...
7. The End and Reinvention of Nature
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A second significant line of reception linked to Foucault’s concept of biopolitics focuses on the manner in which new scientific knowledge and the development of biotechnologies increase the control of life processes and decisively alter the concept of life itself. The common starting point for work in this field is the observation...
8. Vital Politics and Bioeconomy
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The concept of vital politics, which Nikolas Rose employs in his discussion of the molecularization and informatization of life, was already in use much earlier in a completely different context. The term played a prominent role in the work of Wilhelm Röpke and Alexander Rüstow, two significant representatives of postwar German liberalism and architects of the...
9. Prospect: An Analytics of Biopolitics
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The overview of the history and contemporary uses of “biopolitics” presented in this book reveals that the term is a combination of apparently contradictory elements. If politics in the classical sense refers to a state beyond existential necessities, biopolitics introduces a reflexive dimension. That is to say, it places at the innermost core of politics that which usually...
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About the Author
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Thomas Lemke is Heisenberg Professor of Sociology with focus on Biotechnologies, Nature, and Society at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main in Germany. His research interests include social and political theory, biopolitics, and social studies of genetic and reproductive...
Page Count: 158
Publication Year: 2010