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Biopower

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Are you freakin serious tim-

 

it's basically that anything, this year specifically national service, submits its members to this biopolicital order-that of where the gov't or the "system" manages and controls everyday life and submits the people to this order of knowledge. This is bad because it can lead to any possible impact scenarios including totalitarianism or genocide. The alternative is to kritik it by voting the aff down because their plan will create this order. I'm surprised you wouldn't have understood this by now. w/e

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Are you freakin serious tim-

 

it's basically that anything, this year specifically national service, submits its members to this biopolicital order-that of where the gov't or the "system" manages and controls everyday life and submits the people to this order of knowledge. This is bad because it can lead to any possible impact scenarios including totalitarianism or genocide. The alternative is to kritik it by voting the aff down because their plan will create this order. I'm surprised you wouldn't have understood this by now. w/e

 

hmmm really?

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There's a few key terms to understand biopower

Normalization- The state wants its citizens to fit in a "norm" and normalization is the process that does this.

Docility- submissive/non resistive

Autonomy- ability to make choices

Agency - ability to excercise power

Atomization - one lose their individual identity and becomes part of a group

 

Biopower is the underside of the power to protect life. It's also the power to put populations to death.

 

For instance, nuclear weapons. What are they here for now? Detterance. But at the same side the underside of this power is the ability to blow shit up.

 

This isn't just relating to nukes, specifically, on this topic, citizens become a means to the states ends. This means

1. They become atomized into a group to be used.

2. They lose their autonomy/agency once atomized because they have no say in what the group does.

3. They become self normalized to adapt to the group.

4. When one loses agency/autonomy, the power relations become inevitable because you can't resist power effectively.

 

 

And furthermore, the smartest person ever:

Written by TheScuSpeaks

Who is Foucault?

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) is one of France’s most famous and influential thinkers.

 

the usual Foucault kritik as ran in HS

Foucault tries to trace (do a genealogy) of different power formations, different power relations.

In doing so, he notices that there have really been two different types of societies, sovereign societies and disciplinary societies. Sovereign societies had the power to kill you. That is to say, if you disobeyed the sovereign law, the sovereign (or her/his agents) killed you. The sovereign also had the right to take anything s/he wanted to (everyone was the subject of the sovereign). So if you were an apple farmer, I could take a third of your apples.

But, all of this changes.

We have the rise of disciplinary societies. In these societies you no longer have the power of death, but rather the power of life, you no longer steal the end of what someone produces, you control the mode of production itself. All of this is to say, that Sovereign societies killed you, but mostly left you alone. Disciplinary societies shaped your life, told you how to live, and what you should do. The main way disciplinary societies do this is through panopticon logic. The Panopticon was a prison design, but Foucault sees this idea as being the basic function of all disciplinary societies. The Panopticon was a central watchtower placed in the middle of the prison, with one-way mirrors put up. The idea is that the prisoners never know if they are being watched, or if they are not being watched, so they have to assume they are always being watched. This constant observation, causes a person to internalize the actions that a disciplinary society wants a person to perform.

Now, this power that arranges life is sometimes called disciplinary power, but is most often called biopower (get it? bio=life, LifePower). Now, biopower is what caused the rise of nuclear weapons, and it is what caused genocide, and world wars. Let me explain the nuclear weapons, at least. Why do we have nuclear weapons? Or at least, what is the logic given to us that we have nuclear weapons? SO that we can use them? No. We are told/we believe we have nuclear weapons so that other people won't use their nuclear weapons against us (Deterrence). WHy is this possible? Because we now have weapons that have the potential to wipe out all life as we know it, but the reason we keep them is supposedly to protect life. wars and genocides etc are all founded on the logic of protecting us, of protecting people.

So the typical HS Foucault Kritik gets up their, and makes the argument that your case links to biopower (which is almost always will if you do anything). Then they will argue that biopower legitimizes nuclear weapons and will kill us all. Then they offer whatever their alternative is (of which there are a plethora of alternatives).

The problem, in my mind, is that foucault did not see all types of biopower as bad. He saw all types of biopower as dangerous. I have never seen a neg clearly articulate a link story of why the affs type of biopower is bad. I think there is an obvious internal link missing.

 

Want to start reading Foucault?

I suggest beginning with his History of Sexuality vol. I Particularly the last chapter provides the easiest to understand account of his notion of biopower.

Discipline and Punish is still his best book, and a must read.

Also, I highly suggest reading all three volumes of the Essential Works of Michel Foucault.

Lastly, if you want a want a book that relates Foucault’s ideas to Oceans, check out Discourses of the Environment edited by Eric Darier (thanks to Rob for the heads up on this book).

 

My favorite online Foucault resource is probably http://www.synaptic.bc.ca/ejournal/foucault.htm

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I second history of sexuality but i suggest reading the chapter on biopower first and then reading the rest of the book at a later date. Its great because it is short and to the point but the first time i read it without knowing alot of what i was looking for i think i missed alot of the key questions and arguements foucault raised. I think Halperins book Saint Foucault has alot of good introductions to foucault most commonly used theories in debate. But if you want to start reading foucault straigh up i would suggest Discipline and Punish and Society Must Be Defended. Both of the latter two should atleast be on your short list.

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oh, wouldn't you like to know when i am and when i'm not.

 

 

Dont forget the ways in which people are normalized and take on the states normal regalotory functions to police themselves. Thus creating docile bodies, or bodies that attempt to match the norm and are usually associated with complict views toward dangerous politics. This is a gernalization especially on the docile body comment. The point is to understand the ways in which society makes people watch themselves regardless if there is someone watching them

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how would the "power is everywhere" argument function in a round? wouldnt doing the alt still be submitting to power? I'm probably missing something though...

 

Your missing the fact that power is not bad or good in any instance...it is only dangerous. Dangerous in that it sets the stage for violence of something, which depends opon how the affirmative works in the context of the links. Think of a power relation as a single line, where there is a point on that line that represents what type of power relation it is. Foucault talks about two extremes of power relations. Relations of pure freedom and relations of pure dominance. he acknowledges that there are asymetrical relations that are limited in the availability of ressitance and thus constitute relations of dominance. He uses 18th century marriage as an example. A woman could refuse to have sex, or take care of the man and do his bidding but that didnt nothing to free her from the that relation. I do not know of the relationship of pure freedom but suffice to say the two poles are unreachable for the most part. Treating a person like an object to subject endless violence upon is possible but foucault argues that a relation of pure freedom is unreachable. I think this plays into his generally anti-humanist stance. So if we understand power relations as somewhere between dominance and freedom and that they are constantly changing and moving, it gives us a somewhat visual diagram for the relationship of power. Now, there are infinite number of power relations and my example here was used to explain how they work, there is not one power relation.

 

As far as the alternative goes, you want to frame it as resistance within power relations. Here is where foucault draws the line against the liberal notion of power. It is not repressive that is it donest seek to repress subjects, a relation of opression is one where resistance is not possible. Foucault sets forth a theory that within every power relation there is always a form of resistance to be had, used, or weilded. Your alternative is a endorsement of foucault's conception of power that opens the door for resistance that was previously not seen or not made possible through prior, normative notions. The alternative to a foucauldian criticism is the endorsement of an alternative worldview that makes the politics of resistance possible an a local level and the advancement or certain 'tools' of analysis and or critique to indetity at what level, and within what discourses, and within what assumptions does this resistance operate.

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okay, so i dont read biopower and focault at all, but is the alt saying then that you have to work within the system to make resistance possible?

 

the system is too broad of a concept for me to answer. Its not as simple as the system. Foucault says, dont abandon power but be wary of the juridical(law). If you dont understand the basics of the arguement it will be hard for me to explain them in depth here in one post. I can continue to answer questions but be patient with my responses.

 

If you read my above post it has to do with a conception of power. A foucauldian conception of power makes resistance possible in every power relation which is opposite of a lest say marxist critique where the only resistance has to be against the Ideology of capitalism as a social construct. Its not like resistance was impossible because it doesnt exists in a the normative view of power. Its just that it is hidden. So in a way it doesnt exist because the liberal notion of power suppresses the idea that resistance is possible within power relation. In fact, writers go to great lenghs to promote liberal conceptions of power, and pragmaticism. Foucault conception sheds light on the dark corner of the room that the liberal conception of power ushers out of sight and requires that the idea of resistance stay hidden. And if it becomes visible then a mulitude of people have written about how resistance is futile in power relations blah blah blah.

 

And finally, there is not one alternative to a foucauldian criticism they all use the ideas that i have presented but may not expressly use them in the cards or tags. Regardless these ideas that i have put forth on the alternative are part of a more general knowledge of foucault. You will find many 'alternatives' to a foucauldian criticism but they all follow the form of opeing the possibility of resistance, and they usually specify what form of resistance or critique they will utilize to problematize the affirmative.

 

 

EDIT

___________________________________________

 

One of the more common alternatives is called the specific intellectual.

 

Here is my explanation of it from another thread

http://www.cross-x.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1378136#post1378136

 

And again here

http://www.cross-x.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1378681#post1378681

 

And finally

http://www.cross-x.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1378796#post1378796

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how would the "power is everywhere" argument function in a round? wouldnt doing the alt still be submitting to power? I'm probably missing something though...

Foucault's criticism is not of power, it's of domination. Power is just a means for domination.

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"I would like to say, first of all, what has been the goal of my work during the last twenty years. It has not been to analyze the phenomena of power, nor elaborate the foundations of such an analysis.

My objective, instead, has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjets."

Foucault, The Subject and Power. 1982.

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Foucault's criticism is not of power, it's of domination. Power is just a means for domination.

No, you're wrong. Foucault explicitly says that we must not think of liberation from domination as the ultimate freedom. He understands that there is more to be critical of than simply "domination." He explains that while liberation from domination can be a practice of freedom, it is not the defining practice of freedom and that other things, such as the care of the self, must be taken into serious consideration on that level. For more, look to Paul Rabinow's edited volume of Foucault's works entitled Ethics, but the line of thought is clearly present through a significant portion of his work.

 

Edit: You are probably thinking of the interview where he notes that "Not all power is bad, but all power is dangerous." If that's the case, it's problematic on two levels: (1) it never says anything about domination as the exclusive realm of criticism; (2) it clearly indicates that Foucault's criticism is in fact of power, or rather, varying power relations. Foucault does not like to speak about Power with a capital P.

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You are probably thinking of the interview where he notes that "Not all power is bad, but all power is dangerous." If that's the case, it's problematic on two levels: (1) it never says anything about domination as the exclusive realm of criticism; (2) it clearly indicates that Foucault's criticism is in fact of power, or rather, varying power relations. Foucault does not like to speak about Power with a capital P.

 

"I would like to say, first of all, what has been the goal of my work during the last twenty years. It has not been to analyze the phenomena of power, nor elaborate the foundations of such an analysis.

My objective, instead, has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjets."

Foucault, The Subject and Power. 1982.

 

How about the article where he says your wrong...read posts before making mistakes. And power relations do not contitute subjects nor do they create them. Foucault's work with power relations has to do with the way in which power relations are used or more specific how power is used in relation to the creation of subjects and subjecivities. Think of power relations as your rules of mathematics or general rules governing functions. Without this understanding or insight you wouldnt know where to begin to analyze and break down the function. His work with power relations and his work in gerenal was characterized as a 'toolbox' by himself. He didnt want people to be a foucauldian as much as he wanted people to be able to use works and pieces of his works to help themselves in certain situations. He never claimed to be an icon of philospohy, all he wanted to do was open the door for a more critical view of political rationality, the creation of subjects, and humanism. Instaed of just saying this is how it is. He went to get lengths to learn the ways in which certain tools(theories, ideas, nothions) should be used to understand, explain, and problematize just about anything. His work on power is thus one of his 'tools' nothing more. The reason most of his work was built upon this foundation was because he wanted to make sure the foundation of his work and the generic 'toolbox' was created before he started working on specific scenarios of great interest and great importance like sexuality. He died before he finsihed his work, but in a way his work was finished the second he put forth those analyses. They constituted tools that are being used in many forms of contemporary philospohy, whole disciplines have been created by specific theories he gestured forth.

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You don't know what you're talking about.

 

Before anything, I was not remarking on the Foucault quote from your article. I was criticizing the argument that Foucault just wants to critique domination. My argument is that his critique extends to power relations and configurations of power beyond simply domination. And just offhand, I can tell that you haven't closely read the article that you're quoting from. Immediately after Foucault writes the paragraph that you are citing, he goes on to analyze power relations for over twenty pages. On the last page of the article, he concludes that while domination does indeed exist that it is not the only form that power relations take, but it is instead a specific one. The article that I mentioned earlier, "The Ethics of the Concern for the Self as a Practice of Freedom" (just looked it up), clarifies this. "The Subject and Power" article seems to be significant insofar as it reflects a change in the way Foucault views his own work. He says that he was, in fact, concerned with power for a long time but then comes to the realization that he is not concerned with power for power's sake, but rather how power or power relations come to constitute the subject. This is abundantly clear in the article you seem to think disproves whatever it is that you're misinterpreting that I'm saying. And yes, you are correct that he wants his work to be viewed as a toolbox. But, nevertheless, one of the essential tools in that toolbox and one without which I do not think we could think of Foucault as Foucault is the analysis of power relations. Also, it's contained within Paul Rabinow's volume entitled, guess what, Power!

 

And I don't even know what you mean in the last part of your post. His work on power was hardly complete by the time he arrived at his History of Sexuality. It was in the first volume that he speaks of the omnipresence of the web of power. Look at the second section. That's where most people get their understanding of Foucault's concept of power. Moreover, it is in that work that he starts to develop the notion of biopower (though it might well have emerged in interviews, articles, etc. before the publication of that book.. on that, I'm not sure.) That's where debate folk get that "end point of the atomic situation" card. Also, I don't think that you can contend that his work was complete as soon as he put forth some of the tools that we use today. Indeed, the HoS series was supposed to be about seven volumes. Elsewhere Foucault writes that he felt compelled to write a history of biopower. Never really did this. Also, I hardly think that his work on "practices of the self" - while interesting and important - can be considered complete.

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Before anything, I was not remarking on the Foucault quote from your article. I was criticizing the argument that Foucault just wants to critique domination.

 

I apologize firstly for the tone in my post, it was arrogant. And i was frustrated with the explanation of power and power relations. I think too many people get an incorrect view of foucault beause all they hear about is power this and power that. My intention of the post, and the qoute earlier, was to try to guide people who are just learning about foucault away from only focusing on how power operates but on how it acts upon individuals. But, the time and the mood got the better of me and i came off as a genuine asshole. And your right to criticize that arguement, i misinterrpreted your post.

 

My argument is that his critique extends to power relations and configurations of power beyond simply domination. And just offhand, I can tell that you haven't closely read the article that you're quoting from

Immediately after Foucault writes the paragraph that you are citing, he goes on to analyze power relations for over twenty pages. On the last page of the article, he concludes that while domination does indeed exist that it is not the only form that power relations take, but it is instead a specific one.

 

Although my reading of the situation was wrong the first time, i dont think it will be wrong the second time.

 

Your right Foucault loved to talk about power, but i think the qoute only makes clear the reasons why he is talking about power and trying to understand power in such detail. Also, i think you misunderstand the reasons for my post. It wasnt a defense of the arguement he put forth. My focus on domination in the post long up there was about how there are relations that are overly dominant to the point where resistance is not effective outside of some cultural shift etc. I used to Voctorian era marriage example that i think it locate in HOS volume 1. However, im not sure.

 

What i want to get away from is viewing Foucault as a critique of power or of power relations. I think that is meaningless. its like saying that Heidigger is a criticism of ontology itself. I think Foucault advocates using power relations to critique not specific critiquing power relations. If we dont make that clear then i think it leaves a lot of debaters in the dark IHMO. Debaters start saying the alternative to the specific intellectual is to criticize power relations, i think it fosters aff answers like "we break down power relations." I just think it misses the point with alot of Foucault's work if in a debate context, the focus is only on power.

 

"How is one to analyze the power relationship?

 

One can analyze such relationships, or rather should i say that it is a perfectly legitimate to do so, by focusing on carefully defined insitutions. the altter constitute a privileged point of observation, diversified, concerntrated, put in order, and carried theough to the highest point of their efficacity. It is here that, as a first approxamation, one might expect to see the appearance of the form and logic of their elementary mechanisms. However, the analysis of power relations as one finds them in certain circumscribed institutiona presents a certain number of problems. First, the fact that an imporatn part of the mechanisms put into operation by an insitution are designed to ensure its own preservatin brings with it the risk of deciphering functions which are essentially reproductivem especially in power relations between institutions. Secondly, in analyzing power relations from the stand point of institutions, one lays oneself open to seeking the explanation and origin of the former and latter, that is to say, finally, to explain power to power. Finally insofar as institutions act essentially by bringing into play two elements, explicit or tecit regulations and an apparatus, one risks giving to one or the other in an exaggerated privelege in the relations of power and hence to see in the latter only modulations of the law and coercion.

 

This does not deny the imporatance of institutions on the establishment of power relations. instead, I wish to suggest that one must analyze institutions from the standpoint of power relations, rather than vice versam and that the fundamental point of anchorage of the relationships, even if they are embodied and crystalized in an institution, is to be found outside the institution."

 

Foucault concludes his though in the first paragraph with a suggestion in the second paragraph. I think he is arguing that we must not try to criticize or analyze power relations but instead criticize things with power relations or from the stanpoint of power relations. Despite the fact that this could be contstrued as only reffering to Foucault's conception of resistance as more local than universal, more specific than global, i think it hints to the fact that power relations and our understanding of them is not to be critiqued. that understanding is to be used in a positive form, effective resistance, against x, y, and z. I think you are right that Foucault was mostly concerned on the surface with power and power relations. However, i see this as an attempt to leave behind understandings that enabled criticism, resistance, and the strive for freedom or the practice of freedom rather than leave behind a 'nihlistic' framework within the normative view of liberal power.

 

The article that I mentioned earlier, "The Ethics of the Concern for the Self as a Practice of Freedom" (just looked it up), clarifies this. "The Subject and Power" article seems to be significant insofar as it reflects a change in the way Foucault views his own work. He says that he was, in fact, concerned with power for a long time but then comes to the realization that he is not concerned with power for power's sake, but rather how power or power relations come to constitute the subject. This is abundantly clear in the article you seem to think disproves whatever it is that you're misinterpreting that I'm saying.

 

I buy your whole deal here, and i think the misunderstanding has been cleared up.

 

And yes, you are correct that he wants his work to be viewed as a toolbox. But, nevertheless, one of the essential tools in that toolbox and one without which I do not think we could think of Foucault as Foucault is the analysis of power relations. Also, it's contained within Paul Rabinow's volume entitled, guess what, Power!

 

That is what im saying in the above responses that power relations and a Foucauldian understanding of them is no more than a tool to used to criticize. I dont think the tools require criticism as much as they are useful for setting up criticism.

 

And I don't even know what you mean in the last part of your post. His work on power was hardly complete by the time he arrived at his History of Sexuality. It was in the first volume that he speaks of the omnipresence of the web of power. Look at the second section. That's where most people get their understanding of Foucault's concept of power. Moreover, it is in that work that he starts to develop the notion of biopower (though it might well have emerged in interviews, articles, etc. before the publication of that book.. on that, I'm not sure.) That's where debate folk get that "end point of the atomic situation" card. Also, I don't think that you can contend that his work was complete as soon as he put forth some of the tools that we use today. Indeed, the HoS series was supposed to be about seven volumes. Elsewhere Foucault writes that he felt compelled to write a history of biopower. Never really did this. Also, I hardly think that his work on "practices of the self" - while interesting and important - can be considered complete.

 

History of sexuality IMHO was a specific case of his previously written work. He had been buildign his toolbox all these years, with tons of different theories. I think sexuality served as a case study. I think his work on madness and civilization, discipline and punish, and the birth of the clinic are all historic studies that help advance his theories. I do not think that he set off looking for those theories as much as they were formulated from his historical understanding of events. In that light, I think History of Sexuality was a more in-depth look at a culmination of his previous theories and possibly an excursion into newly formulated ones like biopower. However, i see how this could go either way. His HOS books could easily be construed as unfinished work, which they were. I just think they were more a continuation of his theories on a specific desire as opposed to his attempt to create more theories. I hope i am being clear here. I am not saying his work was done, im saying his main objective wa to allow others to continue his work, and to enable people outside the academia to use his tools. in that regard...i think he finished all he needed to finish.

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