Foucault and Hardt-Negri

The concept of Biopower has been considered part of political and modern nation ideology wherein the concept of subjugations and control are the main components.

With the different significant persons in this field, namely Michel Foucault, and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, each has their own idea of the concept Biopower; hence, within the study, the discussion explores the different concepts and perspectives of bipower from these two sources.

Overview of the Study

The concept of biopower is initially coined by its main promulgator Michel Foucault, which he has referred to as the needed principle in governance of modern states and for the regulation of its subcomponents. From the concept of biopower, the inclination of positive and humanitarian way of governance is being portrayed.

Biopower can then be considered as a political concept that deploys more of a political strategy to maintain coordination of governance, open political structure, and more attuned to the contingent ebb and flow of political world.

From Foucault’s perspective, the idea of Biopower provides some means of justifying the natural development of power, and the methodic extension it employs in order to expand its influence. As supported by Passavant and Dean (2003), biopower has been introduced as a way of explaining how power develops and extends its actual influence over humanitarian and political affairs (p.206).

Rather than the common leadership style of employing militaristic or legislative rule, biopower employs the naturally developed power over sovereigns.

Within the discussion, the subject of biopower is emphasized in order to determine the implications it provide for political governance and the society itself. By critically analyzing the principles and concepts of biopower provided by Michel Foucault and Hardt – Negri, the values and scope of these biopower perspectives should be further applied within the study.  The study centers on the significant theories, namely Michel Foucault and Hardt – Negri.

The development of the idea, biopower, has been initiated in the West and has been incorporated in justifying the art of governance during the sixteenth century.

The concept of biopower has developed through the historical circumstances that occurred in the West, such as the Cold War, racial discrimination, flaws of leadership, etc. From Foucault’s idea, the art or the means how the government exercise its political superiority over its subordinates determine the strength of the state. Biopower refers to the capacity of the state in resolving social issues that give more emphasis to the welfare of subordinates as general and not for the sake of a single individual or area.

The government’s act of governance and the sectors it establish determines the condition of the people’s reaction towards their leadership. From the concept of biopower, the response of the people is determined by the biological atmosphere introduced by the government to the society. Hence, under this idea, biopower recognizes the institutions decentralized by the government, such as police, schools, prisons, market, etc. that all contribute to the stability and social environment most suited for human biosphere.

The concept of biopower is the modern kind of decentralized and pervasive governance through organization and control of bodies based on rational motives and intentions, and for the purpose of societal productivity and benefit.

Biopower comprises of two subdomains: (a) the concern with social issues and the modern individual as the center of political attention, and (b) the highlighting of the human body as an object to be controlled into docility and productivity.  As according to Burris (1993), the concept of biopower considers the institutionalization and development of specific disciplinary technologies that give emphasis on examination and surveillance of individuals, and for collecting information to further the growth of knowledge and power (p.46).

Under the concept of biopower, the society centers in using human body for the sake of developing the society’s condition by means of enhancing productivity and social environment. The concept of biopower differs from militaristic and communistic forms of leadership, which also use the concept of public utility, since biopower do not directly impose dominion over its subordinates but rather consider values of altruism and the principles of leading not by fear but by reason.

From the principles of biopower, it considers the use of power in order to extend the diversion of disciplines for the growth of the general society.

As according to Blasius (1994), the biopower hypothesis is therefore the old “judicial-sovereign” power of seizure of things, bodies, time, and ultimately of life itself that are levied on subjects, which culminated in the privilege to seize hold of life in order to suppress it, was actually overshadowed by the administration of bodies and the calculated management of life (p.60). From the given statement, biopower considers the implication of having power over life, and as having governance with no brutal force being instituted over bodies present in the society.

Foucault’s Biopower

According to Foucault, the concept of biopower emphasizes the mutual interrelationships between agents of power and the resistance to it. In this relationship, Foucault has stated that if the changes are made to the agents of power, the resistance towards the governing power should be lessened.

Somehow, Foucault considers a direct relationship between the one holding and controlling the power to those being controlled and governed. As supported by the statements of Passavant and Dean (2003), Foucault cut through the modernist limits Marxism had carried with it, to recognize that the agents of power had changed and that resistance to power should change as well (p.206).

From the book of Blasius (1994), two axes of biopower have been proposed, which includes the existence of the population and the welfare of the people under it. The concept of population under the concept of biopower is a component to consider since they are after all the emphasis of the regulatory control. Under this perspective, biopower should initiate control over aggregates through the means of factors of life process under territorial, cultural or biological in nature, since this is where distinctions of populations can be obtained.

From the concept of Foucault’s biopower, the government’s focus is not entirely its own power but the people, since it is the mass of humans that provide government the power to have authority. As supported by Blasius (1994), population becomes the object of government- particularly the welfare of the people present within the umbrella of its governance (p.61).