biopower

In The History of Sexuality, (p. 139) Michel Foucault describes the power over life evolving since the seventeenth century in two basic forms, in two poles of development linked together by a whole intermediary cluster of relations.

One of these poles centered on the body as a machine -- the optimization of its capabilities and its integration into systems of efficient and economic controls. Foucault calls the procedures of power that characterized this pole the disciplines:.. an anatomo-politics of the human body. This society is a disciplinary one..

The second pole, formed somewhat later, focuses on the species body, on the biological processes of propagation, births and mortality. According to Foucault, their supervision was effected through an entire series of interventions and regulatory controls: a biopolitics of the population. -- biopower. Societies that derive from biopower are also called societies of control.

For Foucault, sexuality is at the intersection of the individualizing processes of discipline and training and of the management of the population. Biopower is the modern form of regulation of individuals and groups, and sexuality is the effect of that power. It not only extends the controlled domain but also gives pleasure, which feeds back to the power that encircled it.

While the passage from disciplinary societies to societies of control remains mostly implicit in the work of Foucault, this was a subject that Gilles Deleuze more explicitly stressed in his commentary entitled Foucault and in "Postscript on Societies of Control" in Negotiations. (Pourparleurs ) In the latter essay, Deleuze notes that disciplinary societies depended on sites of confinement, the prison, the hospital, the factory, the school, the family, all of whom are currently breaking down, and being replaced by constantly modulating systems ever more immanent to the social field.

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri follow a Deleuzian interpretation of Foucault' s concept by stressing biopolitical production in their analysis of Empire. (see local / global.)For Hardt and Negri, huge transnational corporations and especially the communications industry become the fundamental connective fabric of the biopolitical world in the second half of the twentieth century. In the new societies of control, which are the most complete realization of the relationships of capitalism, biopower permeates entirely the consciousness and bodies of individuals. "When power becomes entirely biopolitical, the whole social body is comprised by power's machine and developed in its virtuality." (p.24)" the relationship is open, qualitative, and affective." "The source of imperial normativity is born of a new machine, a new economic - industrial - communicative machine -- in short, a globalized biopolitical machine." (p.40) (see also desiring machines)

In Rewriting the Soul, Ian Hacking suggests a third point from which to triangulate the knowledge of power, which he calls a memoro-politics ... a politics of the human soul, an moral idea that invokes character, reflective choice, and self-understanding. For Hacking, the development of the sciences of memory towards the end of the nineteenth century "wrested the soul from religion and turned it over to science." (pp 213-214)