State Racism and the Paradox of Biopower

  • Elisa Fiaccadori Independent researcher
Keywords: biopower, state racism, state killing, sovereignty


As it has often been emphasised, through the concept of biopower, Foucault attempts to move away from the problem of sovereign power. Yet, after exposing Foucault’s conceptualisation of biopower, in this article I argue that he cannot simply leave this problem behind. In particular, reflections on Nazism and how the Nazi state uses racism to sustain itself force him to return to the problem of sovereign power to explain how state killing continues to be possible, and actually takes on new and extreme forms, in modern times. These same considerations further complicate the theoretical distinction between biopower and sovereign power put forward, albeit not without hesitations, by Foucault but contested by other authors such as Agamben, while offering an interesting standpoint from which to reconsider the question of sovereignty and its interrelationship to biopower.