The 2015 Baltimore Protests: Human Capital and the War on Drugs
Keywords:Michel Foucault, Freddie Gray, Baltimore, human capital, homo oeconomicus, The Order of Things, The Birth of Biopolitics, Wendy Brown, war on drugs, David Simon.
In order to show how what Michel Foucault described as Chicago School neoliberalism in The Birth of Biopolitics devalues human life while masking that devaluation, I examine the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, and the following civil unrest. Through an exploration of the concept of human capital, I argue that this concept, while seeming to answer a question regarding labor in economics, exacerbates the devaluation of human life in the U.S. generally and in the case of Freddie Gray more specifically. Foucault’s Birth of Biopolitics lectures illustrates why the devaluation of life has gone largely unrecognized. As the concept of human capital, along with other ‘market values,’ proliferated beyond the realm of economics into daily life, human beings have come to be characterized as ‘enterprise units.’ I will argue that the prosecution of the War on Drugs provides a paradigmatic case of characterizing human beings as enterprise units, some useful and others surplus, looking to Baltimore to provide concrete examples.
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