The Beginning of a Study of Biopower: Foucault’s 1978 Lectures at the Collège de France

  • Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson Syracuse University
Keywords: Foucault, biopower, governmentality, (neo)liberalism, genealogy

Abstract

While Foucault introduced the 1978 lecture course Security, Territory, Population as a study of biopower, the reception of the lectures has largely focused on other concepts, such as governmentality, security, liberalism, and counter-conduct. This paper situates the lecture course within the larger context of Foucault’s development of an analytics of power to explore in what sense Security, Territory, Population can be said to constitute a study of biopower. I argue that the 1978 course is best understood as a continuation-through-transformation of Foucault’s earlier work. It revisits familiar material to supplement Foucault’s microphysics of power, which he traced in institutions like prisons or asylums and with regard to its effects on the bodies of individuals, with a genealogy of practices of power that target the biological life of the population and give rise to the modern state.

Author Biography

Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson, Syracuse University
Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Syracuse University. She is the author of Genealogies of Terrorism: Revolution, State Terror, Empire (Columbia University Press, 2018) as well as of articles on Foucault, political violence, and method in political theory.

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Published
2020-12-16