Bio-politics

Bio-politics

In his Collège de France lectures of the late 1970s, Foucault developed the notion of bio-politics, an idea that he used to discuss how discourses of biology had come to ground politics. Biopolitics describes contexts where power is exerted through the production of ‘populations’ that can be controlled, regulated, and disciplined.
It concerns a shift from regimes based on ‘the right to take life or let live’ towards those based on ‘a power to foster life or disallow it to the point of death’. The idea of grounding politics in biology, life, and the body, has led to many diverse strands of contemporary enquiry, such as Agamben’s reflections on ‘bare life’ or Butler’s formulations of gender performativity and precarious life, Mbembe’s ‘necropolitics’ and a black feminist tradition including Spillers and Wynter which has problematised the constitution of ‘the human’ itself.