Biopolitics’ last domain is, finally — I am enumerating the main // ones, or at least those that appeared in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; many others would appear later — control over relations between the human race, or human beings insofar as they are a species, insofar as they are living beings, and their environment, the milieu in which they live. [â€¦]
I am simply pointing out some of biopolitics’ starting points, some of its practices, and the first of its domains of intervention, knowledge, and power: biopolitics will derive its knowledge from, and define its power’s field of intervention in terms of, the birth rate, the mortality rate, various biological disabilities, and the effects of the environment. [â€¦]
Disciplines, for their part, dealt with individuals and their bodies in practical terms. What we are dealing with in this new technology of power is not exactly society (or at least not the social body, as defined by the jurists, nor is it the individual-as-body. It is a new body, a multiple body, a body with so many heads that, while they might not be infinite in number, cannot necessarily be counted. Biopolitics deals with the population, with the population as political problem, as a problem that is at once scientific and political, as a biological problem and as power’s problem. And I think that biopolitics emerges at this time. [â€¦]
You can see that [the nature of phenomena taken into consideration] are // collective phenomena which have their economic and political effects, and that they become pertinent only at the mass level. They are pheÂnomena that are aleatory and unpredictable when taken in themselves or individually, but which, at the collective level, display constants that are easy, or at least possible, to establish. And they are, finally, phenomena that occur over a period of time, which have to be studied over a certain period of time; they are serial phenomena. The pheÂnomena addressed by biopolitics are, essentially, aleatory events that occur within a population that exists over a period of time.
— Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, pgs 244-246. [// = page break]Â
Deleuze asserts in his book on Foucault that Foucault used history so as toÂ think philosophically. If this is so, then, at the very minimum, every time history was used to thinkÂ philosphically a slight modification would have to be wroughtÂ upon history so it would not be literal or the ‘brute facticity’ of the situation (as Foucault once described it). So why is it, in every thing I have read on biopolitics from mainly Anglo authors, they take Foucault literally when he is discussing biopolitics in theÂ middle section of the above quote from Society Must Be Defended? He signals that he is only introducing the domains — ‘the starting points’ –Â in the early part of the above, and then in the final paragraph gives a general definition in terms of the general phenomena that he suggests concerns biopolitics.
Health, medicine, race, and biology are not the only, the most common, or even the most relevantÂ domains of biopower and therefore biopolitics in contemporary society. To focus on those domains that explicitly deal withÂ allegedly biological concerns in terms of Biology is akin to reading ‘disciplinarity’ only in terms of Criminology. (Is it because Biology has greater credence as a science than Criminology?) I could use much stronger language because it is clear these people are not stupid and yet they write such repetitive nonsense.Â So far it seems as if most researchers have mistaken Biopolitics as the politics derived from all that that comes under the sign of Biology (rather thanÂ focusing on the issue of the governance of the life of populations).
Have they not seen Super Size Me? I want to use it as an example. Is biopolitics only that which happens when Morgan Spurlock visits the doctor? Or what happens when the consumption of McDonalds modifies Spurlock’s body and his life? No, none of this is biopolitics, however the film allows for a certain biopolitcal understanding of the consumption of McDonald’s burgers.Â The mass of McDonalds consumers is a ‘population’.Â The act of repetitive consumption of McDonald’s itself is an act of biopower that reconfigures the consuming body so it is addicted (in terms of what Guattari called ‘machinic dope’).Â Isn’t the myriad calculations by McDonald’sÂ so as to produce a given market anbd poulation of consumers a biopolitical act? This population is in part constituted by the images of advertising.Â Capitalist eros and the pornographic seriality of the capitalist image are thereforeÂ biopolitical problems.Â Lastly, subjectivities are produced thatÂ involve collective modes of sociality within which the perception circulates thatÂ “It’s ok to consume Macca’s”. What has this got to do with ‘health science’ or some shit? Nothing!
I am trying to conceive of the biopolitics of markets in terms of the affectiveÂ capture and modulation of populations. I need a political economy of biopower in niche-mediated consumer economies for my thesis. The media’s role isÂ to anchor certain populations so they can be exploited by advertising — be it commercial or political — and then organised into action or exchange.