Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Claire Blencowe ‘Foucault’s and Arendt’s ‘insider view’ of biopolitics: a critique of Agamben’, History of the Human Sciences, December 2010 vol. 23 no. 5 113-130

This article revisits Arendt’s and Foucault’s converging accounts of modern (bio)politics and the entry of biological life into politics. Agamben’s influential account of these ideas is rejected as a misrepresentation both because it de-historicizes biological/organic life and because it occludes the positivity of that life and thus the discursive appeal and performative force of biopolitics. Through attention to the genealogy of Arendt’s and Foucault’s own ideas we will see that the major point of convergence in their thinking is their insistence upon understanding biological thinking from the inside, in terms of its positivity. Agamben’s assessment of modern politics is closer to Arendt’s than it is to Foucault’s and this marks a fascinating point of disagreement between Arendt and Foucault. Whereas Arendt sees the normalizing force of modern society as being in total opposition to individuality, Foucault posits totalization and individuation as processes of normation, which casts a light upon the relative import they place upon politics and ethics.

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