Foucault News

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

Islekel, E.S.
Ubu-esque sovereign, monstrous individual: Death in biopolitics
(2016) Philosophy Today, 60 (1), pp. 175-191.

DOI: 10.5840/philtoday2016113103

Foucault characterizes the defining feature of modern politics in terms of a new form of power concerned with maximizing life, biopolitics, as opposed to the sovereign right to kill. This characterization becomes problematic, especially when the overwhelming frequency of death and massacres in the twentieth century is considered. The question of how so much death is produced in an economy of power concerned with the maximization of life has stirred considerable debate. This paper argues that there is a death-function internal to biopolitics that should be considered in terms of biopolitical social defense. In making the life of a population its object, biopolitics makes death into an immanent condition of the population. The history of the emer-gence of this death-function internal to biopolitics is traced out in terms of different figurations of the monstrous: The shift from a juridical conception of monstrosity to a criminal and then medico-normative monstrosity shows that the steeping of death in the life of the population is done by normalizing judgment, through which death becomes an immanent condition of society. Thus, I show that the defense of society against its own monstrosity is done on both the disciplinary and the biopolitical levels. © 2016. Philosophy Today.

Author Keywords
Biopolitics; Death; Monstrosity; Normalization; Social defense

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