Foucault News

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

Julia Toynbee Lagoutte, Getting Personal: How Biosecurity Gets Under Our Skin, Green European Journal, vol 15, April 2017

The term security has acquired such breadth and been remoulded so often that it can start to seem meaningless. It is the mantra that will be invoked to justify human rights infringements or to start a war, but also the term that includes ‘climate’ and ‘energy’ issues. How does it encompass so much and why does it mobilise such power? A book review of Frédéric Gros’s book which outlines the mind-changing concept of biosecurity.

Looking at the word afresh is a guaranteed result of Frédéric Gros’s book Le Principe Sécurité (The Principle Security, 2012). Gros is a French philosopher, Michel Foucault expert, and author of the bestseller A Philosophy of Walking (2014). No less intellectually stimulating and philosophical for being a readable ride through history, Gros sets out a Foucauldian-style genealogy of the concept of security. He sets out what he calls its four main usages, contextualising them within their historic Western origins, and ending with biosecurity (a nascent, under-theorised Foucauldian concept that Gros defines anew).

One of the book’s most intriguing elements is how Gros conceives these four disparate senses of security to interact with each other, and how they disappear and re-emerge, modernised and updated to the situation, throughout time and space. Most salient is the way he maps out the increasing importance of biosecurity and its contradictory, potent synthesis with other senses of security to make up our current notion of security.

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