Foucault News

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

From Canada to Russia, every government is being selective in releasing coronavirus data
Anton Oleinik, The Conversation, Scroll.in
Jun 08, 2020

Covid-19 has affected almost every country around the globe. The World Health Organisation has confirmed cases in 216 countries and territories, a total that represents more than 85% of 251 entities recognised by the United Nations. Yet each government has responded differently to the coronavirus pandemic – including how data on the disease have been shared with each country’s citizens.

The selectiveness with which governments release information about the number of confirmed cases and the deaths caused by the coronavirus suggest techniques of “bio-power” may be at play.

French philosopher Michel Foucault invented the concept of bio-power in his lectures at the Collège de France in 1977-’78. He defined bio-power as a “set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy, of a general strategy of power.”

Foucault found an early example of bio-power in the smallpox vaccine developed by the end of the 18th century – one of the first attempts to manage populations in terms of the calculus of probabilities under the banner of public health. While a Covid-19 vaccine is still in the making, the concept of bio-power may help make better sense of how we see governments deal with the ongoing pandemic.

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