Down with biopower-hunting*!

From Figure/Ground’s interview with Paul Rabinow:

“One of the things that I find most irritating in a lot of so-called Foucault literature is authors taking concepts of Foucault like ‘biopower’ and just applying it as if they knew what it meant today.  All the hard work by Foucault and his research kind of disappears. Foucault developed his ideas like biopower based on research up to around the year 1840, showing that these concepts were partial responses to and clarifications of historical situations.  And so to go 150 years later and think you can take the same concepts for a really quite different historical situation seems to me a total betrayal of everything he ever did.  I think that much of Foucault-studies is in vein.  That means that people are very reluctant to think for themselves and they are very reluctant to figure out to how to do an inquiry in the present in a way that opens us to new problems and new possibilities.”

I came to the same (though less eloquent) conclusion after writing a term paper in a Foucault seminar last autumn, but am happy to see it expressed by Rabinow.

*I’ve taken this term from Colin Koopman’s Genealogy as Critique: Foucault and the Problems of Modernity (an excellent volume that the end of the spring quarter is keeping me from finishing!).

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