New Thomas Lemke material on biopolitics

Via Foucauldian Reflections comes news of some new work by Thomas Lemke, who is at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt/Main. Lemke works on some of the issues surrounding genetics and reproduction from a biopolitical perspective.

His new paper is a discussion of the 78-79 lectures: “An indigestible meal? Foucault, governmentality and state theory” (Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory No. 15, 2007).

Excerpt below.

Foucault proposed the concept of governmentality for the first time in his lectures at the Collège de France in 1978 and 1979 (2004; 2007). The notion derives from the French word gouvernemental, meaning “concerning government” (see Senellart, 2004: 406). The word “governmentality” was known even before it figured as a central term in Foucault’s work. Roland Barthes had already used the “barbarous but unavoidable neologism” (1989: 130) in the 1950s, to denote an ideological mechanism that presents the government as the origin of social relations. For Barthes, governmentality refers to “the Government presented by the national press as the Essence of efficacy” (1989: 130). Foucault takes up this “ugly word” (2007: 115), but detaches it from the semiological context. Governmentality no longer refers to a mythological symbolic practice that depoliticizes social relations, but represents the “rationalisation of governmental practice in the exercise of political sovereignty” (2004: 4).
Foucault deploys the concept of governmentality as a “guideline” for a “genealogy of the
modern state” (2007: 354) embracing a period from Ancient Greece up until contemporary
forms of neo-liberalism.


2 Responses

  1. I’ve found the path that governmentality studies have taken to be quite interesting. The initial volley – say, from Miller and Rose – emphasized the importance of governmentality to “political power beyond the state.” Now, with the publication to SMBD and STP, we are seeing a return to what we were originally told was a non-issue for Foucault: the state.

  2. And possibly biopolitics, as mentioned on the Long Sunday site.

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