From an essay on the Critical Animal blog there is a passage on the origins of the term biopolitics and the circumstances in which it was used. As is pointed out, it was not original with Foucault, but with Rudolf Kjellén (who is also often credited with the term geopolitics). (The essay is rather ornately written in that post-postmodern style but interesting nonetheless as a justification for vegetarianism and veganism.)
As a “pescy” myself I operate on two simple principles, that eating meat is not sustainable (resource and environmentally) and second that there are just too many other ways of eating now to justify it–and this includes the modern production techniques of mass-produced animal farming which certainly involves cruelty.
Anyway, back to the essay:
biopolitics has come to be one of those words that seems to have lost specific meaning through a proliferation of often contradictory use, much like the words modernity and postmodernity. And yet, I, and it seems those on this panel, insist upon this word, and the thought of this word. So let us take a moment to hear this word, biopolitical.
Often accredited to Foucault, the word biopolitics was actually coined by the Swede, Rudolf Kjellén, in his 1916 book The State as Form of Life (Staten som Lifsform). This is the same man that coined the term geopolitics. Kjellén’s was one of the more prominent thinkers of a group of German language political theorists; including Friedrich Ratzel, Karl Haushofer, Karl Binding, Eberhard Dennert, and Edward Hahn. What ties these theorists together is first a belief in the organicist nature of the state (the state was a living entity for these thinkers) and the belief in lebensraum (living space). The term lebensraum, originally coined by biologist would get one of its most sustained treatments under Ratzel, who argued that the German people (the Volk) needed a living space. To acquire this living space the German state needed to be responsible for expansion, and also for cutting away the parasitic parts inside the state. Lebensraum is cited by Hitler directly in Mein Kampf, and forms the basis of much of National Socialism. Within this notion of Lebensraum we see the connection between Nazi’s imperial ambition tied to its internal fascisms. Indeed, Lebensraum is a borderline concept, bringing inside and outside into a zone of indetermination. Kjellén radicalizes all of this, bringing geopolitics as being on the same level and totally co-terminus with ethnopolitics. One cannot have a geopolitical vision that is not simultaneously a vision of a particular people.
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