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The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the…

The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France, 1978-1979 (2004)

by Michel Foucault

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A decent if long-winded analysis of trends in liberal government since the Enlightenment. This was supposed to be an in-depth treatment of "biopolitics", or government intervention in the biological characteristics of the population (and this in turn an extension of Foucault's power-knowledge-self relationship).

However he never quite gets there as these lectures focus almost entirely on the twin movements of German ordoliberalism and American neo-liberalism (exemplified by the Chicago School of "anarcho" capitalists), which were intended as a lead-in to the "real" topic.

That aside, this is an interesting book and quite readable as these things go. Foucault is not light reading at the best of times, but as these are largely transcripts from a lecture series, they aren't too challenging (though some familiarity with both political terminology and 20th century history would be useful). I was particularly drawn to his analysis of homo economicus and the American impulse to apply the rationality of markets to non-economic processes -- that has been a key site in my own thinking in recent years, and it's a particularly troubling trend in my thinking.

I admit I skimmed a lot of the lectures. Much of the book simply wasn't of immediate or direct interest, although as an account of recent European and American political history -- from Foucault's notoriously scrupulous eye no less -- it was remarkably thorough. ( )
  chaosmogony | Apr 27, 2013 |
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