History of Sexuality by Foucault
A chapter of Foucault’s book “History of Sexuality” analyzes the concept of bio-power from the physical perspective. In the passage, the author argues that one of the aspects of sovereign power involves the right to decide between life and death; this is also a right confined to cases when independence itself is under the risk of external enemies. Such an understanding of sovereignty is also typical of the new model of power of a biological body, which also relates to a governmental body. However, the scholar states that deduction has become a dimension in a wide variety of mechanisms aimed at inciting, generating, controlling, monitoring, reinforcing, and organizing the major powers. Hence, Foucault’s theory of bio-power centers on the anatomy and politics of the human body directed at increasing its power and integrating it into effective networks. Another pole of the body constitutes a regulatory control tool. Taking into account the species, the body has the mechanisms of life, such as mortality, birth, and longevity. Foucault also claims that this bipolar scheme, which appeared in the seventeenth century, strives to invest into life. The scholar argues that two centuries later these two dimensions of power combine to introduce sequences of greater technologies, with sexuality being one of them. Relying on these assumptions, the concept of bio-power becomes essential for defining the most important features of human existence in the healthcare system, both at individual and collective levels, addressing living creatures which are born, live, socialize with each other, and then die, as a logical outcome.
The concept of bio-power relates to the theory of biopolitics, premised on a range of contestations and strategies which shape the collective human mortality, lifespan, and birth. As soon as the concept has become part of this theory , the biological century era promoting new paradigms of understanding human health and welfare has started. The brief characterization of bio-power reveals several elements. Thus, Robinowan and Rose explain “one of more truth discourse about the ‘vital’ character of living human beings, and an array of authorities considered competent to speak that truth” . The latter provokes debate regarding the biological essence of human existence, synergizing demographics, and biology of social existence as well as relation of humanity. Additionally, the strategies for intervention and collective co-existence for the sake of health and life emerge on various levels of socialization and interaction. Finally, bio-power networks rely on the modes of subjectification, where individuals are present in certain authoritative forms in relation to truth discourses which help to explain biological sociality and somatic individuality as certain aspects of healthcare.
It is worth noting that the concept of bio-power has been an increasingly fertile concept accepted recently, affecting thinkers worldwide across a wide range of concerns and disciplines. In the book, Foucault introduces the term for the purpose of describing the “power bent on generating forces, making them grow, and ordering them, rather than one dedicated to impeding them, making them submit, or destroying them” . In this respect, the contemporary scholars seek to explore many theoretical frameworks addressing the concept of bio-power and defining its value for the current development of society and healthcare. The analysis of specific issues relates to the traditional power, as a set of structures, practices, and relations which deploy and constitute political subjects, along with the forces which have created the modernity. However, it is essential to understand the mechanisms of power associated with the concept of bio-power. The analysis of such aspects as the development of new opportunities for management life politics deserves special attention. From Foucault’s perspective, power can be assimilated and surpassed. In this respect, it should integrate and develop its own bodies, which reveal through the bodies of truth. At this point, power cannot be exercised in case a specific economy of truth discourses functions in it. Several centuries ago, in the times of late middle ages, the period when tensions between the connections of secular authority started to expose, the rediscovery of the power of politics introduced the concepts of right and law employed for the sake of approving the absolute power. In this regard, Cisney and Morar explain “the relation between the sovereign and the life of his subjects is dissymmetrical one of the permissiveness and seizure” . While discussing the general notion of power, one can gradually transfer to a new position and understanding of power in biological terms. Specifically, the deductive, sovereign model could apply to new instruments, directly to bodies, remaining in the position of provoking purifying and distributing force with the objective of controlling and managing all dimensions of life. The new form of power presupposes controlling, reinforcing, and monitoring biological forces. From this perspective, the efficiency of power and life is the primary function of biological power, leading to the idea that death is the power’s limitation, whereas lifespan is the power’s effectiveness and functionality. Hence, the concept of death becomes more instrumental and theoretical. Foucault presents the new term of bio-power which interprets humans as political beings who give priority to living and existence.
Bio-power operates in two different dimensions. The first one manifests the host of institutions, such as healthcare organizations and educational establishments. It means that the human body is a machine endowed with functions, inputs and outputs as well as predictions and precisions. The disciplinary power is another pillar according to which the body should be subject to optimization and disciplining, leading to the extortion. The birth of biological power relates to the expansion of human sciences, such as nursing, healthcare, and other apparatus aimed at acquiring and expanding knowledge about the surrounding world. Disciplines could define the code of norms and standards, which refer to the theoretical frameworks presented in the context of human sciences.
It is important to stress that the second pole also embraces the new technology of power which relies on the effectiveness of individual bodies. It means that in a new technology of power and authority, there is a range of bodies and capabilities which allow to define and analyze the characteristics of illness, death, production, birth, and healthcare conditions. In the course of history, the regulation of fertility and birth rates, death cases, power statistics, life longevity, infant mortality, and disease occurrence a have been the new methods of analyzing the biology of power and population. In such a way, the authors assume, “sexuality situated at the juncture of these two domains become such a politicized issue….it is something of a nexus in which these two, the health of the body and the health of society, discipline and regulation fuse into one” . Hence, two dimensions of bio-power – discipline and regulation – remain relatively distinct in the course of the eighteenth century. When they unite, it creates a form of specific arrangements which make the great technology of power afterward. It also requires specific social hierarchy in the course of management and reinforcement of specific issues and optimizing forces of power in the light of difficulties in the government.
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Bio-power aims at the ongoing increase of life forces without experiencing the loss of power control and vitality. All social establishments, including the educational system, healthcare, the church, the family, and the military, are aimed at optimizing, subordinating, structuring and normalizing the forces of people so that they enter into the new economic structure. In the second half of the past century, the concept of bio-power becomes more associated with the concept of governmentality, as presented by Foucault. Specifically, the scholars focus on the “ensemble formed by the institutions, procedures, analyses, and reflections, calculations, and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific, albeit very complex, power that has the population as its target, political economy as its major form of knowledge, and apparatuses of security as economy as its major form of knowledge” . It is evident that Foucault refers to the concept of bio-politics that emerges in the context of bio-power.
The above-presented deliberations provide a deeper understanding of politics and governmentalization of the country, controlled by the phenomenon of bio-power. If the issue of governmentality bears political nature only, it could never survive. In fact, the government should always rely on individuals, with their attitude to life conditions, demographics, and biological welfare. At this point, the concept of power reveals several dimensions. First of all, it should refer to the stage of justice represented by a broad definition of society as a written and customary law with an interaction of litigations and commitments. Furthermore, the administrative state of the government should correspond to a social regulation and discipline in terms of its territoriality, as well as the density and mass of population. The state of government, therefore, has a close association with the population, as well as the way it adopts specific knowledge and experience for the purpose of achieving social welfare. All these theories and networks shape the new concept of security understood as a structured effort to manipulate the probabilities and numerical date to approach the healthcare of society. In other words, these schemes define what intolerable and tolerable levels assess the tipping points, showing the limiting criteria which surpass the benefits and stability of the probabilities with these ranges. In sum, Foucault assumes that aims are essential to take control over circulations and forces in society by means of direct interaction on the location occupied by individuals. At this point, instead of a binary split between the prohibited and the permitted, there is one established in a specific dimension.
Within this framework, it is possible to view security as assured by healthcare organizations which take control of lifespan, birth rates, mortality, the spread of various illnesses, and epidemics. As soon as the biological level is assured, it is possible to refer to another level of social and political development. The major importance of healthcare establishments relates to the risk management in terms of primary medical aid carried out by assessing family generations in terms of disease development, education, and shifts in patients’ lifestyles. The delivery of healthcare should rely on the control and surveillance tied with the concept of expertise and trust. The British government should ignore public controversy connected with childhood immunization rates and provide the quota system for doctors to develop their vaccination targets. At the same time, Foucault demonstrates how the served public trust in expert knowledge could lead to the social and political welfare.
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In conclusion, Foucault’s conception of bio-power stresses the importance of the role of human well-being, particularly birth rates and mortality percentage, with lifespan affecting the concept of security, governmentality, and healthcare development. What is more important, the concept of bio-power turns into the new concept of bio-politics in which biological welfare directly correlates with public security. The concept of bio-power, thus, relies on the issue of discipline and regulation controlled by healthcare organizations and educational establishments. Relying on these issues, an exceptional approach to social development through biological indices can enhance the overall welfare of citizens. The government should be aware of the fact that life conditions of citizens can improve through optimizing, monitoring, and controlling the lifespan, birth rates, and illness spread. In this way , it will be possible to enrich the overall state and introduce new reforms for improving the country’s political and social position in the world. Thus, Foucault’s theories within the framework of sexuality and biological dimensions can provide a new stance on the issues of social and biological development as well as realization of biological potentials.