Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction

Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction

Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction

Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction

Synopsis

The biological features of human beings are now measured, observed, and understood in ways never before thought possible, defining norms, establishing standards, and determining average values of human life. While the notion of "biopolitics" has been linked to everything from rational decision-making and the democratic organization of social life to eugenics and racism, Thomas Lemke offers the very first systematic overview of the history of the notion of biopolitics, exploring its relevance in contemporary theoretical debates and providing a much needed primer on the topic.

Lemke explains that life has become an independent, objective and measurable factor as well as a collective reality that can be separated from concrete living beings and the singularity of individual experience. He shows how our understanding of the processes of life, the organizing of populations and the need to "govern" individuals and collectives lead to practices of correction, exclusion, normalization, and disciplining. In this lucidly written book, Lemke outlines the stakes and the debates surrounding biopolitics, providing a systematic overview of the history of the notion and making clear its relevance for sociological and contemporary theoretical debates.

Excerpt

In creating the “Biopolitics” book series for New York University Press, we hoped to achieve several intellectual and pragmatic goals. First, we wanted to solicit and encourage new book projects examining the potent intersection of medicine and technoscience with human bodies and lives. Second, we wanted to foster interdisciplinary scholarship in this field, realizing that contemporary “problems of the body” as they relate to technoscience and biomedicine can only be understood through diverse, overlapping, even competing analytical lenses. in this vein, the book series becomes a site for discourse about accounts of the body in relation to technologies, science, biomedicine, and clinical practices. Third, we were intent on encouraging scholarship in this field by established experts and emergent scholars. and finally, we were determined to offer fresh theoretical considerations of biopolitics alongside empirical and ethnographic work.

It is with regard to the goal of theoretical innovation that we are delighted to offer here the English translation of Thomas Lemke’s Biopolitics, published originally in Germany. It is, of course, by now obvious that biopolitics, governmentality, and “life itself” have become concepts widely used in fields ranging from science and technology studies (STS) to biomedicalization studies, from cultural studies to security studies, from body/embodiment studies to health and illness studies. However, it is not the case that there has been substantial, or even adequate, theoretical conversation and debate about these terms and their usage. All too often, scholars take at face . . .

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