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A short writing on Biopolitics (2017)


For a long time, one of the most privileged power is the death of life. Undoubtedly, it comes from the ancient ‘patriarch’, which gives the power to the man in Roman family operate life to children and slaves. What they believed was their life given by a man who can also take it back. The last part of ‘The history of sexuality’, in the chapter ‘right to death and power over life’, Foucault placed Marquis de Sade on the line, that is, the classical power represented by ’blood’. As he claimed:

‘… Sade carried the exhaustive analysis of sex over into the mechanisms of the old power of sovereignty and endowed it with the ancient but fully maintained prestige of blood; the latter flowed through the whole dimension of pleasure-the blood of torture and absolute power, the blood of the caste which was respected in itself and which nonetheless was made to flow in the major rituals of parricide and incest, the blood of the people, which was shed unreservedly since the sort that flowed in its veins was not even deserving of a name.’

On the one hand, Foucault argues that although Sade has begun to talk about sex, he has brought the exhaustive analysis of its nature into the old mechanism of the Souverainete, give it the majesty, and maintaining ancient authority. Sade’s idea is a unique monarchy, an omnipotent deformity of the unrestricted power. Here, Foucault puts the supreme power of Sade back to monarchy and claimed any form of power was merely from the bloody death scene of the King’s torture. But, in the book of ‘Discipline and Punish’ indicated that the form of power changed from torture to discipline, and shows the history about cut down the power from the King. Therefore, Sade’s discussion of sexuality under the concept of death and monarchy can be the historical retrogression.

On the other hand, Foucault saw a disciplinary power from the apathy by Maurice Blanchot and Georges Bataille. As far as Foucault is concerned, apathy is the spirit of denial that applies to a chosen to become the supreme person. Apathy is not only an emotion but also a rationale. In order to achieve the ultimate pleasure, the man no longer just follow the inner impulses, he has to learn to control the mind rational way, and the result of this control would go through a series practice of strict discipline and rule. This also shows the complex laws of the supreme power.

If our life is under the supreme power, which would through the discipline method, punishment. In the book “Discipline and Punish”, Foucault demonstrated that there are three different punishment styles in which division by the history. Firstly, in the classical age – constitutional monarchy, which established a power structure by the name of God to punish prisoners with brutal violence. Secondly, in the later 18th century, humanitarian reformers in the name of the pursuit of social and economic justice, which they were promoted prison instead violence punishment, and write the rules in a theoretical way. Third, in the modern age, there is a new system to supervision and jail, such as Panopticon. As Foucault said, justice pursues the body beyond all possible pain. For this long history, the concept of a humanitarian progress fills this period of history. The birth of prison marked the forming of modern power science. This form rejected on the classical power of severity, but to construct a punishment of the truth. As Foucault said: ‘The chief function of the disciplinary power is to ‘train’, rather than to select and to levy; or, no doubt, to train in order to levy and select all the more.’ In nowadays, since lots of works has been understood as the shifting from Fordist to post-Fordist, which makes the individuals becoming subject. It is to locate the main body, and from the operational identity, rather than have a personality. Therefore, the ‘train’ focusing on a un-operational individual, rather than “people” of the existence as unique individuals. It is not to shape, but discipline. The subjectivity as a discipline is located them self, rather than playing their character. It under the knowledge of political for judging.

A long with globalization extensive and profound, as far as Nancy Fraser was concerned, which appeared a kind of multidimensional justice from traditional justice. One of the most essential to the justice is distinct the redistribution and recognition within social justice. Fraser based on the perspective of gender problem to discuss how can one integrate the best of the social politics of redistribution with the best of the cultural politics of recognition? Economic dimension, as Fraser pointed out, on the social justice. He claimed:

… the politics of redistribution… encompasses not only class-centered orientations, such as New Deal liberalism, social democracy, and socialism, but also those forms of feminism and antiracism that look to socioeconomic transformation or reform as the remedy for gender and racial-ethnic injustice.

Actually, in the end of 20th century, there were mammoth changes happened in the world, such as the upheaval of the former Soviet Union, ethnic conflict, anti-hegemony, feminism and gay movement. Fighting for recognition and justifying their own positions take place on the world stage in that age. Therefore, the discussions of justice become the matter of the identity, rather than merely the perspective of economic distribution. But, in other words, any injustice appears as the cultural phenomenon, which might contain economic factors more or less, that is to say, consist economic unequal. As Fraser stated, “the core of the injustice, as well as its root, will be maldistribution, while any attendant cultural injustices will derive ultimately from that root. At bottom, therefore, the remedy required to redress the injustice will be economic redistribution, as opposed to cultural recognition.”

For the cultural dimension, as I discussed above, on the social justice. As far as Fraser is concerned, besides redistribution, there should be the justice of cultural cognition. How is democracy established between the different subjectivities if we are justifying the relative hegemony by our own position? According to Fraser, “one can show that a society whose institutionalized norms impede parity of participation is morally indefensible whether or not it distorts the subjectivity of the oppressed.” That seems to say, the subjectivity has to recognize others or be recognized by others. Under the misrecognition by others means distorting the relationship between individual and self. In other words, misrecognition might harm the interaction in the social process by the attitudes. But, are we still ourselves? Or are we the image in the mind of others, are we following the discipline made by others? Although the old privilege power of life and death is fading away, the new one shows up in an intricacy way. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau said:

‘While government and laws take care of the security and the well being of men in groups, the sciences, letters, and the arts, less despotic and perhaps more powerful, spread garlands of flowers over the iron chains which weigh men down, snuffing out in those who feel to have been born, and make them love their slavery by turning them into what are called civilized people.’

Politeness, honorable, presentable, or civilization, will virtues make us become a better person, and create our own happiness? Or those just another discipline to mask our true self, hiding the emotions under this uniform and perfidious veil of politeness. For example, even if I show the respect to a person in such political correctness way through the external behaviors, but no one can be guaranteed what exactly I am thinking in my mind. Unfortunately, the politeness is going to train people to become a hypocritical man.


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