Apr 10, 2008

Dolan, Frederick (2005). The Paradoxical Liberty of Bio-Power: Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault on Modern Politics. Philosophy and Social Criticism, 31:3
For Hannah Arendt, spontaneous, “initiatory” human action and interaction are suppressed by the normalizing pressures of society once “life” – that is, sheer life – becomes the primary concern of politics, as it does, she finds, in the modern age. Arendt’s concept of the social is indebted to Martin Heidegger’s analysis of everyday Dasein in Being and Time, and contemporary political philosophers inspired by Heidegger, such as Jean-Luc Nancy, Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Giorgio Agamben, tend to reproduce her account of the withdrawal of the political in modernity. In this essay, I complicate Arendt’s theory by turning to Michel Foucault’s parallel but diverging understanding of the nature of power in modern society to show, surprisingly, that Foucault’s narrative of the emergence of modern power pictures a society that is more, not less, politicized.

Arendt, bio-power, Foucault, Lacoue-Labarthe, modernity, Nancy, pastoral power, the social, rulership.

More texts by Dolan here.

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