Thursday, September 24, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Three

I have provided a summary of notes on the third lecture given by Michel Foucault at the College de France 1978-79, published under the title The Birth of Biopolitics, which was given on 24 January, 1979.
Raison d’Etat was premised upon a balance between the unlimited objectives of the state within its territory on the one hand, and limited external objectives on the other – Treaty of Westphalia (system of states) generally accepted – mercantilism as an economic policy was premised upon the impoverishment of other states, and could only co-exist with relatively limited trade within Europe otherwise it would create a zero-sum game

• The market generates the possibility of mutual enrichment through trade, exchange and commerce – this pointed to the possibility of ‘reciprocal enrichment through the game of competition’ (p. 54)

• The idea of a European progress is a fundamental theme in liberalism, which has as a condition the commitment to an extended market so that all can benefit – ‘we are invited to a globalization of the market when it is laid down as a principle, and an objective, that the enrichment of Europe must be brought about as a collective and unlimited enrichment’ (p. 55)

• ‘This opening of the economic game onto the world clearly implies a difference of both kind and status between Europe and the rest of the world. That is to say, there will be Europe on one side, with the Europeans as the players, and then the world on the other, which will be the stake. The game is in Europe, but the stake is the world’ (pp. 55-56) – this is ‘the start of a new type of global calculation in European governmental practice’ (p. 56) – maritime law, Kant’s idea of “perpetual peace”, international law – ‘The guarantee of perpetual peace is therefore actually commercial globalization’ (p. 58)

• This does not lead to an era of European peace at all, and the ‘historical paradox of Napoleon’ emerges, who is hostile to the idea of a police state internally, but committed to an imperial project in Europe

• ‘Freedom is never anything other … than an actual relation between governors and governed, a relation in which the measure of the “too little” existing freedom is given by the “even more” freedom demanded’ (p. 63)

• ‘If I employ the word “liberal”, it is first of all because this governmental practice in the process of establishing itself is not satisfied with respecting this or that freedom, with guaranteeing this or that freedom. More profoundly, it is a consumer of freedom. It is a consumer of freedom inasmuch as it can only function insofar as a number of freedoms actually exist: freedom of the market, freedom to buy and sell, the free exercise of property rights, freedom of discussion, possible freedom of expression, and so on. The new governmental reason needs freedom therefore, the new art of government consumes freedom. It consumes freedom, which means that it must produce it. It must produce it, it must organize it. The new art of government appears as the management of freedom.’ (p. 63)

• At the heart of this liberal practice is an always different and mobile problematic relationship between the production of freedom and that which in the production of freedom risks limiting and destroying it … The liberalism we can describe as the art of government formed in the eighteenth century, entails at its heart a productive/destructive relationship with freedom … Liberalism must produce freedom, but this very act entails the establishment of limitations, controls, forms of coercion, and obligations relying on threats, etc.’ (p. 64)

• ‘Freedom in the regime of liberalism is not a given … Freedom is something which is constantly produced. Liberalism is not acceptance of freedom; it proposes to manufacture it constantly, to arouse it and produce it, with, of course, the system of constraints and the problems of cost raised by this production’ (p. 65) – the cost of freedom is security, and ‘the problem of security is the protection of the collective interest against individual interests. Conversely, individual interests have to be protected against everything that could be seen as an encroachment of the collective interest’ (p. 65)

‘The problems of what I shall call the economy of power peculiar to liberalism are internally sustained … by this interplay of freedom and security’ (p. 65)

• Consequences of this continuing need to arbitrate over the interplay of freedom and security:
  1. ‘The motto of liberalism is” “Live dangerously”’ (p. 66) – individuals continuously have to deal with danger and asses their exposure to it, and how to protect against it – ‘There is no liberalism without a culture of danger’ (p. 67)
  2. Development of disciplinary and supervisory techniques as a necessary correlate of liberal government derived from economic freedom
  3. Controls become a way of protecting freedoms – rise of ‘crisis of governmentality’ where ‘democratic freedoms are only guaranteed by an economic interventionism that is denounced as a threat to freedom’ (p. 68)
  4. Possibility of an ‘inflation of the compensatory mechanisms of freedom’ – too many protections in order to guarantee the freedom of the liberal state?

No comments: