Foucault's politics and bellicosity as a matrix for power relations

Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (6):756-778 (2007)
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Abstract

From the early to mid-1970s, Michel Foucault posited that power consists of a relation rather than a substance and that this relation is comprised of unequal forces engaged in a warlike struggle against each other, resulting invariably in the domination of some forces over others. This understanding of power, which he retrospectively dubbed `Nietzsche's hypothesis' and `the model of war', underpinned his well-known analyses of disciplinary power. Yet, Foucault in his Collège de France course from the academic year 1975-6, `Society Must Be Defended', suddenly began to call into question this understanding and his doubts about it did not abate well into the late 1970s. In this article, we suggest that his militant politics in the early 1970s sustained his adherence to the war model and that his more cautious political attitude later in the decade underpinned his suspicions about this model. Key Words: biopolitics • Henri de Boulainvilliers • Michel Foucault • Thomas Hobbes • militancy • F. W. Nietzsche • politics • power • race • war

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