It is getting more and more difficult to find texts in this blog since people are just putting their latest version as a new post without removing the older editions (For example Kasper has two long posts one after another). It would be easier if everyone would just update their posts (keeping in mind that this won’t update the date of the post). Maybe some clean-up is in order? Thank you.

Foucault on moder power over life

I was little bit too busy last week, but now i’ve got the time to elaborate, correct and finish my paper. My apologies for any inconvenience due to revision. See you on thursday!


2.1 Questions on Power

As Foucault says in 1982, his objective has always “been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects” (1982, 208) and never solely the analysis of power. Nevertheless, power relations and structures are indispensable from the constitution of the subject – therefore Foucault had a long detour that produced the genealogical inquiries on power that covered roughly the 1970s.

Since Foucault’s own analyses of power cover an extensive field and the secondary literature on the subject is enormous, I will only summarize the points most crucial vis-à-vis biopolitics. By and large it can be stated that the genealogical studies are concerned with the formation and development of modern power-knowledge apparatus (dispositif). This apparatus comprises power mechanisms, structures of knowledge, discourses and practices, institutional and administrative procedures and so forth. In the Foucaultian framework the crucial point is that all of these are related to the production of truth and norm according to which everything else is determined, that is, things can be judged as false, abnormal or illegitimate with respect to the conditions of truth and norm in question. What is characteristic to the modern power-knowledge apparatus is its two specific modes of power: disciplinary power targeted on individual bodies and biopower that is concerned with the totality of the population. However, these do not form different theories of power (Foucault always denies having tried to form a theory of power [e.g. 1998, 452; 1978, 82]) although they can be distinguished according to their different field of knowledge as well as different procedures. However, I will argue that in practice they are much more intensively related that Foucault seems to think. I will next summarize the central features of Foucaultian view on power.

2.1.1 Power and knowledge

In his analyses Foucault questions thoroughly the ways in which power has been thought in Western political theory. First of all, according to Foucault, power has been viewed as being reducible to sovereign and its practice has been identified with laws and jurisprudence. He names this model juridico-discursive (1978, 82) and claims that this juridico-discursive model of power consists in binary oppositions of permitted and prohibited, it functions through rule and this negative relation is always realized from top to bottom in a hierarchical order. This model also assumes the uniformity of the power apparatus, that is to say, the sovereign model is represented in all levels where power is being actualized: from a king ruling his people to a father ruling his family (ibid., 82-85). What Foucault suggest instead of reducing power to the state-sovereign or reducing the political to the juridical is to “cut off the head of the king” (ibid.,89) in our political thought and analysis. From this follows his famous methodological precautions for analysis of power:

“ – Power is not something that is acquired, seized or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away.
–Relations of power are not in a position of exteriority with respect to other types of relationship (economic processes, knowledge relationships, sexual relations) but are immanent in the latter.
–Power comes from below; that is, there is no binary and all-encompassing opposition between rulers and ruled at the root of power relations. – – One must suppose rather that the manifold relationships of force that take shape and come into play in the machinery of production, in families, limited groups, and institutions, are the basis for wide-ranging effects of cleavage that run through of the social body as a whole.
–[Power does not result] from the choice or decision of an individual subject; let us not look for the headquarters that presides over its rationality; neither the caste which governs, nor the groups which control the state apparatus, nor those who make the most important economic decisions direct the entire network of power that functions in a society.
– Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power.” (Foucault 1978, 94-95. Quotation modified.).

Here Foucault gives the outlines of power understood as an intelligible name for the multiple strategic relations that constitute society: power is not an institution, a structure nor a strength. It is everywhere and it comes from everywhere since it is simultaneously produced in a multiple points all over the social relations, hence “one needs to be nominalistic” (ibid., 93), that is, power as such is nothing but a name that is attributed to relations where power effects manifest themselves. How does knowledge, then, relate to power relations? In fact, power and knowledge are indispensable in terms of their production and functioning, to which Foucault refers with his concept power-knowledge (pouvoir-savoir). In other words, Foucault rejects the possibility of “pure” objective knowledge produced through neutral procedures or rational inquiry outside power relations: “there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.” (Foucault 1995, 27).

Is it trivial to define power and knowledge in this way? Foucault has often been accused of falling into trap with his power-knowledge conception: if power is everywhere in social relations and the subject is already constituted by the existing power-knowledge network there is no possibility of emancipating oneself from oppressing power relations (see e.g. Fraser in Oksala 2005, 176; Taylor 1989). Furthermore, some commentators (e.g. Hacking 1986, 238; see also Gordon 2000, xviii) argue that without giving any normative ground for the critique of oppressive power how can we ever be able to acknowledge something as oppressive in the first place or to argue for better model: everything becomes relative in a sense that social reality is only a manifestation of the prevailing power strategies and history is an endless interplay between regimes of power which are beyond any normative philosophical critique since everything is already inside and constituted by that power, thus forming a singular structure with its own criteria of justification. To the first objection it can be stated that it is based on misunderstanding of Foucault’s notion of power: one should always remember that power is not binary structure nor stable or one-sided relation but a productive and dynamic system that may always be affected through strategies opposite to prevailing power relations. Through these counter strategies one can always try to form conditions that would open up possibilities for less oppressive power relations.

To answer the second objection is also to define how some relation of power may be deemed as more oppressive than the other in a Foucaultian sense: although Foucault certainly lacks any normative definitions of reality in terms of producing a firm theory from which to deduce how things should be arranged in everyday life, and thus, it seems that those critiques (e.g. Seyla Benhabib according to Oksala 2005, 179, Jürgen Habermas in Taylor 2009, Taylor 1989, Hacking 1986) who read Foucault in order to find such a ready-made theory have struggles in finding the positive value of his work. I will not go very deeply into these discussions1, here it suffice to say that the normative grounds for judging whether this or that is more desirable can be found from Foucault’s view on the task of philosophy: “Philosophy is precisely the questioning of all oppressive phenomena on whatever level or form they might present themselves – political, economic, sexual, institutional.” (Foucault 1991, 20; quotation paraphrased, my apologies for not having been able to find the English translation.). This view is of course different from essentialist views, but it opens up completely new domains for critical thinking in the sense that nothing can be justified in terms of essence, nature or some other seemingly objective quality. As Maurizio Lazzarato points this discussion is all about different theoretical presumptions: “Habermas and the philosophers of the Constitutional State are not wrong in taking Foucault’s thought as their privileged target because it represents a radical alternative to a transcendental ethics of communication and the rights of man.” (2000).

Moreover, it cannot be overemphasized in these discussions that Foucault (e.g. 1990, 9) constantly rejects relying on any given value or definition which would render his analysis “fixed”, thus opposing such philosophical views that take some “ineluctable” concepts embodying certain truths as a point of departure for their analysis. To my experience this is especially characteristic to present Anglo-American political philosophy where discussion is usually bound to fixed ideas of freedom, justice, rationality etc., which every once in a while causes difficulties when trying to force Foucault’s thought into framework which is by definition opposes (on this topic see the excellent article by Dianna Taylor [2009]). Hence Foucault, instead of searching fixed concepts from which to deduce justified theories, focuses on practices: according to him we must not investigate power from the centre or exclusive instances, but on the contrary, “make an ascending analysis of power” (2003, 30) which means that we should begin our study from the smallest micro mechanism of power and see how these mechanisms become invested, multiplied, abducted and strengthened, and how from these tactics new ways of general mechanisms and over-all dominations have been produced. In other words, Foucault is not looking for a theory or a principle for applying power but investigating how power is embodied in practices and “ the places where it implants itself and produces its real effects.” (ibid., 28).

This discussion is indistinguishable from Foucault’s idea of freedom: paraphrasing him “everything is not necessary oppressive but dangerous” in a sense that every norm and every truth can become unquestioned given which begins to limit our possibilities to act and think opposing ways to that norm or truth, therefore stabilizing certain power relations and inhibiting the flow of power from one point to another. As Taylor puts it “Foucault sees freedom being characterized not by an escape from power but rather by the ability to negotiate power relations in ways that increase capacities and possible modes of thought and existence.” (2009, 58). Hence, to be able to practice freedom is to be able to question the conditions of our own constitutions as ourselves, it is to be able to understand how things that present themselves as given can be changed into something else. Therefore, it can be argued that the normative grounds for philosophical arguments in Foucault’s work can be found from the ethos of the Enlightenment: political emancipation is possible through grasping the historical conditions where we are situated. Simply, the more we are able to understand the order of things due to which we are as we are, the more able we are to produce and live our own freedom. (Foucault, 1991; 1984; Oksala 2005, 208-210).

What is said above might still be a bit unclear due to the fairly broad strokes I am drawing here. I will thus clarify things with Oksala’s interpretation of Foucault. I think her concept of politicization of ontology explains Foucault’s position with great clarity. This concept implies that our reality with its ontological order is in itself already an outcome of political struggles: “Ontology is politics that has forgotten itself.” (Oksala 2010, 445). According to Oksala, this is what Foucault’s project is to large extent about: to show that there is no necessary link between reality and how it is represented in our ontological schemas i.e. no essence or a given structure will determine the ontological framework – on the contrary, it is always produced through the struggles between competing models arguing for the most coherent and truthful interpretation of reality. To claim that ontology is not a pure description of reality is not, of course, very original thesis today: as Oksala points out, it was already Marx, Nietzsche2 and the German historicists that raised the ideas of ontology of the present being the result of historical struggles for power (2010, 448).

What is remarkable with Foucault though is the way in which he shows how power is incorporated in our daily practices and discourses and thus constitutes the conditions of producing and reproducing truth and knowledge. Therefore, his analysis enables a critical survey to the constitutive effects of power-knowledge apparatus vis-à-vis science, values, politics etc. and, above all, in the end the apparatus itself. On the other hand, arguing for the indeterminate and contingent nature of reality is, of course, to make another ontological claim but Foucault’s power-knowledge nexus should never be understood as an essence nor a quasi-essence but, as Oksala points out, as an analytical grid in order to make our reality and the production of truth more understandable: “Foucault’s idea of a constitutive power-knowledge nexus must be understood, in the light of his ontology, as another analytical grid, fighting for hegemony in the game of truth.” (2010, 457).

In the two following chapters 2.1.2 and 2.1.3 I will give an analysis of the two most fundamental forms of power in modern power-knowledge apparatus, that is, disciplinary power and biopower. I emphasise once again that these are not to be seen as different theories of power nor completely different modes of power, but as theoretical tools for understanding how modern power functions. Therefore we should keep in mind, that although in theory one can distinguish between different levels in ideas as well in practices in these two types of power, in reality they tend to be mixed, intertwined and overlapping to extent where it could be difficult to determine which is now in question.

2.1.2 Disciplinary power and the functioning of the norm

In Foucault’s analyses of power it is stated several times that even though being theoretically distinguishable disciplinary power and biopower are connected within power-knowledge nexus:

“In concrete terms, starting in the seventeenth century, this power over life evolved in two basic forms; these forms were not antithetical, however; they constituted rather two poles
of development linked together by a whole intermediary cluster of relations – – The disciplines of the body and the regulations of the population constituted the two poles around which the organization of power over life was deployed.” (1978, 139).

To be as clear as possible with Foucault’s idea of biopower I’ll investigate how Foucault thinks these forms of power in fact go together in reality. He gives two different ways in which these poles come together: first, through sexuality, which is not a given feature of human nature in Foucault but a production of power-knowledge apparatus that opens up ways through which human subject as psycho-physical beings can be manipulated, and further, sexuality is, of course, the domain in which human reproduction takes place which thus renders reproduction possible to be manipulated through the sexual behaviour of people. The second is through the functioning of the norm3, that is, a measure through which the normal and abnormal can be identified. However, in his lectures Security, Terrirory, Population (2007, 56-57, 63) Foucault makes a distinction between the functioning of the norm within disciplinary power and biopower: in the context of the former it is always with reference to norm that individuals become modified and schooled, whereas the latter uses different normalities that can be identified in the level of population in order to establish the norm. In other words, in the framework of particular economic-political system certain constants in the population are more favourable than the others and thus norms must be deduced from the favourable constants or normalities: “The normal comes first and the norm is deduced from it, or the norm is fixed and plays its operational role on the basis of this study of normalities. So, I would say that what is involved here is no longer normation, but rather normalization in the strict sense.” (ibid., 2007, 63). In this sense norm is established through surveys and studies of population which produce constants or the normal. From different normalities an ideal normal i.e. the norm may then be deduced and projected back to the population in order to regulate and modify it to some predetermined direction, that is, to prescribe how people should behave (Taylor, 2005, 50-51).

In his Discipline and Punish Foucault concentrates on describing the form of disciplinary power. What is peculiar to disciplinary power is its aim to normalize individuals to be compatible with any given ideal, e.g. a soldier, a student, a patient, a child, a citizen, a worker and so forth. This takes place through techniques targeted on human body. The idea in this is that human bodies are always part of political field where “power relations have an immediate hold upon it [the body]; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs.” (Foucault 1995, 25). However, these techniques directed to bodies are not only reducible to violence, state apparatuses or ideologies but they may be much more subtle and non-violent, this is to say, that power that subjects individual bodies utilizes knowledge that is not knowledge about the anatomy of the body and its functioning but knowledge of how to put bodies work and produce within certain political order, that is, “the political technology of the body” (ibid., 26). Furthermore, a body is useful only insofar as it is both productive and subjected (at least in modern disciplinary capitalism) – thus one needs the micro-physics of power in order to produce docile bodies within the level of materiality of the bodies and their forces. The concept micro-physics in its part refers to the flow of power in its most subtle and tiny parts and also to those analytical techniques that take hold in individuals and divide and categorize them in their uniqueness.

Disciplinary power manifests itself most clearly in institutions and to prove his arguments in Discipline and Punish Foucault refers mostly to historical documents that have been written either in already working institutions or in order to produce better ones. The main idea in the book is to show how procedures and practices typical for penal and military institutions spread insidiously all over the society. One could perhaps state that his book is outdated since in most Western countries there are no such institutions any more that Foucault describes, but this view, however, misses the point: the whole idea in the book is to show that the view according to which the Enlightenment created more human practices of punishment compared to Medieval and Early-Modern times is not very coherent. In order words, it might be true that brutal torture of bodies and spectacular executions began to decrease towards the modernity but this was due to wider developments and rearrangements of power relations: due to the rise of capitalism, nations, scientific technology, industry, ideologies, such as, liberalism etc.. Thus there was a need of disciplining individuals in order to create a functioning and productive society in this new economic-political environment. Hence, once again we may think that there is less power and less discipline nowadays because our bodies do not get beaten all the time but it must be recalled that disciplinary power is most functional when you do not even need the violence; when people have internalized power to the extent where it does not need to be physically present and yet it functions. This is the idea of panopticon (ibid., 200-201, I will return to this subject below.) or an organized control as such – which would be difficult to see as diminishing nowadays.

The domains and the techniques that disciplinary power exploits in the process of subjectivation are multiple and in Discipline and Punish Foucault makes many analytical enumerations and divisions between different procedures and their aims. Here it suffice only to summarize the most important: above all, the purpose of disciplinary techniques is individualization and subjectivication. Every human being needs to be distinguished from every other so that they can be investigated, manipulated and schooled as individuals. To be able to affect on the smallest micro-relation of power these techniques have to manage body and its relation to time (e.g. working hours, schedules in schools), to space (e.g. architecture of institutions that renders them to create a dividing space constituted by discipline and surveillance), they have to code the actions that individuals are supposed to carry out, and finally they have to manage to combine forces: discipline is a tactic through which a whole consisting of individuals can be made more efficient by combining individual forces into specific units. (Ibid., 167.)

If these are the areas discipline has to govern, it will manage them through, first, hierarchical observation (e.g. in military camp, in prison or in hospital where the gaze of the authority must be powerful but discreet), normalizing judgement (everything is measured in accordance with norm that gains its power through the disciplines. Norm defines the hierarchical structure in which every individual takes his place: either outside the community as abnormal or closer to the norm as norm. Finally these two are unified in examination: “It is a normalizing gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish” (ibid., 184).

In this sense disciplinary power is essentially dividing, individualizing and normalizing (or according to norm, normazing. See above.). It operates within the framework of science and especially human sciences, refers to their production of truth and discourse in order to produce the norm from which practices and aims are deduced. Its raison d’être is both to subject people under certain political rule as to produce individuals as useful and productive in economic terms. In this process specific knowledge on the human body is required and this knowledge is analogous to knowledge of machines: according to Foucault it was the physicists and philosophers of the 17th century who discovered body as docile “which joins the analysable body to the manipulable body” (ibid., 136) and this invention opened enormous possibilities of putting human bodies in to play. (Ibid., 170-185.) I will now proceed to Foucault’s account on biopower and biopolitic and after having clarified what these are aobut, I will pull the strings together on power that operates between two poles: disciplinary power and biopower, that is, power over life.

2.1.3 Biopower and biopolitics

“If one can apply the term bio- history to the pressures through which the movements of life and the processes of history interfere with one another, one would have to speak of bio-power to designate what brought life and its mechanisms into the realm of explicit calculations and made knowledge-power an agent of transformation of human life.” (Foucault 1978, 143).

As Lemke points out (2011, 34), Foucault’s use of the terms biopower and biopolitics is not very consistent. Sometimes he uses these concepts quite synonymously (e.g. see 2007, 22) when usually they seem to denote different phenomena. I will proceed into a detailed inquiry of these different domains and developments in which biopolitics or biopower manifests itself in the next chapter. There I will dedicate an analysis for each 1970s lecture series in which Foucault elaborates these concepts and different techniques through which biopower is applied on population. However, in this chapter I will concentrate on the specific form of biopower and how it is, on the one hand, different from disciplinary power discussed in the previous chapter and how these two will come together on the other, thus forming two essential poles of modern power over life. Here biopower will refer to the form of power that targets its gaze upon humans as living species and collects knowledge about this species in order to affect on it (see 1.2).

According to Foucault power over life started to appear during the 17th century, first in the form of disciplinary power, “an anatomo-politics of the human body” (1978, 139), and then somewhat later came out a power that concentrated upon the species body consisting in propagation, dying, illness, health, life expectancy, mortality etc., and all the things that could make these thing to vary, such as, famine, scarcity, medical science, sexual behaviour etc., that is, “a biopolitics of the population” (ibid.). In this process life was invested thoroughly and no more was power meant to manifest itself by taking lives as the former sovereign power did, but to establish a “calculated management of life” (ibid.,140). What Foucault is not arguing for is that the old sovereign apparatus disappeared but that it had to adjust itself on the new political-economic situation: “[sovereign power] found itself unable to govern the economic and political body of a society that was undergoing both a demographic explosion and industrialization. So much that far too many things were escaping the old mechanism of the power of sovereignty, both at the top and at he bottom, both at the level of detail and at he mass level.” (Foucault 2003, 249). That is to say, that relations of power were fundamentally rearranged through and due to new scientific knowledges: both of human body and nature and of society and human mind which rendered new ways of governing and manipulating possible.

To this moment in history Foucault refers as “threshold of modernity” i.e. the point where man is no more what he was for Aristotle: “a living animal with the additional capacity for a political existence” (1978, 143), but a member of a species that can be affected through number of techniques. In other words, “this was nothing less than the entry of life into history, that is, the entry of phenomena peculiar to the life of the human species into the order of knowledge and power, into the sphere of political techniques.” (1978, 141). The era from Early-Modern to Modernity is of course full of phenomena with great historical importance, e.g. industrial take-offs, scientific and technical progress, birth of civil society and so forth, but what Foucault emphasises is the conncection between power over life and the rise of capitalism. Both of these were radical shifts in existing power relations based on sovereignty and feodal societal relations. Foucault wrtites:

”This bio-power was without question an indispensable element in the development of capitalism; the latter would not have been possible without the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and the adjustment of the phenomena of population to economic processes. But this was not all it required; it also needed the growth of both these factors, their reinforcement as well as their availability and docility; it had to have methods of power capable of optimizing forces, aptitudes, and life in general without at the same time making them more difficult to govern.” (Foucault 1978, 140-141.)

Here it must nevertheless be emphasized what Foucault does not claim, namely, that since bourgeoisie became the ruling class during the modernity it wanted to subject people under its rule in order to profit from their labour and thus they applied power over life on people. The case for Foucault is not to pose a question on the interests of the bourgeoisie, contrary to that, he wants to look at the ways in which certain micro techniques and strategies came into play from below. His own examples are the exclusion of the mad and infantile sexuality, he says: “there was no such thing as a bourgeoisie that thought that madness should be excluded or that infantile sexuality had to be repressed; but there were mechanisms to exclude madness and techniques to keep infantile sexuality under surveillance.” (2003, 32-33). Again what Foucault is trying to underline here is that we do not comprehend the functioning of power if we continue to think it in terms of subjects and objects and rulers and ruled. Instead we must look at the ways in which certain “micromechanics of power came at a certain moment to represent, to constitute the interest of the bourgeoisie.” (ibid., 32. Quotation slightly modified). Accordingly, in order to understand the connection between biopower and the rise of capitalism we must concentrate on the techniques that began to contribute for certain political utility and economic profit and thus became colonized and supported by general mechanism of power and finally by the state.

Again we are faced with the question of modern power over life and its functioning, and once again we will see that it is the norm through which this power operates. This power is no more reducible to the law which ultimately can only thread people with death; on the contrary, what is needed for governing (on the art of governance, see 3.1) is regulatory and corrective mechanisms aimed at producing life in certain form. However, these mechanism will require a reference point, i.e. norm, through which life can be measured, qualified and hierarchized and then distributed vis-à-vis its utility and value. What Foucault is claiming here is that law becomes intertwined with the norm in the framework of power over life, in other words, law and institutions of justice doesn’t disappear but they become more and more incorporated with other regulative apparatuses, such as medical and administrative institutions. The crucial distinction is hence no more the obedient and the enemies of the sovereign but the normal and abnormal: “A normalizing society is the historical outcome of a technology of power centered on life.” (Foucault, 1978, 144)

As already noted, the other main domain in which disciplinary power and biopower overlap explicitly is sexuality. Sexuality is, at the same, something through which an individual may be subjected into subject of her own peculiar sexuality, thus making it a tool of disciplinary production of subjectivities. In this sense it forms an important part in the production of truth about oneself as a certain categorical subject, homosexual, pervert or heterosexual for instance, in relation to normal. On the other hand, sexuality is the object of both human and natural sciences which renders it possible to be studied “objectively”, for example one may refer to natural facts in order to justify or explain sexual behaviour in societal context. Furthermore, sexuality produces facts in both domains: sexual subjectivities and behaviour in terms of human sciences but also anatomical-biological phenomena in bodily terms. Finally, sexuality forms a target for biopower in many instances: first, sexual behaviour of individuals produce curves of normality or constants in analysis of population i.e. how much sexual intercourse at which age, is contraception used and which kind, with whom sex is practised, is there possible thread of sexually transmitted or other diseases etc., and second, sex or propagation produce the blood line which is why it is closely connected to eugenics and modern racism (ibid., 149-150. I will discuss this in detail in 3.2.1).

This explains why sex or sexuality became to have such enormous importance within the techniques of power over life: “First, the notion of “sex” made it possible to group together, in an artificial unity, anatomical elements, biological functions, conducts, sensations, and pleasures, and it enabled one to make use of this fictitious unity as a causal principle, an omnipresent meaning, a secret to be discovered everywhere: sex was thus able to function as a unique signifier and as a universal signified” (ibid., 154).

Let me now conclude what has been said above. In what modern power essentially consists, according to Foucault, is its urge to control life. This takes place in two distinct level: in the level of individuals through disciplinary techniques and in the level of living mass or population through biopower and its techniques i.e. biopolitics in wide meaning of the term. Both of these modes of power are aiming to maximize and extract forces from human bodies, in other words, produce life in particular framework or form according to averages, constants and normalities. Foucault says: “Both technologies are obviously technologies of the body, but one is a technology in which the body is individualized as an organism endowed with capacities, while the other is a technology in which bodies are replaced by general biological processes.” (2003, 249). Hence “we have two series: the body-organism-discipline-institutions series, and the population-biological processes-regulatory mechanism-State” (ibid., 250). That is to say, that disciplinary power is concentrated (not reducible though) on institution and biopower in its part on the regulative mechanism of the state.

Now, it seems to me that disciplinary techniques produce individual as bodily entity having certain qualities that the disciplinary framework aims to promote, such as, skills in production, skills in behaviour and capacities of being subjected by whatsoever. Above all, discipline render individuals to internalize particular relations of time, space and possible models for action, and thus due to these relations that are already produced by existing power relations, individuals constitute themselves according to the very way in which these relations are constituted. On the other hand, the framework of biopolitics seems to be much more subtle: it controls the conditions of possible forms of life through measurements, discourses, legislation and regulations thus managing the circulation of commodities and human beings. But it also produces individuals who think and act in particular way: for example, when one legislate according to the normalities arising from the population one creates binaries of normal and abnormal which then come to play a role in the behaviour and thinking of the people. In this sense, it becomes quite evident that power produces and this side of Foucault’t power analysis will be the topic of the next chapter.

2.1.4 Productive power and constitution of the subject

An important feature in Foucault’s power analysis is that power produces – not just hierarchical relations or domains of licit and illicit but the very conditions of legitimate knowledge and possible human subjects. This is to say, that the very being that becomes subjected is situated in a specific historical apparatus of power-knowledge network which defines the possible field in which humans can be constituted as subjects. There is no fixed or essential human subjectivity from which one could deduce knowledge, rationality or even consciousness, rather, human subjects are constituted in a complex network of power-knowledge which in practice means “a multiplicity of organisms, forces, energies, material, desires, thoughts, etc. We should try to grasp subjection in its material instance as a constitution of subjects.” (Foucault in “Two Lectures”. Quoted in Oksala 2005, 100).

Especially in Discipline and Punish Foucault uses rather strong formulations in order to put forward his claims: “In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production.” (1995, 194). This idea is clearly represented in the idea of Panopticon which is a par excellence of hierarchizing and individualizing power. The idea is of course well known: a spacial machine without bars or chains but constituted according to an architecture which allows the inmate (or patient, worker, student etc.) always be seen but never know himself whether he is under actual gaze or not. The ingenuity of this machine is its simplicity and effectiveness: anybody whatsoever can use it or be the guard that cannot be seen from the outside and anybody that needs to be surveyed in the most effective manner can be situated in a panoptical cell. This form of ever-present power “produces homogeneous effects of power” (ibid., 202),in other words, eventually the one subjected to this possible gaze will internalize power to extent where it becomes irrelevant whether somebody is watching or not, and thus becomes the guard of himself (ibid., 200-204).

Due to his views Foucault has been accused of being an extreme relativist, behaviorist or social constructivist. In my view Oksala presents a very compelling account on these debates in her book Foucault on Freedom (2005). Some commentators have read Foucault’s views on the constitution of the subject as if subjects would simply be made causally into subjects through power mechanisms and further, that the subject would then internalize the aims of power to the extent where they would do whatever power has made them think they should do. It is even stated that power-knowledge nexus becomes a Hegelian essence appearing in different forms in history or it is compared to Schopenhauerian will or seen as totalitarian structural invariant (ibid., 100-104).

I agree with Oksala that most of these critiques are based on misreading of Foucault. Here we must once again remind ourselves of Foucault’s ontology and the overall manner of his philosophical practice: subject is not a substance, there is no essence of the subject and in this sense subject is only an intelligible name for the form that human being take ( Foucault 1991, 10), thus, according to Oksala, Foucault “asks how the subject itself and its experiences are historically constituted through discursive games of truth, practice of power and technologies of the self.” (2005, 104). But of course one can go further and pose a question on the agency of power-knowledge or the individuals. This is an important question to which we can nonetheless give a satisfactory answer following Oksala’s interpretation: first, we must not think that power-knowledge is some kind of pre-existing a priori vis-à-vis individual, it only refers to concrete practices: “power only exists when it is ecercised.” (ibid., 106). Second, there is no problem of circularity (i.e. that power-knowledge constitutes individuals who then produce that very apparatus) when we do not try to make any artificial ontological distinction between individuals and power-knowledge network: they are not external to each other but form a continuous field where power and knowledge materialize in human practices which create new forms of power and knowledge. According to Oksala:

“Foucault’s genealogies are thus not descriptions of how prepersonal beings are turned into subjects through causal processes of social conditioning, but rather analyses or genealogical mappings of the conditions of possibility of certain practices and forms of the subject. “ (ibid., 106).

I think that in the light of productive power the idea of biopower becomes finally lucid: power functions in an ever dynamic network sometimes stabilizing in institutions, state apparatuses or mass movements but is never exclusively reducible to such instances. What is characteristic to modern power is its two poles targeted to control life and individual bodies. “Who has targeted?” one could ask. Not any particular human subject, that’s for sure. Rather the continuous interaction of power and knowledge and their production in human practices: everybody acts, at least to some extent, according to some notions of facts and values. How we choose which fact is true and what value is desirable is far more complex but in the Foucaultian framework it is an effect of prevailing power-knowledge network. Nevertheless, this nexus is never fully determining totality, but instead includes marginals and breaking points which render counter strategies and innovations possible. Nonetheless, the control over life is always linked to production: most of all, to production of norm and truth. These are ideological reference points in order to force and arrange life into certain forms according to these very norm and truth, in other words, to normalize the multiplicity and multitude of life to predetermined compartments. Thus Foucaultian biopower is one domain in normalizing power that on the one hand collects and organizes knowledge about human life and its conditions and possibilities from which it, on the other, deduces and defines the ways in which this knowledge will be applied back to life, hence transforming into actual biopolitics.


Althusser, Louis (1969): “Contradiction and Overdetermination” in For Marx. Trans. Brewster, Ben. Penguin Books, England. (First appeared in La Pensée, December 1962.)

– – (1971) “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Trans. Brewster, Ben. NLB, London. (First appeared in La Pensée, 1970.)

Eribon, Didier (1989): Michel Foucault. Flammarion.

Foucault, Michel (1995): Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Sheridan, Alan.Random House Inc, New York. (First published as Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison in 1975.)

Foucault, Michel (1991): “The ethic of care for the self as a practise of freedom” in The Final Foucault. MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts. (Originally published in Philosophy and Social Critism. Vol 12 1987.)

– – (1978): History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Trans. Hurley, Robert. Random House Inc., New York. (First published in 1976 as La volonté de savoir [Histoire de la sexualité I].)

– – (1982): “Preface” in Anti-Oedipus by Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix. Viking Press, New York. Second ed.. (Originally published as L’Anti-Oedipe, Capitalisme et schizophrénie in 1972.)

– – (1977): Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. Ed. Bouchard, Donald F., trans. Bouchard, Donald F. & Simon, Sherry. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

– – (2000b) ”Questions of Method”. Teoksessa Power: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984 Volume three. Toim. Faubion, James D.. The New Press, New York. (Alkuperäisesti otsikoituna ”Round Table of 20 May 1978”, kyseinen haastattelu julkaistiin ensikertaa v. 1980.)

– – (1988) ”The Return of Morality” in Michel Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture, Interviews and Other Writings 1977-1984. Ed. Kritzman, Lawrence. Routledge, New York.

– – (2007) Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978. Trans. Burchell, Graham. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. (First published as Securité, Territoire, Population 2004.)

— (2003) “Society Must Be Defended”. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-76. Trans. David Macey. Ed. Arnold I. Davidson. Picador, New York. (First published as Il faut défendre la société 1997.)

– – (1998) ”Structuralism and Post-structuralism” in Aesthetics: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984 Volume Two. Ed. Faubion, James D. Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, London. (First appeared in Telos 16:55 1983.)

(1982) “The Subject and Power” in Dreyfus, Hubert L. and Rabinow, Paul: Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. The Harvester Press Limited, Chicago.

– – (1990) “Introduction” in The Use of Pleasure. Volume 2 of the History of Sexuality. Trans. Hurley, Robert. Vintage Books, New York. (Originally published as L’Usage des plaisirs in 1984.)

– – (1984) ”What Is Enlightenment” in The Foucault Reader. Ed. Rabinow, Paul. Pantheon books, Lontoo.

Gordon, Colin (2000): ”Introduction” in Power: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984 Volume three. Ed.. Faubion James D.. The New Press, New York.

Hacking, Ian (1986): “Self-improvement” in Foucault: A Critical Reader. Ed. Hoy, David Couzens, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge Massachusetts.

Jay, Martin (1984): Marxism and Totality: The adventures of a Concept from Lukács to Habermas. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Lazzarato, Maurizio (2000): “From Biopower to Biopolitics”. Trans. Ramirez, Ivan. http://cms.gold.ac.uk/media/lazzarato_biopolitics.pdf. Read in 24.4.2012. (First published in Multitudes in 2000.)

Lemke, Thomas (2011): Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction. Trans. Trump, Erik Frederick. New York University Press.

Mahon, Michael (1989): Foucault’s Nietzschean Genealogy. UMI, Michigan.

Ojakangas, Mika (1998): ”Michel Foucault, Yksinkertaisesti nietzscheläinen” in Foucault/Nietzsche. Tutkijaliitto, Helsinki.

Oksala, Johanna (2010): “Foucault’s Politicization of Ontology” in Continental Philosophy Review. Volume 43, Number 4, p. 445-466. Springer, Netherlands.

– – (2005): Foucault on Freedom. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Newman, Saul (2001): From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power. Lexington Books, Boston.

Sturrock, John (1979): “Introduction” in Structuralism and Since: From Lévi Strauss to Derrida. Ed. by Sturrock, John. Oxford University Press.

Taylor, Charles (1986): “Foucault on Freedom and Truth” in Foucault: A Critical Reader. Ed. Hoy, David Couzens. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge Massachusetts.

Taylor, Dianna (2009): “Normativity and Normalization” in Foucault studies, No 7, p. 45-63, September 2009.

Virno, Paolo (2002): “General intellect, exodus, multitude” interview in generation-online.org. Gago, Veronica and Sztulwark, Diego. http://www.generation-online.org/p/fpvirno2.htm. (First appeared in La Escena Contemporanea, October 2002.)

Research update

Warfare of the Post-Heroic Age: structures and correlations


  1. Introduction. War as a matter of philosophy.

1.1.       Philosophy of war as a branch of practical philosophy.

1.2.       Historic-philosophic premises of philosophy of war. Realists and abolitionists.

2. What is war? The problem of definition of war.

2.1.       Traditional (descriptive) definitions. Clausewitz’ impact to the First World War.

2.2.       Normative definitions. Sir Basil Liddel Hart’s “indirect approach”.

3. Ethical dimensions of modern wars.

3.1.       Ethos and ethics of conventional war.

3.2.       Humanitarian interventions.

3.3.       Informational warfare.

3.4.       Network warfare.

3.5.       Existentia militaria: extraethical justifications of self-defense and self-sacrifice.

4. Conclusion.


Among numerous philosophic fields of research like philosophy of law, language, logic, mind, science, biology, history, society etc had emerged new discipline – philosophy of war. Though philosophers from Heraclitus to Bernard Henri-Levy were always interested in war and projects of eternal peace, military theory and history, the independent discipline was established just recently by Alexander Moseley, author of book “Philosophy of war”.

So late emergence of philosophy of war after centuries of warfare (approximately 14.5 thousands of wars, over 4 billion of causalities only in known history) and 27 centuries of philosophy cannot but amaze, especially regarding conceptual similarity of philosophic and strategic thinking, of military intelligence and epistemology, also including ethical, existential, metaphysical issues of war and related problems. Moreover, the question of influence of philosophy to thinking of military strategists is not cleared enough (except the correlation found between franco-german idealism, anglo-american empiricism and military history), the concept of war still remains undefined correctly.

In these conditions any systematic scholarship will dare to be pioneer. My research is intended not only to be amending to Alexander Moseley’s work, but also it will differ from methodological standpoint. I build my research in the mainstream of analytic philosophy, with actualizing methods of logical atomism and informal logic, keeping in mind F.P.Ramsey’s idea of philosophy, which “has to clear our thoughts”. The complexity of military history and its theoretical background, ethical, economical. legal, cultural dimensions of war need to be disclosed by means of methodology which would be external against mentioned disciplines and simultaneously it should be adequate to the subject of inquiry.

Analytic philosophy of war, unlike previous attempts of classic philosophers to build a kind of ideology which had to substitute doctrines that lead to international armed conflicts, endeavors to clear out the basic concepts, doctrines and structures of theories related to military science, art and history together with relevant disciplines like philosophy of law, economics and political science.

As a result of my research will be critically analyzed the basic concepts of military science, main trends of military history, fundamental controversies that forbid to accept war as a mean of solving conflicts.

Trough centuries philosophers have speculated about war – what causes them, the best ways of waging wars, and how to reach peace. This question has divided philosophers into two groups: realists (those who considered war as inevitable, even desirable) and abolitionists (who tried to find out ways of social improvement to overcome wars). Tradition of realists was born in Presocratic era, when Heraclites proclaimed that “war is father of all things”; Plato had built a model of ideal state according to military organized society; medieval Christian thought was more conservative, but nevertheless realistic: St. Thomas argued that peace is the highest aim of society, but he acknowledged the duty of monarchs to defend their states (see Summa Theologiae, question 40); Dante in his “De Monarchia” contended that peace is achievable by rule of global law, maintained by force; Francisco Suarez defended idea of just wars together with his follower Hugo Grotius (De Iure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres); Sir Thomas More showed pragmatic view to wars (they could be possible in cases of struggle for economic interests or defending of allies); Niccolo Machiavelli wrote “The prince is condemned to seek victory in war merely in order to survive in the hostile world” and peace is possible only if the global commonwealth would be established; unlike Thomas Hobbes, who thought that war is state of nature, John Locke distinguishes wars fought for natural rights and those which do not have this reason; Hegel believed war was the catalyst through which history unfolded its purpose; philosophers of communism dreamed about war as a sole mean to reach “bright future”.

Abolitionists, continuing spirit of Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” presented Stoic doctrine of unity of mankind which was alike the doctrine of non-violence of early Christianity. Another essential trend was established by Desiderius Erasmus in his work “Anti-Polemus” where he explained fatal contradiction between actions of men in wartime and divine purpose of mankind which exclude any sort of violence at all. Writings of Late Renaissance and Modern Era aimed to find out new, radically different systems of state and society which had to eliminate wars (Duke of Sully (“The Grand Design”, 1620-1635), John Bellers (“Some Reasons for an European State”, 1710), Emeric Cruce (“The New Cyneas, or Discourse of the Occasion and Means to Establish a General Peace and the Liberty of Commerce throughout the World”, 1623), William Penn (“An Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe”, 1693), Abbe de Saint-Pierre (“A Project for Settling an Everlasting Peace in Europe“, 1713). European Enlightenment represented by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (“A Project of Perpetual Peace”, 1761) and Immanuel Kant, (“Eternal Peace”, 1795) insisted on constitutional governance as a source of peace; the English utilitarians (Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, John Stuart Mill) contended that war was an anachronistic encumbrance on a free society, benefiting no one but aristocrats and professional soldiers. The most prominent philosopher of XXth century who was engaged with idea of nuclear war as a mean to stop all wars (“Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare“, London, 1959) – Bertrand Russell initialized Pugwash movement with Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

In spite of big number of sources with philosophic reflections of war and peace another essential number of issues still have not been addressed. Relevant problems are studied by special disciplines (like military strategy, tactics etc) and social sciences – political philosophy, history, jurisprudence, sociology, economics. It is obvious that metastrategic (i.e. philosophic) point is inevitably lost in specific studies. The most essential point in this case is fallen to oblivion: scholars of specific disciplines usually forget about internal rules of thinking which are studied by philosophy and logic, paying attention primarily to the subject of investigation and leaving behind methodology and peculiarities of abstract thinking which leads to unfavorable consequences.

Moreover, some particular sides of military theory and military history have not studied by philosophers at all, which was caused so significant number of “realists”. Analytic Philosophy of War has to solve these discords by means of outlining subject of research, its methodology, basic aims and strategies of research.

Modern warfare, often defined as “post-heroic” (E.Luttwak) is a new challenge for scholars of war studies. Changing character of war needs to be studied in terms and scholarship of modern science which was not accomplished systematically yet.

Unlike classic regular warfare (as a conflict between states for economic and/or political reasons) modern armed conflicts in majority of cases are intrastate civil conflicts between people who want to have their rights secured and state which is unable to provide legal rights of its citizens for various reasons. In this situation study of justification of humanitarian interventions became extremely up to date.

In my research I am intended to study tactics and strategy of modern and recent operations of humanitarian interventions, their legal basis, causes and results in order to find out fundamental correlations between factual outcome of the operations and their ethical groundings. To avoid ethical dichotomies in assessing moral aspects of humanitarian military operations I will proceed from universality of democratic order and absoluteness of unalienable human rights. To achieve this aim I will be grounded on analytic tradition of ethics (G.Moore), liberal philosophy of law (J.Locke) and my previous research “Analytic Philosophy of War” as a branch of applied philosophy. Ethical issues of justice and responsibility (“Responsibility to Protect”) of soldiers who are engaged in humanitarian intervention will be analyzed using my previous research “Transformations of Idea of Justice in Greco-Roman Culture” which shows essential correlation between justice as objective law and natural rights (Ancient Greek approach) and justice as relative feature of human will and positive rights (Roman culture) from historical standpoint regarding modern investigations in

Just War Theory. The concept of responsibility will be analyzed from the existential and post-totalitarian standpoints, which I have experienced personally living in USSR and post-totalitarian Ukraine.

In my research I am intended to prove essential correlation between ethically justified humanitarian intervention (i.e. in Kosovo and Libya) of and the most pragmatic ways of its deploying. In this question I refer to military art (Sun Tzu and Sir B.H.Liddell Hart and their doctrine of “Indirect Approach”) and military science of humanitarian interventions in time when the political ideology as one of the main causes of war was replaced by legal claims of citizens to defend their own rights from the state violence, corruption and injustice (“post-heroic warfare”).

I am intended to analyze whole complexity of the ethical aspects of humanitarian interventions; to systematize causes of modern armed conflicts which require humanitarian intervention; to prove the essential correlation of the ethical justification of humanitarian interventions and their optimal (“indirect”) conduct. Also I will present my own proposals of strategy of humanitarian interventions (“indirect operations” – informational, educational, cultural missions to prevent civil conflicts; operations with involving of intelligence services).

Planning for Rancière’s Equality and Anarchism

  1. The topic and the question setting of the work 

The object of my study is Rancière’s political theory and his concept of equality and I want to see how (dis)similar it is from the anarchist’s equality. So, in order to understand it better, I will analyse equality’s relationship with liberty or freedom in each case: first, how they are broadly understood; then, how Rancière understands them and, finally, how anarchists use them.

However, I do not want my paper to be only academic. Of course it is an academic paper but it attempts to go beyond academicist discussions whether Rancière is anarchist or in which sense in that case. With this paper I want to use Rancière’s concepts to describe or understand some phenomena of the contemporary world and society. Therefore, I will use practical examples to illustrate his ideas, i.e. whether the referendum about the rights of the Russian population in Latvia is political or not according to him.

On this account, in the end of the paper I will have an especial chapter where I will attempt to use Rancière’s concept to identify and understand some phenomena from our contemporary society. Besides, “the experiment” will be with a group who label themselves as anarchist —anonymous— and I will try to prove that Rancière’s ideas match when it comes to understanding and defending them as political subjects.

In the last term, the question that is laying through all my paper is “why rancière” and what we can do with him — his ideas. In my opinion, Rancière’s importance stems from his radicalism concerning the pillars of liberalism, which can be identified as “liberté, egalité et fraternité”. He works in the first two concept, especially equality, and he gives it a twist that makes shake liberalism itself.

As I mentioned before, I do not want to get lost in philosophical arguments that at some point loose the connection with the real world. In this times where there is so much in debate in the political area and with the revolutionary (or resistance) movements around the world, I see necessary to bring philosophy back to the discussion about facts and events and to stand in a position to defend (or criticise) them. And that will be my contribution: to bring back Rancière’s equality and the way he understands politics in order to defend a worldwide movement that the authorities, the police (in Rancière’s terms), criminalise and call them terrorist.

2. Methodological issues: the philosophical approach of the work

My method will be to read Rancière’s main works and some secondary sources, especially regarding the debate whether he is anarchist or not. I am planning to explain with my own words as much as possible but it will be necessary to quote some of the passages where Rancière puts his ideas in an unsurpassable way. I will attempt to reduce the quotations of the secondary sources and explain them in my own way instead of that.

Since Rancière’s style can be interpreted as circular, I am aware of the necessity of repeating the same ideas time and again with different words. He’s thought is not linear in the sense of having some axioms and reaching a conclusion out of them, but on the contrary, everything is linked with everything (as a systemic thought) and in the beginning it is hard to grasp the meaning. However, the more we understand the concepts, the easier becomes to understand the relationship between them and vice-versa.

Concerning anarchism, I will read secondary sources and try to grasp the essence of the anarchist thoughts. Then, I will compare the two thinkings and see how much Rancière fits in anarchism and in which way.

In my last chapter I will first give arguments proving that Anonymous is anarchist and then I will use Rancière’s concept to understand and defend their cause.

  3. The central goals of the work

My central goal is to do “politics” in both senses of the term: in the normal one and Rancière’s way.

 According to the French author politics is the interruption of the given order, in the sense of the division of the perceptible: what we see, say and think. So, a political act is what changes our perception, what breaks it and brings the invisible to the sphere of visibility, what was noise to a speech with a meaning regarding justice and what was not unthinkable to the area of plausible. In this sense, I want to alter the partition of the sensible of the reader, not only with theoretical arguments, but also with practical examples.

In doing this, I will also attempt to politics in the normal sense. By identifying Anonymous as an anarchist group who acts as political subject, demos, I am defending them from institutional attack that try to criminalise them. In short, Rancière’s thinking tries to give a way out to any close system by means of the breaking it through political actions. That is, in my opinion, what the group Anonymous is doing and that is why they are so important.

Going back to one of the first questions of my paper, concerning Rancière’s anarchism, the conclusion I am expecting is that he is anarchist stricto sensu as himself puts it (Bowman and Stamp, p.238). What makes him anarchist is the denial of any arkhè as a foundation of the social. As consequence, there is no principle for the ruler to exercise the power, there is no legitimation to command over others.

However, the way to understand the relationship between equality and liberty will differ, since for Rancière first comes equality and hence liberty, but for the anarchists is the other way around.

Since it is hermeneutics, the conclusion will be open to debate, according to other author’s understanding.

 4. Contents of the work

Introduction: (5 pages)

-Why Rancière.

-The importance of his political thoughts.

-Characteristics of his writing: circular and everything is related to everything.


-1st Chapter: Rancière and Equality

-1.1. Rancière’s political thoughts: an overview. (12 pages)

-1.2. Equality is prior to Liberty (8 pages)

-2nd Chapter: Anarchism and Equality

-2.1. Anarchism: the most important characteristics. (12 pages)

-2.2. Liberty is prior to Equality (8 pages)

-3rd Chapter: Is Rancière anarchist? How much or in which sense? (10 pages)

-4th Chapter: Instrumentalizing Rancière’s concepts: can we use them to perceive/explain real events in another way?

4.1. A practical case (5 pages)

Conclusions (5 pages)


5. Listing the central sources of the work and validating their choice 

Rancière’s works: 

Disagreement (1994)

Dissensus (2010)

Hatred of Democracy (2007)

On the shores of Politics (1995)

The Emancipated Spectator (2009)

The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1991)

About Rancière: 

Reading Rancière (2011)

Jacques Rancière. History, Politics, Aesthetics. (2011)

The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière (2008).


Anarchism and Moral Philosophy (2010)

Introduction to Anarchism (2007)

Nomos and Narrative (1983)

About Anonymous: internet sources


The plan of Gunnar Júlíus Guðmundsson

Gunnar Julius Guðmundsson – Thesis plan

In my thesis I am looking into if expressivism can accommodate compositional semantics.  I do this with the hope of fixing issues with the expressive meaning of complex sentences known as the Frege-Geach problem.

Expressivism in ethics is the commitment to the following two claims. 1. The meaning of normative language is of different type than the meaning of non-normative language 2. The meaning of normative language is to be explained by what mental states the speaker is expressing when using normative language.

Expressivism falls under the family of non-descriptivism which is the more general theory that the meaning of normative sentence is not to be explained with what the sentence is about, but rather by what the speaker is doing when using it. The whole family of non-descriptivism is besieged by a problem known as the Frege-Geach problem. The Frege-Geach problem reveals how non-descriptivist’s treatment of meaning runs into problem with explaining meaning of sentences where normativity appears in complex contexts.

In (an over simplistic) but instructive way the problem (for expressivism) may be formulated thus

It is easy to assign a mental state to simple normative sentences as:

E1 It is wrong to torture cats

E2 it is wrong to torture this cat

A simplistic expressivist account might be that the speaker is expressing g a state of mind of disapproval of cat torturing in E1 and E2. But what about in the following complex sentence?

C1 Ii „it is wrong to torture cats“then „it is wrong to torture this cat“

Whatever mental state the speaker has in mind when he utters C1 it is not simply a „disapproval of cat torturing, “note that the expressivist cannot assign a completely new mental state to C1 that is not a composite of E1 and E2 in light of the granted validity of modus ponens (E1, if E1 then E2, ergo E2). If the original meaning given to E1 or E2 is changed too much in C1 then the argument becomes invalid (the fallacy of equation).

In my paper I will attempt to solve the Frege-Geach problem by exploring ways for how expressivism can meet what is called the compositional restraint on meaning. The compositional restraint states that any successful semantic theory must explain how the parts of a sentence contribute to its overall meaning. This constraint holds because we can, with finite words, create almost infinity of immediately understandable sentences and in the same way understand sentences we have never seen before.

Geach’s  original formulation of the problem and Schroeder´s instructive commentary:

Geach, Peter (1958) ´´Imperative and Deontic logic´ Analysis 13:49-56

–        (1960) ´Ascirptivism´ Philosophical review 09:22-225

–        (1965) ´´Assertions´ philosophical review 74:449-65

Schroeder, Mark (2010) Noncognitivism in Ethics NY: Routeledge, chapters 3, 6, 7

–        (2008) ´What is the Frege-Geach problem´ philosophy compass  3:703-720


Thesis Outline


1 Introduction

2 Methodological Framework

2.1 A formulation of the required components for the development and justification of a social theory:  social theory – psychology – ontology.

These three areas of explanation are understood as being necessarily theoretically linked. That is, a given social theory has to rely on a psychological portrait of individuals if it is to be seen as being credible in its prescriptions. Any social theory has to address normative concerns and to do so without a psychological portrait is to fail to both explain and understand ones own subject matter. A social theory cannot be advanced in abstraction from those to whom it would apply, it must be credible in its prescriptions where credible is understood to mean able to justify its particular representation of individuals.

Next, a psychological portrait cannot be advanced without giving further justification in relation to the framework out of which it operates, namely, the ontological dimension of personhood. This is merely to ask the question why does a particular psychology obtain at all, and is generally answered (by those theorists we will be studying) through descriptions of human nature, or, of a particular formulation of subjectivity or selfhood. 

This tri-part formulation is of course not meant to be an exhaustive categorisation of what constitutes a social theory. The judiciary, education, economics and so forth would be examples of how we might want to address the question of building such a theory, rather, the point being made here is that all of the above would also need to be theoretically justified according to the formulation outlined in this section. That is, any theory of economics, education or the judiciary would still have to fulfil the criteria I have proposed because to not do so leads to an explanatory failure which undermines the theoretical credibility of any prescriptive or normative claim.

The three philosophers we will be investigating, then, need to demonstrate two forms of argumentation. The first is to satisfy logical demands when arguing for a social theory from a conception of human nature, i.e. does the argument follow through from point a to point b. Secondly, is their conception of human nature credible and sufficiently explicated. 

2.2 The methodological criteria for assessing and categorising claims about human nature and/or the self.

Having advanced the idea that the psychological and ontological dimensions of human existence need to be included within any given social theory this project turns to the manner in which such questions have been pursued in the theories of Rousseau, Hobbes and Marx. The methodological framework that will be utilised to categorise and assess these claims is one which situates the various components of human nature and/or the self as being either necessary or contingent.

The reason for this methodological categorisation is that human psychology is usually understood as arising out of a particular set of conditions, we normally label these conditions the self or human nature, and the various theoretical descriptions of these conditions advanced by Rousseau, Hobbes and Marx are understood by them as existing either as fixed, malleable, somewhere in between or as a mix of the two. Unsurprisingly, very different social theories arise according to where different components fall on this spectrum and therefore this method both clarifies a complex set of theoretical positions and provides an informative bridge which allows us to understand how their respective social theories are justified by specific ideas about human nature.

3 Hobbes

3.1 Overview of Hobbes’s theory of human nature.

Hobbes was a materialist and a psychological determinist. He was also a naturalist arguing that everything could be understood as ‘matter in motion’, accordingly he denied the existence of an immaterial soul. Interestingly he argued for a number of parallels between animals and humans, and his theory of behaviour was one of them. Hobbes took the motivation of self-preservation as underlying all human action and ultimately his theory of human nature is a product of this key point.  

3.2 Self-preservation and the state of nature.

Hobbes argued that humans are ultimately subject to a psychological compulsion towards self-preservation culminating in a logic of pre-emptive violence against others when in a social arena of lawlessness and competition for goods, this he called the ‘state of nature’. 

3.3 Hobbes’s determinism, the role of education, and social change.

This section seeks to examine and explicate the element of plasticity that Hobbes allows for in relation to development and human nature.

3.4 Concluding analysis of the links between Hobbes’s conception of human nature and his social theory.

Taking the position that Hobbes’s proposal of the state of nature is not a historical narrative but rather a cautionary tale justifying the imposition of state authority, we find that, in turn, the credibility of the state of nature rests upon a particular theory of human nature. The psychological determinism that Hobbes argues for gives rise to the logic of the pre-emptive attack which in turn gives rise to the necessity for a sovereign power functioning as a universal deterrent against violence and lawlessness. A clear line can be demonstrated from the social theory to a particular psychological portrait which in turn arises out of a description of the overall condition of individuals.

4 Rousseau

4.1 Overview of Rousseau’s theory of human nature.

Developmental, with change driven through changing social circumstances; amour de soi and amour propre; social identity and the self.

4.2 Subjectivity in the state of nature.

Humans’ psychological and epistemological faculties and tendencies are shaped by the situations surrounding them. For Rousseau, individuals in the state of nature were proto-humans lacking some of the chief characteristics which we would associate with being human. For example he argues that they have no capacity for forward planning, implying the absence of the sort of temporal sophistication that we take for granted in ourselves. A key claim by Rousseau is that individuals are herein characterised by amour de soi, a desire for self-preservation which, however, does not exclude a basic sense of pity in regards to the suffering of others. 

4.3 Subjectivity in the nascent society and the rise of amour propre.

When capacities such as foresight emerge the basis for society emerges alongside them because of the impulse to live in fixed dwellings. Rousseau, like Locke before him, argued that property was the basis for society. With the rise of society comes the transformation of amour de soi into amour propre, and introduces the role of the social identity in Rousseau’s conception of human nature and human behaviour. The only way, Rousseau argues, to substantiate a social role and its concomitant identity is through the eyes of those individuals within that society. Accordingly, individuals were now tied to one another on the basis that the craving for the approbation of one’s social group was a necessary component for the maintenance of one’s identity. In this way, then, a new form of subjectivity is born, composed of a social identity and new psychological drives and needs. Thus, a fundamental lack of secure psychological territory is posited by Rousseau as the very basis for social identity.

4.4 Subjectivity in civil society and in ‘society as it is’.

We now see Rousseau asserting the role of amour propre in the ordering of a newly bourgeoning civil society founded upon a social contract. In this case, however, the social contract – as a manifestation of amour propre – is tailored to favour the rich in order that they can maintain their status and thus secure the psychological need for the esteem of those around them. In this phase we see the role of unchecked amour propre coming to the full, dominating individuals and propelling the status quo in relation to social mores, institutionalised inequality and political failure. 

4.6 Society as it should be – the social theory.

To avoid political failure, an illegitimate social contract, and the ongoing detraction that is amour propre, Rousseau in his prescriptive social theory argues for a series of positions all aimed at mitigating and channelling the otherwise unavoidable psychological conditioning and impulse of amour propre. For Rousseau amour propre is the ultimate detraction from the possibility of political success as such he is in need of a solution to this critical problem. His answer is to take the need for esteem that the individual demonstrates and marry it to the self-image of the country or state as a whole, thus, patriotism transforms amour propre in a social glue because individuals live their lives for the good of their country and so satisfy their need for approbation and at the same time cooperate with their fellow citizens.  

4.7 Concluding analysis of the central points regarding the use of human nature as a justification for the social theory.

Rousseau explicitly frames his social theory as an answer to a particular problem of human nature – amour propre. Amour propre, however, is the desire for the preservation of the social identity, unlike in Hobbes where the preservation of the individual qua being is the dominant motivating factor. According to our criteria of successful argumentation Rousseau must justify his reliance on the role of amour propre if his social theory is to be logically consistent, and, he must demonstrate the credibility of his account. For example, how thoroughly does he characterise the link between amour propre and the social identity? Positing a fundamental insecurity at the very basis for identity results in a set of very specific set of psychological conditions, does Rousseau follow through on his ontology of the self and provide a convincing depiction of these implications?

5 Marx

5.1 Overview of Marx’s conception of human nature.

An analysis of the extent to which Marx’s conception of human nature consisted in historically determined social identities and their concomitant behaviours, and, that of a biologically determined and thus fixed set of motivating conditions. Alienation and the promise of reconciliation in the Communist state; their relationship to a concept of human nature.

5.2 An analysis of plasticity as the precondition for the obtaining of a historically contingent self.

Given Marx’s reliance on the historical nature of the self and behaviour it has been claimed that it follows that in distinction to many ‘classical’ philosophers Marx rejected any form of universalist or essentialist thinking when it came to human nature. In so doing he described individuals as social beings whose natures contingently develop over time according to social circumstance. The question that looms here is to what extent can the conditions for such plasticity themselves be understood as constituting a human nature? Does it make sense to talk about an absence of a human nature at all? If, for example, plasticity is a necessary condition for a historically conditioned self, is it right to understand such plasticity in negative terms as a lack, or rather, would such plasticity also necessarily provide its own determining characteristics?

5.3 Concluding analysis of Marx’s theory of human nature.

Is Marx’s theory of human nature robust, i.e. is it answering the questions it throws up? Is the theory internally, logically, coherent, i.e. does its conclusion follow from its premises, especially in relation to the justifications deployed for the social theory? In regards to 2.2 where does this theory fall?

6 Human Nature and Social Theories

6.1 Describing the shared characteristics of human nature as construed by Hobbes, Rousseau and Marx; the components usually considered the most salient when discussing human nature.

Free will; the self; self-interest; emotions, impulses; animal nature; sociability; rationality; developmental; fixed; teleological; unified; compartmentalised; essentialist; non-essentialist.

6.2 What isn’t human nature. A discussion of which aspects of human beings constitutes their ‘natures’ and that which doesn’t.

What it is that is meant by the term human nature when it is deployed by Hobbes, Rousseau and Marx? The purpose of this is to ascertain whether the term itself is used consistently, in reference to two points. The first is simply a philosophical analysis of consistency in relation to the manner in which a term such as ‘human nature’ is used and misused theoretically. Examples of misuse are when it is deployed to contradictory ends without justifying such contradiction, and, when it is conflated with other aspects of human existence such as those which are in fact outside of the scope of what can be considered human nature. Secondly, an argument will be put forth that because of the social impact occurring as a result of theories of human nature, the manner in which such a term is utilised is in fact a politically meaningful one. This second point is argued in relation to the overall point of the thesis, namely, that theories of human nature have and continue to have political relevance and currency.

7 The real world impact of the theoretical

7.1 Rousseau, Hobbes and Marx: social policies and human nature.

This section seeks to highlight the exact manner in which elements of a theoretically advanced human nature are utilised to advance specific social policies, beginning with a look at Hobbes, Rousseau and Marx. For example, Hobbes’ use of the Sovereign as a protection against the war of all against all and as a justification for the political power of the state; Rousseau’s arguments for the distribution of wealth, patriotism, and education as an answer to amour propre; Marx and the implications of a need within the individual for a relationship to the product of their labour and an envisioned Communist society.

7.2 Modern examples of social theories and human nature.

Game theory; rational choice theory; Friedman, Keynes, and the political landscape they influenced.

7.3 An argument for the necessary link between social theories and conceptions of human nature.

8 Conclusion.  

Passage to biopolitical governance


There are certain theoretical difficulties with trying to form a theory of biopower or biopolitics according to Foucault’s work. This is first due to his continuous claims of not working with any overall theory of power, and second, due to his studies during the seventies which may be roughly divided into two sections: the analysis of disciplinary power would then occupy the first half of the decade until the lectures Society Must Be Defended held in 1976 and the publication of History of Sexuality vol. 1 later in that same year in which Foucault moves towards an analysis of power that has the living multitude or population as its target i.e. biopolitics. When analysing biopolitics Foucault does not utilize words biopower or biopolitics very often but refers instead to e.g. governmentality, techniques of power or disciplinary practices. In spite of this one is able to define the field or phenomena of biopolitics but it needs rigorous work in putting pieces together from the fragments that cross from history to present, from liberalism to totalitarianism. At this point of my thesis this is my aim: to be honest with Foucault’s ideas and to give a coherent analysis of his views on biopolitics. As Fontana and Bertani point out in their commentary on Society Must Be Defended -lectures the disciplinary power targeted on modifying individuals and biopower aimed at population are sometimes seen as different theories of power in Foucault’s thought (2003, 279). They do not agree with this nor do I. Thus I will be arguing exactly the opposite: that these two form different poles of the same power/knowledge apparatus that is at work in modern capitalist societies. Here I will begin with an analysis of Foucault’s genealogical work of those shifts in history that pave the way towards biopolitical forms of power.

In his Collegé de France lecture series Security, Territory, Population held in 1978 Foucault tries to give a rough account of those developments in ideas as well as in practices that led towards a specific type of governance that he labelled as biopolitical. I will first briefly summarize Foucault’s view on the historical changes that took place roughly from the 16th century to the late 18th century. His argument can be divided into three distinctive sections located in particular historical situations     with their own peculiar thought: the Middle Ages, approximately seventeenth century and, lastly, eighteenth century. Ideas crucial in this genealogy of the modern state or governance are, above all, those of the sovereign,the state and the art of governing and how these are to be managed in order to create a functional whole from the people, natural resources and the circulation of things and goods within the territory that is governed.


Let us begin with a definition of what Foucault means with the word “governmentality”: first, it is “the ensemble formed by institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections, calculations, and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific, albeit very complex, power that has the population as its target, political economy as its major form of knowledge, an apparatuses of security as its essential technical instrument.” (ibid., 108), second, it is the tendency in the West to constitute a type of power that is called “ the government” above all other kinds of powers and which has led to the development of governmental apparatuses and knowledges linked to them, and finally, governmentality is the result of the process during which the state of Middle Ages that was characterized in terms of justice became “the administrative state in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and was gradually ‘governmentalized’” (ibid.). This governmentality is occupied with constructing an art of government which in different conditions takes different forms. I shall proceed with explicating the shift from medieval ideas of power towards the state oriented thinking of raison d’État.

What is remarkable according to Foucault (ibid., 234-237) is that during the 16th century there is a identifiable break between the medieval characterization of sovereignty or king and a new emerging political order. Where the good governance of the former was characterized by its resemblance with God and nature, supporting vitalism of the societal organism and Christian pastorality i.e. guidance towards the eternal bliss, the latter was occupied with the new problematization of “res publica, the public domain or state (la chose publique).” (ibid., 236), that is, the sovereign is expected to do more than just exercise his sovereignty but this type of governance is no more reducible to analogies such as God or a shepherd. Hence, what was lacked was a definition of the art of government. In the middle of this political debate is of course Machiavelli and his Prince, although, according to Foucault, what he precisely lacks is any reference to art of government – his problem was simply how the prince could preserve his principality over what he was governing, territory or people, not that of preserving the state itself which is the raison d’être of raison d’État (ibid., 243).

Foucault dates the crucial discussions relating to raison d’État emerging between years 1580-1660 (ibid., 236) and names these revolutionaries theorizing against the old system and for the new raison d’État  politiques (ibid., 242). What the politiques stand for is the state and the state only; they try to construct a state rationality that does not refer to anything outside itself, not God nor nature, it is rationality for itself. In what this raison d’État consists then? First of all, it is the essence of the state, it is the knowledge of the state and knowledge in order to preserve it. In this sense it is extremely conservative: once the state has been established that will be the status quo that raison d’État fights for. On the other hand, raison d’État does not pose questions of origin and legitimacy, it operates only in the world of government and the state that it present as given. Usually it functions within general laws but when necessary it will abandon them for sake of the state i.e. anything that is needed in order to preserve the state will be done (ibid., 255-260).This is due to the notion of necessity: whereas the old  government was concerned with laws raison d’État only uses them as instruments for the sake of the state and thus, the necessity of preserving state goes beyond any positive law (ibid., 262-263).

Foucault then goes on arguing that one of the new aspects within theorizing about this type of governmentality named raison d’État was the question of population and the new problematic relating to it (ibid., 267). An example of this can be seen through a comparison of Machiavelli and Francis Bacon: the former is only concerned of the rivals of the prince, that is, the other nobles, but for the latter it is the common people who form the great danger for those in power. Foucault claims that for Bacon the nobles can be either bought or executed but the real threat is poverty and discontent of the people which may lead to sedition. This problematic of the common people is linked to wider change in thought, namely, to the rise of mercantilism. In order to preserve and build a strong state one must govern people, first, according to the production and circulation of goods and things, in other words, according to economic calculations and, second, one must take the opinion of those who are governed into account. Thus, “the two major elements of reality that government will have to handle are economy and opinion.” (ibid., 272).

According to Foucault the mercantilist way of thinking from which raison d’État also sprang is crucial vis-à-vis biopolitics since there was founded, at least implicitly, the problematic of population and those apparatuses through which population became to be governed as a living mass that is capable of producing whatever is needed within a framework that utilizes state the most. This implies that it is from the population one may draw manpower for agriculture and manufactures, become independent from imports and thus invest on gold and silver. On the other hand, growing population will also guarantee the economic competition within the state and, consequently, contribute to low wages and prices. But this system needs to be managed through political procedures, such as regulations, laws and disciplinary mechanisms. Above all, idleness, vagrancy and emigration must be prevented and goods for exports must be produced. Finally, birth rate must be promoted with creation of favourable conditions for reproduction through different manipulation of prices, taxes, nutrition etc..

What now becomes the most essential knowledge for the sovereign is no more expressible through terms of jurisprudence and law, but instead in terms of statistics – which is etymologically, according to Foucault, “knowledge of the state, of the forces and resources that characterize a state at a given moment.” (ibid., 274). This technical knowledge includes all the possible data of the resources in the state, as well natural as human, and the crucial question is of course how to put these two into work in the most profitable way. In this process raison d’État must act on people’s consciousness due to being able to affect on their way of acting, that is, constituting people as certain kind of political and economical subjects. According to Foucault what was needed then, in order to put population to work within the framework of raison d’État, was the constitution of the apparatus of police – and it must be emphasized that his argument is precisely that it was whereby the institution of  police that population became that reflexive prism which, through several changes from the 17th century to the middle of 18th century, was constituted as the centre of political and scientific knowledge (ibid., 274-278).

What is characteristicly modern in this new way of constructing the art of government is that it does not rely on any essential idea of good government which would guide the ways in which society must be constructed. Instead, what is now at stake is the management of forces of production and circulation that manifest in the competition between the states. Foucault claims that during the sixteenth century police is understood as a set of actions that are directed towards communities under public authority and on the other hand police also signifies the results of good government. This changes in the seventeenth century when police becomes a technical instrument for securing the management of forces in such a manner that the best possible growth is gained at the same time as the inner coherence and security within the state is maintained. Furthermore, police is a tool with which the balance of the growth and power of different states is secured. This type of art of government that manifests in administrative institutions, such as police as the most important, and bases its international relations upon a competition of the states is established with the Peace of Westphalia 1648 and is still visible in the Vienna treaty 1815. Thus, police has a double role in securing the best possible development of the state but also securing the international order. (Ibid., 311-315.)

Although, as I will explain in detail below, Foucault explicitly defines this police of seventeenth century as mercantilist and ideologically still operating within the framework of raison d’État and therefore not yet operating in the field of biopolitics and population in its totality (ibid., 315-317), he still claims in his History of Sexuality vol. 1 that “This bio-power was without question an indispensable element in the development of capitalism; the latter would not have been possible without the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and the adjustment of the phenomena of the population to economic processes. “ (1978, 140-141). Now, it seems to me that the police as it appears in the seventeenth century lays down the foundations for biopolitical procedures that will emerge during the next century.

The police will of course develop in different terms in different countries. Nevertheless, what police seem to share in Western-Europe at the time is its preoccupation with the occupation of people: when the old pre-modern regime of power was more concerned of the status, wealth, loyalty and virtue of the people this modern administrative power directs its gaze on the concrete doings of people. At first this police is above all an urban institution which utilizes statistics in order to constitute cities as effective and secure centres for commerce. This is done through five essential objects of concern: first, police must reflect the number of citizens vis-à-vis the resources and territory and the possibilities springing from this relation, second, people must be able to feed themselves so one need to think of agricultural policy, third, after the simple feeding comes the issues of health: police must ensure that the risk of contamination and disease is reduced to minimum and thus plan everything from butcheries and cemeteries to cases of epidemics of plague and smallpox for instance. Then fourth, after managing to secure a healthy mass of people police need to ensure that every able-bodied citizen works – and more precisely, that every profession that is needed by the state will be occupied. This is to be done through preventing idleness and regulating professions. Lastly, police must take care of circulation in the large sense: it must ensure that the infrastructure allows men and goods to flow, it must structure the regulations and laws which allow products to move but prevent skilled labour force of emigrating and suppress vagrancy. To summarize then, police governs flows of men and circulation of products and the universe relating to it, so simply society. (Foucault 2007, 323-327.)

Further in this thesis I will make a distinction between biopower and biopolitics and due to this I need to make a difference between the micro level of power which Foucault analyses in his book Discipline and Punish and the macro level power which is targeted on populations and which comes visible in governmentality. Here it suffice to say that I will argue that those procedures described in the paragraph above fall into the definition of biopower even in the Foucaultian sense – but only when identified within the framework of disciplinary techniques targeted to manipulate human life. Foucault does not call them biopolitical procedures in his lecture since (this is my interpretation) in his view one crucial aspect is missing, that is, reflective manipulation of human life that becomes possible only with the rise of human and natural sciences during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries..

When police was constituted in the seventeenth century as an administrative tool for the king or the sovereign it was “the direct governmentality of the sovereign qua sovereign.” (ibid., 339), a pure expression of raison d’État within a mercantilist thought, and due to this it appeared as “an institution of the market” (ibid., 335) and essentially urban. Nevertheless, these ideas linked to police changed drastically during the eighteenth century with the new ideas of the physiocrats and the économistes. This change is essentially linked with the rise of capitalism and growth of scientific technology. Anyway, the physiocrats and the économistes emphasized agriculture and rural areas in lieu of the city and production in stead of circulation. Further, old police regulation was seen useless since it was due to the natural laws of the market that would fix right prices for each product. What comes to population the ideology is no more to maximize it but to adjust it to fit into conditions at hand so that the demand and supply of labour force and thus salaries will have a balance. Lastly, free trade between the states was to be allowed and the individuals were to be allowed to compete with themselves in order to guarantee the best possible profit for every one – including the state. (Ibid., 342-348.)

In brief, during the eighteenth century along with the économistes there was first a new problematization of the relation of raison d’État and knowledge: a new scientific knowledge of society was needed in order to govern well but this knowledge was essentially external to raison d’État i.e. not knowledge of the government itself but, for example, calculations of relations between population and wealth on three axis, namely consumption, production and circulation, that  is, in other words, birth of political economy (ibid., 350-351). From the point of view of biopolitics, something of huge importance happens here: population becomes seen and studied in its naturalness. In other words, population is something that includes natural constants that can be known through scientific methods – and when known they are possible targets for manipulation. What this mean for governmentality is that it must deal or even work with the naturalness of population and it is precisely during this era that the police as described above breaks down: the positive creative-regulative role of police will be spread to different institutions and police will gain its negative present day meaning as an apparatus preventing and fighting against certain disorders.

According to Foucault “from the eighteenth century, these three movements –government, population, political economy–form a solid series that has certainly not been dismantled even today” (ibid., 108), and it is in Discipline and Punish and History of Sexuality vol. 1 that this problematic becomes clearly visible. Thus, I will next turn to actual analysis of biopower and biopolitics in these works.


Fontana, Alessandro and Bertani, Mauro (2003): “Situating the Lectures” in Society Must Be Defended. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-76. Trans. David Macey. Ed. Arnold I. Davidson. Picador, New York.

Foucault, Michel (1978): History of Sexuality vol.1. An Introduction. Trans. Hurley, Robert.Pantheon books, New York. (Originally published as La volonté de Savoir in 1976.)

–– (2007) Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978. Trans. Burchell, Graham. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.


A Protest on Alasdair MacIntyre’s Ethics

1. The topic and question settings of my thesis

In After Virtue MacIntyre talks about the original meaning of the concept “protest” i.e. testing and criticizing something with a positive view of the matter (protesting on). Nowadays protesting means pretty much only complaining and objecting something (protesting against). This said, I agree for the most parts with MacIntyre’s criticism of the Enlightenment moral project: a series of futile attempts to find moral rules rational enough to govern social life. Unfortunately, this kind of abstract rationality is the only thing acceptable for the freedom worshipping emotivistic self without any kind of core whatsoever. I think this is because it leaves people room to be whatever they desire on a situation to situation basis and resume rationality when rationalizing is needed (I think Plato described this “democratic man” in The Republic). MacIntyre calls this emotivistic individualism.

The result of emotivism according to MacIntyre is individuality where the free and arbitrary choices of individuals are sovereign (with corresponding endless debates), collectivism where bureaucracy is sovereign and state as a collectivist control designed only to limit the anarchy of self-interest. The modern capitalistic market economy is a Weberian bureaucracy, instrumental rationality based on the appeal to its own effectiveness. Still, when MacIntyre calls it also Nietzschean, our disagreement begins. Especially, when he presents the question about solution in the form: “Nietzsche or Aristotle?” (I think those two philosophers complement each other.) Finally, MacIntyre makes his most fatal mistake when falling into rational/irrational dualism (good/bad!?).

The emotivist self has no core (building one’s house on the sand) and the ethical one fails to create one without guarantees (building one’s house on the ideological rock – whether it is rationality, tradition, God etc.). A good human life is pulling up the anchor and heading to high seas (to lend a Nietzschean metaphor). And even if it might be possible, the goal or the whole should be neither a solo voyage nor a cruise (i.e. emotivists packing as much luxury and MacIntyre as much “souls” as possible). This is basically my BA-paper: protesting the link MacIntyre makes between Nietzsche and emotivism (arguing the difference to both emotivists self “escaping” the loss by not building anything and ideological attempts to furnish an ephemeral being with an indestructible core).

My Master’s thesis is protesting on MacIntyre’s virtue ethics. Basically, I’m asking to what extent MacIntyre’s own ethics and especially its “thickness” is a dualistic backlash to modern liberalism. He is trying to ground rationality with tradition and narrative unity of human life. The latter idea is very interesting and worth exploring as a source of motivation behind virtue (and one of the supplements to Aristotelian ethics). Still, the accountability MacIntyre attaches to our storytelling is too wide and comprehensive. At least it lets in vulgarity and the second individual stories ought to be told under the rationality of Thomistic tradition, we are heading under not after virtue. In my opinion, MacIntyre is trying to revive the same old sun lit by Plato – naturally in its Christian form (a new form of Aristotelianism for the masses this time!?) This is where the individual motivation becomes dependent on faith and never reaches critical mass in real and imperfect world; in particular reality rational doubt always trumps rational faith. I want to study morality starting from individuals – neither making the general primary nor neglecting our shared material foundation the way Nietzsche did (In a sense I’m protesting also Nietzsche – like he would have hoped for).

This should be plenty for a Master’s thesis (and then some). Still, one more aspect interests me and this is MacIntyre’s Marxism (even if my thesis is mainly about the individual motivation). We all are dependent on material resources: first to survive and then to develop ourselves as individuals. In fact, this is the evil genius behind liberalism – the growing freedom to exploit scarce resources as long as one is able to accumulate enough capital. The key word being scarce, our animal needs tie everyone into this zero-sum game. So, this side should be regulated and regulated with international law/community. All in all, this system and how it should be regulated is the essence of my interest in postgraduate studies, but I want to see if MacIntyre’s Marxism includes some positive ideas and not just criticism of capitalism i.e. if he protests against capitalism in the old or new meaning of the word. Furthermore, my own view is that within our material needs it is possible to build values on facts i.e. make value statements that cannot be consistently disputed. Developing oneself becomes more difficult and in time impossible if others hog the ground from under your feet.

This side in my Master’s thesis is mostly keeping it open for further development (preparing handles for the future reference). Since the system I prefer is not egalitarian, it requires some shared concept of merit/desert, which is something MacIntyre looks for in After Virtue. Then again, I agree with MacIntyre that competitiveness is the dominant and even exclusive feature in any society which recognizes only external goods (which is my limit in pluralism). Still, what if besides our animal needs the support to individual perfectibility by competing/challenging each other is the only things really uniting people? What if intrinsic value is something primarily valuable to individual himself and then only to those who really know him (Aristotelian friends!?). MacIntyre wants to limit competing into practices and intrinsic value under their norms and standards of excellence. This kind of ideas on virtue do not have strong enough effect in real world without referees and widely accepted moral rule books (of tradition/metaphysical biology). This is why his practices are unable to fight the corruptive influence of the institutions which they need to survive.

In a sense, I would like to turn John Rawls to his feet – form a society where everyone has a change to earn something over mere subsistence and those willing, able, hardworking and industrious a change to free themselves from subsistence work altogether (naturally, the latter requires a type of person with needs and creativity growing hand in hand). This said my thesis work is sketching an agent after the virtue of individuality against MacIntyre’s view which I feel is heading under…


2. Methodological issues: the philosophical approach of my work

I don’t want to dismiss rationality altogether. Rational virtues like coherence and consistence are essential to my view. The former tells about the order of one’s worldview i.e. the cracks from where undeserved pleasures are snack in. The vice in latter is taking advantages/avoiding disadvantages in a way found unacceptable from others. Still, the kind of bedrock MacIntyre tries to make out of rationality is unfounded and futile. Of course he tries to complement it – first with tradition and then with metaphysical biology. This is trying to circumvent the Nietzschean idea that appeals to objectivity are mere expressions of subjective wills (which MacIntyre explicitly affirms in After Virtue). Furthermore, while pointing out fatal Nietzschean objections to the Enlightenment moral project, MacIntyre refers to chapters with equally destructive ideas against his own view. One side of my methodology is existential critique i.e. pointing out unfounded, possibly harmful and unnecessary conclusions which trade life and joy to security. This brings me to my other method – philosophical anthropology.

It is amazing how Jean-Jacques Rousseau builds his story from scratch in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality – how few assumptions Rousseau needs for his extensive sketch. Of course some assumptions are always necessary, but this kind of approach invites those disagreeing to present something better (both in social and individual life). Naturally, presenting a disagreeing assumption is not enough, but it needs to be fitted into the narrative called history and observations we make from our current society, people in it and ourselves. Like MacIntyre says: ethical theory without some kind of sociology is bound to fail. Of course one can also question the conclusions from certain assumptions which is what I plan to do. Rousseau clearly states how perfectibility is a quality both in human as a species and as individuals. The latter is forgotten when passing Rousseau’s ideal state of affairs. Rousseau describes our ever-growing hunger which makes necessities out of commodities but never even tries to see the individual faculty of perfectibility as a solution. You can imagine my disappointment when he emphasizes reason in The Social Contract (anyway, this is something to look after my master’s thesis). This is also the pit to which Aristotle fell in the form of his metaphysical biology overemphasizing theoretical wisdom. Still, Aristotelian dialectics is the third and last method I’ll use (and in the end protest against).

There are quite many features in Aristotle’s ethics MacIntyre dismisses or neglects (even if he complements others with new approaches and interesting details). I myself have always found interesting how desire and reason are intertwined in Aristotle’s thinking. He is clearly saying how properly cultivated desires i.e. virtues of character are the foundation of good and flourishing human life. Only then can the faculty of practical reason exist and function. I’ll try to add some details to this and show how natural slavery is born (i.e. being enslaved by one’s own desires). A view in any detail on the individual growing up is missing from Aristotle and I think Rousseau’s Emile is tainted with reason (and way too thick for my purposes this at this time).

I want to describe autonomy where reason has a role but not a primary one (something to which Aristotle was heading before he lost his bearing). This time the individual must be able to perform and create meanings in the world of uncertainty. I think overemphasizing immediate pleasures is distracting oneself from insecurity; using ethical foundations like rationality, tradition, metaphysical biology are like God – attempts to get guarantees before choosing (i.e. eliminating choice from ethics like MacIntyre tries to do). Then again, there are certain facts which Nietzsche forgot in his absolute individualism. Aristotle is very aware of the fact that a good human life requires a society behind it. I’d say the Magnamicent aristocrat is quite close of being a social overman. Rousseau brought him from the bushes and Aristotle from infancy, but they both forgot the most essential feature of man because it cannot be secured.


3. The central goal of my work

Rousseau is showing a philosophical anthropology with so few assumptions that it is virtually impossible to dispute as a whole. Maybe this is why it is so very forgotten in every meaningful way. I hope to revive it with the individual side he neglected. Aristotle situates his ethics into particular human life. The beauty of his unmetaphysical thinking is not undermining rationality nor giving it too much weight. Still, what’s most appealing to me is the way Aristotle builds his ethics towards the value of friendship and the idea that one must first be friends with himself and only then with others. This individual side in Aristotle’s thinking accounts for the motivation behind virtuous individual life – one’s experience of himself without objective frame of reference. Here we come to Friedrich “the existence of the world is justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon” Nietzsche’s playground and there he and Aristotle can complement each other: Nietzsche’s individuality is quite detached from the social and Aristotle emphasizing social (and theoretical) to the extent of never fully reaching the individual. I think human being is a half-way house between individual and social – tilting to either side results in serious short-comings both in individuals and ethical theories.

Everyone has a philosophy but not everyone is a philosopher. Philosophy departments are filled with researchers of philosophers/philosophies but there are very few philosophers. My goal is to bring philosophy back into particular human life. In my Master’s thesis this is mostly recognizing ideologies and their remains, the gravestones of God to which we sneak in the darkest hours of the night, the demon’s who come to the loneliest of our lonelinesses (yes, it is his metaphors… again). And here I see Alasdair MacIntyre and his ideology the strongest, the one to protest on.

I’ll try to make as few assumptions as I can and invite both many and few to protest against them. Many are needed to agree on and further develop the concept of merit in regards to the scarce material resources (my PhD); only few can know me and protest against me in a depth that benefits me as an individual. The former agreement is the precondition for the latter which I call progressive individuality: living is learning – learning is living. It is interesting that Thomas Hobbes, who I see as one of the founding fathers of liberal market economy, said: “wisdom is acquired, not by reading of books, but of men.” The difference is in what we read: I want to teach people to read the strong and creative ones in order to become one:

To believe in your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men, – that is genius. Speak your latent conviction and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, – and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton, is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. (R.W. Emerson: Self-Reliance).

We should bear in mind that also our own works (of art) have no greater value than the one mentioned above i.e. inspiring others to challenge us again and again. Like Nietzsche said: “What else is love, but understanding and rejoicing in the fact that another person lives, acts and experiences otherwise than we do.” Everyone needs to secure material resources with the help of social agreement but never followers in any other sense. “The gleam which flashes across [one’s] mind from within” should only light one oar of the like-minded. Try to Imagine the following:

This should surely have to produce a happiness unknown to humanity so far: a divine happiness full of power and love, full of tears and laughter, a happiness which, like sun in the evening, continually draws on its inexhaustible riches, giving them away and pouring them into the sea, a happiness which like the evening sun, feels richest, when even the poorest fisherman is rowing with a golden oar! This divine feeling would then be called – humanity! (Gay Science §337).


4. The central sources and their validation

The main emphasis of my thesis work is on After Virtue since I feel MacIntyre’s greatest contribution to contemporary moral debate is found there – something which he signs with a new prologue to the 3rd edition 2007 (“After Virtue after a Quarter of a Century”). Furthermore, both Aristotle and Nietzsche have central role there which supports my critical reading. Nietzsche is even credited from diagnosing the problems of Enlightenment moral project, but his solution is dismissed as prophetic irrationalism. In my view this is where MacIntyre tilts into the side of social and ends up trying to prove the rationality of Thomistic paradigm all the way into eliminating choice from morality (Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay On Cartesian Freedom helps clarifying this). I’ll also take a look into Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, but my focus is on showing how the motivation behind virtue is lost in the way MacIntyre defines it; how his practices and intrinsic value do not reach and motivate individuals. I think the key is to make people look honestly into themselves and inspire them to start building and creating from there (instead of maintaining the illusion of innocence while indulging themselves and throwing rocks of doubt at others).

I think MacIntyre was somewhat aware of the problems in his virtue ethics and this is why he felt the need to support his stand with the metaphysical biology of Dependent Rational Animals. In my view this is another attempt to support the new-established faith. Still, it might be fruitful to read it in the light of After Virtue and especially under my new interpretation of MacIntyre’s virtue ethics. In the end, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry is probably more central to my thesis since it compares tradition and genealogy. This is because in After Virtue Nietzsche is present mainly to be dismissed as an emotivistic thinker (I think Nietzsche’s ideas where twisted to support emotivism, but this does not make him an emotivist no more than the infamous applications of overman makes him a Nazi). Also Aristotle’s thinking is stripped from its aristocratic features (with a result of calling Thomas Aquinas a better Aristotelian than Aristotle). This is why Nicomachean Ethics and Politics are central to my thesis. Rousseau’s Discourse was already validated. Finally, Nietzsche is too disruptive of a thinker to list any central sources from; he is, like MacIntyre says, a critic while we are looking for protesters (on something and not against).

The emphasis of my thesis is on primary sources – interacting with them. In my opinion, they are written in a way more or less understandable to… well, informed people with an intrinsic motivation for learning, ones wise enough to value wisdom ( i.e. understanding multiple perspectives without losing the capability to choose and act). Reference to secondary sources are mostly acknowledging inspiring ideas or critique found in them. Luckily, MacIntyre has done most of the leg work. Still, I must neither be lazy nor insecure enough to live without an ideology

Conceptions of Human Nature and their Role in Social Theory

My current thesis proposal is to examine the link between conceptions of human nature and social theories reliant upon them in order to demonstrate the on-going philosophical and social relevance of such questions. First, I will show that the linking of human nature and social theories has historical precedent, i.e. it is a philosophically relevant question; secondly, that there are perennial accounts of what might qualify as ‘human nature’; thirdly, show that social theories necessarily require anchoring in some conception of human nature, and fourthly, that the possibility of real world impact deriving from social theories requires that philosophical questions about human nature are indeed still relevant and important. 

Accordingly, the first section is an examination of the history of such links as they are found within the work of prominent political theorists such as Rousseau, Hobbes or Locke. This section will seek to demonstrate the extent to which particular conceptions of human nature have been deployed to justify specific political and social theories.

The second section will draw together the common elements that are included in the particular conceptions of human nature found with the above authors in order to help us build a picture of i) what considerations might inform our understanding of the whole question of human nature, and have in the past, informed the philosophical discourse of human nature, and ii) to provide the material for section three when it discusses the necessity of some form of conception of human nature.

Section three argues for a necessary role that a conception of human nature must play in the advancement of social theory, and, will go into details regarding how specific aspects of our conception of human nature – for example the question of self-interest – can evolve within the context of a social theory into specific policies within a political framework. 

Section four will examine some contemporary examples of philosophical conceptions of the self and human nature have been utilised to advance specific political programs. This will be carried out with aim of further substantiating the claim that such theoretical conceptions are of crucial significance to real world situations.

Rancière’s equality and anarchism

With my master’s thesis I want to understand the relationship between Rancière’s political ideas  and anarchism. To formulate it as a question: Is Rancière an anarchist? If so, regarding what or in which sense? For that purpose, I will analyze a concept that is one of the pillars of liberalism and central in Rancière’s theory and, which is egalité, and compare it to the main anarchist’s theorists’. I might even investigate the relationship between equality and liberty in both philosophies but I am not sure yet due to the fact that it might broaden the topic considerably.

My thesis will have three chapters:

  1. Rancière’s political thought and his perception about democracy. I will analyze not only his ideas but also his sources and clarify what he means by egalité (in oder to do that I may need to contrast it with liberté).
  2. The main anarchists (who theorized about it): Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta and Tucker.
  3. How much does Rancière fit in the tradition of anarchism? There is already a controversy in this point since Rancière himself sometimes admits and other times denies that his thought is anarchist.
I will use the above mentioned authors’ works as well as the recent works publishing about Rancière.