From Machenschaft to biopolitics: a genealogical critique of biopower

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This paper develops a genealogical critique of the concepts of biopower and biopolitics in the work of Foucault and Agamben. It shows how Heidegger's reflections on Machenschaft or machination prefigure the concepts of biopower and biopolitics. It develops a critique of Foucault's account of biopolitics as a system of managing the biological life of populations culminating in neo-liberalism, and a critique of Agamben's presentation of biopolitics as the metaphysical foundation of Western political rationality. Foucault's ethical turn within biopolitical governmentality, along with Agamben's messianic gesture towards a utopian community to come, are questioned as political responses to biopower regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-265
Number of pages27
JournalCritical Horizons
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


  • Agamben
  • Biopolitics
  • Biopower
  • Foucault
  • Heidegger
  • Modernity


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