Foucault's Affirmative Biopolitics : Cynic Parrhesia and the Biopower of the Powerless

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Prozorov , S 2017 , ' Foucault's Affirmative Biopolitics : Cynic Parrhesia and the Biopower of the Powerless ' , Political Theory , vol. 45 , no. 6 , pp. 801-823 . https://doi.org/10.1177/0090591715609963

Title: Foucault's Affirmative Biopolitics : Cynic Parrhesia and the Biopower of the Powerless
Author: Prozorov, Sergei
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Department of Political and Economic Studies (2010-2017)
Date: 2017
Language: eng
Number of pages: 23
Belongs to series: Political Theory
ISSN: 0090-5917
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/228732
Abstract: While Foucault’s work on biopolitics continues to inspire diverse studies in a variety of disciplines, it has largely been missing from the debates on the possibility of “affirmative biopolitics” which have been primarily influenced by the work of Agamben and Esposito. This article restores Foucault’s work to these debates, proposing that his final lecture course at the Collège de France in 1983–1984 developed a paradigm of affirmative biopolitics in the reading of the Cynic practice of truth-telling (parrhesia). The Cynic problematization of the relation between truth and life and their transvaluation of conventional truths by relocating them to the domain of bare life not only seeks to transform one’s life in accordance with the truth but also, through the confrontation with the existing conventions and norms, to transform the world as such. Cynic parrhesia is thus biopolitical, insofar as it reclaims the power of one’s life from the social order and its rationalities of government and applies it to oneself, investing one’s existence with truth. Since Foucault developed this reading of Cynicism in the context of his political engagement on behalf on East European dissidents, the article proceeds to analyse the resonances between parrhesia and Václav Havel’s idea of “living within the truth,” elaborating the biopolitical significance of both practices. We conclude by addressing the implications of our interpretation for Foucault scholarship and the wider debates on biopolitics.
Subject: 517 Political science
biopolitics, dissent, Michel Foucault, Cynicism, Vaclav Havel
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