Foucault and Soviet Biopolitics

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Prozorov , S 2014 , ' Foucault and Soviet Biopolitics ' , History of the Human Sciences , vol. 27 , no. 5 , pp. 6-25 .

Title: Foucault and Soviet Biopolitics
Author: Prozorov, Sergei
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Department of Political and Economic Studies (2010-2017)
Date: 2014-12-10
Language: eng
Belongs to series: History of the Human Sciences
ISSN: 0952-6951
Abstract: The article addresses the puzzling silence of the Foucaldian studies of biopolitics about Soviet socialism by revisiting Foucault’s own account of socialism in his 1970s work, particularly his 1975–6 course ‘Society Must Be Defended’. Foucault repeatedly denied the existence of an autonomous governmentality in socialism, demonstrating its dependence on the techniques of government developed in 19th-century western Europe. For Foucault Soviet socialism was fundamentally identical to its ideological antagonist in its biopolitical rationality, which he defined in terms of racism. This article challenges Foucault’s reading, demonstrating that his notion of racism is ill-suited to describe the governmental rationalities of Soviet socialism during both the formation and the consolidation of the Stalinist regime. While the Soviet project was paradigmatically biopolitical in its ambition to transform the forms of life of the population in line with the communist ideology, its biopolitics was fundamentally different from the security-oriented logic of racism, focusing instead on the exposure of the population to the violent transformation of their forms of life. Revisiting Foucault’s genealogy of racism, we argue that the point of descent of this biopolitics lies in the 19th-century split of the ‘counter-historical’ discourse of the struggle of the races into the discourses of state racism and class struggle. While Foucault’s genealogy focuses on the development of the former into liberal and totalitarian biopolitics as we know them, it leaves class struggle out of the history of biopolitics and is therefore unable to account for the biopolitical specificity of the Soviet project.
Subject: 517 Political science
Michel Foucault, socialism, biopolitics, governmentality, racism

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