8 Haziran 2012 Cuma

Hardt & Negri and Foucault - Biopolitics

(26.12.2011 tarihli yazımdan - 28/30)


It’s so hard to say that the concepts of “multitude”and “commons”, developed by Hardt and Negri, can be considered as a direct appropriation of Foucault’s conceptualization of biopolitics/biopower. It has an approximation but since they were constructed for different periods of times, in essence they seem as they are not precisely consentaneous. However, it is possible to find coherency among them.

In the concept of “multitude”, according to Hardt and Negri, we need to multiply class categories as now there are multiple kinds of classes, not only working class. There are poors, migrants and immaterial labors which also construct the social life, they argue. This social life is the sum of a common life. Everybody may produce the life itself, even by just living it. Because the way of living might be -and also is- a production that needs knowledge and ability, which deserves to be appreciated. Every member of a society has the role of generating the life. And every formation is important for the society to construct a new common social life.

Congruently, in the thought of Foucault’s biopolitics, since the half of the eighteenth century the aim has been to decrease the rate of mortality and to increase longevity, by controlling the life, controlling the illnesses. This may be seen also as a production of the life, but this time by controlling from the outside. Politics is made on the basis of life, the durability of the life, and promises this. So, according to Foucault, it has to predict unexpected events and control them to achieve equilibrium in social life. For example, with the development of medicine, that medicine helps people to live in a better way, normalizing the population/the multiple body as Foucault affirms. Body is now come together with the population, united with it. But with the notion of ‘normalization’...

Normalization… According to whom, and what? How can one be sure that s/he found the “normal” way? Is it possible to think about normal, or a “norm”? If it is, how can it be known that it is the right one? And the most important question, “Is there a common normal/norm?”. And the other important one, “Do we need to be similar to have a common norm/al?”.

Hardt and Negri say, no, we don’t need to be the same or to be normalized; even we don’t need to have related identities to form commons. But we need to be singular, they assert, not trying to change who we are. Everyone should be thought to be sui generis and be respected in this sense. And it may be propounded that a precise sameness among people is not even possible. If it would be, then world would be a machine world. Singularity is not an obstacle, according to Hardt and Negri, to construct a common life, since society has common interests.

On the other hand, Foucault sets a course of biopolitics in which normalization is needed while producing the life. As Foucault started the time of biopolitics from the eighteenth century, this may be a justification when people initially needed to be alive after all those bloody years of “take life or let die”. Now this is the time of “making life”, thus, the progression in health is the most important political movement to be made. Then it might have been thought that there was only one road for health, and it was ‘not to be ill’. That is, normalizing people is here making people alive and healthy, keeping them away from illnesses. But it is still open to discussion for having only one road to heal people, or society.

While it is found in Foucault’s biopolitics that there is a policy which is upon the biological life, as keeping individuals being alive and so making a population, in Hardt and Negri’s work, there is a constitution of a social life. They are different in qualitatively. One seeks to find the remedy for death and control it to improve the power of their politics by making people live. The other one strives to organize a new common life, in which people may live together with pleasure. That common life which is longed for is a life that no one cares about the sameness or difference or identities. It’s a life that everyone can live together in harmony, regarding others’ needs, thoughts, wishes, approaches. It’s a life that does not try to “normalize” people, or standardize the life. It’s a life that is built with consensus, in which all people-beings can communicate humanly. It’s a life that is lived delightedly. It’s a life that is tasty, delicious, flavored, and luscious.

Here is a last question,

In which biopolitics do we want to live; the healthy one, or the enjoyable?

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