Term Paper: Right of Death and Power Over Life

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Right of Death and Power Over Life

Michel Foucault's "Right of Death and Power Over Life" seems to be a historical analysis of life and death in Western civilization. He comments on how in older societies life was only part of the sovereign, but in modern times the importance of life is more widespread. Foucault says this is from modern biopolitics which normalize life. He says, "the judicial institution is increasingly incorporated into a continuum of apparatuses (medical, administrative, and so on) whose functions are for the most part regulatory" (Foucault 266). Foucault claims that society changed from older times by making the sovereign more widespread than it was before because politicians, demographers, economists, and social scientists started to see life as valuable to society. Therefore the sovereign was not just the prince but the whole society.

This was important for capitalism because Foucault says capitalism needs the "controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and the adjustment of the phenomena of population to economic processes" (Foucault 263). He says "the deployment of sexuality" is "one of the most important" examples of biopower (Foucault 263). Historically speaking, Foucault says these interventions were all important because of changing perspectives on life and death. This is why the deployment of sex is the most important biopolitics because sex is how a society controls the population by "determining good marriages," "inducing desired fertilities," and "ensuring the health and longevity of children" (Foucault 270). Ultimately Foucault seems unsure about this power, because he says it substituted racism for aristocracy and has led to bloodier wars than were seen before the 19th century. Foucault's thesis is sometimes hard to understand because his topic keeps changing, but it seems to be that modern society is different from ancient society because of biopower and widespread sovereignty.

Foucault's methods are different from most modern sociologists' because he does not use many statistical studies or data. Instead, he talks in a general way about sociological changes by looking at history and trying to understand it by looking at what people were doing at the time. He says that the 18th century led to biopolitics because biopower was "embodied in institutions such as the army and school" and with "the emergence of demography" (Foucault 262). He mentions some of the demographers from the time as evidence of the field's emergence around then. This research method makes it difficult to know what Foucault is sometimes trying to argue, because it is not always clear where he is coming from. However, he usually explains this fairly well, and he may have more evidence in the earlier parts of the book for his claims… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Right of Death and Power Over Life.  (2011, March 15).  Retrieved July 18, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/right-death-power-life/8017878

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"Right of Death and Power Over Life."  15 March 2011.  Web.  18 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/right-death-power-life/8017878>.

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"Right of Death and Power Over Life."  Essaytown.com.  March 15, 2011.  Accessed July 18, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/right-death-power-life/8017878.