Eduardo Mendieta
SUNY, Stony Brook (USA)


This article considers Foucault’s Collège de France seminar from 1975-6, entitled Il faut défendre la société, or Society must be Defended. The article does not aim to summarize the course, but rather to discern a constellation of radical departures in Foucault’s thinking. We focus on the severe critique against the Hobbessian or repressive hypothesis of power, and the development of a productive or genealogical conception of power. This is in turned linked to the question of the productive role of racism within a new form of power and sovereignty, one which Foucault calls biopower. Racism is analyzed in terms of how it re-introduces into biopolitical sovereignty the power to kill and to put to death, a power that had slipped away from sovereignty as it become a form of pastoral power, as Foucault discussed in later lectures. Finally, we discuss the ways in which Foucault’s immensely original analysis of racism can be utilized in the “North American” context to make sense of virulent and continuously recurring acts of violence against racially marked subject, and how this challenges political philosophy in our times.

Keywords: Foucault, biopower, racism, genealogy