Essay on Population and Power - Essay Prowess

Essay on Population and Power


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Population and Power

A concrete analysis   of power relations is made by abandoning the juridical model of sovereignty. That model in effect presupposes that the individual is a subject with natural rights or primitive powers. It sets itself the task of accounting for the ideal genesis of the state and makes the law basic manifestation of power. Studying of power should be done not on the basis of the primitive terms of relationship but on the basis of the relationship itself to the extent that it is the relationship itself that determines the elements on which it bears. Moreover, instead of looking the single form or the central point from which all forms of power derive either by way of consequence or development must be done[1].

According to Foucault, the problem of war seen as a grind for understanding historical processes has been raised. It seemed that the war was regarded initially and through the whole of eighteen centuries as a war between races. The theme of race does not disappear; it does become part of something very different, namely state racism[2]. One basic phenomena of the nineteen century was the powers hold over life. This is the acquisition of power over man insofar as man is a living being, that the biological came under state control, that there was at least a tendency that lead to what might be termed as state control of the biological. The classical theory of sovereignty stated that the right of life and death was one of the sovereignty’s basic attributes. This is theoretical paradox because it has a corollary sort of practical disequilibrium. The right of life and death is always exercised in unbalanced way: the balance is always tipped in favour of the death transformation on political right was underwent and said that sovereignty old right was to take life or let life which was later erased to power of make live and let die.

According to Marxist, the transformation trace of power is not only political theory but also at the level of mechanisms, techniques and technology of power. In 18th and 19th century the emergence of techniques of power were essentially centred on the individual body[3]. They included all the devices that were used to ensure spatial distribution of individual bodies and the organization around those individuals of a whole field of visibility. After the antomo-politics of the human body establishment, the emergence of something no longer politics but called bio politics of human race emerged. The objects of knowledge and targets it seeks to control are the birth rate, the mortality rate, longevity and whole series of related economic and political problems. The bio politics is not only concerned with fertility but also with the problem of morbidity which had previously been famous epidemics and had haunted the political powers. Bio politics interventional phenomena are such that some are universal and some accidental but which can never be completely eradicated.

According to Foucault, bio politics importance is that it first appears as a new element of which both the theory of right and disciplinary practice knew nothing[4]. What is dealt with new technology of power is not exactly society nor is it the individual as body. It deals with the population, with the population as political problem as a problem that is at once scientific and political, as a biological problem and as powers problem.

The second domain aside from appearance is that there are collective phenomena which have their economic and political effects and that they become pertinent only at the mass level. They are aleatory and unpredictable when taken in themselves or individually but which at the collective level, display constants that are least to establish.

According to Marxist, beneath the great absolute power, there is the emergence of a power that is called the power of regularization and it is in contrast, consists in making live and letting die[5]. A concrete manifestation of this power is seen in the famous gradual disqualification of death, which sociologists and historians have discussed. What once made death so spectacular and ritualized was the fact that it was a manifestation of a transition from one power to another. Death was the moment when transition from power that of the sovereign of this world to another that sovereign of the next world. In the right of sovereignty, death was the moment of the most obvious and the most spectacular manifestation of the absolute power of sovereign. Death now becomes in contrast, the moment when the individual escapes all power, falls back on him and retreats, so to speak, into his own privacy. Power no longer recognizes death; it literally ignores death.

From the 18th century we have, two technologies of power which were established at different times. One technique is disciplinary, it centres on the body, produces individualizing effects and manipulates the body as a source of forces that have to be rendered both useful and docile. The second technology is centred not upon the body but upon life. A technology which brings together the mass effects characteristic of a population and tries to control the series of random events that can occur in a living mass. This technology aims to establish a sort of homeostasis not by training individuals but by achieving an overall equilibrium that protects the security of the whole from internal dangers.

According to Marxist, a complete dichotomy between state and institutional is introduced because disciplines in fact always tend to escape the institution or local framework in which they are trapped[6]. We have two series: the body organism displacing institutions series and the population biological processes regulatory mechanism state. What is more, they easily take on a statist dimension in apparatuses such as the police for example which is both a disciplinary apparatus and a state apparatus. The two sets of mechanism one disciplinary and the other regulatory do not skit at the same level.  In more general term, there is one element that controls both the disciplinary order and the aleatory events that occur in the biological municipality. The elements which circulate between the two is norm. The norm is something that can be applied to both a body one wishes to discipline and a population one wishes to regularize.

In addition, we are in a power that has taken control of both the body and life or that has taken control of life in general with the body as on pole and the population as the other. We therefore identify paradoxes that appear at the points where the exercise of this bio power reaches its limit. The paradoxes become apparent if is looked at atomic power which is not simply the power to kill in accordance with the rights that are granted to any sovereign[7]. The workings of contemporary political power are such that atomic power represents a paradox that is difficult to get around.

Racism is indeed the emergence of bio-power that inscribes it in the mechanisms state. It is at this moment racism is inscribed as the basic mechanism of power. Racism is therefore a primarily a way of introducing a break into the domain of life that is under powers control: the break between what must live and what must die. This leads to fragmenting the field of the biological that power controls. Racism does make the relationship of war, if you want to live the other must die, function in a way that is completely new and that is quite compatible with the exercise of bio-power. On the other hand, racism makes it possible to establish a relationship between any and death of the other that is not military or warlike relationship of confrontation, but a biological –type relationship. The fact that the other dies does not mean simply that I live in the sense that his death guarantees my safety.


Marx K., Chapter Two: Exchange. Retrieved from,

Foucault, 1979. Racism.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, (1916). Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Retrieved from,