Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 337–355 | Cite as

Biopower, Sadomasochism, and Pastoral Power: Acceptance via Transgression

  • Ofer ParchevEmail author
Original Paper


The transposition of biopower from the state to the individual has been a major preoccupation of biopower scholarship in recent decades. While some researchers have found grounds for optimism in the diminution of state control over people’s bodies, others see the change as merely a more sophisticated version of state control which has become, if anything, more invasive of individual lifestyle choices. In this paper I show how the institutionalization of hierarchical power relations does justify optimism about ways of confronting the complex mechanisms of control entailed in modern biopower. I claim that the crux of control in our information society derives from the transposition of the pastoral power described by Michel Foucault to the modern state and that the institutionalization of hierarchical power relations can constitute an effective countermeasure to that power. Hierarchical power exchanges can generate a social and cultural framework which, while operating according to the logic of biopower, expands modes of thought and practice beyond the unified thinking that contributes significantly to the modern state’s control over the individual.


Pastoral power Biopower Erotic power exchange Sexuality 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The author declares there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article doesn’t contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Haifa UniversityHaifaIsrael

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