From Discipline to Biopower

  • Henrik Paul Bang
Part of the International Political Theory book series (IPoT)


When the young Foucault sets out from studying the treatment of madness in the asylum, it is to demonstrate how modern reason has made itself dependent for its autonomy on the maintenance of ‘the political’ in a highly asymmetrical state of superiority and subordination. To him, the birth of the modern asylum and prison illuminates how contingency, immediacy, disobedience and rebellion under conditions of modernity are treated as ‘anomalies’ from the natural and moral ordering of things. They are both extreme examples of how the ancient king’s repressive and arbitrary power was ‘enlightened’ by being converted into a modern political authority, employing the rational power of discipline to control, or, better, ‘cure’ the ‘madman’ (MC: 251):

The space reserved by society for insanity would now be haunted by those who were ‘from the other side’ and who represented both the prestige of authority that confines and the rigor of the reason that judges. The keeper intervenes, without weapons, without instruments of constraint, with observation and language only; he advances upon madness, deprived of all that could protect him or make him seem threatening, risking an immediate confrontation without recourse.


Political Power Atom Bomb Political Authority Discursive Practice Sovereign Power 
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Copyright information

© Henrik Paul Bang 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henrik Paul Bang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Governance and Policy AnalysisUniversity of CanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenDenmark

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