Foucault, the sovereign, discipline & bio-power

I gave a presentation last night for the Vancouver Institute for Social Research, a fantastic program that provides free lectures at an art gallery downtown for anyone to attend. This term’s series has focused on sovereignty, and I decided to give a talk on Foucault’s claim that in common ways of thinking about power in political theory (in the 1970s at least), we still have not yet cut off the head of the king:

What we need … is a political philosophy that isn’t erected around the problem of sovereignty, nor therefore around the problems of law and prohibition. We need to cut off the King’s head: in political theory that has still to be done (Interview, “Truth and Power,” in Power/Knowledge, ed. Colin Gordon. Pantheon, 1980).

I contrasted the “juridico-discursive” view of power that, according to Foucault, has dominated political interpretations of power (and that is descended from the way monarchies came about and established themselves), with disciplinary power and bio-power.

The presentation was done through; here is a PDF of the presentation for this session.