Oregon State University

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From Biopower to Infopower?: A Genealogy of One Aspect of Contemporary Politics

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

A wide number of contemporary political assemblages from mass surveillance to finance capitalism to big data suggest that we may be in the midst of new political conditions.

Some have sought to conceptualize these assemblages in such terms as “the information society” or “new media culture” while others would amalgamate them as part of a hybrid beast named “neoliberalism”. I here argue for a different conceptualization of what is at stake for us today politically.  My analysis is Foucaultian in that it focuses attention away from state capacities and institutional formations toward the problems internal to emergent modes of power (or the conduct of conduct). In this I concur with a handful of new media theorists (Chun, Galloway, and Terranova) who have made productive use of Michel Foucault’s analyses of biopower. By adopting a methodological approach grounded in genealogy (and pragmatism), I part from these new media theorists in my claim that we are now in the midst of emerging political landscapes that cannot be comprehended by biopower.  Instead we need a new concept, for example infopower (specifying the intersection between information and power).

Why does all this matter? If my argument is right, then contemporary political theory needs to be able to move beyond (but without abandoning) both the general problematic of biopower (e.g., Foucault, Deleuze, Arendt) as well as those many attempts at reconstructing our biopolitical dilemmas as are offered by competing versions of communicative democracy (e.g., Dewey, Rawls,   Habermas).

Colin Koopman is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon.  His research is primarily in, through, and on the philosophical traditions of Pragmatism and Genealogy, with an eye toward using these distinctive approaches to engage current issues in Political Philosophy broadly-construed. 

Milam Hall (campus map)
Robert Peckyno
robert.peckyno at oregonstate.edu
School of History, Philosophy, and Religion