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Biopower, Life and Left Politics

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Abstract:  The terms biopower and biopolitics have been deployed in widely varying ways in recent critical political analyses. This essay seeks to rescue from the welter of its deployments a general understanding of biopower potentially useful to left political projects. First, recent iterations of the concept of biopower are surveyed. In the main body of the paper, a series of interventions in recent critical debates are used to trace out a critical re‐mapping of the concept of “life” that names the ends of biopower. Biopolitically relevant life is reconsidered in terms of its proper geographical scope, its gender, racial and ethnic specificities, its distinguishing vital qualities, and its relation to temporality (particularly the future). Through this exercise the notion of biopower is redefined so as to provide potential “docking points” for Marxist, feminist and green discourses, and conceptual resources for left struggles against global injustice.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth SY23 3DB, UK;

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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