Volume 7, Issue 1, 2004
Biopolitics and Racism
The Spiritual Disciplines of Biopower
This paper seeks to further Foucault’s work by coming to understand the specific set of conditions that govern contemporary thought and action, the “historical a priori” of our age, and from this it seeks to assess the prospects for projects of collective self-formation. It focuses on two recent innovations in molecular science: genetic counseling and performance enhancement therapies. The paper argues, on the one hand, that these sorts of practices are indicative of a fundamentally new mode of governance, neoliberalism,
and, on the other, that these same techniques can be means for engendering alliances of self-formation that can resist the intolerable elements of contemporary biopolitics. The key to seeing this is shown to be understanding these new technologies as ascetic exercises (“spiritual disciplines”) and thus as falling under the rubric of spiritual development that has historically defined these arts.