What kind of power is biopower, and can the notion help us settle normative issues within public health?

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Publication Other
Title What kind of power is biopower, and can the notion help us settle normative issues within public health?
Author(s) Tengland, Per-Anders
Date 2014
Editor(s) Gordijn, Bert; Kakuk, Péter; Bánfalvi, Attila
English abstract
Power relations seem to exist everywhere: between men and women, teachers and students, doctors and patients, employers and employees, authorities and refugees, and between the state and its citizens. These relations can take many forms, from violence and coercion to more subtle influences in the shape of rewards, persuasion, authority, and manipulation. Power can be visible, as well as invisible, as is the case of some structural forms of power. Certain norms and values appear to be important forms of power, not least those that are ideological and political. Even scientifically produced knowledge can be seen as a kind of power, in that it creates new “forms of life” that categorize the world in ways that make people behave and see themselves in new ways. Some of these forms of power appear legitimate, as when a democratically elected government creates new laws, whereas others seem to be illegitimate and immoral, as when minorities are prevented from practicing their religions. Biopower seems to be a particular form of power, one that concerns the whole population and that emanates from the government and its civil servants. It is not completely clear, however, how this kind of power relates to other kinds of power, or even if it should count as a kind of power. The aim of the paper is, thus, to try to disentangle this issue by, first, specifying what biopower is usually taken to mean, and then comparing it to other conceptions of power, such as “power to”, “power over”, “social power”, “structural power”, and “discursive power”, and investigating in what forms it might manifest itself, that is, if it is “exercised”, as, for example, influence, coercion, manipulation, incentive, or persuasion. Finally, since biopower is claimed to be related to the health of populations, a few cases from public health practice and health promotion interventions will be discussed in order to try to determine if, and how, they might be examples of biopower, as “defined” in the text. This will give us a possibility to evaluate the normative utility of the idea of biopower, and to determine if it adds anything valuable to the critical discussions of these kinds of interventions.
Link http://www.espmh.org/files/Debrecen%202014/Abstract%20booklet%20Debrecen%202014%20-%2010%20July.pdf (external link to publication)
Publisher The European Society of Philosophy, Health and Medicine
Host/Issue Bioethics and Biopolitics : Abstracts;
Pages 130-131
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Power
public health
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/18208 (link to this page)
Link http://espmh.org/events/index.php?event=4 (external link to related web page)

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