Alexandra Yatsyk and Andrey Makarychev on illiberal biopolitics

18 Feb 2021

( You have both been working for several years on the concept of biopolitics as applied to Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia. Can we talk about the rise of an illiberal biopolitics? And is there a liberal biopolitics, or are the terms antinomic?

The idea of biopolitics is largely known for its Foucauldian iteration of the late 1970s, which explained how European disciplinary institutions were gradually replacing their repertoire of direct coercive methods of control with more nuanced and “soft” tools of surveillance. On the one hand, this transformation indeed implied some degree of liberalization. On the other hand, the exponential transfiguration of techniques of governance and population management into a panopticon does not sounds very liberal: the omnipresent state is increasingly capable of monitoring all spheres of life. Practices of biopower often merge with the state apparatus, since the sovereign power appropriates biopolitical instruments and even makes them central to their governance toolkits. In this case, the liberal/illiberal frame of analysis becomes quite relevant. [...]

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Co-author: Andrey Makarychev