Michela Betta
Goethe University Frankfurt
In this essay I propose a new reading of Michel Foucault’s main thesis about biopower and biopolitics. I argue that organisation represents the neglected key to Foucault’s new conceptualisation of power as something that is less political and more organisational. This unique contribution was lost even on his closest interlocutors. Foucault’s work on power had a strong influence on organisation and management theory but interestingly not for the reasons I am proposing. In fact, although theorists in management and organisation studies have emphasised power in relation to discipline, control and subjectivity they have overlooked the transformative meaning of Foucault’s organisation. His work on biopolitics has attracted opposition, too, as evidenced by the controversy sparked by Giorgio Agamben about Foucault’s biopolitics. From Agamben’s critique, it appears that Foucault’s notions of politics and power do not allow a deconstruction of the violence of the concentration camp. However, a critical reading of Primo Levi’s biographical narratives reveals the camp as a place where the prisoners’ability to organise their daily lives secured survival. To make sense of Levi’s revelation, I use John Dewey’s notion of habits as forms of organisation and reconnect it to Foucault’s organisation. A shared understanding of the objective conditions of human activity and experience highlights the similarities between Dewey’s pragmatism and Foucault’s pragmatic metaphysics. In the end, however, Foucault’s metaphysical background has caught up with him, pushing him away from his own most radical proposal that organisation was the new form of power and the new substance of politics.
Keywords Organisation, Foucault, Dewey, Agamben and the Camp, Primo Levi
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Mortal Questions.Thomas Nagel - 1979 - Cambridge University Press.
The Subject and Power.Michel Foucault - 1982 - Critical Inquiry 8 (4):777-795.

View all 42 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Michel Foucault, Technology, and Actor-Network Theory.Steve Matthewman - 2013 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 17 (2):274-292.
Michel Foucault, the History of Sexuality, and the Reformulation of Social Theory.T. J. Berard - 1999 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 29 (3):203–227.
Foucault and His Interlocutors.Arnold Ira Davidson (ed.) - 1997 - University of Chicago Press.
Foucault's Hyper‐Liberalism.Ronald Beiner - 1995 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 9 (3):349-370.
Critique is a Thing of This World: Towards a Genealogy of Critique.Tom Boland - 2014 - History of the Human Sciences 27 (1):108-123.
Ricoeur and Foucault: Between Ontology and Critique.Patrick Gamez - 2013 - Études Ricoeuriennes / Ricoeur Studies 4 (2):90-107.
Michel Foucault.Sara Mills - 2003 - Routledge.


Added to PP index

Total views
493 ( #17,816 of 2,497,799 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
36 ( #23,891 of 2,497,799 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes