Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Foucault, Biopower & International Relations: A New Conceptualization of Global Biopower

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posted on 2021-11-15, 07:16 authored by Kendrick, Jamie Brian William

The purpose of this paper is, first and foremost, to accurately describe how biopower enters IR. It does this because so far IR theorists have inaccurately deployed the concept. Due to the tripartite nature of biopower – sovereign, disciplinary, biopolitical – and idiosyncratic conceptualizations of sovereignty by predominant theorists, a number of disparate conceptualizations of biopower populate the literature, none of which satisfactorily extend Foucauldian analysis into international relations. This paper attempts to remedy this conceptual ambiguity to produce the sorts of insights Foucault was concerned with. Central to my argument is thus a discussion of sovereignty. Notwithstanding Foucault‘s warnings about slavish devotion to his work, I nonetheless maintain that an accurate exposition of biopower in IR necessitates a conceptualization of sovereignty that adheres to Foucault‘s methodological principles. Following a deconstruction of sovereignty that identifies a 'history of practices,‘ I maintain that state sovereignty continues to play a central biopolitical role. From this position, I then argue biopower must enter into international relations in a specific manner. I argue that global, or more accurately, international biopower should be identified according to a genealogical method stemming from the biopolitics of states first elucidated by Foucault. I proceed by investigating how 'domestic‘ mechanisms of security are becoming transnational. My ultimate argument focuses on identifying how processes of biopolitical normalization resonate with international processes, and successfully translates Foucauldian scholarship into IR by extending our understanding of how modern liberal societies are governed by norms. By showing how biopolitical normalization is becoming a transnational phenomenon, I reconceptualize 'global biopower‘ as international biopolitical normalization.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Political Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Marquez, Xavier