The Right of Death and Power Over Life / Society Must Be Defended

Here is the reading for April 9.  It is a long one, because it is basically a reading and a half, but my summer schedule is getting too busy.  Here is a printable copy.

Foucault begins with a definition of sovereignty: “For a long time, one of the characteristic privileges of sovereign power was the right to decide life and death” (135).  It was derived from the power of the Roman head of household, who had the right to “dispose” of the lives of his children and slaves.  He gave them life, so he could take it away.  By the time the “classical theoreticians” considered it, it had gone from being an absolute power to one that was only exercised when the sovereign’s existence was threatened, like during a war.  Specifically, by drafting subjects, he could “expose their life”.  Conscription was an indirect power of life and death.  Against treason, there was a direct power of execution. So the power of life and death was conditional: the protection of the sovereign’s existence.

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