Administrating a Sensible Matter

Reasonable Conducts and Body Pedagogy Around Birth and Death

The main objective of the article is to point out how the interventions of the public power contributed to the shaping of new forms of biopower, and how the contemporary medical institutions think of the population that they have to manage. According to Dominique Memmi, the control and direction of the individual decisions concerning the beginning and the end of human life have significantly changed over the last thirty years. Examining the issues of contraception, artificial insemination, sterilization, palliative care and euthanasia, the author comes to the conclusion that the state has partly transformed its strategy of control over the individuals. Instead of the strategy of punishment, the state tends to apply another strategy based on the control by talking (parole). This “parole” mostly includes the (mandatory) dialogues between doctors and their patients about the arguments, prices and motives of a given medical intervention. Therefore, this “discursive discipline” is almost exclusively delegated to the representatives of the medical professions. Even though this strategy of delegated biopolitics works more or less effectively, the regulation has its own weak points and contradictions. For instance, the discursive discipline officially relies on the (supposedly) rational self-control of the individuals, which deeply influences the effectiveness of the whole strategy. Paying attention to the classic theories of biopolitics, Memmi also tries to show the relevances and limits of the works of Michel Foucault and other authors.

Released: Replika 79, 77–89.
Ákos Kovács, Erzsébet Takács