I’m hosting an online seminar for the Leeds Beckett Centre for Applied Social Research when Peter Lindner of Goethe University, Frankfurt will be talking about his paper ‘Molecular Politics, Wearable, and the Aretaic Shift in Biopolitical Governance’ recently published in Theory, Culture & Society. This will be at 16:00 (UK time) on 11th January.
He will present what I think is a fascinating and important new theorisation of biopolitics. This builds on the work of Michel Foucault and especially Nikolas Rose to suggest that the spread of wearable devices (eg smartwatches, fitness trackers) is contributing to a politicisation of everyday life processes. In this the conduct of life, and the drive to achieve “practical excellence” through engagement with data collecting devices and related expert discourses.
Peter will tell us about his work and there will be time for a discussion. All welcome and please share widely. You can register (free) via the embedded form below or via this link:
Since the publication of Nikolas Rose’s ‘The Politics of Life Itself’ (2001) there has been vivid discussion about how biopolitical governance has changed over the last decades. This article uses what Rose terms ‘molecular politics’, a new socio-technical grip on the human body, as a contrasting background to ask anew his question ‘What, then, of biopolitics today?’ – albeit focusing not on advances in genetics, microbiology, and pharmaceutics, as he does, but on the rapid proliferation of wearables and other sensor-software gadgets. In both cases, new technologies providing information about the individual body are the common ground for governance and optimization, yet for the latter, the target is habits of moving, eating and drinking, sleeping, working and relaxing. The resulting profound differences are carved out along four lines: ‘somatic identities’ and a modified understanding of the body; the role of ‘expert knowledge’ compared to that of networks of peers and self-experimentation; the ‘types of intervention’ by which new technologies become effective in our everyday life; and the ‘post-discipline character’ of molecular biopolitics. It is argued that, taken together, these differences indicate a remarkable shift which could be termed aretaic: its focus is not ‘life itself’ but ‘life as it is lived’, and its modality are new everyday socio-technical entanglements and their more-than-human rationalities of (self-)governance.