Foucault’s Legacy: Security, War and Violence in the 21st Century

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Anticipating the strategic confluence between liberal ways of war and liberal ways of development, the ideas of Michel Foucault have increasingly resonated in the field of security studies. Foregrounding in particular the biopolitical imperative at the heart of liberal governance, critical attention has been given to the manner in which life itself becomes the principle referent object for security practices. In mapping out these key debates, this article will nuance our understanding of Foucault’s relevance by explaining: how liberal security governance today operates within a globally inclusive imaginary to the defection of all meaningful Newtonian distinctions; how liberal biopolitics displaces the bare life of the sovereign encounter with the bare activity of species survival; how principally tasking security practitioners with sorting and adjudicating between different forms of species life reveals a distinct biopolitical aporia, in the sense that making life live demands the elimination of that which poses an internal cultural threat to its will to rule; how the rationalization of violence through doing what is necessary out of species necessity implies that humanity’s most purposeful expression appears through the battles that are waged upon life, for life, on a planetary scale; how the liberal encounter has created conditions akin to a global state of civil war that offers a marked conceptual departure from traditional sovereign paradigms; and why the onto-theological dimensions that give moral sanction to liberal biopolitical rule now demand the most serious critical attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-433
Number of pages4
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2010


  • liberal problematic of security
  • security
  • global civil war
  • Foucault
  • necessary violence
  • liberal war
  • liberal war thesis


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