An Advanced Introduction

158 pages

February, 2011

ISBN: 9780814752425



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Part of the Biopolitics series


Thomas Lemke is Heisenberg Professor for Sociology with Focus on Biotechnology, Nature and Society at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main.

All books by Thomas Lemke

Monica J. Casper is Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and an affiliated faculty member in the School of Sociology and the Africana Studies Program at the University of Arizona. Her publications include Missing Bodies: The Politics of Visibility.

All books by Monica J. Casper

Lisa Jean Moore is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Purchase College, State University of New York. She is author of Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man’s Most Precious Fluid and co-author of Missing Bodies: The Politics of Visibility and Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee. She is also co-editor of the collection The Body Reader and, with Monica Casper, oversees the series Biopolitics: Medicine, Technoscience, and Health in the Twenty-First Century for NYU Press.

All books by Lisa Jean Moore

The biological features of human beings are now measured, observed, and understood in ways never before thought possible, defining norms, establishing standards, and determining average values of human life. While the notion of “biopolitics” has been linked to everything from rational decision-making and the democratic organization of social life to eugenics and racism, Thomas Lemke offers the very first systematic overview of the history of the notion of biopolitics, exploring its relevance in contemporary theoretical debates and providing a much needed primer on the topic.

Lemke explains that life has become an independent, objective and measurable factor as well as a collective reality that can be separated from concrete living beings and the singularity of individual experience. He shows how our understanding of the processes of life, the organizing of populations and the need to “govern” individuals and collectives lead to practices of correction, exclusion, normalization, and disciplining. In this lucidly written book, Lemke outlines the stakes and the debates surrounding biopolitics, providing a systematic overview of the history of the notion and making clear its relevance for sociological and contemporary theoretical debates.


  • "Lemke (Goethe Univ., Germany) offers an overview of biopolitics and an account of its relevance in theoretical debate... Recommended."


  • "[This book] advances an analytics of 'biopolitics' as a 'prospective' methodological approach, offering a number of valuable and provocative questions to guide future research."

    Foucault Studies

  • "What Lemke’s final chapter makes plain, and what can thus be read back into the book on the that biopolitics is a coherent field of inquiry for future work in anthropology, sociology, science studies, and of course history and philosophy, and that it is such precisely because it is a field of inquiry, namely an arena for rigorous investigation and severe thought... This is a crucial task. Lemke is to be applauded for showing both its coherence and its needfulness."

    Theory & Event

  • "Thomas Lemke's Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction is required reading for anyone interested in this concept."

    —Carlos Novas, New Genetics and Society