Biopolitics and the molecularization of life

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In what ways can it be said of the molecularization of life that it has made our biological existence a political concern in new ways? This essay examines two different answers to this question. The first, exemplified by the work of Nikolas Rose, suggests that the molecularization of life, together with the individualization of risk, has given rise to a new 'somatic' self, and a new 'ethopolitical' order in which our biological life has becomes our life's work. The second, most evident in growing concern over 'biosecurity', posits a vulnerable subject, thrown into an unpredictable molecular world characterized by exchange and circulation and full of 'emergent' risks. Whereas the former has arguably led to new forms of governmentality, and new kinds of pastoral power, this paper argues that the latter has been widley taken up as a justification for the global extension of forms of sovereign power whose purpose is to pre-empt certain biological futures in favour of others. An exclusive focus on the former not only risks leaving the latter unexamined, it may leave us unable to consider how the two are related.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-28
Number of pages23
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Biopolitics
  • Biosecurity
  • Molecularization
  • Nikolas Rose


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