Tag Archives: biopolitics

Financialising Biopower (3): Financialisation’s Double-Bind


# This is a work in progress, please consult the author for citation #

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

I offer alternative way to overcome the mere analogy between financialisation in economic realm and in social/societal realm, which as I argued before hinders us in seeing a purposeful gradual restructurisation of power in sustainability era. The idea is to reverse the analysis of financialisation of daily life to the analysis of the daily life of financialisation. By the latter, I will emphasise the quotidian and micro dynamics within the financialised life while not neglecting its global biopolitcial intervention. The alternative consists of two moves. The first is to see biopolitical financialisation as double-binded. The second is to take the problem of financialisation seriously in its economic terms. The two will converge around a model to specifically deals with the kind of society that dwells a redoubled financialised life, a society that I will call ‘the society of anticipation’.[1]

(Sumber: Usurer with A Tearful Woman, Gabriel Metsu (1654); worldofcoins.eu)

First, on the double bind logic of biopolitical financialisation. To account for the double bind feature, I follow the contextual logic already worked out (and continue to do so) by the Paris school of insecuritisation theory.[2] Drawing from Foucault’s (mostly later) works on governmentality, this school argues that when security concerns are declared, uttered, framed or simply announced, a sphere of insecurity is at the same time created. In other words, the practice of security affects the context within which it emerges and constitutes the society to which it addresses.[3] The two happen simultaneously and thereby cannot be disentangled from each other; Didier Bigo uses the metaphor of Möbius ribbon to accentuate this inseparable of security/insecurity.[4] (The Copenhagen school of securitisation theory, this school criticises, neglects this very consequence of the securitising move). It is this contextual logic of insecurity that my initial theorisation of financialisation’s double bind draws inspiration from.

Second, on the economy of financialisation. Financialisation must be seen as a form of accumulation of capital, or in the French Régulation school, an accumulation regime—that is a long-term trajectory of profit growth.[5] Financialisation marks a new mode of accumulation away from real economy (production by means of material production) to that of finance economy (production of money by means of circulation of money). This is still the old one. The newer one, that is the biopolitical financialisation which targets the life itself, tries to convert every aspect of life into asset/capital to generate a long-term steady amount of profit. Financialisation, in its biopolitical version, then involves a kind of capitalisation process. However, this time, I argue, that this kind of financialisation is also outdated. The latest form of financialisation is no longer the biopolitical financialisation, but rather the financialisation of biopower. In it, the power to permanently financialise every aspect of life becomes the subject of financial investment. This way, the investment is done not for a money profit in return, but for the sustainable process of financial investment itself.

The novelty of this kind of financialisation rests in its attempt to render the biopower itself a collateral. This means to subject the entire ensemble of institution, knowledge and expert that rule over the conception of life to financial logic. By this, the entire ensemble of biopower will be treated as something that is exposed to risk. This gesture might be call a ‘riskification’.[6] This riskification gesture will read biopower in terms of risk. Specifically, the “riskifying actor would need to point convincingly not to a specific and existing threat, but to the existence of conditions of possibility or ‘permissive causes’ of future possible harmful events.”[7] After being subjected to a riskification move, the ensemble of biopower is securitised. Securitising a biopower entity must be seen as reinforcing its modalities in order that it be tougher, more prepared, readier to survive should any risk materialised and to mitigate it.  So, here we have three steps in finansialising biopower: capitalisation, riskification and securitisation.

If the two moves are combined, then we will have a model of analysis sufficient to map out the new biopolitical diagram of the financialisation of biopower. This combination will apply the first move to the second. The three steps financialisation of biopower, insofar it is a financialisation, also has a double-bind feature. When a biopower entity is financialised, then it constitutes the context and the society on which it excercises its power. So the three steps must be added with a mirroring three steps. My proposal would be: proletarianisation, precarisation and insecuritisation. Along with the capitalisation of biopower, proletarianisation happens on the side of the society under the sphere of biopower. This society will be deprived of its access to and autonomy towards capital, which is the life itself.[8] When the biopower is riskified, the society will be precaritised in that it will be exposed to the condition of being unsure, uncertain, and unstable.[9] Lastly, when securitisation reinforces and reinstates the power apparatus to biopower entity, then the society will be powerless and thus exposed to the ever-present danger and enveloped in fear. These three processes will then result in a new kind of society specific to the age of financialised biopower, that is a society of anticipation. People in this kind of society are confronted with permanent feeling of uncertainty, powerless, fear and risk, and would do anything they could to anticipate and to ensure their survival and well-being. Randy Martin rightly points out that “the consequence of risk acceptance is that the actions of others take hold of your fate.”[10]

Aims and Methods

The analytical model outlined above will then be employed in the course of the research. In so doing, I designate three aims for the study. Firstly, I will do a brief genealogy of the biopower before and aftermath of the 2008 crisis. The Foucauldian method of problematisation will be at work. The emergence of any biopower, in the light of this method, will be seen as a specific solution to a specific mode of problematic. So, in the context of this research, I will trace every effort to pose a problem for the former biopolitical aparatus before the crisis and carefully see how a specific mode of biopower came to be the answer to the crisis, while not the other. More specifically, I willl detect a shift of biopower discourse articulating around and during the crisis. In so doing, I will focus on the various discourse, statement, initiative, pamphlet, report, rhetorics, speech, program, rundown event arrangement, invited guest, conference design, etc., articulated by leaders, world figures, top CEOs, experts, etc., in the World Economic Forum (WEF) from around 2008-2013. Specifically, it is on how they responded to the crisis and related it to the problem of governance. The merit of beginning with the WEF is its informal and non-binding nature. The Forum gathers, invites, converses, discusses, provokes, and speculates on the ideas that are relevant for the contemporary situation at time. In 2008-2013, of course, recovery from crisis has seized the main agenda of the forum. Thus, we can get a hint about the form of governance (or biopolitics) in gestation. The aim is to properly contextualise the rise of the new biopilitics, i.e. the financialisation of biopower.

Secondly, I will further elaborate on the detail of the thesis of the new biopolitics. The model of financialisation’s double bind already outlined above will be developed further by bringing it to the dialogue with the existing breadth of academic intervention in the field. To develop the capitalisation/proletarianisation part, I will enter into dialogue with the theorisation of post-Autonomist Marxist scholar on the way in which contempary capitalism, or in their word “cognitive capitalism,” has successfully put every aspect of life to work for the permanent reproduction of capital. For the riskification/precarisation part, I will invite the risk-IR and risk-society theorists into the discussion on the one hand, and relate it to what has been done by some feminist post-Autonomist marxist on the problem of precarity, precarisation, and precariat. Lastly, for the securitisation/insecuritisation part, I will engage the (European) non-traditional security theories, mainly of securitisation (Copenhagen school) and of insecuritisation (Paris school). By the end of the chapter, this research is ready to draw the diagram of the new biopolitics.

Drawing the diagram of the new biopolitics will be the third aim of the study. In doing so, this research will focus on the biopolitical shift of paradigm manifested in the discourse of Post-2015 UN Development Agenda. The shift from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, the rise of the so-called green and blue economy, the food security discourse, biotechnology business, etc., will be put under scrutiny by the analytical model of financialisation’s double bind. To look at the societal context of the enactment of the new biopolitics, this research will compare societal impact of the program on Indonesia, especially through its MP3EI program—The Masterplan of Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development, with the same impact on another country.[11] For Indonesia case, I will focus on the Masterplan document—its truth-knowlege claim, its supporting academic/expert report, its derivative acts (legal and institutional) from the national up to the county/village level, and its network of consultant/trusteeship/NGOs. Some semi-structured interview will be conducted to two groups of informants: decision makers (national to local) and representatives of society. Some prospective targets (but yet still tentative) are: the UKP4 (Presidential Working Unit for Supervision and Management of Development)—which consists of experts (and all of them are outsorced “worker”!), the BAPPENAS (National Development Planning Agency)—which consists of technocrats, the Trade Ministry, and Industrial Ministry, but also the Education Ministry that I claim plays a central role in orienting the country’s orientation of education. With regard to the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda, Indonesia is a unique case due to its being one of the three co-chair (along with Liberia and United Kingdom) specially appointed by the Secretary General to prepare and conceptualise the post-2015 agenda, and to represent the voice of developing countries therein.

Finally, the research will then discuss the findings and draw the theoretical implication for the understanding of both biopolitical financialisation and financialisation of biopower, and explore the possibility to carry on Foucault’s call to defend the society in the wake of the new and contemporary biopolitcs. The new call might be: society’s future must be defended. [HYP]

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Financialising Biopower (2): The Rise of the New Biopolitics


# This is a work in progress, please consult the author for citation #

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

According to its conceptual inventor, Michel Foucault, biopolitics designate every political strategy that aims at governing, administering, modifying, directing, and modeling the life itself through intervention of it by means of truth-knowledge, practice, institution, and law. So far as life concerns, it is not only human that is in the scope of biopolitics, but rather the entire living being. Biopolitics, then, must be seen as targeting not only population, but also ecosystem.[1] Biopolitics assume a special kind of power which rule over life. Foucault calls this biopower.

Biopower is marked by the power ‘to make live and let die’[2] or a ‘right of death and power over life’[3]. Accordingly, Foucault sees two forms of biopower: the first deals with the maximization of the anatomy of living-body into productive or profitable use, while the second deals with the regulatory control of species-body within a set of population/ecosystem. In other words, the former deals with the ‘management of force-of-life’, the latter deals with the ‘manipulation of form-of-life’.[4] The first might be well approached by the political economy analysis, while the second by political sociology analysis. The two cannot be separated as one overdetermines the other in a dialectical relation.[5] The management of force-of-life must be conditioned by an already designed manipulation of form-of-life. The political economy, insofar the productivities of life are concerned, must presuppose a specific social relation that conceived in a specific form-of-life as its condition of possibility.[6]

(Source: screen-capture from Pasolini’s film, Salo, 120 Days of Sodom)

In this line of reasoning, financialisation becomes a form of biopolitics when it touches upon the productivities of life. It transforms every productive aspect of life force into market share. It draws out the pattern of productivity, making a forecast, illustrate it in an elusive company portfolio to attract as much investment as possible.[7] In short, financialisation extracts profit not only of the actual productivity of life, but also, and most importantly, of its potential ones.

This kind of financialisation has much been discussed. The most obvious work on this is Randy Martin’s Financialization of Daily Life. In this book, Martin develops a stimulating account on how to perceive the prevalence of financial logic in our day to day activities. He laments that today we are witnessing more and more the expansion of financial logic of virtual economy—that is, of selling and buying stock, of speculating, of predicting, etc.—to the domain of what was not economic like house, school, etc. The society has been “financialised” in that it has to be subjected to the rules like the ones governing the Wall Street: dealing with uncertainty, playing with probability, speculating on prediction, gambling on a perceived long term gain, etc. Consequently, people will arrange their life in such a way that it be ready to confront the uncertain future; they insure everything they can afford to insure, equip themselves with as many skills to be compatible with as many job opportunity they could find, invest their kids with education to ensure their future, save money for future unfortunate event, etc. In short, what the financialised society cares so much in their daily life is only one: risk.[8]

The notion of risk plays a significant role in Martin’s financialised society. The central feature of risk is uncertainty, and to cope with it, a risk-taker has to play speculation and probability game. Risk is a kind of imagined future that effectively structures the present. It is “a rhetoric of the future that is really about the present” and also at the same time “a means of price setting on the promise that a future  is attainable.”[9] Risk management is then about how to deal with the uncertain future by anticipating it with a routinised and permanent measure in the present. Later in his Empire of Indifference, Martin expands this understanding to explain how the United States’ military conquest through the so-called “global war on terror” also adopts this financial logic of risk management.[10] Martin tells us that waging the expensive war on terror, for US, is not meant to achieve the old ideal of sovereignty claim, but instead merely to ensure its ability to circulate. By the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive action, the US has abandoned a traditional conception of threat that is well-defined in a framework of friend-enemy distinction. Threat is now understood as, dubbing Rumsfeld’s famous ramble, an “unknown unknowns” which is not clearly defined, in fact is not clear enough whether it exists or not. The US overseas military deployment, then, could be read as an effort to simply patrol, circulate, and and be prepared to pre-emptively exterminate the supposedly source of terror before it fully materialises.

Martin’s account of financialisation stretcthing from daily life to the US imperial war on terror perfectly tells the story of biopolitics, or one could say, of biopolitical financialisation.[11] But despite his thought-provoking account, a critical examination would conclude that Martin’s move to extend the financialisation to daily life is a metaphorical one. The relation between the financial market and the financialised daily life of society is merely an analogy. According to the schema of biopolitics outlined above, Martin has done a good service to map out the two side of biopower diagram—the political economy of the financial market and the political sociology of the financialised daily life of society. However, he is still unable to see the two beyond analogical relations. As a result, he overlooks the novel dimension of what is it like to have our daily life financialised. Namely that the procession of society toward a financialised one is necessarily a political project which, in Martin’s account, appears only as a coincidental extension or consequence. The analogy has blinded Martin to see the gradual restructurisation of biopower which, I argue, arrives its moment after the crisis erupted.

In this research, I argue for the need to read the financialisation of daily life as a correlate (or abstraction in Marx’s term), and not as an analogy, of the financial economy. To reformulate it in the schema I outlined before, the financialised form-of-life/society is a condition of possibility for the financialised force-of-life/economy. Failure in seeing these two as political, will hinder analysis in recognising an active intervention at the two. In fact, such analysis will stand no chance to have a faintest idea about what is being the focus of this present research, that is the new biopolitics that aims not only at financialising the daily life, but also most importantly at financialising the biopower to sustainably finansialise the daily life. This failure will also, most importantly, close analysis to any possibility to change the situation. Here, I resonate Foucault’s call to defend the society through our academic engagement.[12]

NB: this is a fragment of my paper presented in the Research Course on Interconnections of Finance and Security, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Oslo, Norway, 8-10 Oct 2015.

[1]I must say, my definition of biopolitics is quite different from the sense Foucault himself has in mind. See his The History of Sexuality, vol 1, trans. R. Hurley (NY: Pantheon Books, 1978), Part V. The definition presented here has close affinity with the posthumanist and animal studies scholars like, among many, Cary Wolfe. See his What is Posthumanism (London, Minneapolis: Univ of Minnesota Press, 2010).

[2]Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, trans. D. Macey (NY: Picador), p:241.

[3]Idem., The History of Sexuality, vol 1, Part V.

[4]On the concept of form-of-life, see Giorgio Agamben, “Form-of-life,” in P.Virno & M.Hardt, eds., Radical Thought in Italy (London, Minnapolis: Univ. Of Minnesota Press, 1997).

[5]Stefano Lucarelli has succinctly elaborated this in “Financialization as Biopower,” in A. Fumagalli & S. Mezzadra (eds.), Crisis in the Global Economy, trans. J.F. McGimsey (LA: Semiotexte & Ombre Corte, 2010), pp:119-138.

[6]Treatment of the the dual character of biopower has also done elsewhere, albeit with different conception. Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Commonwealth (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ Press, 2009), pp:56-63.

[7]Foucault has actually seen this coming but did not elaborate it further. See Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, p:246.

[8]Randy Martin, Financialization of Daily Life, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002), p:34.

[9]Idem., p:105.

[10]Randy Martin, An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007).

[11]Martin actually also quotes Foucault.

[12]Lipschutz has made a similar call to the reader of International Political Sociology. See Ronnie D. Lipschutz, “Call for Strategy and Action in IPS,” International Political Sociology, 2, 1 (2008).

Financialising Biopower (1): The New Logic of Financialisation in the Era of Sustainability


# This is a work in progress, please consult the author for citation #

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The primary objective of this research is to attempt at constructing a model to understand and to map out the contemporary diagram of biopolitics in the aftermath of crisis. By this, I seek to tease out the novelty of the new diagram of biopolitics that slowly but surely emerges in the post-crisis world (by crisis I refer to the precise event of global financial crisis of 2008). The novel biopolitical diagram concerned is what will be called as the financialisation of biopower. If the modern gesture of financialisation[1] was one towards the financialisation of every aspect of life,[2] then the new one, I argue, is the financialisation of the power to sustainably financialise every aspect of life. While the former implies only the present or short-term concern, the latter accentuates a long-term future, even permanent, ambition. In what follows I will elaborate on the idea.

(Source: dustinmetz.com)

Sustainability and the rise of the new financial logic

To grasp the new gesture of financialisation mentioned before, one only has to look at the outcome document of the UNCSD 2012 Rio+20 conference entitled The Future We Want, and its subsequent post-2015 UN Development Agenda. Cynics would see the document merely as a statement of commitment to renew commitment, or as an agreement to hold next conferences. No significant agreement made with regard to the core agenda. But a closer and more serious look might notice the prognostic of a new gesture of financialisation within.

Beside what cynics might have it, the Future document also urges for a higher degree of policy coherence at the global, regional, national and local level. In order to do this, the effort must be inclusive to every stakeholder of the program. The idea is to share the stake of the environmental concern to as many parties as possible. Hence, ‘global partnership’ has then become one of the buzzword of the post-2015 agenda. Business entity is seen to have an important role in this global partnership since it has the ability to invest, and thus fuels (read: finances) sustainable development projects. The stake is high, the document implies, as the sustainability of the development itself that is being concerned. No sustainability, then no business. So, if business wants to keep going, then a “not-business-as-usual” effort must be done—this is what the document whispers in silence. Here, development must be seen as the very condition of possibility for business. A paradox is quick to arise: if not-business-as-usual efforts are made to guarantee the business-as-usual, then the not-business-as-usual cannot be seen as one that does not yield profit; the very profit of the not-business-as-usual efforts is the sustainability of the business-as-usual itself, and thereby making it itself a business-as-usual!

Starting off from this paradox one must ask: cannot the sustainability project of the post-2015 agenda be seen as a new political project to securitise sustainability itself? Affirmative answer would bring one to see the novelty of the project: the inclusive strategy of global partnership in undertaking the post-2015 sustainability agenda is less a strategy to achieve the sustainable development goals, than to ensure that the sustainability of the project itself be sustainable. Here, we must not fail to notice that there are two layers of sustainability. Global partnership of stakeholders to embark on a not-business-as-usual project must then be seen as a form of collective intervention on the very condition for the sustainable development project to continue—that is to be sustainable. The aim, then, is not directly towards the success of the project, but rather merely in securing its longevity and continuity. This way, we could see the concrete project of, for example, food security is not to achieve a secure supply chain of food, but to secure the future business of securing food. In other words, the sustainable development project first imagined as outside of business-as-usual, is now slowly but surely being dragged back to the sphere of business-as-usual. The post-2015 agenda is the moment when the sustainable development agenda made business by way of its securitisation.

But for my part, I am not content with such conclusion—which perhaps might do well to some environmental critics. My aim is to draw out the implication further towards our understanding of power. The first move then is to construe the gesture of making business out of sustainable development project, as a gesture towards financialisation of the future. As many have noted, the sustainable development project first imagines a specific  (ideological) form of future, and then invites investment. This is how they financialise the future. The “future we want” could only then be achieved through business. (This way, the Future We Want might sound like the Future the Business Wants). But this is not novel enough, or at least not according to what I think is. What is absolutely new is the gesture of making business out of the effort to securitise the sustainable project itself. It seeks not only to financialise the future, but it also seeks to financialise the very condition needed to sustainably financialise the future.

But, some would ask, what is future? What does future comprise? According to the Future document, ‘the future’ encompasses poverty, food, agriculture, water, sanitation, energy, tourism, transportation, city, settlement, health, employment, social protections, oceans, seas, disaster, climate, forest, biodiversity, land, mountains, chemicals, waste, mining, education, and gender. In short: everything that constitutes life itself. Financialisation of the future, then, entails the financialisation of every aspect that constitutes life in the future. Life, even the preservation of it, becomes a commodity for business, and sustainable development programs provide justification for this. Thus said, the sustainable development agenda must be seen as a correlate of power that ensures the smooth functioning of business agenda. In addition, along the post-2015 development agenda, a new form of power gives rise. Its reach covers not only the already existing (business) process of financialising every aspect of life at present and in the future, but now has expanded to cover the condition under which the future of the (business) process of financialising life’s future might be secured. Since this process of securing—i.e. securitisation of financialisation through sustainable development agenda—significantly involves another financial scheme, the one must not also fail to notice two layers of financialisation. It is this redoubling of financialisation that I call the new financial logic in sustainability era.

Conceptually, the new financial logic is manifested in what I will call the financialisation of biopower, and which at the same time marks the birth of the new biopolitics. So, in what way does the financial logic relate to biopower and biopolitics? Next section will discuss this.

NB: this is a fragment of my paper presented in the Research Course on Interconnections of Finance and Security, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Oslo, Norway, 8-10 Oct 2015.


[1] Braudel has argued that the gesture towards financialisation is not a new phenomena. It always occurs every time trade in real commodity declines. Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol III: The Perspective of the World, trans. S. Reynolds (London: Collins, 1984), pp: 241-7.

[2]Efforts to document the issue is abound, among the bold ones are: Randy Martin, Financialization of Daily Life (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002); Randy Martin, An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management(Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007); Andrew Leyshon and Nigel Thrift, “The Capitalization of Almost Everything: The Future of Finance and Capitalism,”Theory, Culture & Society, 24, 7–8 (2007), pp: 97–115; Christian Marazzi, The Violence of Financial Capitalism, New Edition, trans. K. Lebedeva & J.F. Mc Gimsey (LA: Semiotexte, 2011).