The greatest contribution of Han’s book is that he tears into the fashionable concept of biopolitics. He says that when Foucault first came up with the term, it was already starting to get outdated. Today, when everybody is suddenly into it (just go to any academic book fair and look at recent releases), it’s completely dead.
Why? Because biopolitics is all about capitalism managing human bodies to make them more productive. Automation and the digital revolution, however, destroyed the need for large numbers of physically productive bodies in post-industrial societies. Today it’s all about the obesity of sedentary bodies and not about the physical exhaustion of the lean, muscular ones. And I’m glad if you have a muscular body but are you manufacturing many goods with it?
Neoliberalism doesn’t care about disciplining physical bodies because “it has discovered the psyche as a productive force” (25).
I don’t detest Foucault – there would be no Bauman without him, after all – but I’m so glad somebody is finally taking apart the idea that biopolitics is something we need to discuss in relation to the events after the 1970s.
You folks all know how I hate the narratives based on not noticing that the world economy has changed dramatically since then. And Han is one of the people who hates them, too. The tone of his writing gets downright acerbic when he gets to this point.
Note, by the way, that this is only page 25, and I already got 3 posts out of them. Han’s books are all tiny. But he’s very anti-fluff, so the books are very densely packed. He’s not one of those people who feel the need to quote Aristotle, Hegel and Derrida for 200 pages to prove they are well-read until they finally deign to make a point. I like authors who are sure of themselves and can just say what they fucking mean already, without dancing around the issue forever.