Modern living and vital race: Foucault and the science of life


The paper examines the relation between Foucault's account of modern race and racism in the "Society Must Be Defended" lectures and his analysis of the emergence of the mo-dern notion of life and its science in The Order of Things. In "Society Must Be Defended" Foucault uses the term 'life' both with respect to pre-modern and modern political regimes, ar-guing that in the pre-modern eras there was a particular relation of sovereign power to life and death that differs from the relation to life and death which prevails in the modern era. In The Order of Things, Foucault also discusses the concept of life and the historical emergence of the science of life, biology, in the nineteenth century. For Foucault, modern biological racism is a specifically scientific death sentence. The paper argues that the kind of death at issue in this modern racism must be understood in light of the new evolutionary accounts of life as a trans-organismic continuity that emerge in the life sciences. © 2011 Mary Beth Mader.

Publication Title

Foucault Studies