chapter  6
9 Pages

Biopolitics at the threshold of the living subject

Care for the health of population, including its longevity, comprises one of the main functions of modern power, the others being war/peace, order and wealth (Foucault 1997d: 94). The genealogy of the health function constitutes the field of biopolitics within the history of the present. The investigations in which I have engaged here examined a key objective of twentieth-century biopolitics: optimizing health at the threshold of the living subject. In that century, care for the health of population strategically targeted the reduction of infant mortality over narrower and narrow intervals in the first year of life until the conservation of the living subject was pushed before birth. I have argued that the strategy of preserving health at the beginnings of the living subject led to the invention of a perinatal threshold, an alternative conception of the threshold of the living subject that unsettled the prior birth threshold. The resulting problematization of the threshold of the living subject in the second half of the twentieth century marked an event in vital politics that has not yet concluded.