In volume 1 of The History of Sexuality and in his course lectures from the same period, Foucault traces the shift from what he alternately calls ‘juridico-legal’ or ‘sovereign’ power to two typically modern forms of power – discipline (which he described in his previous book, Discipline and Punish) and biopolitics – as a shift from a right of death to a power over life. As he writes: ‘[I] n the classical theory of sovereignty, the right of life and death was one of sovereignty’s basic attributes… The right of sovereignty was the right to take life or let live. And then this new right is established: the right to make live and to let die’ (Foucault, 2003b, pp. 240-1). Sovereign power is a power that deduces. It is the right to take away not only life but wealth, services, labour and products. As Foucault writes:

Sovereign power’s only power over life is to seize that life, to end, impoverish or enslave it; what it does not seize it leaves alone.