Biopolitics in the American Political Realm

Biopolitics in the American Political Realm

Biopolitics in the American Political Realm


Biopolitics is the influence of a legislature on the electorate through the use of concerted studies on the presence aspects that affect the situation of the state (Edkins 219). In essence, it is the politics of people. Politics has several spheres to it. Craig and Rahko believe that; there is the concern over the resources in a country such as the Gross Domestic Product, the number of jobs created annually, the value of the currency, the extent of representative demographics and the overall distribution of resources (p. 289).

Assessing all these factors; it is easy for one to imagine that politics is all about the economic and social growth of a nation. However true this may seem, it is not quite the case in many political spectrums across the globe. This is because; there are hardly enough citizens who worry about such demographics and contest for them passionately. Leaders hence ensure that from time to time, they are able to harness power and authority over a population through key issues that affect them. This paper is going to address the different viewpoints of a number of scholars on biopolitics.

One such scholar is Levit (78) who ascertains that the biological makeup of a person is different from the bio-social culturalization of a group or electorate. There are concerns and issues that may seem trivial yet hold unanimously important significance among persons all over the world (Just 413). Political king-makers harness such power to groom persons who have the right influence and exposure to meet a group such as an electorate of millions of people at the point of their perceived needs.

Neyrat (258) defines biopolitics as the study of perceptions and how these perceptions about the socialization of a group can be harnessed into political power. The persons who practice these strategically maneuvers are still the same politicians that use other political moves as well. They leverage values and opportunity promises to gain political traction every cycle of political policy and manifesto-selling seasons often referred to as campaigns.

The concept of biopower

According to Russell (562), biopower can be assessed as being closer to the real definition of power than any other concept in modern politics. It is essentially the pursuit, development and domination of authority over a people based on some unconventional premise. For instance; many leaders wield biopower through influence. In the arguments of Levit (78), he believes that influence is not necessarily born out of charm and charisma.

It may have these ingredients as additional strengths to a leader but the main strengths stem in the concern over the people’s social influences, perceived strengths and weaknesses to induce a sense of mind control. Biopower is the ability to invoke feelings in a people. It is a great asset to any politician and indeed an important bargaining chip that politicians use to gain traction where they are not driven by policy knowledge and general manifesto drafting abilities (Neyrat 258).

In order to understand biopower in the context of the political realm, it is vital to appreciate that such power; often give to leadership by the electorate stems from the very people. Tierney (58) believes that the democratic nations (most of the world) define the basic principles of democracy as ‘belonging to the people, to serve them and whose instruments of power are handed over to custodians (politicians) by the people.

In order for the custodian to gain the access they desire to these instruments of power, there is a soothing language riddled with political rhetoric and socio-economic promises that is used to entice the electorate. These languages are popular during campaigns. While it may be true that many governments do have ethics supporting the campaign process, the concern is that many countries do not have such laws. Indeed, the ‘best team wins’ in terms of political contexts.

Biopower can be best achieved if one is bale to inspire change and transformational leadership in another person or group. This makes it possible to have enough simple conversations at the level or anticipated level of the electorate in order to use charm and charisma to win their hearts over. Politicians use many strategies to gain traction among the electorate. However, the most significant aspect of politics is to maintain a sense of political, social and economic growth.

This also incorporates ensuring that employment rate is high and that security measures to protect markets from volatile market forces are realized. It is widely the opinion of many politicians that the electorate can be controlled to think in a particular manner. Indeed, such a possibility makes it a common goal for all politicians to brainwash the country in making it believe that whatever they believed in is the position of the state at the moment. 

Harnessing political power

Harnessing political power is more likely compared to gaining control over the instruments of authority that govern and rule over a people. Islekel believes that the best comparison of political power systems one can have is the way in which handing over ceremonies transfer paraphernalia from one person to the next (192). The outgoing leaders often hand over symbols of power to the incoming leaders as a way of demonstration that they have made the new leaders part of their leadership portfolios and accepted them completely.

The issue of symbols of power is thus an important aspect in modern political history and has been so since historical times. The bearing of these symbols is thus meant to symbolize strength greater than the simple meanings of these ‘tools’. The interpretation of power thus has never changed among people from as recent as a number of centuries back. Before analyzing how to harness this power, it is important to assess the concept of political power as it applies to an electorate.

Political power; as it applies to most nations in the world can be considered as the ability to influence and wield outright, justifiable and legal control over the behavior of a people. Zupanči, (58) believes that the control over most electorates is based on the ability to convince majority of the electorate to support an opinion, role or value system that is endeared to the people as is practiced by a democratic system.

However, the nature of such a political system or the actual beliefs that the people associate with are often as a result of institutionalized values that are impressed upon them through the illicit control and manipulation of biopower. According to Minca and Chin-Ee (42); while it is a seemingly daunting political decision based on some democratic principle, the choice of a supreme leader such as a president or prime minister is based on perceived commonly accepted principles of social and political living.   

According to Catlaw and Holland, in the modern age, the process of harnessing biopower is basically the process of developing systems for mind control. Be it that these systems may involve the use of principles and values, strategic political decisions or the basic actualization of modern democratic principles such as equality for all, strength of minority groups and the acknowledgement of diversity, the goal is simple; to get people to acknowledge a modern populist view (p. 102).

This can be unfortunately equated to popular opinion on issues and the blatant support for systems that encourage xenophobia, racism and extremely strong nationalistic views. All politicians seek at times is to get elected at all costs. Such a desperate side of bio-political power struggle at times rears a very ugly side that goes against all democratic principles and values to ensure the attainment of the political populist view that controls the realm of biopower in a political system. In retrospect, the wielding of power is a complicated game that is based on political understanding of dynamics, bio-political demographics and the key issues at stake.

 American political history

American political history is the best demonstration of the wielding of power through Biopolitics. Minca and Chin-Ee Ong second this viewpoint by stating that the political arena in the American system is characterized by two main factors; dynamism and consistency (p. 366). In essence, the system of election of representatives is consistently changing as is the political rhetoric and utterance in the nation. American presidency is currently at its 44th dispensation of power and authority.

The man at the helm of this seat; Barrack Obama is particularly a first of his kind; the first black president of the United States of America. It’s a long time since George Washington led a country out of civil wars and without unionization of more than half of the currently unionized states. This has been the state of evolution in the nation and the political clock has run for about two hundred years now. Werbin (168) argues that; before one can understand or begin to comprehend the immense number of reforms that have brought the country’s political system to the present state, it is important to look at the biopower dynamics in the United States.

When President George Washington led an insurgence of American fighters to the battle of Yorktown in October 1781, the continental army thrived beyond the expectations of the superior and organized British army. However, the surprise of the British army was that there was an extremely large continental army, save from the fact that the American Revolution got significant support from French allies.

Among the most important unifying factors for the continental armies were; the resolve to fight the intolerable acts of 1774 and the Quebec act of 1775, the support for the tea party act of 1773 and the free masons. One symbol of American nationalism is the confederate flag that has been very popular among most of the southern States in the United States of America.

From the onset, Americans distinguished themselves as the voice of reason, the group of elitist and indeed the most free-willed society in the world. This opened up a host of immigration loopholes. The values that had been chastised were soon becoming acceptable. New and extremely liberal policies were developed as states became more independent and essentially; rogue.

This led to the civil wars that ended in the unification of states under a federal government for administrative reasons but with significant state autonomy to ensure that each state retained micro-economic controls over its population. This is why some of the values such as gun laws (second amendment) and minority rights for the LGBT became issues from one state to the next. The values that were particularly rightist (strong republican views, the Tea Party and the belief in the confederate power of the United States) became less and less popular, giving rise to the development of American Democrats (leftists).

The differing and dissenting political opinions saw the growth and distribution of multi-party democracy in the United States. The evolution of parties finally led to the registration of three party opinions that have stood the political test of time. These are; the leftists, who are democrats and who believe in free markets, lessened legislation on immigration, freedom of choice (pro-choice) on abortion rights and the support for the LGBT community.

The Republican Party (rightist) supports confederate values. These include; evangelical Christianity, no-to-abortion, restrictions on immigration and generally controversial views on free markets, foreign policy and LGBT rights (Robcis 14). The third category of parties; the green party and the libertarian party stand for generally rightist views with less confederate opinions. Nevertheless, the political system and arena in the United States has changed immensely from the position it held in the George Washington era to the Obama presidency.  

Power in America

Power in America can be approached from different perspectives. Since the goal of this paper is to elucidate the values prominent in Biopolitics, it is important to evaluate almost all the different dynamisms to American power. American power is basically the influence of the United States of America over the rest of the world. The President of the United States of America (POTUS) is considered the most powerful man in the world. This is due to a number of factors.

Firstly, America positioned itself well politically in the previous two World Wars thus grew in strength and might both politically and economically. The second reason is that America has invested in the development of innovative technologies in Information Technology, maritime technology and best of all; military capability. The nation’s military capability is unrivalled in terms of tactics across the world. America is also a political power house and indeed the largest democracy in the world (Russell 562).

Political power in the United States of America is borne of some tools of power. These are the major decision making organs in the state and federal government. At the center of the pool of power is the presidency; the president commands nuclear war codes; the only permissible president to do so since Dwight David Eisenhower.

The discretion and temperament of American presidents has continued to surprise many as despite the power they wield over the world, they are often the voice of reason and the negotiators for peace ties and regional unity. This makes the American leaders very respected and indeed reviewed among all political spectrums. Indeed, the body that does best to guarantee the proliferation of American power is the United Nations’ Organization (UN), which they helped found after the Second World War.    

Power in America is however distributed among other instruments of checks and balance. This is done by the congress, that legislates, the senate that passes bills and the Supreme Court that makes landmark rulings on issues that touch on the core of American values. Regardless, these institutions are also politically aligned in some way, especially based on the fact that they are constituted majorly based on the presidency and the government in power (whether democrat or republican).

American political power is also a complicated bio-political system of the electorate and the Electoral College. It is thus a pseudo-representative democracy setup. This checks the presidency from the time of nomination at party conventions to the time the candidate’s name appears on the ballot. The American senate also has the power to vote a ‘no-confidence’ motion against the seating president and effectively unseat him.  

Influence in the leadership

The American leadership often constitutes of very influential and highly popular yet strong-willed presidents. Some of America’s presidents have been considered among the greatest leaders in history. These include; President George Washington, President Abraham Lincoln, President, President John Kennedy and President Dwight David Eisenhower. The leadership in the United States of America has played a major role in the proliferation of American values, the discerning of American positions in the political sphere on global issues.

According to Meyer-Emerick (691), the influence of American leadership has become common in deciding the position many countries across the world take on issues such as the war on terror, the decisions for or against certain values and the role of education, technology and agriculture in the free market economies. The American values are often presented in all the decision America makes but the outcome of the decisions often bear an international discernment.  

Neyrat (261) believes that; in order to have such political power however, it takes a man to win over the trust of the American society that is highly elitist and value/position-driven. Politics in America often take the shape of discussions on acceptable values and the discernment of aspects of American culture better than the average person. Indeed, it is arguable that it takes some level of intelligence to achieve this. It is also important for American aspiring leaders to maintain party positions on issues without appearing to do so blindly.

They need to show conviction for values that are either leftist or rightist. There is also the need for American presidents to develop an increasingly strong support base while being firm on their opinions and values. They are leaders borne of character but more importantly, the ability to control the mind of the ordinary American towards the support for certain opinions, views and values (Purdy 892).

Trends in modern politics

Modern politics is directed by the sense of strong political opinion on democratic values. The realization of these values guides most of the current systems and indeed forms the basis for the arguments for the rule of governance. Simpson argues that among the most relevant principles in modern politics is; universal suffrage. There are no restrictions to voting rights to any citizen (p. 33). There is a gender-blind society developing and indeed, a lot of the modern political views are based on values and principles of majority rule.

This implies that most of the convictions the presidency in any nation has are often swept aside in favor of public opinion. It is important to realize that biopolitical power is the influence of principles on a person. Nevertheless, such influence can be from the people to the leadership if they feel that the leader is not guiding them well. Many systems in the developed world democracy thus call for resignation of leaders upon public disconcertment.  

Modern political scientists are also part of political campaigns and systems across the world. They study issues of demographical concern such as; the general public opinion on issues, interpretation of popularity polls and opinion polls, drafting of policy statements and calculation of political risk. Many politicians thus consult on the right values to sell to the people, the basic principles of governance to dwell on and in a campaign, the significant value system presented by the general electorate.

The modern leader is thus a function of scientific and professional political research and advice. This means that at any point in time, such leaders need to have their advisors in place to guide them on policies that can have an impact on the nation. The president of the United States for instance is expected to consult congress from time to time as well as get briefings from senate and the cabinet secretaries. All these systems ensure a technocratic approach to political problem-solving. 


Many scholars on biopolitical issues tend to hold the opinion that Biopolitics is majored on the solid acceptance of principles that define humanity and the true meaning of a being. However, the values enshrined in many a constitution do not necessarily depict the common universal suffrage systems. Tierney (64) argues that it is vital that there be a significant biological understanding of the factors that drive reasoning and common thinking among persons. It is important to ensure that the biological needs of a people are understood and not manipulated to ensure that there is a general insistence on the common good of society and not just the need to sell a political idea, opinion or manifesto through consistent manipulation and Machiavellian tactics.

American politics is based on universal suffrage but the system to vet and actualize the political roles and different partisan interests is governed through systems such as electoral colleges. Paz (26) argues that although democratic principles are favorable, it is at times important to place checks and balances in democratic processes to ensure that they do not encourage rogue decisions and other weaknesses associated with democratic rule. However, there is an urge to safeguard democratic principles where they seem to be ignored.

In cases where the democratic rights of a community are essentially obfuscated, there is need to ensure that all the members of the state’s registered electorate are allowed to access the voting rights that they are entitled to. Rutherford (301) is of the opinion that; at all time, democracy has to be given center stage and allowed to take precedence over all other forms of governance. The constitution is the tool that governs the exercise and use of power. It should thus be adhered to effectively and fully implemented without selective bargaining.


Biopolitics is and will always be a concept that modern society has to embrace and appreciate at all times. There is need to ensure that the will of the people is heard. However, where such a will is abused out of political influence and the abuse of aspects of demographic distribution such as wealth, constitutional representation, developmental indices and economic aspects of the community, it may arise that the community is not able to fully recover from such situations. According to Owens (559); democratic principles define a lot of a community’s civilization.

However, where capitalism reigns, democracy is often never given prominence in its very distinctive meaning. Persons that take control and charge over a nation are hardly there to represent the interests of the majority but their own. It is such challenges in democratic principles that often encourage alternative forms of governance in the developed world. However, the fusion of democratic and aristocratic models of governance often offers a reasonable model of governance that is acceptable in many developed worlds.

The argument on Biopolitics by popular scholars expand the common view that society is there to be led by persons who seem to have mastered aspects of influence and brain control that are not common to all. According to Marchezini (365), bio-politics borrows from many spheres of social science such as political science and public administration. However, there are not enough models to explain the very art of political power and influence.

It is a skill that few managed to have and once they do; they wield sufficient influence to assert their authority over society in ways that seem inherently democratic. However, demographics of democratic governance do not allow for equity in leadership. The diverse nature, class differentiation and culturalization of leaders make it difficult for any person to simply achieve such a reality.   

Works Cited

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Craig, Byron B., and Stephen E. Rahko. “Visual Profiling As Biopolitics.” Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies 16.3 (2016): 287-295.

Edkins, Jenny. “Biopolitics, Communication and Global Governance.” Review of International Studies 34 (2008): 211-32.

Islekel, Ege Selin. “Ubu-Esque Sovereign, Monstrous Individual: Death In Biopolitics.” Philosophy Today 60.1 (2016): 175-191.

Just, Daniel. “A Biopolitics Of Immaterial Labor.” Political Studies 64.2 (2016): 401-416.

Levit, Georgy S. “Can a Hypothetical ‘Innate Proclivity to Hierarchically Structured Political Systems’ Explain Real authoritarian/totalitarian Regimes?” Journal of Bioeconomics 17.1 (2015): 71-81.

Marchezini, Victor. “The Biopolitics of Disaster: Power, Discourses, and Practices.”Human organization 74.4 (2015): 362-371.

Meyer-Emerick, Nancy. “Public Administration and The Life Sciences: Revisiting Biopolitics.” Administration & Society 38.6 (2007): 689-708.

Minca, Claudio, and Chin-Ee Ong. “The Power Of Space: The Biopolitics Of Custody And Care At The Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam.”Political Geography 52.(2016): 34-46. 

Neyrat, Frédéric. “The Biopolitics Of Catastrophe, Or How To Avert The Past And Regulate The Future.” South Atlantic Quarterly115.2 (2016): 247-265. 

Owens, Patricia. “Human Security and the Rise of the Social.” Review of International Studies 38.3 (2012): 547-67.

Paz, Alejandro I. “Speaking Like A Citizen: Biopolitics And Public Opinion In Recognizing Non-Citizen Children In Israel.” Language & Communication 48.(2016): 18-27. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 June 2016.

Purdy, Jedediah. “The New Biopolitics: Autonomy, Demography, and Nationhood.”Brigham Young University Law Review 2006.4 (2006): 889-955.

Robcis, Camille. “The Biopolitics Of Dignity.” South Atlantic Quarterly 115.2 (2016): 313-330. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 June 2016.

Russell, Kathryn. “Reproductive Disruptions: Gender, Technology, and Biopolitics in the New Millennium.” Science & Society 73.4 (2009): 561-564.

Rutherford, Stephanie. “Green Governmentality: Insights and Opportunities in the Study of Nature’s Rule.” Progress in Human Geography 31.3 (2007): 291-307.

Simpson, Tim. “Tourist Utopias: Biopolitics And The Genealogy Of The Post-World Tourist City.” Current Issues In Tourism 19.1 (2016): 27-59.

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Werbin, Kenneth C. “Fear and no-Fly Listing in Canada: The Biopolitics of the “War on Terror”.” Canadian Journal of Communication 34.4 (2009): 613-34.

Zupanči, Alenka. “Biopolitics, Sexuality And The Unconscious.” Paragraph 39.1 (2016): 49-64. 

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