Capitalizing on “The Body”

Secondly, however, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, codified the precept that no legal subject could be imprisoned with out due process of law. It specified that “whoever has the body” must, on being presented with a writ of Habeas Corpus, produce “the body” before a judge in a court of law. By legally stipulating the body in lieu of the person — i.e., literally as the place of the person—the Act specified the body as the natural ground for claiming legal rights, a ground that still supports most personal rights claims. Thus, both Hobbes and Habeas Corpus offered “natural” grounds for opposing the monarch’s claims to divine right by locating the nature of the legal and political person in “the body,” which henceforth provided — and continues to provide — the basis for being an individual. At the end of the 17th century to be an individual, legally and politically (if not yet biologically), came to mean, “to have a body.”

(…) While “power”will become one of Foucault’s most famous concepts, at this point he evokes it as a type of “permanent civil war,” thereby distinguishing his analysis from Marxism’s “class struggle”: “[C]ivil war inhabits, traverses, animates, invests all parts of power. […] The daily exercise of power must be able to be considered as a civil war: to exercise power is in a certain way to conduct a civil war, and all of its instruments, its tactics that one can situate, its alliances, must be analyzable in terms of civil war.”

Capitalizing on “The Body”, Ed Cohen on The Productive Body and La société punitive : Cours au Collège de France (1972-1973) in The Los Angeles Review of Books.