Gellner's genealogy of the open society: biopolitics as fragment and remainder
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Ryan K. (2015) 'Gellner s Genealogy of the Open Society: Biopolitics as Fragment and Remainder'. Thesis Eleven, 128 (1):113-125.
A decade before Foucault began to work with the related concepts of biopolitics and biopower, Gellner posed a series of questions which are suggestive of a similar line of inquiry. Gellner did not pursue this strand of his thought as an historical sociologist however. Instead he packaged it into a functionalist account of how industrial society reproduces itself. In Gellner s writings, biopolitics is both present and absent, like a redacted text. This is the focus of this article, which locates Gellner s method of inquiry within a corpus of genealogical studies that includes the work of Polanyi, Weber and Foucault. What distinguishes Gellner is that the history he reconstructs is a story of achievement in the face of terrible historical odds, but this culminates in a normative genealogy that limits the scope for critical analysis. The article concludes by adopting an alternative yet still Gellnerian approach to the question of social reproduction, thereby using Gellner to critique Gellner.