“Biopolitics” is a term coined by Michel Foucault, to conceptualize in social theory how human social and biological existence is controlled through knowledge production, geography, medicine, race, sexuality, and the establishment and regulation of societal norms in general (to name several of the most prominent human processes affected). The historical precursor and an important contemporary internal mechanism to biopolitics, according to Foucault, is “anatamo-politics”. Unlike biopolitics, which aims to regularize the global human race through a “massifying” effect, anatamo-politics works to atomize individuals through a disciplinary effect, which is operationalized through institutions by means of surveillance, punishment, and training for the purpose of a specific economic use or function (think, for example, of Fordism and the assembly-line factory worker). Both biopolitics and anatamo-politics operate jointly through the triadic processes developed conceptually by Foucault: knowledge/power/subjectification.
To borrow a definition offered by Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose (2006:195), biopolitics, or “biopower”, typically involves “a relation between ‘letting die’… and making live… that is to say, strategies for the governing of life.“