UBC Theses and Dissertations
Habermas, biopower, and the regulation of genetically modified crops and foods Atkinson, Emily
In this paper I combine insights from Habermas’s analysis of the democratic public sphere and Foucault’s concept of biopower to delineate barriers to democratic engagement in health and environmental policy processes, with a focus on rational-critical debate in the public sphere. I begin by demonstrating how Habermas’s approach provides a normative basis for critiquing certain power relations based on how they affect the information and opinions circulating in the public sphere and the development of forums for rational-critical debate. I then explain how Foucault’s concept of biopower draws attention to the more specific mechanisms through which those power relations have the effects that they do in health and environmental policy processes, especially over time. Finally, I apply these insights to the regulation of genetically modified crops and foods in Canada and argue that democratic engagement in this policy process will only improve if unequal power relations that hinder rational-critical debate are mitigated.
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