In a recently published article I proposed the concept of Buddhist Biopower to make sense of GNH/Bhutanese governance in light of Foucault’s governmentality & biopower discussions. “While governmentality refers to an abstract rationality and techniques for how a state conducts the conduct of target populations, biopower is a state’s claim to promote life used to justify actions in exercising this governance” (Montes & Bhattarai, 2018, p.210). Therefore, I make an argument that a Buddhist ethic are appealed to in order to legitimize policy & rule in Bhutan. Primarily the ethic “diminishes the individual in favor of interdependence” (p.212) and conceptualizes happiness as a collective good. Analyses of the GNH index and Bhutan’s 11th Five Year Plan are provided to reveal elements that portray such a governmentality and Buddhist Biopower at work. While much of the work is theoretical and based on secondary document reviews, these conclusions are also based on interviews with governance practitioners as well as from those who have been governed in the country. It is my hope that such work will lay a base for exploring Bhutanese environmental governance in particular. The article is free on the Geoforum website for another couple of weeks, feel free to download and read it here.
Montes, J. and Bhattarai, S.R. (2018). Buddhist Biopower? – Variegated governmentality in Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness agenda. Geoforum, 96, 207-216.