Foucault compares the mechanisms of power between the classical age and modern times. In the classical age, power of the sovereigns is “a right of seizure: of things, time, bodies, and ultimately life itself”(Foucault, 1984, p. 259). The power culminates in the form of “take life or let live”(Foucault, 1984, p. 259). Whereas, in modern times, power is executed to secure one’s continued life, to “ensure, sustain, and multiply life, to put this life in order”(Foucault, 1984, p. 260). This power is to cultivate life and to prevent death (Foucault, 1984, p. 261). Foucault terms this power as the biopower, which is manifested in regulation and management of matters concerning one’s body and life. In his study on biopower, he points out specifically that child and childhood generate a number of new issues, including the child’s survival to adulthood and its associative economic impacts, the investment for child development, and the social arrangement of child development (Foucault, 1984, p. 279). Pediatrics, early childhood education, child careservices, and child welfare programs are all parts of the biopower over children.
Human capital tenets exercises the biopower onto children in three ways: first, positioning children at risks; second, categorizing children per their bio-psycho-behavioral characteristics; and third standardizing the child development trajectory. In the rest of this paragraph, the first part is expounded. Nadesan (2010) elaborates how childhood at risks is regulated using the free markets initiatives, and “outcome-based programs stressing personal accountability and financial efficiency”(Nadesen, 2010, p. 63). The social engineering of cognitive capacity per excellence was implemented during the 1960s and the 1970s, purporting to end the “the cycle of poverty”(Nadesen, 2010, p. 69). The preschool phase came to be a critical stage of cognitive development (Nadesen, 2010, p. 69-70). Families of middle or upper middle classes have their children receive advanced academic preparations, whereas, those from lower class backgrounds lack adequate intellectual stimulation and often fall behind their affluent counterparts. This is the mentality behind identification of the children at risks. Since the era of War on Poverty, early childhood education has been delineated as an effective approach to reduce these risks. Heckman and Masterov (2007) argue for investing in young children, for early childhood education augments future economic productivity, literacy and numeracy skills, and reduces crimes for the society. In the aforementioned article written by Heckman (2006), he quantifies the enormous benefits of implementing early intervention programs for disadvantaged children. “Early interventions targeted toward disadvantaged children have much higher returns than later interventions such as reduced pupil-teacher ratios, public job training, convict rehabilitation programs, tuition subsidies, or expenditure on police”(Heckman, 2006, p. 1902).
In order to implement early interventions, one is required to at first target children at risks. The second step concerns with sorting children-at-risk out based on biological, psychological, behavioral plannings. Bio-Psycho-behavioral explications of delinquency, criminality and mental illness regarding children have prevailed. Different features discovered by studying children’sbodies,psychologies,and behaviors are characterized into the normal and the abnormal. The abnormal are classified into and termed as distinct syndromes or disorders. In consequence, expertise and professions such as school psychology, behavioral psychiatry, and counselling are burgeoning. For instance, an analysis of standard textbooks on assessment of children (e.g. Sattler and Hodge, 2006) shows that strategies of assessing children per clinical, behavioral, and psychological foundations are programmed and standardized. Many of these textbooks are consisted ofrationalized and justified contents and procedures to sort out illnesses or disorders (e.g. conduct disorders, autism spectrum disorders) for children.
The third point of biopower on children is pertained to the “typical”path of child development. Early childhood education in the model of human capital is supported largely by developmental psychology. Psychologist Erica Burman applies a deconstructionistcritique on developmental psychology. She finds contradictory issues within canonical theories of social development, language development, and cognitive development, arguing that dominant discourse of developmental psychology are grounded on western legacy and colonial rationales (Burman, 1994, p. 6). In addition, construction of “stage”in child development is contested by critical scholars of psychology and development, that children do not develop in correspondence to “normal”stages. Moreover, the child-center theory integrated with the development is challenged that children grow culturally in different contexts. Multiple studies indicate that investment of early childhood education endorsed by human capital theory are in discrepancy with social equity and justice in some developing countries (e.g. Adriany & Saefullah, 2015). For instance, knowledge of child development based on western middle-class idealization of children and childhood can not be easily transferred to a scenario of assessing children in an indigenous village.