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biopower, state of exception and bare life


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#1 inklings

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 01:11 PM

I read essays on these three topics, and i kind of get them. Can somebody explain them please.
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#2 LRdebateloser

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 01:38 PM

look at the critiques forum im sure somebody has done this before, and im lazy
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#3 movingonup

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 01:50 PM

http://www.cross-x.c...ghlight=agamben

http://www.cross-x.c...ghlight=agamben

http://www.cross-x.c...ghlight=agamben

http://www.cross-x.c...ghlight=agamben

http://www.cross-x.c...hlight=biopower

http://www.cross-x.c...hlight=biopower

there are a few helpful threads
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#4 inklings

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 03:55 PM

I have read most of them. Can u still summarize them. You can use one of the camp files as ur focal point.
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#5 movingonup

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 04:03 PM

I have read most of them. Can u still summarize them. You can use one of the camp files as ur focal point.


I provided most of what i can summarize in those threads. I'll try to get back to you (with what little I know) when I get done with homework.
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#6 Fat Man

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 05:43 PM

Summary: the best K ever.
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#7 maxpow

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Posted 11 January 2006 - 03:53 PM

You should read the books instead of asking for summaries.
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#8 TDooley

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 04:27 AM

agreed that this is by far the best K ever, but it can be ran many differnt ways. Instead of using biopower i often use biopolitics--and yes for you idiots out there they are different from each other. essentially, the affirmative team is rekying on the government to change the problems of the status quo emitting a soverign. this soverign having so much control is allowed to "protect" the citizens while organizing a holocaust (edkins 00). this obviously is bad. the alternative is to support, "whatever being" in this sense whatever being is a body that is uncontrollable by anyone therefor not creating a biopolitics which is pretty much where you are a drone to the government
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#9 Papa Smurf

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 04:37 AM

...
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#10 kenerson22

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 06:19 AM

Biopower - Government decides who lives and who dies.
State of Exception - Rights, laws, and rules suspended temporarily. Similar to what Hitler did in the Weimer Democracy where he suspended all the rights of the people to obtain power.
Bare Life - Reducing someone to bare life means all they have is their physical body. There is no meanign to them, they have no rights, and no existance whatsoever. Referred to often as Gitmo prisoners.

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#11 Chase

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Posted 02 March 2006 - 07:54 PM

agreed that this is by far the best K ever, but it can be ran many differnt ways. Instead of using biopower i often use biopolitics--and yes for you idiots out there they are different from each other.


You certainly make yourself sound very high-and-mighty here...

essentially, the affirmative team is rekying on the government to change the problems of the status quo emitting a soverign.


Well, first of, 'rekying' isn't a word. I don't usually nag on things like that, but given the 'idiots' comment above I felt it was justified, sorry. But past that, I don't believe the kritik is as unique as you make it sound. The affirmative's reliance on the government, at least from my understanding of things, does not uniquely produce the sovereign, who was not there before. It may be complicit with the sovereign (and perhaps therefore it strengthens sovereign authority, this is open to debate) but their action does not uniquely 'emit' the sovereign.

this soverign having so much control is allowed to "protect" the citizens while organizing a holocaust (edkins 00). this obviously is bad.


I think it would be interesting and productive to the discussion if you explained this a little bit more and warranted out why this is true. Referencing evidence is always handy in debate rounds, but you should still be talking about warrants/explanation - and also, outside of a debate round where people haven't actually read that card, it's less of a good idea. And why, just because the Edkins card says it, is it true? What proves Edkins? I personally feel that we could have a much more productive discussion if you answered these.

the alternative is to support, "whatever being" in this sense whatever being is a body that is uncontrollable by anyone therefor not creating a biopolitics which is pretty much where you are a drone to the government


How do we support 'whatever being'? What does that action entail? And how does whatever being make itself 'uncontrollable by anyone'? What guarantees this freedom in a world where the state has all the guns?
Also, I feel obliged to mentiont again that the affirmative is not uniquely responsible for 'creating a biopolitics', biopolitics exist in the status quo.
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#12 The K

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 05:50 PM

You certainly make yourself sound very high-and-mighty here...



Well, first of, 'rekying' isn't a word. I don't usually nag on things like that, but given the 'idiots' comment above I felt it was justified, sorry. But past that, I don't believe the kritik is as unique as you make it sound. The affirmative's reliance on the government, at least from my understanding of things, does not uniquely produce the sovereign, who was not there before. It may be complicit with the sovereign (and perhaps therefore it strengthens sovereign authority, this is open to debate) but their action does not uniquely 'emit' the sovereign.



I think it would be interesting and productive to the discussion if you explained this a little bit more and warranted out why this is true. Referencing evidence is always handy in debate rounds, but you should still be talking about warrants/explanation - and also, outside of a debate round where people haven't actually read that card, it's less of a good idea. And why, just because the Edkins card says it, is it true? What proves Edkins? I personally feel that we could have a much more productive discussion if you answered these.



How do we support 'whatever being'? What does that action entail? And how does whatever being make itself 'uncontrollable by anyone'? What guarantees this freedom in a world where the state has all the guns?
Also, I feel obliged to mentiont again that the affirmative is not uniquely responsible for 'creating a biopolitics', biopolitics exist in the status quo.



the aff doesn't have to be uniquely responsible all they have to do is perpetuate it to link , ie they grant rights, " rights" just retrechches the system of governmental dominate. Because the state can then decide whether to grant those rights or take them away. additionally, granting of rights doesn't actually work it just changes the conditions by which the people are treated, the system is still functionally already shaped, and the aff jsut plays into the system of heiarcial Sp domination. And whatever being is is world in wich there are no characterictics to define a certain goup ie the other.
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#13 Chase

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 06:53 PM

the aff doesn't have to be uniquely responsible all they have to do is perpetuate it to link ,


He said the affirmative action is "emitting" a sovereign. This makes it sound like the aff is uniquely responsible. I was pointing out, for the sake of technical correctness, that the critique isn't actually unique, not saying that it has to be.

Also, this is from almost two months ago...
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And when you loose control, you'll reap the harvest you have sown.
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone.
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So have a good drown as you go down, alone, dragged down by the stone.
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#14 nickwilkerson

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 07:12 PM

I like biopower. Bring on the panopticon. Whateverbeing can kiss my ass.
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#15 Startop

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 07:20 PM

.
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#16 Essariel

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 08:50 PM

You certainly make yourself sound very high-and-mighty here...


Chase, you've lost to me on this argument twice, don't trash it unless you can beat it. I'll adress each of your questions individually:

Well, first of, 'rekying' isn't a word. I don't usually nag on things like that, but given the 'idiots' comment above I felt it was justified, sorry. But past that, I don't believe the kritik is as unique as you make it sound. The affirmative's reliance on the government, at least from my understanding of things, does not uniquely produce the sovereign, who was not there before. It may be complicit with the sovereign (and perhaps therefore it strengthens sovereign authority, this is open to debate) but their action does not uniquely 'emit' the sovereign.

1. The kritik doesn't need to be unique, for framework reasons, and the fact that the k can still function as a linear disad to the affirmative which turns the case.

2. The alternative gives uniqueness.

I think it would be interesting and productive to the discussion if you explained this a little bit more and warranted out why this is true. Referencing evidence is always handy in debate rounds, but you should still be talking about warrants/explanation - and also, outside of a debate round where people haven't actually read that card, it's less of a good idea. And why, just because the Edkins card says it, is it true? What proves Edkins? I personally feel that we could have a much more productive discussion if you answered these..


Edkins argument is that when the state gives rights/liberties that makes people complicit/dependant upon the sovereign, the same way you are dependant upon your parents. This supposed 'freeing' from sovereign power actually makes us more dependant on the sovereign for our existence. We lose our ability to act as individual political actors and become as he says "drones for the state." The holocaust impact comes in when the state reasserts its authority over life via the extermination of entire populations, because we're all drones and therefore we can't stop it.

How do we support 'whatever being'? What does that action entail? And how does whatever being make itself 'uncontrollable by anyone'? What guarantees this freedom in a world where the state has all the guns?
Also, I feel obliged to mentiont again that the affirmative is not uniquely responsible for 'creating a biopolitics', biopolitics exist in the status quo.

The Caldwell evidence is pretty explicit that every rejection of sovereign state action creates whatever being. The warrant behind this is that life is no longer managed by guns, but rather by making people dependant upon and believe in the state. If we take on what caldwell describes as "a-sovereign" life by rejecting sovereign actions such as plan then we can no longer be controlled by the state. Your depiction of politics as one in which whoever has the most guys is terminally flawed, if you win that kind of framework (i.e. realism) the neg has probably lost. In the framework of the negative what matters is questions of ontology, i.e. how we as individuals concieve of and posit ourselves towards the question of the political. The affirmative posits a state centric politics which we say is bad, the negative on the other hand offers an individualist politics in which we form communities of "whatever life."

You don't ask this question but I its an integral one for the negative to answer, and that's "what is whatever being/whatever life?" Whatever life is defined by caldwell not as many people read it as "communities without any definition in defiance of all terms" but rather communities in which we retain our individual, cultural, etc. identities but the valuation placed upon those identities ceases to exist so we can universally affirm the value of all identities equally. Thereby we form communities centered around the celebration of every individual. This undercutting of the distinctions sovereignty would draw between forms of life collapse the differentiation between zoe and bios, i.e. bare life and politicized worthwhile life because ALL life becomes valuable. This allows us to collapse the biopolitical exception which is the root cause of violence.

You say the affirmative isn't uniquely responsible for biopower but
1. The alt solves biopower, the permutation can't for a plethora of reasons, the first and most important of which being the alternative is mutually exclusive.

2. You still perpetuate biopower via the link, it doesn't matter if you aren't "solely responsible."

I'd like to note that this is my interpretation of agamben/caldwell/etc. and that I'm by no means the most knoweldgable on the subject. Moreover, there are a number of ways to run the argument, my strategy is only one among many. Finally, Caldwell, agamben, Edkins, etc. would probably hate the way I use their literature. Most debate authors do. *shrug* Its just debate.
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#17 Chase

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 09:47 PM

Chase, you've lost to me on this argument twice, don't trash it unless you can beat it.


I didn't trash the argument. I said the language used by the author who I was originally responding to seemed unecessarily arrogant. It wasn't directed at you or Giorgio Agamben.

1. The kritik doesn't need to be unique, for framework reasons, and the fact that the k can still function as a linear disad to the affirmative which turns the case.

2. The alternative gives uniqueness.


I know. I wasn't trying to win a debate round with my post, I was simply trying to get the author to re-work theirs into a more constructive one. I'm aware that it doesn't need to be unique, but I interpreted the post I was responding to as claiming that it is unique, which is wrong. There is a difference between saying that the argument is not unique and saying that the argument needs to be unique.


I'll respond to the rest tomorrow.
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And when you loose control, you'll reap the harvest you have sown.
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone.
And it's too late to loose the weight you used to need to throw around.
So have a good drown as you go down, alone, dragged down by the stone.
-Pink Floyd, Dogs

Look ma! I doin' genealogy!


#18 TheScuSpeaks

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 10:07 PM

Edkins argument is that when the state gives rights/liberties that makes people complicit/dependant upon the sovereign, the same way you are dependant upon your parents. This supposed 'freeing' from sovereign power actually makes us more dependant on the sovereign for our existence. We lose our ability to act as individual political actors and become as he says "drones for the state." The holocaust impact comes in when the state reasserts its authority over life via the extermination of entire populations, because we're all drones and therefore we can't stop it.



If the political society be communistic, its rhetoric must be devoted to communistic ends and means; if the society be democratic, its rhetoric must respect the values and processes of democracy. The character of the instrumental art derives from the master art. This is the context for the familiar observation that tyranny and dictatorship circumscribe and sicken the arts of public address and discussion and that a free society and a liberal democracy, inviting the tests of dissent, foster a climate in which public utterance – and all the arts of communication – achieve breadth, depth, and vigor. (Wallace, 1955, pp. 199)


If rhetoric, as Karl Wallace contends, prospers under conditions of democracy and is choked under conditions of fascism and tyranny, then the horizon of thought for argumentation theorists ought to properly be concerned with the means by which dissent and democratic disagreement can be cultivated. The conditions of possibility for a democracy are challenged during a time of conflict when leaders use rhetoric to delineate the community of friends and allies and to identify enemies and foes. It is during these times of crisis that the unfinished project of democracy is put to the test. The state response to the attacks of 9/11 has been to indefinitely detain noncitizens suspected of terrorism, to invoke a state of emergency, and to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the United States continues to wage a War on Terror, the justifications for intervention in Iraq have shifted from concerns over the use of weapons of mass destruction to arguments about confronting tyranny and fascism. This shift in the descriptive vocabulary has been accompanied by an argumentative apology for democracy and a call to plant the seeds of freedom in the Middle East. In arguing for the need to enable a transition to democracy, the Bush administration has embraced liberal logics supporting human rights and dissent as primary justifications for their use of violence. It would be hard to miss the irony involved in the Bush administration’s defense of dissent and human rights abroad while they have declared a state of emergency and used that emergency and the state of war to enact policies and legislation clearly at odds with promoting dissent in the United States. In this essay, we set out the impingements on freedom and dissent that have been enacted with the advent of terrorist attacks on US soil to trace the development of the state of exception used by the current administration to control unruly bodies. Specifically, we draw from the work of Giorgio Agamben to examine how governance during times of crisis implicates human rights narratives and arguments. For Agamben, the use of humans rights discourses create zones of indistinction where it becomes possible to distinguish rights bearing citizens from those who may be killed but not sacrificed. Those whose lives are so bereft of worth that no crime against them is considered a crime. It is within these states of exception that Agamben marks the transitions between democracy and fascism. While acknowledging the worth of Agamben’s description of the problem, this essay sets out a defense of human rights and dissent as the cornerstones of democracy and as the primary defense against a transition to tyranny and authoritarianism. Drawing from the works of Jacques Ranciere, we contend that Agamben is too hasty in his rejection of human rights and we contend that dissent and argumentation can anchor a democratic ethos vital to defeating fascism. In returning to the works of early argumentation theorists such as Karl Wallace we hope to show that argumentation and dissent remain key conceptual frames for developing political subjectivity, agency, and democratic ethics. Our argument attempts to reclaim and recover human rights and dissent from those who would use those concepts to justify war and the consolidation of their own power.
The aftermath of 9/11 found a nation in grief, shock, and anger. Writing in response to these extreme conditions, Dana Cloud (2004) explains how consolatory rhetoric was juxtaposed with nationalism in order to justify a stance in favor of war and in opposition to dissent and argument:

The influence of corporate media in cultivating depoliticized citizens is backed up, as Gramsci suggested long ago, by the power of the state in its crackdown on civil liberties at home and abroad. “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.” George W. Bush said, effectively criminalizing dissent and questioning. The war on terrorism has required not only media propaganda but massive witchhunts, secret detentions, roundups of thousands of Arab and Arab American immigrants and citizens; military tribunals, proposals for legalized torture, retinal ID cards, and internal passports; harassment and discipline of students, professors, and media reporters who speak out; a new racial profiling that has led to attacks and deaths; delay in visa processing for thousands of innocent immigrants; and many other repressive acts. The USA patriot Act allows sweeping antidemocratic actions, including searches of citizens and noncitizens without probable cause, detention of immigrants without a hearing, email and internet spying, and tremendous expansion of government powers to spy on and prosecute political protesters, dissenters, and organizations. (77)


As if the list was not enough, Cloud cautions us that the use of therapeutic discourses of consolation after 9/11 have eroded the spaces for meaningful deliberation and have reduced the capacity of the public to engage in meaningful public deliberation. It is within this growth of the state apparatus and power that Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben offers his theory of the state of exception and his critique of humanitarian interventions grounded in appeals to human rights and dissent.

Permanent Exceptions and the Ban

In The State of Exception, Agamben advances the thesis that the trope of emergency and exception has become the paradigm of modern governance. In response to crises, the state arrogates to itself special provisions and authority to deal with disaster. These sovereign powers emerge in relation to the figure of homines sacri, the life that can be killed but not sacrificed. In the period after 9/11 this figure is embodied in the persons of the terrorist, the immigrant, and the detainee. The sovereign exerts its authority over homo sacer by stripping away all rights and prerogatives with the grounding logic aimed at the protection of the rights and security of the citizens of the polis. To preserve rights and democracy, the state constructs camps in which those banned from the city can be dealt with. In doing so, Agamben argues, democracy becomes complicit with its greatest enemy: fascism. (1998, 9-10) Homo Sacer represents the key to understanding the descent of democracy and it is within the ban of homines sacri that Agamben’s description of the problems after 9/11 is most clearly articulated.
In ancient times, those individuals who were banned from the city as outlaws were described as wargus or werewolves. (Agamben, 1998, 104-105) These people lived outside the city and were known as ‘bandits’ because they were banned from the community. They were considered already dead and they could be killed without punishment. The nature of the ban meant that anyone could harm those defined as werewolves without legal consequence. In addition, werewolves could not be sacrificed to the gods and so they represented the paradigmatic instance of Agamben’s figure of bare life, homo sacer. (107) Werewolves were outside the scope of the law and no longer fell within the contract between the sovereign and the people. They existed instead in a space of exception or a zone of indistinction. It is for this reason that the current analog for the werewolf is the figure of the refugee who is often used by contemporary thinkers to describe homo sacer. Homo sacer represents the simultaneous inclusion and exclusion of individuals within the body politic. By legal rule, homo sacer is outside the confines of the city and is thus abandoned by the community. That abandonment, which keys on the ban, set werewolves juridically as non-citizens and as outsiders while simultaneously constructing them as unruly bodies who must be managed with violence. In setting out this relationship Agamben draws heavily from the work of German jurist and legal scholar Carl Schmitt. The primary contribution Schmitt makes to this discussion is in his distinction between friend and enemy in his book The Concept of the Political. The argument Schmitt advances is that even within the new vocabulary of peace that was created by the League of Nations there remained a construction of enemies that was implicit within the logic of sovereignty. Schmitt writes,

The adversary is thus no longer called an enemy but a disturber of the peace and is thereby designated to be an outlaw of humanity. A war waged to protect or expand economic power must, with the aid of propaganda, turn it into a crusade and into the last war of humanity. This is implicit in the polarity of ethics and economics, a polarity astonishingly systematic and consistent. But this allegedly non-political and apparently even antipolitical system serves existing or newly emerging friend-and-enemy groupings and cannot escape the logic of the political. (1932/1996, 79)

The understanding of how the logic of sovereignty inevitably draws humanity back into the simple friend-and-enemy distinction is clearly evidenced in Schmitt’s thought. Even as we develop new linguistic choices and new vocabularies our humanitarian interventions must continue to define an inside space for rights bearing citizens and an external space for those outside the city.
Agamben uses the figure of the werewolf to provide a descriptive device for understanding the relationship between the citizen and the foreigner and, more specifically, to understand the construction of a zone of indistinction between those who are sacred and those who are banished or exiled from the community. The ban involves a double meaning or semantic ambiguity in that the individual who is banned is marked as banned by the sovereign insignia and is simultaneously outside the rules of religion, law, and community. (Agamben, 1998, 111) This movement between inclusion and exclusion is the primary relationship that Agamben wants to get inside of. Agamben argues that this relationship is the originary moment of political thought and is the nomos that conditions every rule and the principle exercise of biopolitical power. (111) Sovereign power is legitimized based on the creation of interiors for communities and that construction always already entails exteriors for those who exist on the peripheries of the cities. It must register as no surprise that the werewolf be selected as the mythic beast that represents bandits and outlaws. The dangers of wolves to the people and especially to the children of ancient communities made them a creature much feared and maligned. So much so that religious figures such as Jesus of Nazareth taught through the metaphor of a shepherd and his flock to highlight the ways to protect the sheep [people] from the wolves. In Matthew 7 verse 15 there is an explicit caution against false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but are in fact wolves. These limited examples point to the ways that wolves and werewolves were perceived in ancient times.
The werewolf is a clear example of homo sacer or more broadly homines sacri, the life that can be killed with impunity and yet cannot be sacrificed. The basis for why a person could have their life ended without need to show cause, but could not be part of a religious ceremony to give them access to the afterlife also elides religion and sovereign power. The normal exercise of sovereign power is suspended in the case of the werewolf because the figure of the werewolf is outside the legal regime. However, the sovereign suspension of normal legal protocols to protect humanity from the threat of the werewolf also places the werewolf within the sovereign order. This space of exception that is both inside and outside the law is presented by Agamben as the normal exercise of biopolitical power by the sovereign. Agamben refers to this as the inclusive exclusion. (78) The sovereign has the power to identify those who are members of the community and those who are homines sacri. Homo sacer, the werewolf, is the one for whom all others then become sovereigns with the power of life and death. For Agamben, this is more than just a unique instance of sovereign logic. Rather, the inclusive exclusion is the center of the very paradigm of sovereign thought in the realm of politics. It is where the political itself is rendered visible.
The logic of the camp is not an exception but rather the normal modality of governance used to regulate an interior for rights bearing citizens and an exterior for those banished from the polis yet simultaneously governed by it. Those who may be killed but not sacrificed, homo sacer, are life stripped of all value and meaning. They are so worthless that it would be sacrilege to offer their lives in a sacrifice to the gods. The Latin term sacer, which Agamben defines as a juxtaposition of both sacred and damned, establishes the inner contours of the sovereign logic at the heart of biopolitics. (78) In order to explain this conceptually, Agamben returns to the origins of capital punishment as a purification ritual. (81) When a person was legally sentenced to die they were consecrated to the gods through ceremony and through the manner of their death. Their punishment was seen to cleanse their soul. The bare life of homo sacer was beyond even the afterlife and thus the werewolf figure represented the irredeemably damned soul. Their death was not capital punishment because the law placed them outside the legal order.
To protect the city and its dwellers from werewolves, the sovereign acts as a shepherd protecting their flock of sheep. This move echoes Foucault’s discussion of pastoral power in his essay “The Subject and Power.” (1982, 214-215) Pastoral power is described by Foucault as a special form of power that was initially ecclesiastical in nature. The state was concerned with the care of the souls of citizen subjects and thus the sovereign was called on to be prepared to lay down their life for the health and protection of the citizens. Protecting the health and well being of the population thus became a primary function of the state. The role of the werewolf becomes even more significant with the advent of pastoral power. The relationship of a people to the state binds the sovereign to protecting the people from threats and maintaining security. In the ancient city-states, homo sacer were cast into the wilderness and banned from the city. However, the werewolves always threatened to return to the polis because they were neither man nor beast and thus could not dwell in either the city or the forest. In modern times, population flows and mobility have altered such that now we have not just individual bandits but ‘Rogue States.’ Entire communities and populations are outlawed. Foucault captures the essence of how this implicates the function of sovereignty in his work on The History of Sexuality:

Law cannot help but be armed, and its arm, par excellence, is death; to those who transgress it, it replies, at least as a last resort, with that absolute menace. The law always refers to the sword. But a power whose task is to take charge of life needs continuous regulatory and corrective mechanisms. Its is no longer a matter of bringing death into play in the field of sovereignty, but of distributing the living in the domain of value and utility. (1976/1978, 144 emphasis in the original)


The matrix of sovereignty, that Agamben calls the nomos of the camp, is expressly biopolitical not just because of the power to kill, but because of the power to set value on life. That power always entails privileging some life as intrinsically valuable. The act of defining the political subjectivity of the rights bearing citizen creates a new space within the matrix of sovereignty for outsiders who have no rights and no value to their life. With the shifting terrain of sovereignty, the dehumanizing act of symbolically identifying outlaws as werewolves takes on new significance as part of a broader biopolitical project that emanates from the political paradigm of the West.
The werewolves or homines sacri identified after 9/11 are the terrorists, the detainees at Guantanamo, and the immigrants who threaten the safety of all within the polis. The logic of the camp put into to play to neutralize the perceived threats employs a deeply spatial logic that exists at a nexus with the ban. Claudio Minca explains this constellation with a special emphasis on how the nomos of the camp implicates and imbricates the citizens of the polis within the order of homines sacri:

This indefinite, somehow indistinct, structure of the ban transforms all of us, in fact, into potential dehumanized human beings, into potential homines sacri. It is this mobile threshold of the ban that is constitutive of the war on terror that pervades some of our societies today. That is why the tacit acceptance of the return of the camp into the political vocabulary of western democracies marks the beginning of a new chapter in the production and deployment of horror. A production and deployment that are, always and inescapably, spatial. (2005, 407-408 emphasis in the original)


The production of atrocity becomes possible in large measure through the circulation of a rhetoric that mobilizes and coalesces around human rights. A state of emergency is evoked because of the threats individuals pose to the security of the democratic state. The enemy is seen to have no redeeming qualities and has become the epitome of evil. It is within this space that citizens are confronted with paradoxical claims that freedom is not free and that we must give up our rights to protect them. Humanitarian interventions and the promotion of human rights are used as a pretext for the creation of a permanent state of exception. For Agamben, the only way out of this dilemma is to understand that human rights and democracy are bankrupt concepts that are ineluctably connected to the logic of the camp.

Dissent and Human Rights

While Agamben is concerned with understanding how people become counted in such ways that they are transformed into homo sacer, the French philosopher Jacques Rancière is concerned with a more basic question: “Who counts?” which poses already two questions; both "Who gets to count?" and "Who does the counting?", because if you are not counted, you do not count. Those who are uncounted become the discardable, the disposable in society. This is how genocides happen, this is how homelessness happens, this is how gay bashing happens, this is how torturing prisoners happen, this is how slaughtering of animals happen, etc. The official count of those killed in the Holocaust (26 million) is a manipulated figure. We do not know how many people were killed in the Holocaust, and the reason we do not know is because they were already the uncounted. The Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, communists, disabled, etc., most importantly the et cetera.
Certainly Agamben’s and Rancière’s questions are not mutually exclusive, but the differences of methodological questions prefigure their differences on understanding how human rights operate. Agamben’s objection to human rights is multifaceted, but depends heavily upon Hannah Arendt’s objections to human rights. To summarize her arguments from Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt argues that human rights are essentially useless without being a citizen of a nation-state. In short, either you have the rights granted to you as a citizen and human rights are not needed, or they are the rights of those that can never use them. It is here that Rancière makes his intervention. In order to avoid the ontological trap that operates, as he phrases it: “[e]ither the rights of those who have no rights or the rights of those who have rights. Either a void or a tautology, and, in both cases, a deceptive trick” (WSR 302), Rancière seeks to articulate a third way out. This third way sees rights not as a something given and guaranteed by a state, but rather as the basis for rhetorical and political tools for exactly those who do not have rights. This third way radically disrupts the counting process itself.
For Rancière the key to understanding the question of "Who counts?" is in what he frequently calls "the distribution of the sensible." The distribution of the sensible is the usually implicit law that determines the common by deciding what gets to count as speech and what gets to count as noise. The frequently used example by Rancière is the story Livy tells of the secession of the Roman plebeians on Aventine Hill. The Roman patricians cannot imagine discussion with the plebeians because they firmly believe the plebeians do not speak; they simply make anguished noises (DPP 23-28). The patrician refusal to even hear the plebeians is not, however, political. Rather, it is a firmly apolitical move that develops a consensus that refuses the political and polices the boundaries of what counts as sense. Rancière makes this distinction explicit:
Politics is generally seen as the set of procedures whereby the aggregation and consent of collectivities is achieved, the organization of powers, the distribution of places and roles, and the systems for legitimizing this distribution. I propose to this system of distribution and legitimization another name. I propose to call it the police" (DPP28, emphasis in the original).
However, "politics exists wherever the count of parts and parties of society is disturbed by the inscription of a part of those who have no part" (DPP 123). In the hands of a part that has no part, human rights rhetoric can stage a dissensus and reveal a miscount at the heart of society. As Ranciere puts it:

This is also why today the citizens of states ruled by a religious law or by the mere arbitrariness of their governments, and even the clandestine immigrants in the zones of transit of our countries or the populations in the camps of refugees, can invoke [human rights]. These rights are theirs when they can do something with them to construct a dissensus against the denial of rights they suffer. And there are always people among them who do it. (WSR 305-306).
The question now arises is how human rights are to be rhetorically deployed as a form of dissensus.
Rancière advocates that human rights can be used a major premise in rhetorical syllogisms. However, Rancière is not advocating any sort of traditional syllogisms, but something new, which he terms a “syllogism of emancipation” (OSP 45). There exists, according to Rancière, two ways of formulating a syllogism. The construction of the major and minor premises are the same. For example, article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out the rights for freedom of movement. Refugees are denied exactly this right. So, major premise: all people are equally free to return to their home countries. Minor premise: refugees are not free to return. The differences of syllogisms occurs in resolving the contradiction between the major and minor premise. The traditional solution is to declare the major premise invalid, and thus useless. However, a syllogism of emancipation affirms that something must change. Either article 13 must be changed to say that we are not all equal in freedom of movement, or the conditions of the minor premise must be changed. To say, “we are all equal” is never nothing. It provides a space for equality, a rhetorical place where equality is real. The syllogistic practice is conceived as a constant testing of this real equality. It allows the demands and needs of a part that has no part to be seen not just as noise, but as speech. And as speech, the basis of a political subjectivity. If we assume inequality and simply propose ways to reduce it, we automatically refuse the possibility of radical equality and democracy, we succeed in just setting up further hierarchies. Rather, we must start “from the point of view of equality, asserting equality, assuming equality as a given, working out from equality, trying to see how productive it can be and thus maximizing all possible liberty and equality” (OSP 51-52).
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#19 slcathena

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 10:30 PM

Chase, you've lost to me on this argument twice, don't trash it unless you can beat it. I'll adress each of your questions individually:


That's an absolutely silly, warrantless argument. By this logic, I assume this means your posts in the Substantially w/o Mat Quals post aren't worth responding to?


1. The kritik doesn't need to be unique, for framework reasons, and the fact that the k can still function as a linear disad to the affirmative which turns the case.

2. The alternative gives uniqueness.


I agree that Agamben's arg can be treated like a linear DA, in fact, that's exactly how it should be treated, like a F'ism DA. Yes, I know that if you win your framework it is somehow magically transformed into meaning more, but you already know what I think of that. ;)

However your #2 only works if you win that the alt has enough probability and solvency to create a world with less biopower. I'll contend that's flawed, because for all of Caldwell's/Agamben's ranting, at the end of the day their argument fails to address Chase's points. Considering that Agamben's example of whatever being is Tianamen, I'm thinking the fact that the state will still have guns (tanks) whatever, is pretty relevent to any solvency you would get, and thus crucial to your "creating uniqueness" arg.


Edkins argument is that when the state gives rights/liberties that makes people complicit/dependant upon the sovereign, the same way you are dependant upon your parents. This supposed 'freeing' from sovereign power actually makes us more dependant on the sovereign for our existence. We lose our ability to act as individual political actors and become as he says "drones for the state." The holocaust impact comes in when the state reasserts its authority over life via the extermination of entire populations, because we're all drones and therefore we can't stop it.


Scu answered this way better than I could ever hope too.

The Caldwell evidence is pretty explicit that every rejection of sovereign state action creates whatever being. The warrant behind this is that life is no longer managed by guns, but rather by making people dependant upon and believe in the state. If we take on what caldwell describes as "a-sovereign" life by rejecting sovereign actions such as plan then we can no longer be controlled by the state. Your depiction of politics as one in which whoever has the most guys is terminally flawed, if you win that kind of framework (i.e. realism) the neg has probably lost. In the framework of the negative what matters is questions of ontology, i.e. how we as individuals concieve of and posit ourselves towards the question of the political. The affirmative posits a state centric politics which we say is bad, the negative on the other hand offers an individualist politics in which we form communities of "whatever life."

You don't ask this question but I its an integral one for the negative to answer, and that's "what is whatever being/whatever life?" Whatever life is defined by caldwell not as many people read it as "communities without any definition in defiance of all terms" but rather communities in which we retain our individual, cultural, etc. identities but the valuation placed upon those identities ceases to exist so we can universally affirm the value of all identities equally. Thereby we form communities centered around the celebration of every individual. This undercutting of the distinctions sovereignty would draw between forms of life collapse the differentiation between zoe and bios, i.e. bare life and politicized worthwhile life because ALL life becomes valuable. This allows us to collapse the biopolitical exception which is the root cause of violence.


Seems to me the question of whether whatever life/whatever being exists long enough to do anything before the state steps in and obliterates it is pretty fundamental to your alt solving anything, in which case Chase's comments about guns are pretty relevent. Additionally, if you collapse all biopower I think you should have to answer the policy based turns surrounding things like deterrance, etc, as they are pretty good reasons we should risk your linear DA, which we live with everyday since it's preventing global nuclear war.

You say the affirmative isn't uniquely responsible for biopower but
1. The alt solves biopower, the permutation can't for a plethora of reasons, the first and most important of which being the alternative is mutually exclusive.


Not if the alt gets obliterated by a government with guns, or is impossible to maintain. In the event you do solve, you kill us all. That's fun.

2. You still perpetuate biopower via the link, it doesn't matter if you aren't "solely responsible."


Here's the rub with K's, while I'll give you this argument, if you want to roll like that, that's fine, but then your terminal impacts should be given the same amount of weight that a F'ism DA is given, winable? Yes. But most judges are closer to pulling the trigger on uniqueness with a linear DA than they are with K's and that's a tad bothersome to me.
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#20 TheScuSpeaks

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 11:04 PM

You don't ask this question but I its an integral one for the negative to answer, and that's "what is whatever being/whatever life?" Whatever life is defined by caldwell not as many people read it as "communities without any definition in defiance of all terms" but rather communities in which we retain our individual, cultural, etc. identities but the valuation placed upon those identities ceases to exist so we can universally affirm the value of all identities equally.



(1) isn't this just relativism?
(2) How can those identities exist without valuation placed on them? So for example, conservative christians have to stop believing that people are going to hell? But isn't that the essence of them? Or maybe you can argue that it shouldn't be the essence, that conservatism is wrong. Which is fine, but aren't you then priviledging one identity over another? (and isn't this again, just pure relativism?).
(3) Isn't this the message of colonialism? Enlightment style humanism? You're identities are not important, we are all pure beings, whatever beings, together. Wouldn't whatever being be opposed to black nationalism? be opposed to Aztlan? And if it is opposed to these things, then how is whatever being not the epitome of white priveledge?


Thereby we form communities centered around the celebration of every individual.



so is whatever being opposed to collectivism?

This undercutting of the distinctions sovereignty would draw between forms of life collapse the differentiation between zoe and bios, i.e. bare life and politicized worthwhile life because ALL life becomes valuable. This allows us to collapse the biopolitical exception which is the root cause of violence.



Wait, but isn't Agamben very clear in Homo Sacer that it is the zone of indistinction between bios and zoe that produces the state of exception? (like try page nine, and move from there. here is a taste from that page, "Instead the decisive fact is that, together with the process by which the exception everywhere becomes the rule, the realm of bare life-- which is originally situated at the margins of the political order-- gradually begins to coincide with the political realm, and exclusion and inclusion, outside and inside, bios and zoe, right and fact, enter into a zone of irreducible indistinction." ).
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