Jump to content
BeanieBeanie

Explanation on Biopolitics?

Recommended Posts

Ya should know how bad I am at explaining stuff and go listen to what the people on here say, most of them either a, have more experience, b, are better at explaining or c, both.

 

 

Frank I don't really remember the last time you explained to me anything... well that is excluding some of our net benefit arguments about my lack of memorization and application XD

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Deregulation is generally part a program of laissez-faire / classic liberalism.  It means reducing state involvement to zero or the bare minimum in that area in the future.  Deregulation should not be confused with strategic elimination of some regulations to achieve the state's ends - deregulation is about eliminating regulations to get the state out of that part of the economy (or whatever other area is being deregulated). 

 

Neoliberalism is very much a form of state capitalism.  Foucault isn't constructing 'neoliberalism' out of whole cloth or giving a name to something, he is using the name to refer to an actual political and economic movement from the interwar period and onwards that called itself neoliberalism.  Foucault is  here insisting on identifying the word with the actual movement which called itself that.  In short, Foucault is absolutely right here, and anyone who uses the word otherwise is patently wrong.  Which is fortunate, because what you want it to mean is vacuous because it is without meaning.  There must be definable characteristics that are constant which we can point to and define it based on, or it isn't one thing and you're just confusing the issue by trying to use one term to cover a variety of distinct things.

And you are correct, this IS the definition of neoliberalism; but what I was getting at was that contemporary "neoliberalism" operates under different conditions. Deleuze and Guattari describe capitalism as being schizophrenic; indeed, it changes for strategic reasons. I think that the policy of deregulation has become paradigmatic of neoliberalism in the sense that States try their best to enhance free trade and economic interdependence. I think that your understanding of "minimal government intervention" assumes that the government does absolutely nothing; which is it true in thes sense that States can engage in the policy of deregulation, by which the act of deregulation presupposes a drive, or rathe desire for it from the State. Neoliberal governmentality, or government during the neoliberal age, operates through State action in favor of deregulation and economic liberalization. For instance, the act of privatizing an industry would be part of neoliberalism, as well as am act of deregulation.

 

But back to the Biopower stuff; I think most of you are confusing Biopower with Sovereign power; when a population is sustained as "bare life" then they are not part of a governmental institutions that exerts biopolitical power, but are rather within the State of Exception, and therefore by extension Sovereign Power, that Schmitt and Agamben describe. Biopower, as Miro has explained, is merely the regulation of population to achieve what would be a "healthy and productive society." For instance, seat belt laws are a form of biopolitics. I think, however, when we start going into punishment within biopolitical/sovereign instutions or forms of governmentality, things start to get more complicated as punishment would be one of the ways in which power gains legitmacy, as per how and for what purpose it's being used.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think this evidence is one of the best explanations of how neoliberalism differs for classic liberalism in the context of governmentality and bipolitics.

 

 

 

Read (University of Southern Maine) 9

 

(Jason, The University of Southern Maine, A Genealogy of Homo-Economicus: Neoliberalism and the Production of Subjectivity, Fouca

 

ult Studies, No 6, pp. 25-36, February 2009)

 

 

 

In order to frame Foucault’s analysis it is useful to begin with how he sees the distinction between liberalism and neoliberalism

 

. For Foucault, this difference has to do with the different ways in which they each focus on economic activity. Classical liberalism focused on exchange, on what Adam Smith called mankind’s tendency to “barter, truck, and exchange.” It naturalized the market as a system with its own rationality, its own interest, and its own specific efficiency, arguing ultimately for its superior efficiency as a distributor of goods and services. The market became a space of autonomy that had to be carved out of the state through the unconditional right of private property. What Foucault stresses in his understanding, is the way in which the market becomes more than just a specific institution or practice to the point where it has become the basis for a reinterpretation and thus a critique of state power. Classical liberalism makes exchange the general matrix of society. It establishes a homology: just as relations in the marketplace can be understood as an exchange of certain freedoms for a set of rights and liberties.4 Neoliberalism, according to Foucault, extends the process of making economic activity a general matrix of social and political relations, but it takes as its focus not exchange but competition.5 What the two forms of liberalism, the “classical” and “neo” share, according to Foucault, is a general idea of “homo economicus,” that is, the way in which they place a particular “anthropology” of man as an economic subject at the basis of politics. What changes is the emphasis from an anthropology of exchange to one of competition. The shift from exchange to competition has profound effects: while exchange was considered to be natural, competition is understood by the neo-liberals of the twentieth century to be an artificial relation that must be protected against the tendency for markets to form monopolies and interventions by the state. Competition necessitates a constant intervention on the part of the state, not on the market, but on the conditions of the market.6 What is more important for us is the way in which this shift in “anthropology” from “homo economicus” as an exchanging creature to a competitive creature, or rather as a creature whose tendency to compete must be fostered, entails a general shift in the way in which human beings make themselves and are made subjects. First, neoliberalism entails a massive expansion of the field and scope of economics. Foucault cites Gary Becker on this point: “Economics is the science which studies human behavior as relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternate uses.” 7 Everything for which human beings attempt to realize their ends, from marriage, to crime, to expenditures on children, can be understood “economically” according to a particular calculation of cost for benefit. Secondly, this entails a massive redefinition of “labor” and the “worker.” The worker has become “human capital”. Salary or wages become the revenue that is earned on an initial investment, an investment in one’s skills or abilities. Any activity that increases the capacity to earn income, to achieve satisfaction, even migration, the crossing of borders from one country to another, is an investment in human capital. Of course a large portion of “human capital,” one’s body, brains, and genetic material, not to mention race or class, is simply given and cannot be improved. Foucault argues that this natural limit is something that exists to be overcome through technologies; from plastic surgery to possible genetic engineering that make it possible to transform one’s initial investment. As Foucault writes summarizing this point of view: “Homo economicus is an entrepreneur, an entrepreneur of himself.”8 Foucault’s object in his analysis is not to bemoan this as a victory for capitalist ideology, the point at which the “ruling ideas” have truly become the ideas of the “ruling class,” so much so that everyone from a minimum wage employee to a C.E.O. considers themselves to be entrepreneurs. Nor is his task to critique the fundamental increase of the scope of economic rationality in neo-liberal economics: the assertion that economics is coextensive with all of society, all of rationality, and that it is economics “all the way down.” Rather, Foucault takes the neo-liberal ideal to be a new regime of truth, and a new way in which people are made subjects: homo economicus is fundamentally different subject, structured by different motivations and governed by different principles, than homo juridicus, or the legal subject of the state. Neoliberalism constitutes a new mode of “governmentality,” a manner, or a mentality, in which people are governed and govern themselves. The operative terms of this governmentality are no longer rights and laws but interest, investment and competition. Whereas rights exist to be exchanged, and are some sense constituted through the original exchange of the social contract, interest is irreducible and inalienable, it cannot be exchanged. The state channels flows of interest and desire by making desirable activities inexpensive and undesirable activities costly, counting on the fact that subjects calculate their interests. As a form of governmentality, neoliberalism would seem paradoxically to govern without governing; that is, in order to function its subjects must have a great deal of freedom to act—to choose between competing strategies. The new governmental reason needs freedom; therefore, the new art of government consumes freedom. It must produce it, it must organize it. The new art of government therefore appears as the management of freedom, not in the sense of the imperative: “be free,” with the immediate contradiction that this imperative may contain...[T]he liberalism we can describe as the art of government formed in the eighteenth century entails at its heart a productive/destructive relationship with freedom. Liberalism must produce freedom, but this very act entails the establishment of limitations, controls, forms of coercion, and obligations relying on threats, etcetera.9 These freedoms, the freedoms of the market, are not the outside of politics, of governmentality, as its limit, but rather are an integral element of its strategy. As a mode of governmentality, neoliberalism operates on interests, desires, and aspirations rather than through rights and obligations; it does not directly mark the body, as sovereign power, or even curtail actions, as disciplinary power; rather, it acts on the conditions of actions. Thus, neoliberal 

 

governmentality follows a general trajectory of intensification. This trajectory follows a fundamental paradox; as power becomes less restrictive, less corporeal, it also becomes more intense, saturating the field of actions, and possible actions. 10 Foucault limits his discussion of neoliberalism to its major theoretical texts and paradigms, following its initial formulation in post-war Germany through to its most comprehensive version in the Chicago School. Whereas Foucault’s early analyses are often remembered for their analysis of practical documents, the description of the panopticon or the practice of the confessional, the lectures on “neoliberalism” predominantly follow the major theoretical discussions. This is in some sense a limitation of the lecture course format, or at least a reflection that this material was never developed into a full study. Any analysis that is faithful to the spirit and not just the letter of Foucault’s text would focus on its existence as a practice and not just a theory diffused throughout the economy, state, and society. As Thomas Lemke argues, neoliberalism is a political project that attempts to create a social reality that it suggests already exists, stating that competition is the basis of social relations while fostering those same relations.11 The contemporary trend away from long term labor contracts, towards temporary and part-time labor, is not only an effective economic strategy, freeing corporations from contracts and the expensive commitments of health care and other benefits, it is an effective strategy of subjectification as well. It encourages workers to see themselves not as “workers” in a political sense, who have something to gain through solidarity and collective organization, but as “companies of one.” They become individuals for whom every action, from taking courses on a new computer software application to having their teeth whitened, can be considered an investment in human capital. As Eric Alliez and Michel Feher write: “Corporations’ massive recourse to subcontracting plays a fundamental role in this to the extent that it turns the workers’ desire for independence...into a ‘business spirit’ that meets capital’s growing need for satellites.”12 Neoliberalism is not simply an ideology in the pejorative sense of the term, or a belief that one could elect to have or not have, but is itself produced by strategies, tactics, and policies that create subjects of interest, locked in competition. Because Foucault brackets what could be considered the “ideological” dimension of neoliberalism, its connection with the global hegemony of not only capitalism, but specifically a new regime of capitalist accumulation, his lectures have little to say about its historical conditions. Foucault links the original articulation of neoliberalism to a particular reaction to Nazi Germany. As Foucault argues, the original neo-liberals, the “Ordo-liberals,” considered Nazi Germany not to be an effect of capitalism. But the most extreme version of what is opposed to capitalism and the market—planning. While Foucault’s analysis captures the particular “fear of the state” that underlies neoliberalism, its belief that any planning, any intervention against competition, is tantamount to totalitarianism. It however does not account for the dominance of neoliberalism in the present, specifically its dominance as a particular “technology of the self,” a particular mode of subjection. At the same time, Foucault offers the possibility of a different understanding of the history of neoliberalism when he argues that neoliberalism, or the neo-liberal subject as homo economicus, or homo entrepreneur, emerges to address a particular lacunae in liberal economic thought, and that is labor. In this sense neoliberalism rushes to fill the same void, the same gap, that Marx attempted to fill, without reference to Marx, and with very different results.13 Marx and neo-liberals agree that although classical economic theory examined the sphere of exchange, the market, it failed to enter the “hidden abode of production” examining how capital is produced. Of course the agreement ends there, because what Marx and neo-liberals find in labor is fundamentally different: for Marx labor is the sphere of exploitation while for the neo-liberals, as we have seen, labor is no sooner introduced as a problem than the difference between labor and capital is effaced through the theory of “human capital.”14 Neoliberalism scrambles and exchanges the terms of opposition between “worker” and “capitalist.” To quote Etienne Balibar, “The capitalist is defined as worker, as an ‘entrepreneur’; the worker, as the bearer of a capacity, of a human capital.”15 Labor is no longer limited to the specific sites of the factory or the workplace, but is any activity that works towards desired ends. The terms “labor” and “human capital” intersect, overcoming in terminology their longstanding opposition; the former becomes the activity and the latter becomes the effects of the activity, its history. From this intersection the discourse of the economy becomes an entire way of life, a common sense in which every action--crime, marriage, higher education and so on--can be charted according to a calculus of maximum output for minimum expenditure; it can be seen as an investment. Thus situating Marx and neoliberalism with respect to a similar problem makes it possible to grasp something of the politics of neoliberalism, which through a generalization of the idea of the “entrepreneur,” “investment” and “risk” beyond the realm of finance capital to every quotidian relation, effaces the very fact of exploitation. Neoliberalism can be considered a particular version of “capitalism without capitalism,” a way of maintaining not only private property but the existing distribution of wealth in capitalism while simultaneously doing away with the antagonism and social insecurity of capitalism, in this case paradoxically by extending capitalism, at least its symbols, terms, and logic, to all of society. The opposition between capitalist and worker has been effaced not by a transformation of the mode of production, a new organization of the production and distribution of wealth, but by the mode of subjection, a new production of subjectivity. Thus, neoliberalism entails a very specific extension of the economy across all of society; it is not, as Marx argued, because everything rests on an economic base (at least in the last instance) that the effects of the economy are extended across of all of society, rather it is an economic perspective, that of the market, that becomes coextensive with all of society. As Christian Laval argues, all actions are seen to conform to the fundamental economic ideas of self-interest, of greatest benefit for least possible cost. It is not the structure of the economy that is extended across society but the subject of economic thinking, its implicit anthropology.16 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think this evidence is one of the best explanations of how neoliberalism differs for classic liberalism in the context of governmentality and bipolitics.

 

 

 

Read (University of Southern Maine) 9

 

(Jason, The University of Southern Maine, A Genealogy of Homo-Economicus: Neoliberalism and the Production of Subjectivity, Fouca

 

ult Studies, No 6, pp. 25-36, February 2009)

 

 

 

In order to frame Foucault’s analysis it is useful to begin with how he sees the distinction between liberalism and neoliberalism

 

. For Foucault, this difference has to do with the different ways in which they each focus on economic activity. Classical liberalism focused on exchange, on what Adam Smith called mankind’s tendency to “barter, truck, and exchange.” It naturalized the market as a system with its own rationality, its own interest, and its own specific efficiency, arguing ultimately for its superior efficiency as a distributor of goods and services. The market became a space of autonomy that had to be carved out of the state through the unconditional right of private property. What Foucault stresses in his understanding, is the way in which the market becomes more than just a specific institution or practice to the point where it has become the basis for a reinterpretation and thus a critique of state power. Classical liberalism makes exchange the general matrix of society. It establishes a homology: just as relations in the marketplace can be understood as an exchange of certain freedoms for a set of rights and liberties.4 Neoliberalism, according to Foucault, extends the process of making economic activity a general matrix of social and political relations, but it takes as its focus not exchange but competition.5 What the two forms of liberalism, the “classical” and “neo” share, according to Foucault, is a general idea of “homo economicus,” that is, the way in which they place a particular “anthropology” of man as an economic subject at the basis of politics. What changes is the emphasis from an anthropology of exchange to one of competition. The shift from exchange to competition has profound effects: while exchange was considered to be natural, competition is understood by the neo-liberals of the twentieth century to be an artificial relation that must be protected against the tendency for markets to form monopolies and interventions by the state. Competition necessitates a constant intervention on the part of the state, not on the market, but on the conditions of the market.6 What is more important for us is the way in which this shift in “anthropology” from “homo economicus” as an exchanging creature to a competitive creature, or rather as a creature whose tendency to compete must be fostered, entails a general shift in the way in which human beings make themselves and are made subjects. First, neoliberalism entails a massive expansion of the field and scope of economics. Foucault cites Gary Becker on this point: “Economics is the science which studies human behavior as relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternate uses.” 7 Everything for which human beings attempt to realize their ends, from marriage, to crime, to expenditures on children, can be understood “economically” according to a particular calculation of cost for benefit. Secondly, this entails a massive redefinition of “labor” and the “worker.” The worker has become “human capital”. Salary or wages become the revenue that is earned on an initial investment, an investment in one’s skills or abilities. Any activity that increases the capacity to earn income, to achieve satisfaction, even migration, the crossing of borders from one country to another, is an investment in human capital. Of course a large portion of “human capital,” one’s body, brains, and genetic material, not to mention race or class, is simply given and cannot be improved. Foucault argues that this natural limit is something that exists to be overcome through technologies; from plastic surgery to possible genetic engineering that make it possible to transform one’s initial investment. As Foucault writes summarizing this point of view: “Homo economicus is an entrepreneur, an entrepreneur of himself.”8 Foucault’s object in his analysis is not to bemoan this as a victory for capitalist ideology, the point at which the “ruling ideas” have truly become the ideas of the “ruling class,” so much so that everyone from a minimum wage employee to a C.E.O. considers themselves to be entrepreneurs. Nor is his task to critique the fundamental increase of the scope of economic rationality in neo-liberal economics: the assertion that economics is coextensive with all of society, all of rationality, and that it is economics “all the way down.” Rather, Foucault takes the neo-liberal ideal to be a new regime of truth, and a new way in which people are made subjects: homo economicus is fundamentally different subject, structured by different motivations and governed by different principles, than homo juridicus, or the legal subject of the state. Neoliberalism constitutes a new mode of “governmentality,” a manner, or a mentality, in which people are governed and govern themselves. The operative terms of this governmentality are no longer rights and laws but interest, investment and competition. Whereas rights exist to be exchanged, and are some sense constituted through the original exchange of the social contract, interest is irreducible and inalienable, it cannot be exchanged. The state channels flows of interest and desire by making desirable activities inexpensive and undesirable activities costly, counting on the fact that subjects calculate their interests. As a form of governmentality, neoliberalism would seem paradoxically to govern without governing; that is, in order to function its subjects must have a great deal of freedom to act—to choose between competing strategies. The new governmental reason needs freedom; therefore, the new art of government consumes freedom. It must produce it, it must organize it. The new art of government therefore appears as the management of freedom, not in the sense of the imperative: “be free,” with the immediate contradiction that this imperative may contain...[T]he liberalism we can describe as the art of government formed in the eighteenth century entails at its heart a productive/destructive relationship with freedom. Liberalism must produce freedom, but this very act entails the establishment of limitations, controls, forms of coercion, and obligations relying on threats, etcetera.9 These freedoms, the freedoms of the market, are not the outside of politics, of governmentality, as its limit, but rather are an integral element of its strategy. As a mode of governmentality, neoliberalism operates on interests, desires, and aspirations rather than through rights and obligations; it does not directly mark the body, as sovereign power, or even curtail actions, as disciplinary power; rather, it acts on the conditions of actions. Thus, neoliberal 

 

governmentality follows a general trajectory of intensification. This trajectory follows a fundamental paradox; as power becomes less restrictive, less corporeal, it also becomes more intense, saturating the field of actions, and possible actions. 10 Foucault limits his discussion of neoliberalism to its major theoretical texts and paradigms, following its initial formulation in post-war Germany through to its most comprehensive version in the Chicago School. Whereas Foucault’s early analyses are often remembered for their analysis of practical documents, the description of the panopticon or the practice of the confessional, the lectures on “neoliberalism” predominantly follow the major theoretical discussions. This is in some sense a limitation of the lecture course format, or at least a reflection that this material was never developed into a full study. Any analysis that is faithful to the spirit and not just the letter of Foucault’s text would focus on its existence as a practice and not just a theory diffused throughout the economy, state, and society. As Thomas Lemke argues, neoliberalism is a political project that attempts to create a social reality that it suggests already exists, stating that competition is the basis of social relations while fostering those same relations.11 The contemporary trend away from long term labor contracts, towards temporary and part-time labor, is not only an effective economic strategy, freeing corporations from contracts and the expensive commitments of health care and other benefits, it is an effective strategy of subjectification as well. It encourages workers to see themselves not as “workers” in a political sense, who have something to gain through solidarity and collective organization, but as “companies of one.” They become individuals for whom every action, from taking courses on a new computer software application to having their teeth whitened, can be considered an investment in human capital. As Eric Alliez and Michel Feher write: “Corporations’ massive recourse to subcontracting plays a fundamental role in this to the extent that it turns the workers’ desire for independence...into a ‘business spirit’ that meets capital’s growing need for satellites.”12 Neoliberalism is not simply an ideology in the pejorative sense of the term, or a belief that one could elect to have or not have, but is itself produced by strategies, tactics, and policies that create subjects of interest, locked in competition. Because Foucault brackets what could be considered the “ideological” dimension of neoliberalism, its connection with the global hegemony of not only capitalism, but specifically a new regime of capitalist accumulation, his lectures have little to say about its historical conditions. Foucault links the original articulation of neoliberalism to a particular reaction to Nazi Germany. As Foucault argues, the original neo-liberals, the “Ordo-liberals,” considered Nazi Germany not to be an effect of capitalism. But the most extreme version of what is opposed to capitalism and the market—planning. While Foucault’s analysis captures the particular “fear of the state” that underlies neoliberalism, its belief that any planning, any intervention against competition, is tantamount to totalitarianism. It however does not account for the dominance of neoliberalism in the present, specifically its dominance as a particular “technology of the self,” a particular mode of subjection. At the same time, Foucault offers the possibility of a different understanding of the history of neoliberalism when he argues that neoliberalism, or the neo-liberal subject as homo economicus, or homo entrepreneur, emerges to address a particular lacunae in liberal economic thought, and that is labor. In this sense neoliberalism rushes to fill the same void, the same gap, that Marx attempted to fill, without reference to Marx, and with very different results.13 Marx and neo-liberals agree that although classical economic theory examined the sphere of exchange, the market, it failed to enter the “hidden abode of production” examining how capital is produced. Of course the agreement ends there, because what Marx and neo-liberals find in labor is fundamentally different: for Marx labor is the sphere of exploitation while for the neo-liberals, as we have seen, labor is no sooner introduced as a problem than the difference between labor and capital is effaced through the theory of “human capital.”14 Neoliberalism scrambles and exchanges the terms of opposition between “worker” and “capitalist.” To quote Etienne Balibar, “The capitalist is defined as worker, as an ‘entrepreneur’; the worker, as the bearer of a capacity, of a human capital.”15 Labor is no longer limited to the specific sites of the factory or the workplace, but is any activity that works towards desired ends. The terms “labor” and “human capital” intersect, overcoming in terminology their longstanding opposition; the former becomes the activity and the latter becomes the effects of the activity, its history. From this intersection the discourse of the economy becomes an entire way of life, a common sense in which every action--crime, marriage, higher education and so on--can be charted according to a calculus of maximum output for minimum expenditure; it can be seen as an investment. Thus situating Marx and neoliberalism with respect to a similar problem makes it possible to grasp something of the politics of neoliberalism, which through a generalization of the idea of the “entrepreneur,” “investment” and “risk” beyond the realm of finance capital to every quotidian relation, effaces the very fact of exploitation. Neoliberalism can be considered a particular version of “capitalism without capitalism,” a way of maintaining not only private property but the existing distribution of wealth in capitalism while simultaneously doing away with the antagonism and social insecurity of capitalism, in this case paradoxically by extending capitalism, at least its symbols, terms, and logic, to all of society. The opposition between capitalist and worker has been effaced not by a transformation of the mode of production, a new organization of the production and distribution of wealth, but by the mode of subjection, a new production of subjectivity. Thus, neoliberalism entails a very specific extension of the economy across all of society; it is not, as Marx argued, because everything rests on an economic base (at least in the last instance) that the effects of the economy are extended across of all of society, rather it is an economic perspective, that of the market, that becomes coextensive with all of society. As Christian Laval argues, all actions are seen to conform to the fundamental economic ideas of self-interest, of greatest benefit for least possible cost. It is not the structure of the economy that is extended across society but the subject of economic thinking, its implicit anthropology.16 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Uhhh i think this isnt responsive to what she needs- i think they are asking bout agamben 

Agamben main thing is bout the camp and how this has turnt into a metaphysical one that reigns over every part of indivual life . Thats how biopower crosses Agamben points the root cause to the camp ..... From there id recommend looking into book review of homo sacer - by agamben - and 

http://www.ejil.org/pdfs/17/3/208.pdf- also on another good idea state of exception

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is the mini-lecture I got on the war powers topic:

 

Let's spend a moment or so staging agamben's argument. agamben's main theoretical innovation is to show how biopolitics and law are not two different things, because the sovereign decision (the decision in the extralegal space) is always on life (because it has to decide if the law applies, if this is an 'normal case', that is, a case consistent with 'normal life') and biopolitics always has the legal structure of the exception (even when we aren't talking about laws, anytime there is a category or something fitted to a rule. 'everyone wearing shoes leave the library'= has the trace of both biopower and sovereignty for agamben.

 

So let's gloss biopolitics for a second. Foucault was like: hey this biopolitics stuff seems dangerous, we should be careful about it. Biopolitics is the paradoxical ability to decide on life in the name of life. It is the identification of humanity as a species, with a statistical bandwidth of normality. As in, to decide what life is AT THE VERY SAME MOMENT one speaks in the name of life. If one speaks in the name of life, in order to be rational or just, one would strictly have to know what one is speaking in the name of. But the moment of the sovereign decision (this is agamben, not foucault) is just fiat, it is just force, it has no logic or categories.

 

But the difference between agamben and foucault  is that foucault was a historicist (this is mean and a gloss, there is more to foucault, but imo he never escaped historicism), meaning he thought in principle the historical context was determinative. biopolitics was contingent, meaning it just arose.through the movement of history without any necessity.

 

If you are a historicist, it makes a lot more sense to have faith that we could imagine law otherwise or imagine politics otherwise, without the state of exception or bare life. (i.e. the perm for most affs on this topic).

 

For agamben instead, the whole idea of politics requires irreducibly the production of bare life. that means biopolitics is mostly aristotle's fault, whereas foucault would blame the context it arose in.

 

Lots of jargon there, so let's unpack.

 

The 'idea of politics.' Which idea? When aristotle says that the unique thing about humans is they have language and a voice, and can thus select right and wrong, just and unjust and that is what differentiates them from simple biological life (i.e. animals). Why is the aff tied to aristotle's 'idea' of politics?

 

Most irreducibly (as in, you should have more specific links i.e. surrounding rights discourse, than this, but this is the capital T truth generic link to help you think about it) because the aff has inherited it. politics comes from polis, it is a greek word. more broadly, the entire world is greek, based on greek concepts and greek language.

 

No one here chose to speak english. John Holland, for example, if it was up to him, would have probably chosen to speak Khalani. I myself am partial to Klingon. But it was not up to us. You do not choose your language. Concepts, and the political advocacies that accompany them, have baggage.

 

Production of bare life is the originary (as in, the enabling condition, the always already) act of sovereign power. bare life= the indistinguishability between political life and biological life. Why does law always produce bare life? because it has to create dat extra legal space, and dat extra legal space has to create the 'normal', and dat normal is the regular bandwidth that legitimates annihilating anything that is irregular.

 

The radicality of agamben is again, that getting rid of the state wouldn't even solve this problem if we still had categories. anytime you have a case that you fit to a rule, you're in biopolitics land for agamben.

 

This sounds really reductionist but that's not a good enough argument against agamben really, because it implies historicism, as in, the historical context is more complex than the agambenian story, which agamben is arguing against. you can't purely look at historical context. history doesn't explain itself, for the simple fact that there is always stuff in the historical context that is not in the historical context. i.e., we've inherited aristotle's language, but he hasn't been around for 2000 years.

 

 

Also relevant for this topic is the de facto/jure distinction

The difference between de facto and de jure is the difference between practical instances of a law and the law on the books. At issue is the other within law, the possibility of suspending the law that is necessary for law to exist at all. Why is law’s suspension located within it, as a necessary possibility, rather than being simply a turning off or excluding of law? Every law must be subverted with an extralegal decision in order to be applied in response to the particular case, the de facto, the event. If a particular case coincided exactly with a law, there would be no need for judges or jurisprudence. The application to the particular case is both included and excluded by the law, it is not outside the law; it subverts it from within and in its name.

 

Agamben:

“Hence the impossibility of harmoniously constructing the relation between the two powers – an impossibility that emerges in particular not only when one attempts to understand the juridical nature of dictatorship and of the state of exception, but also when the text of constitutions themselves foresees, as it often does, the power of revision. Today, in the context of the general tendency to regulate everything by means of rules, fewer and fewer are willing to claim that constituting power is originary and irreducible, that it cannot be conditioned and constrained in any way by a determinate legal system and that it necessarily maintains itself outside every constituted power. The power from which the constitution is born is increasingly dismissed as a prejudice or a merely factual matter, and constituting power is more and more frequently reduced to the power of revision foreseen in the constitution.

As early as the end of the First World War, Benjamin criticized this tendency with words that have lost none of their currency. He presented the relation between constituting power and constituted power as the relation between the violence that posits law and the violence that preserves it:

If the awareness of the latent presence of violence in a legal institution disappears, the juridical institution decays. An example of this is provided today by the parliaments. They present such a well-known, sad spectacle because they have not remained aware of the revolutionary forces to which they owe their existence. . . . They lack a sense of the creative violence of law that is represented in them. One need not then be surprised that they do not arrive at decisions worthy of this violence, but instead oversee a course of political affairs that avoids violence through compromise. (Benjamin, “Zur Kritik der Gewalt,” p. 144)

But the other position (that of the democratico-revolutionary tradition), which wants to maintain constituting power in its sovereign transcendence with respect to every constituted order, threatens to remain just as imprisoned within the paradox that we have tried to describe until now. For if constituting power is, as the violence that posits law, certainly more noble than the violence that preserves it, constituting power still possesses no title that might legitimate something other than law-preserving violence and even maintains an ambiguous and ineradicable relation with constituted power.”

Edited by ARGogate
  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is the mini-lecture I got on the war powers topic:

 

Let's spend a moment or so staging agamben's argument. agamben's main theoretical innovation is to show how biopolitics and law are not two different things, because the sovereign decision (the decision in the extralegal space) is always on life (because it has to decide if the law applies, if this is an 'normal case', that is, a case consistent with 'normal life') and biopolitics always has the legal structure of the exception (even when we aren't talking about laws, anytime there is a category or something fitted to a rule. 'everyone wearing shoes leave the library'= has the trace of both biopower and sovereignty for agamben.

 

So let's gloss biopolitics for a second. Foucault was like: hey this biopolitics stuff seems dangerous, we should be careful about it. Biopolitics is the paradoxical ability to decide on life in the name of life. It is the identification of humanity as a species, with a statistical bandwidth of normality. As in, to decide what life is AT THE VERY SAME MOMENT one speaks in the name of life. If one speaks in the name of life, in order to be rational or just, one would strictly have to know what one is speaking in the name of. But the moment of the sovereign decision (this is agamben, not foucault) is just fiat, it is just force, it has no logic or categories.

 

But the difference between agamben and foucault  is that foucault was a historicist (this is mean and a gloss, there is more to foucault, but imo he never escaped historicism), meaning he thought in principle the historical context was determinative. biopolitics was contingent, meaning it just arose.through the movement of history without any necessity.

 

If you are a historicist, it makes a lot more sense to have faith that we could imagine law otherwise or imagine politics otherwise, without the state of exception or bare life. (i.e. the perm for most affs on this topic).

 

For agamben instead, the whole idea of politics requires irreducibly the production of bare life. that means biopolitics is mostly aristotle's fault, whereas foucault would blame the context it arose in.

 

Lots of jargon there, so let's unpack.

 

The 'idea of politics.' Which idea? When aristotle says that the unique thing about humans is they have language and a voice, and can thus select right and wrong, just and unjust and that is what differentiates them from simple biological life (i.e. animals). Why is the aff tied to aristotle's 'idea' of politics?

 

Most irreducibly (as in, you should have more specific links i.e. surrounding rights discourse, than this, but this is the capital T truth generic link to help you think about it) because the aff has inherited it. politics comes from polis, it is a greek word. more broadly, the entire world is greek, based on greek concepts and greek language.

 

No one here chose to speak english. John Holland, for example, if it was up to him, would have probably chosen to speak Khalani. I myself am partial to Klingon. But it was not up to us. You do not choose your language. Concepts, and the political advocacies that accompany them, have baggage.

 

Production of bare life is the originary (as in, the enabling condition, the always already) act of sovereign power. bare life= the indistinguishability between political life and biological life. Why does law always produce bare life? because it has to create dat extra legal space, and dat extra legal space has to create the 'normal', and dat normal is the regular bandwidth that legitimates annihilating anything that is irregular.

 

The radicality of agamben is again, that getting rid of the state wouldn't even solve this problem if we still had categories. anytime you have a case that you fit to a rule, you're in biopolitics land for agamben.

 

This sounds really reductionist but that's not a good enough argument against agamben really, because it implies historicism, as in, the historical context is more complex than the agambenian story, which agamben is arguing against. you can't purely look at historical context. history doesn't explain itself, for the simple fact that there is always stuff in the historical context that is not in the historical context. i.e., we've inherited aristotle's language, but he hasn't been around for 2000 years.

 

 

Also relevant for this topic is the de facto/jure distinction

The difference between de facto and de jure is the difference between practical instances of a law and the law on the books. At issue is the other within law, the possibility of suspending the law that is necessary for law to exist at all. Why is law’s suspension located within it, as a necessary possibility, rather than being simply a turning off or excluding of law? Every law must be subverted with an extralegal decision in order to be applied in response to the particular case, the de facto, the event. If a particular case coincided exactly with a law, there would be no need for judges or jurisprudence. The application to the particular case is both included and excluded by the law, it is not outside the law; it subverts it from within and in its name.

 

Agamben:

“Hence the impossibility of harmoniously constructing the relation between the two powers – an impossibility that emerges in particular not only when one attempts to understand the juridical nature of dictatorship and of the state of exception, but also when the text of constitutions themselves foresees, as it often does, the power of revision. Today, in the context of the general tendency to regulate everything by means of rules, fewer and fewer are willing to claim that constituting power is originary and irreducible, that it cannot be conditioned and constrained in any way by a determinate legal system and that it necessarily maintains itself outside every constituted power. The power from which the constitution is born is increasingly dismissed as a prejudice or a merely factual matter, and constituting power is more and more frequently reduced to the power of revision foreseen in the constitution.

As early as the end of the First World War, Benjamin criticized this tendency with words that have lost none of their currency. He presented the relation between constituting power and constituted power as the relation between the violence that posits law and the violence that preserves it:

If the awareness of the latent presence of violence in a legal institution disappears, the juridical institution decays. An example of this is provided today by the parliaments. They present such a well-known, sad spectacle because they have not remained aware of the revolutionary forces to which they owe their existence. . . . They lack a sense of the creative violence of law that is represented in them. One need not then be surprised that they do not arrive at decisions worthy of this violence, but instead oversee a course of political affairs that avoids violence through compromise. (Benjamin, “Zur Kritik der Gewalt,” p. 144)

But the other position (that of the democratico-revolutionary tradition), which wants to maintain constituting power in its sovereign transcendence with respect to every constituted order, threatens to remain just as imprisoned within the paradox that we have tried to describe until now. For if constituting power is, as the violence that posits law, certainly more noble than the violence that preserves it, constituting power still possesses no title that might legitimate something other than law-preserving violence and even maintains an ambiguous and ineradicable relation with constituted power.”

10/10 awesome mini lecture

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know Argogate, that feels like it's trying to lay an awful lot of blame on Aristotle in a kind of implausible way.

 

-Does Plato's conception of politics, which predates Aristotle, not share this feature?  What about other pre-Aristotelian thinkers?  Can we compare and contrast pre-Aristotelian and post-Aristotelian societies and point to features that exemplify this difference?

 

-Aristotle is forgotten and ignored for ~1000 years in Europe, until trade with Islam made his writings available and Thomas Aquinas made him important.  (~1200 iirc).  Plato was the dominant greek philosopher for Christian Europe until Summa Theologica in the mid 13th century. 

 

-It's hard to overstate the importance of writings having Christian sanction in Europe before the printing press, especially in the 1st millenium.  Writings were only recopied and preserved if they were of value to Christians.  There's a severe ideological winnowing of documents following the conversion of Constantine, and Eusebius (bishop of Constantinople and personal minister to Constantine) specifically advocates silencing dissenting or embarrassing authors by not copying their works or altering copied texts to align them with Christian interests.  (This is why Aristotle's corpus had disappeared from Europe, not to mention countless other works like Marcion's version of the Gospel, which were deemed heretical or unimportant.  There's also evidence that Eusebius is the one who inserted the Testimonium Flavium into Josephus, a passage that, if authentic, would be the only truly independent witness to a historical Jesus outside religious literature). 

 

-It's hard to inherit ideas when those ideas have been consigned to oblivion and gone unlearned by society for a thousand years.  Ultimately Europe did re-inherit Aristotle's thought, but there's this huge gap between the loss of his writings and Summa Theologica.  Would Agamben point to anything different in the intervening time?

 

Basically, this 'Aristotle's idea is baggage we've all inherited and drives this' is a testable hypothesis, and it would seem to be false on face.  At least, I can't imagine a relative distinction on this point that Agamben could point to between pre- and post- Summa Theologica europe, or pre- and post- classical greek human societies, for that matter.  Just because Aristotle underpins a lot of what we think about today doesn't mean that has always been the case, and if Aristotle bears responsibility for some thought which has consequence, we should be able to compare/contrast societies where Aristotle held or did not hold sway and the differences should be illuminating.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...