Archive for the ‘Michel Foucault’ Category

Jeffrey T. Nealon “The Archaeology of Biopower”

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Nealon, Jeffrey T. 2016. The Archaeology of Biopower: From Plant to Animal Life in The Order of Things. – Cisney, Vernon W.; Morar, Nicolae (eds). Biopower: Foucault and Beyond. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 138-155.

If discipline forged an enabling link between subjective aptitude and docility, biopower forges an analogous link between the individual’s life and the life of the socius: the only thing that we as biopolitical subjects have in common, one might say, is that we are all individuals, charged with the task of creating and maintaining our lives. (139)

At the dawn of the nineteenth century […] Foucault traces a mutation of the dominant epistemic procedures – from a representational discourse that maps external similitude and resemblance, to the emergence of a speculative discourse that takes as its object hidden internal processes. In short, we see emerge a discourse that „opposed historical knowledge of the visible to philosophical knowledge of the invisible“ (OT 138): knowledge’s privileged practices abandon the surface of objects to plumb their hidden depths instead. And first and foremost among those transcendental „invisibles“ was a little thing we like to call „life“: „The naturalist is the man concerned with the structure of the visible world and its denomination according to characters. Not with life“ (OT 161), Foucault insists, because life is not representable. Life is in fact a kind of unplumbable depth, animating the organism from a hidden origin somewhere within. This birth of biology – which is to say, the emergence of „life“ itself as a bearing area for discursive power and a depth to be explored – constitutes the first birth of biopower, this one in Foucault’s work of the mid-1960s. (143-144)

In short, Foucault argues that with the emergence of the human sciences at the birth of biopower, the animal is not excluded or forgotten, but quite the opposite: animality comprises the dominant apparatus for investigation both what life is and what life does. The living is no longer primarily vegetable (sessile and awaiting mere categorization), but understood as evolving, appetite-drive, secret, discontinuous, mendacious, inscrutable, always on the prowl, looking for an opening to break free. As Foucault puts it, „Transferring its most secret essence from the vegetable to the animal kingdom, life has left the tabulated spac of order and became wild once more“ (OT 277). (145)

Foucault, of course, parts ethical company from Derrida […] around the binary pathos of „totalization or non-totalization“, which constitutes nearly the whole field of ethics in a deconstructive context: if totalization or the violent desire for completion can be disrupted, if an originary différance of undecidability can be mobilized and demonstrated, then some positive deconstructive work has been accomplished. However, such a supposedly ethical gesture toward the unfathomable or untotalizable other, as Foucault will insist throughout his work, poses no essential question (ethical or otherwise) to the human sciences because those contemporary sciences do not require or even desire totalization. As Foucault demonstrates in his work on the emergence of life in Europe, the Western human sciences need constantly to refashion an unfathomable depth, and inexhaustible other, so they can continue to do their work. The insistence on the primacy of some nontotalizable „other“ does not cripple the human sciences, but rather constitutes an essential component of their work: as Foucault concisely puts it, „an unveiling of the non-conscious is constitutive of all the sciences of man“ (OT 364). (149-150)

(Economics, for example, does not know what value is any more than theology knows what God is or biology knows what life is – that is why you have a robust discourse to study it.) So the trading-places game of ethical alterity – the nonhuman other is best figured as the unconscious, the animal, the plant, the earth, the robot, and so forth – tends primarily to extend and deepen the constitutive work of the human sciences (the production of undecidability, which in turn produces more commentary), rather than to disrupt that work in some essential way. (150)

This, then, is Agamben’s „correction“ of Foucault: Agamben rejects the idea that power has become more subtle and effective, suffused through our everyday lives (even in our sexuality and our everyday consumer existence); he argues instead that power remains sovereign, brutal, literally animalizing its others so they can be eradicated. We in the first-world West live not in a panopticon or in an endless marketplace, but in a concentration camp. (151)

[…] when Foucault insists that there is an „animalization of man“ involved in biopower’s birth and functioning, he mean quite literally: we have incorporated the beast into the contemporary biopolitical definition of „man“ as endless, unthematizable animal desire, with the practices of sexuality and neoliberal capitalism its two most intense markings in the present. […] For Agamben, on the other hand, bestialization constitutes less a contemporary set of practices or a historical phenomenon and remains primarily a transhistorical metaphor or simile for the human condition, as are (despite Agamben’s protests to the contrary) his emphasis on the concentration camp or sovereign power. For Agamben, twenty-first-century Western society is like a concentration camp or like an absolute monarchy; we are treated like animals when we have to surrender our DNA or fingerprints. (152)

[…] sovereign power, while notoriously difficult (if not impossible) to resist, tends to be relatively easy to spot, diagnose, and denounce: in short, someone else is always wielding „sovereign power“. On the other hand, the biopolitics of „making live and letting die“ is a regime in which all of us are implicated: who gets health care and who doesn’t? (153)


Paul Patton “Agamben and Foucault on Biopower and Biopolitics”

Patton, Paul 2007. Agamben and Foucault on Biopower and Biopolitics. – Calarco, Matthew; DeCaroli, Steven (eds). Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty and Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 203-218.
His “correction” of Foucault consists of the claim that the entry of bare life into the sphere of political calculation and the exercise of sovereign power involved no radical transformation of political-philosophical categories. (205)

His “completion ” of Foucault draws upon his own account of the manner in which bare life was originally included in the political realm, namely in the fo rm of an “inclusive exclusion,” in order to suggest that the decisive feature of modernity is not so much the emergence of biopolitics as the manner in which a phenomenon originally situated at the margins of poli tical order “gradually begins to coincide with the poli tical realm” (HS, 9). (205)

Whereas police government operated on the principle that there could never be too much government regulation, liberalism operated on the converse principle that there is always too much government. Instead or supposing that the population was in need of detailed and constant regulation, liberalism relied upon a conception of society and the economy as naturally self -regulating systems that government should leave alone. (207-208)

In comparison with the techniques of disciplinary power, biopower required the development of new mechanisms and new forms of knowledge to identify its objects and to facilitate its exercise. However, it remained a technology of power exercised by the state over people insof ar as they are living beings and insof ar as they belong to populations. In this sense, it enabled effective government by the sovereign of the biological life of the subjects. In the context of Foucault’s definition of the concept, this is how Agamben’s phrase “the entry of zoe into the sphere of the polis” must be understood. (209)

Homo sacer is not the same as simple natural life, since it is, as Agamben later notes, the natural lif e of an individual caught in a particular relation with the power that has cast him out from both the religious and the political community. (210)

In this sense, homo sacer is not simply pure zoe bur zoe caught up in a particular “status.” This status is defined by “the particular character of the double exclusion into which he is taken” (H S, 82). The double exclusion in terms of which this figure is defined mirrors the exceptional status of rhe sovereign; hence Agamben’s hypothesis that the figure of the sovereign and the figure of homo sacer are inextricably linked. (210)

In eff ect, Agamben’s argument relies on an equivocation with regard to the two senses of the term bare lift. While in the context of his analysis of sovereign ty, “bare life” is identified with the sacred lif e or status of homo sneer, in the context of his critical remarks about modern democratic politics he identifies it with the natural life of zoe. (211)

This right is strange because, ro the extent that the sovereign really does have the right to decide whether subjects live or die, the subject is, as it were, suspended between life and death. Qua subject, he or she has no right to live or die independently of the will of the sovereign: “in terms of his relationship with the sovereign, the subject is, by rights, neither dead nor alive. From the point of view of lif e and death, the subject is neutral, and it is thanks to the sovereign that the subject has the right to be alive or, possibly, the right to be dead.” In this sense, since the lif e of the subject is entirely encompassed within the sp ere of the sovereign’s power, it is biopolitical power in Agamben’s other sense of the term (homo sacer) . (213)

The life of the subject in the terms of the classical theory of sovere ignty , as Foucault defines it, is structurally identical to the bare lif e of the homo sacer : it is biological existence doubled by its exclusive inclusion within the political sphere. In this sense, Foucault’s analysis of classical sovereign right removes the need for any correction on this point. (214)

In the end, the difference between his approach and that of Foucault is not so much a matter of correction and completion as a choice between epochal concepts of biopolitics and bare
life and a more fine-grained, contextual, and historical analysis intended to enable specific and local forms of escape from the past. (218)

Julian Vigo “Biopower and Security”

Vigo, Julian 2015. Biopower and Security. CounterPunch, May 5. online:

No longer is it the institution seeking out individuals to normalize, for there is neoliberal social nexus where individuals voluntarily seek out their legitimacy within the structures of various institutions. The body, part of this panorama of securitization, is now procured by the subject who seeks to consolidate her identity through institutional narratives of legitimation.

Biopower is the bastard child of neoliberal societies which have created elaborate systems of surveillance to control the body in pursuit of securitizing culture.

It is axiomatic that this War on Terror, almost in its fifteenth year, has nothing to do with investigating or stopping “terror.” Instead the Global War on Terror thrives upon constructing and disseminating innumerable fictions of perceived terrorist acts and terrorist bodies whilst abstracting a panorama of violence that will unceasingly be impossible to defeat both domestically and abroad. Ultimately, the War on Terror can never end. The nature of biopower in the context of state security today is two-fold: first, to de-personify the object of western violence while humanizing the western pathos of the Global War on Terror; second, to re-create the enemy, re-embodied and pre-packaged as the Muslim “terrorist.” In this way, biopower functions to place focus on the body of the individual over the act, such as Foucault’s discussion of capital punishment which invokes less “the enormity of the crime itself than the monstrosity of the criminal…One had the right to kill those who represented a kind of biological danger to others” (1976, 138).

Colin Koopman “Two Uses of Michel Foucault in Political Theory”

Koopman, Colin 2015. Two Uses of Michel Foucault in Political Theory: Concepts and Methods in Giorgio Agamben and Ian Hacking. Constellations. doi: 10.1111/1467-8675.12153.

In sum, I shall be arguing that Agamben’s use of Foucault’s concepts, as detached from the methodological constraints of historicist genealogy, evince a project of transcendental philosophy in which it is difficult to recognize Foucault, but that Hacking’s use of Foucauldian genealogy and archaeology evince a methodological use of Foucault that helps us to recognize a critical empiricism at the heart of Foucault’s work. (1)

Methods (or, to use an approximate term for the same, analytics) refer to strictures, constraints,
designs, and strategies for inquiry: the way in which inquiry is conducted. Concepts refer to the ideational material that is developed in the course of conducting an inquiry: that which inquiry produces in doing its work.nThus, methods function as grids or lenses that make possible a coherent practice of inquiry, while concepts function as the materials with which inquiry works, in drawing objects of inquiry through the grid. (2)

Reading Agamben through the lens of his longest standing philosophical commitments helps us recognize that, and also understand why, the biopolitical index through which Foucault reads much (but not all) of modern political practice is for Agamben the transcendental condition of politics as such. (4)

When it comes to biopower, Agamben looks for it, in the form of the state of exception and bare life, everywhere. But in looking for his assumed concepts everywhere, Agamben is forced to see them everywhere — in the camps and at the supermarket, in the gas chamber and on the television. If we had to give a name to the apparent methodological procedure guiding Agamben’s argument, then I would suggest that we call it ‘biopower-hunting.’ (6)

But whereas for Foucault concepts are meant to describe a fairly circumscribed field, Agamben universalizes the concept by making it a paradigm that stands for something as broad as modern
politics itself, or even politics as such. (8)

In Foucault the concept of biopower often seems to have much to do with biology, medicine, and psychiatry. His concern is with the ways in which these sciences gain a tight hold on sex, in part because they manage to constitute sexuality itself. In Hacking the discussion of biopower is tightly focused on questions of the sciences, especially statistics and their impact on human sciences, perhaps most notably the many and sprawling branches of demography. There are two interwoven kinds of processes in Hacking’s histories of biopolitics. The one he calls “the avalanche of numbers” and the other he places under the banner of what he calls “making up people.” Hacking’s avalanche of numbers refers to the solidification and explosion in the nineteenth century of “statistical information developed for purposes of social control.” This period, roughed out at the edges, was witness to the emergence of all manner of demographic data in public health (e.g. numbers about the 1832 cholera epidemic), the rise of census bureaux, education statistics, crime statistics, and all manner of other numbers for very large sets of things. Though these social measures largely began in Britain and France, they quickly spread elsewhere, and soon spread over the entire planet. The result was what Mary Beth Mader calls, closely following Foucault, “statistical panopticism.” (9)

Biopower, which in Foucault had to do with the regulation of life by its apprehension as objects
of population, now in Hacking has to do with the inevitable and none-too-innocent consequence of that statistical avalanche that continues to pile higher and higher every year. (9)

The empiricism of epistemology involves the thesis that experience is the sole or primary source
of knowledge. The empiricism of method involves no thesis; it is a stance. It is achieved by taking up an empirical orientation whereby we might gain a certain kind of grip, however evanescent, on the objects of our inquiries, for instance, ourselves and our present. (10)

Stephen J. Collier “Topologies of Power”

January 9, 2015 Leave a comment

Collier, Stephen J. 2009. Topologies of Power. Foucault’s Analysis of Political Government beyond ‘Governmentality’. Theory, Culture & Society 26(6): 78-108.

Here, the new case of scarcity and the grain trade proves crucial. Foucault’s analysis revolves around the physiocrat Abeille, who posits that scarcity in grain must be managed not through tight sovereign or disciplinary controls but through modulated interventions into the field of autonomous and mutually corrective decisions by growers, buyers, consumers and traders. In this context, the figure of ‘population’ emerges in a very different light from that found at the end of SMD. It is a field that precisely does not admit to control, that cannot be ‘possessed’ by the state, and that must be left alone to its own mechanisms and processes. In this respect the prior analysis is reversed: population is ‘discovered’ not as a target of state control but as a new ‘principle of limitation’ on state activity. If, in SMD, discipline and regulatory power are isomorphic and functionally interrelated, then in STP they are heterogeneous and in many ways opposed principles. (87)

In sum, if SMD posited a rigid architectonic of biopolitics, in which its elements, though distinct, were bound together as if through a kind of inner logic, then here [STP] we have a kind of analytical decomposition, in which different figurations of the town, of normalization, of criminality, are abstracted, initially, from any specific articulation in broader configurations of power. (87)

In DP Foucault analyzed a shift from sovereignty to discipline; in SMD, from sovereignty to
normalization, where normalization = discipline + regulatory power. Now we have a new series: sovereignty-discipline-security. (87)

In SMD, Foucault saw in the 18th century the emergence of a general logic of biopolitical government that was characterized by the spread of disciplinary and regulatory controls over the entire domain of the bio logical. By contrast, in the 1978 and 1979 lectures, equipped with much suppler analytical tools, Foucault tells a more nuanced story based on a distinction between the technology of power found in physiocracy and the topology of power in which it was articulated. (91)

[…] when Foucault returns to the Physiocrats in The Birth of Biopolitics we find that, in fact, physiocratic thought is not the pre-figuration of liberalism and it does not provide the matrix of a global logic of biopolitics. Rather, it is seen in what Foucault calls its ‘very interesting and very paradoxical’ singularity. The Physiocrats, he argues, presented a ‘strict critique of all the administrative rules and regulations through which the sovereign’s power was exercised on the economy’. Their doctrine of laissez faire proclaimed that the sovereign should be compelled ‘by reason, knowledge, and truth to accept the principle of freedom of economic agents’ (Foucault, 2008: 284–5). But at the same time – and this is crucial – the Physiocrats advanced this principle in the nameof sovereignty, of its aggrandizement and preservation. The ‘interesting and paradoxical’ character of physiocratic programming lies, thus, in the fact that a technology of security, which proposes a new principle of limitationon state intervention, is mobilized in the name of a sovereignty that is more absolute than ever. (92)

In this light, Foucault notes, we can understand how Adam Smith defined his invisible hand againstthe physiocratic laissez-fairedefined by economic freedom in a framework of political totalization. The political logic of physiocracy was critiqued; the technology of power redeployed. (92)

[…] the emerging emphasis on a topological and recombinatorial analysis in the 1978 and 1979 lectures can be linked to what Rabinow (2003: 45) calls a ‘simple but momentous shift’ in Foucault’s approach to thinking, whose beginnings can be traced to the same period. Increasingly Foucault understood thinking not as an ‘anonymous, discursive thing’ but as a ‘dynamic and heterogeneous process’ of critical reflection and intervention. In this view, thinking is not bound by a knowledge-power regime; it should not be analyzed, as Foucault argued in a late interview, as a ‘formal system that has reference only to itself’ (Foucault, 1984: 388). Rather, it is an activity that involves ‘a degree of constraint as well as a degree of freedom’, that makes possible a certain critical distance from existing ways of understanding and acting. In sum, the space of problematization is a topological space, and thinking is a driver of recombinatorial processes. (95-96)

[…] first, the concept of governmentality has itselfprovoked (mis)applications of this work that commit the synechdocal error of confusing the ‘parts’ (techniques and so on) with some mysterious neoliberal ‘whole’; second, the problems of misinterpretation have been multiplied by an overvaluation of the concept of governmentality, which has obscured much of what is novel and important in Foucault’s 1978–9 lectures, specifically his shift to a more dynamic topological analysis of power relations. (98)

The British liberals rejected the physiocratic principle of sovereignty and combined the elements of ‘security’ with a new liberal programming that aimed to reduce the state. Today, by contrast, we find cases in which techniques of advanced liberal government that were invented to reduce an excessive and inefficient governmentality are redeployed either to strengthen the state (as, for example, in post-Soviet Russia, where neoliberal reforms of social welfare have actually intensified during the period of Putin’s rule) or in projects of social welfare that are mobilized, in part, as explicit responses to ‘neoliberalism’ (as, I would argue, is the case with programs like the Bolsa Familiain Lula da Silva’s Brazil). We can trace certain techniques and technical mechanisms from one context to the other. Indeed, such tracing is an essential contribution to rendering these new topologies of power intelligible. But there is no reason to assume that the resulting governmental ensembles can be read as playing out some internal logic of neoliberalism. (99-100)

Since ‘Foucauldian’ work on neoliberalism has been dominated by a concept of governmentality that focuses on ‘conditions of possibility’, thought, per se, appears as a passive thing and thus perhaps not a particularly interesting thing. But in the frame of a topological analysis it is precisely the specific activity of thought that would have to be examined to understand the processes of recombination and reproblematization through which contemporary government – beyond ‘advanced liberalism’ – is being refigured. (100)

Gordon Hull “Biopolitics Is Not (Primarily) About Life”

January 6, 2015 Leave a comment

Hull, Gordon 2013. Biopolitics Is Not (Primarily) About Life: On Biopolitics, Neoliberalism, and Families. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 27(3): 322-335.

In what follows, I argue, first, that modern biopolitics is marked less by the entry of biological life into the polisthan by a new consideration of the form of life proper to humans. This is because Foucault’s interest is less in life itself as an object than it is in the techniques—the dispositives—through which “life” becomes an object of political knowledge/power. These techniques are essentially those of risk management, where contingent, aleatory, and stochastic events are treated in statistical terms. Second, in this regard, economics—and neoliberalism specifically—can be read as an attempt to provide an answer to what form of life is proper to humans. (322-323)

“Security mechanisms have to be installed around the random element inherent in a population of living beings so as to optimize a state of life” (SMD 246); the goal is that these processes are “not disciplined, but regularized” (SMD 247). In a word, the point of biopolitics is the transformation of the aleatory into the stochastic, the statistically and governmentally tractable: “The phenomena addressed by biopolitics are, essentially, aleatory events that occur within a population that exists over a period of time” (SMD 246). (325)

Agamben’s conclusion is backward: zoe is doubly subordinated to bios. On the one hand, the act of living is in the service of strengthening the state and productivity, but the existence of „population” is entirely dependent on the techniques used to visualize it; there is nothing “bare”
about this life. On the other hand, the polis comes to govern the oikos, which is to say that the family becomes an object of political concern. (325)

If biopolitics in the eighteenth century politicized the household, neoliberalism appears to politicize individual bodies by imposing a theory according to which Homo economicus is the bios most appropriate to people. One result is that “biological life” and “health” are increasingly informatic, managed not in terms of disease but as problems of self-entrepreneurship and risk assessment. From this vantage point, the putative separation of biopolitics and economics appears to depend on a dubious assumption that biological processes can be understood independently of their constitution as objects of knowledge. As Judith Butler argued in the case of sex and gender, this sort of separation is highly problematic. In the case of biopolitics, what this means is that we need to focus on biopolitics as a form of knowledge/power, not on its object. As knowledge/power, biopolitics is about the management of uncertainty through statistical risk. (329)

At the same time, the oikos as the supposedly depoliticized site of biology continues its dispersal. Not only has government become economic management, but the statistical techniques of population management are now to be applied to the household. Foucault proposes that emerging discourses about race and sexuality show the emergence of biopower; I would propose here that the possibility of IVF followed by pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for BRCAcarriers shows its mutation under neoliberalism: for those whose existence becomes overdetermined by risk management, even the act of reproduction becomes something inseparable from and unintelligible outside of the biopolitical context in which it finds itself. (329)

Brett Levinson “Biopolitics in Balance: Esposito’s Response to Foucault”

January 5, 2015 Leave a comment

Levinson, Brett 2010. Biopolitics in Balance: Esposito’s Response to Foucault. CR: The New Centennial Review 10(2): 239-261.

[…] if the Other is posited as virus, and the Same as a strictly biological entity, then contamination of any “individual” within the whole (an organ relative to the complete body, an individual relative to a nation, a nation relative to the league of nations, and so on) threatens apocalyptically that whole. The Other is not the menace. The Other is carrier of the menace, of a certain untyped or unidentified body that, because “unmonitorable,” terrorizes absolutely. […] In the present battle, the human subject battles against an is not, a no thing that dwells neither within nor outside the contested field. (240)

[…] for Esposito, “our” biopolitics imperils because it tends to reverse into its opposite, a “thanatopolitics” such as Nazism: “Why does a politics of life always risk being reversed into a work of death?” (8). This reversal, nonetheless, is a contingency. Biopolitics as such, Esposito insists, is not nihilism. “Our” biopolitics, the biopolitics of our period, is. (241)

[…] thanatopolitics that shrinks life to survival, mere zoe. (241)

Biopolitics, Foucault says, is fundamentally a racism (2003, 261–62). It presents all alterity—whether sexual, geographical, economic, linguistic, religious, or ethnic—as “the dirty other,” bearer of a lethal, apocalyptic stain (much like the Jew for the Nazi). Th e purpose of the gesture,
as racism, is not the salvation of the state or the particular group. Th e goal is the rescue of “life as such.” (243)

Biopolitical racism, hatred without reason, hence grants itself a reason. It situates reason on racism’s side. Nazism is the model of modern racism, then, less because it opposes sanitary to unhygienic bodies than because its telos, rather thanan unpolluted German or Germany, rather than an immortal “selfish self,” is the reproduction and preservation of the best—life—for all. Nazism is intrinsically a moral act. (243)

Biopolitics, after all, reacts not to a germ but to its endless duplication: to virus as source of mass annihilation. Immunity sterilizes in order to interrupt not the bug’s production—the vaccine itself produces the disease: it introduces a little bit of the illness to prevent wider spread—but its reproduction. Esposito’s prime example of the process is especially instructive: the Hobbesian state, an artifice installed to immunize rational human beings from a destructive, irrational nature. The installation does not erase barbarism but interrupts its spread, its contamination of all. (244)

Suspension of law, never reasonable, is constitutive of the state’s constitution. Indeed, because no tenet can conceivably ground the difference between an emergency and more or less “regular” situation, any actual declaration of a state of exception—even if, ultimately, for the good—activates and reactivates a dose of illness/unreason, always already installed at the state’s origin. (245)

One might thereby speak (the terms are my own) of a sovereign biopolitics, a disciplinary biopolitics, and a security biopolitics. We have already seen how Esposito effectively reposits Hobbes’s state, or sovereignty, in biopolitical terms. He performs a similar operation upon discipline (27–28). Biopolitical discipline does not punish but “catches” and retrains the delinquent: the delinquent as a product of the immunity devices geared to educate him properly. (245)

Discipline disciplines, in other words, not by repressing but by generating—through training—the subject of delinquency. This same subjectivization, because it posits delinquency as a force, yields new and threatening social ills. Biopolitical security enters here. The regime neither eliminates in the name of law nor disciplines according to an ideal of normalcy. It manages “things” (“manage” and “things” are the two words Foucault stresses) in the interest of keeping track, identifying, and then staving off the worst menaces. Foucault’s analysis of the biopolitical approach to the curbing of drug addiction is thereby most illustrative (2008, 256–59). (246)

Unlike disciplinary society, biopoliticalcontrol does not concern itself with the addict as subject, with the direct censure or rectification of individual conduct. In the first place, it holds that no person is disposed to crime by nature or even by culture. “The criminal is nothing other than absolutely anyone whomsoever” (253). It does no good to “fix” one individual since the number of potential delinquents is infinite. “Absolutely anyone” might commit an unlawful act if he believes that the chance for reward exceeds the risk of loss. Biopolitics or governmentality, therefore, contains crime by attending to the conditions in which crime takes place. It tackles the crime rather than the criminal by making a given unlawful act unprofitable, not worth the risk, for the large majority of the population. (246)

In this fashion, a kind of “norm” is maintained, as with discipline. Yet the biopolitical norm is not a fixed one, like the moral code of discipline. It shifts according to the gradual rise and fall of numbers, calling for the repeated check-ups and recalculations, which maintain the mutable equilibrium. (247)

The overarching model for [Foucault’s] biopolitics or governmentality, in fact, is not the live body. It is the free market. Biopolitics is an economism before it is a biologism. (247)

[…] for Foucault, the fear of terror, spurring biopolitics, actually results from the appearance of a certain truth: the unpredictability of the market. (247)

Th is is why neoliberalism, according to Foucault, cannot adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward the economy. Neoliberal measures do not match laissez-faire ones since these measures must stand ready to intercede should a monopoly by chance materialize—and it always could. And herein lies the second threat to stability: chance itself. (248)

Th e point, for Foucault, is that the subject of biopolitics, the subject of interest, is quite diff erent from the subject of right, the subject of the sovereign. Th e latter sacrifices some of his own interests in exchange for the good of all; for this self-sacrifice, he receives protection offered by the sovereign. Th e good of all is best for me. The subject of the market surrenders no such liberties; he must not. For the ideal, here, is controlled pluralism. The ongoing pursuit and attainment of individual liberties—for example, the freedoms of this or that gender, sexual practice, ethnic minority, political ideal, interest group, school of thought, and so forth—continually “adds” new subjects, new freedoms, into the overall population. The individual exercise of self-determination, the quest in one’s own interest, guarantees multiple selves that determine themselves, hence the pluralism that assures the competition, and the competition that benefits the market as a whole. (248)

The negative that arises within this context, however, is obvious: the loss of protection, hence insecurity. Competition and pluralism may stabilize the market. Yet they do not guarantee the stability. (248)

Insecurity materializes not because the sovereign, who protects, has been forfeited. Rather, the sovereign has been forfeited because he cannot off er this protection. (249)

For the sovereign, Foucault says, governs by wisdom, or trust in his wisdom. He is believed to know the truth, what is good for all, and makes decisions on this basis. Th is is how and why the sovereign can decide on the exception: how and why he can decide, for example, which life threatens apocalyptically the whole, hence can and must be killed off, and which does not. He knows. However, the sovereign does not know about chance happenings to which each entrepreneur and the market itself are exposed. (249)

It is because his nature includes non-nature, communication, that the human being is not solely a biological creature. Biopolitics casts human life as purely biological life by denying the force of contamination to which nonlife exposes the living, indeed, that is nonlife, to wit, finitude. Civil society, because it cannot touch the economy as such, is the site upon which governmentality or biopolitics acts. And to act upon civil society is to act upon the fact of its power, which is its “spontaneous communication.” Biopolitics says No to communication, but the “No” itself is a communication: as delimitation, interdiction on language, it opens to more of it. In other words,
humans cannot limit the power of their own institution for that institution sets their limit. (251)

Biopolitics names an effort to protect the one from its contamination by the one more, by another,
which is an artifi ce; yet the oneness is itself the artifice. Th e biopolitical adds on individual subjects, strives to protect one from the other one, from more one and more than one, in the interest of protecting all from the add-on. Its limit is its possibility and impossibility. (251)

Biopolitical nihilism, stated differently, is defined by a drive to rescue both the human and the category of the human from technology and language, on the one hand, and animals and instinct, on the other. Before it subverts human sovereignty or state sovereignty, biopolitics affirms the sovereignty, the absolute distinction and right of “the human,” of “human life.” (252)

Biopolitics is oversight in the business of the production of more “I’s” since tracking, trackability, identification (a stamp on the body, racialization) is the condition of any such “I.” Sovereignty compels the subject to obey. Discipline demands that he behave. Biopolitics insists that he beware: beware of the source of terror, which is the One or nothing, the One (form) that is nothing, the mark that is unmarked. (253)

And Esposito’s emphasis is on the fact that no two lives emerge in like fashion. Th e difference between the two can manifest itself, we must therefore say, solely as fashion itself: as style. And style, like the grain of the voice or the penmanship of the letter, is not a sign but an insignificant additive to the sign. It is the more of the sign, repeating in every sign, akin to a tic. Communicated in every “live” communicative act, every performative utterance, every real existing communication, style inserts a “meaningless” artifice into meaning—in fact, every meaningful sign (constative utterance) appears in a certain style(the performative)—and is the condition of that meaning. (255)

Human being-alive commences with a sign-making device that, although bodily—the air of the cry from the mouth—and although common (like a boundary between) to all parties, is not a property of anybody, not a human property but the division of the “me proper,” the “me life,” from the other. Th at split, moreover, is the opening of the unconscious, of an artificial intelligence and power.Esposito expresses a certain agreement with such thesis as he situates techne as the betwixt of human life, lodged between biosand zoe, political animal and mere animal, holding them together as it sets them apart: “. . . if a natural life doesn’t exist that isn’t at the same time technological as well; if the relation of biosand zoeneeds by now (or has always needed) to include a third correlated term, techne. . .” (15). Yet, the alternative life Esposito advocates overcomes this third term, which emerges for Esposito as just an “if,” something for human thought to speculate upon. (256)

The human does not appear live. Human beings do not make, much less change history. Making makes history. Humanity is the response and responsibility to its making: its institutions and forms. (257)

Esposito notes of Heidegger that he has “no concept of human nature—[human nature] autonomous from the being to whose custody man seems called” (2008, 156). Th is is true, of course; and it is just as true for Foucault, who holds that man is the body/techne, life/language interface; and thatthe interface itself, the and, the too, is being, the fact of its power. Th e copula beingis the linking and:human being is not an autonomous being because being is and, the one more or extra, the force of repetition, the form or program, that drives the human beings who incorporate or introject it. (257)

Esposito humanizes, cuts finitude and death into human proportions so that they work for the division between thanatopolitics and biopolitics, so that they work for life. If Foucault has failed to espouse a “biopolitics of life” over a “biopolitics over life,” as Esposito charges, it is because he has failed to distinguishthe first from the second, then to weigh or balance their difference. But, we add again: if Foucault has failed in this manner, it is because he presents this very distinction, this cut, as the more of balance: difference is the force of the nonlive in life, of artifice in human nature, death in the organic body. Difference-between, or the border, opens unconditionally, without measure, with too much strength, to the other, hence admits no balance between two, no justice. (259)