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John T. Hamilton “Security”

January 12, 2016 Leave a comment

Hamilton, John T. 2013. Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Part 1 – Preliminary Concerns
Whereas securitas advantageours if it extirpates a troubling cura like fear, anger, or pain, it counts as a decided disadvantage when it abolishes the cura that motivates vigilance or dedicated engagement. Thus, securitas can name a good like assurance, safety, or prevention; or it can designate an evil like apathy complacency, or recklessness. Again, by eradicating care, security leaves us either carefree or careless. (11-12)

Instead of positing a prior, stable subject to be guarded, critical theory claims that the subject comes into being only through security measures. The subject is originally formed by security initiatives rather than being already in place, awaiting subsequent protection. (16)

Hence: security as knowledge (certainty); security’s reliance upon knowledge (surveillance); security’s astonishing prodaction of knowledge in response to its will to know (calculability); and the claim of knowledge which gives security its license to render all aspects of life transparent (totality). All these constitutive elements of our contemporary manifold politics of security excited my suspicion because they comprise a monumental enterprise of power-knowledge whose insatiable maw threatens to consume not only all thought, and not only that relating to the question of the political, but of what it is like to be human. (17 – Michael Dillon, Politics of security, p. 17)

A philological disposition halts the ready slide into all manners of acquiescence. It prevents the headlong rush into those established conventions of truth that are presented as beyond debate and instead raises problems and questions of meaning at the very moment of meaning formation, that is, beefore meaning has become ossified and proffered as second nature. (21)

The desire for maximum security demands that he renounce total security. The prudent concern to save his life necessarily puts his life in danger. Were he to forget his vulnerability, he would run the greater risk of having his security slip into laxity. […] in Kafka’s Burrow, the creature’s chance for survival stands in direct proportion to his „worry“ or „anxiety“ – two good translations for the cura that securitas aimst to dispatch. The removal of all concern may leace the creature untroubled, but it would also make him foolish. In Benjamin’s German, the two (zwei) options – the lack of disturbance and the absence of caution – produce the ambiguity (Zweideutigkeit) that characterizes despair (Verzweiflung); and it is this despair, in turn, that serves as the prerequisite for hope. It responds to a gap in the system that destroys the system’s totality but also maintains its futurity. […] Thus, the animal is secure only as long as he remains insecure. It is the burrow’s lack of complete protection that ensures the inhabitant’s capacity for self-defence. His mortality saves his life. (27-28)

This is the secret of security, like a steak under cellophane: to surround you with a sarcophagus in order to prevent you from dying. (29 – Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, 177)

[…] because of this fundamental solitude, humane care consists not only in the will to protect oneself and others but also in acknowledging one’s stark instability to do so absolutely. (32)

[Carol] Gilligan’s distinction between a „universal morality“ based roughly on Kantian notions of abstract, formal principles and a „contextual morality“ grounded in interdependence and mutual responsibility usefully separates state-sponsored policies of removing care from an individual’s recognition that true security is necessariliy provisional. If state security aims to render citizens carefree, individual security recognizes the perils of surrendering care to an impersonal system. (32-33)

Terrorism is efficacious only when it aims at that for which we care as thinking, feeling subjects. To a certain degree, therefore, both the potential assailant and the potential victim author the dangerous scenario. (33)

Security requires a demonization of the other: the integrity of the inside is rendered coherent by means of violence directed to the menacing outside. (37-38)

This autoimmunity menace, which feeds on a simple but nonetheless confounding logic, need not be restricted to national affairs. On a related, more personal level, there are the paralyzing consequences of constant worry, fear, and anxiety. Both the public preponderance of security warnings and the individual obsession with prevention can be stifling, something that intimidates movement in a world now regarded as frighteningly dangerous. Here, too, security triggers a kind of autoimmune debility, insofar as safety is achieved through a curtailment of activity, which may impede growth, improvement, and general profit, foreclosing opportunities and stifling life. In short, such measures preserve existence at the cost of existence itself. (39)

One must be wary of a state that preserves life by taking life away. In promising deathlessness, total security produces but a stillborn citizenry. (41)

Whereas sovereignty executes its power upon a territory and a discipline exerts power on individual bodies, „security is exercised over a whole population.“ (41)

For Foucault, in contradistinction to the right of the sovereign, security measures do not exercise the power to take away life but rather the power to make life live, which is the general characteristic of biopower. (42)

[….] whereas a model of insurance may mutualize episodic danger across the entire population, secuirty against a total threat cannot be so readily disbursed. As Didier Bigo concisely notes, „Insurance can cope with catastrophe but not with Armageddon.“ (43)

In associating an idea of securing with a notion of self-caring, Foucault essentially overlaps the „elimination of care“ (securare) and the „cultivation of self-care“ (se curare). (43)

The operative premise of all biopolitical paradigms is that the state is a vast organism that requires physiological research, pathological diagnoses, and medicinal, curative prescriptions. Hence, the biologization of the political fades into the politicization of the biological. (45)

The removal of care implicit in such security measures may eradicate concern, but it does not erase the violence of removal itself – a violence that is merely transferred and perpetually enacted. State measures are therefore pharmacological in every sense: both cure and poison. Immunity invariably dovetails into autoimmunity. (45)

Part 2 – Etymologies and Figures
In iconic fashion, the word securitas reflects Cicero’s movement away from the city. […] Cicero’s acceptation of „security“ clearly turns on this sense of elimination. The term further collates ideals familiar from Hellenistic moral philosophy, encompassing Epicurean ataraxia (freedom from disturbances) and Stoic apatheia (freedom from passions). These major terms, constructed with the Greek alpha privative, similarly denote the process of removal lexically marked by the prefix se- and aim toward the realization of the good, happy life or what the Romans would call the „blessed life“ (beata vita). (52-53).

[of Seneca] Perhaps more emphatically than with Cicero, securitas here constitutes an accomplishment. Groundd in a transcendent position above all contingency, the philosopher reaches security and thus touches on the divine sphere, where he is no longer ruffled by disturbances. (53)

The construction of an inviolable self literally depends on proper instruction, on building a subject that can weather all kinds of trouble, foreseeable or not. […] In order to stabilize the self, one must devote vigilance and diligence to internal representations. To secure the self, one must care for the self. That is to say, one can be „free from care“ only if one conscientiously practices philosophy „with care“ (cum cura). (54)

For Cicero and Seneca, therefore, security is not attained simply through withdrawal from the tumult of political life but rather through the careful practice of cultivating a self that continues to be embedded in and constituted by a community. Thus secured, the philosopher – like the enlightened exile from Plato’s cave – may return to the dark and delusional realm of politics. Self-directed stability, achieved through reflection, ultimately prepares one to reenter the fray. […] Self-government prepares one for political governance. (55)

Fully in line with a Stoic tradition, Cicero strives toward a securitas that would quell the impulsiveness of the passions. As later in Seneca, the „care of the self“ is the method by which the emotions are educated, trained to serve the sovereignty of reason. (56)

The self-curatorial struggle is barely concealed by reason’s power. As the middle, third term, the well-balanced thymos of euthymia becomes the earmark of a secure order that strives to maks the simple domination of logos over the body. Violent dualities are quelled by stabilizing triads. (57)

Whereas with Cicero the notion of securitas tends to adhere to the private realm, with the collapse of the Roman Republic the term begins to be employed in a decidedly public fashion. Throughout the imperial period the term came to denote an idea of military or governmental protection – not a condition to be achieved privately, away from the urban center, but rather within the city’s sheltering walls. […] Rather every citizen is worry free thanks to the efforts and success of the governing power. (58)

Self-therapy produced securitas; state therapy engendered salus. A temple to the goddess Salus, high upon one of the summits of the Quirinal, overlooked the city; and the „safety or the security of the people“ – the salus populi – was perceived as a fundamental good among the citizenry. As Cicero famously expressed it: Salus populi suprema les esto („Let the safety of the people be the supreme law,“ De legibus 3.3.8). (59)

A major split, then, in the word’s history is between an inner, psychological sense of composure and an external, physical sense of administered safety. This latter, public meaning should no longer be understood as a translation of Hellenistic ataraxia or apatheia but rahter as an extension of another privative term in Greek, asphaleia, „steadfastness, stability,“ literally: „prevention [a-] from stumbling [sphallein]“. (59)

With the Christianization of the empire, positive connotations of securitas more or less vanished from political and religious usage, save for some formulaic vestiges heard in ealry liturgy. Otherwise, it was mostly in legal contexts where securitas served prominently as an ideal of guarantee in oaths, pledges, and contracts. The later link between securitization and mercantile insurance has its roots in this usage. (64)

The noun „procuration“ – which corresponds to the verb procurare (to take care of, attend to, look after) in the Latin version of Leviathan – makes clear how this office has assumed the curae that are thereby removed from the citizens’ thoughts. The sovereign, therefore, is specifically a procurator, that is, the one who manages concerns on behalf of another. The citizen is securus because the ruler works cum cura. (65)

The greater irony, then, is that precisely by instilling insecurity among the populace, by depriving its subjects of the privation of concern, agencies like the Soviet KGB and the East German Stasi also allow their human subjects to continue to care and therefore to remain human. (67)

Only history, beyond the limits of resemblance and representation, can provide the categories of meaning, a meaning that cannot shed its temporality and therefore its provisionality. It is this Promothean commitment to time that prevents or disrupts any definitive, fixed meaning. Cura, posing as the wily Titan, can secure her creature only in insecurity. (72)

Consigned, then, to time, mankind’s relation to Care becomes clearer. The man possessed by care – homo curans – worries about that which can change, transform, or vanish, including, above all, himself. Again, care is an expression of mankind’s mortality. In his last epistle, Seneca accordingly distinguishes human from divine being: both god and man are endowed with the power of reason, which alone accomplishes the Good; yet, in the case of the immortal god, „nature perfects the Good,“ whereas in the case of mortal man, it is „cura“ that works toward this achievement (ep. 124-14). (72)

In assuming all care, God, the shepherd of men, deprives the human couple of care. Overprotected and fully secure, these beneficiaries of divine gifts lack the lack that drives human endeavor, commitment, and responsibility. This lack of every lack has serious consequences: their security has left them defenseless against the serpent’s alluring speech. It is precisely their carelessness that causes them to fall out of paradise and fall into a life of concern. (74)

To care for others and for oneself represents a responsibility that many would claim to be a fundamental trait of huanity. It is the responsibility that accompanies concrete being in the world: attending to a singular need and formulating how that need should be addressed under the particular circumstances at hand. It exhibits commitment, devotion, and mutual recognition, all of which reveal that care is grounded in temporality, contingency, and the possibility of loss. What burns the heart is a desire to hold on to something that at any moment may be lost. As indicated above, care is generally reserved for that which may one day disappear, including one’s own life: if an object or a person were not subject to time, there would be nothing to care for. We care because we are mortal. (77-78)

The formula (omnes et singulatim) that Foucault recognizes as operative in the concern for security may provide the benefits of subjectivity, but at too great – too fatal – a cost. The concern for removing all concern is here regarded as a death trap. Security grants identity but seals this achievement with a gravestone. Proponents of a human care that does not seek resolution in care’s removal recognize that the subject is sacrificed to the very institutions that make the subject a subject. Their resistance finds expression in constant striving, in remaining at sea, in restlessness, anxiety, and concern. This insistence on a mode of infinite caring does not deny the individual’s mortality. Rather, it is precisely holding on to the singularizing force of one’s own death that saves the individual from a totalizing mortification. Care, no less than security, is a gift. However, whereas the gift of security fills a lack – a lack of identity, subjectivity, being – the gift of care grants the lack itself. (81)

In setting Odysseus on a final journey of wandering, fate demonstrates that the land as well may become a kind of sea. Humans may expect security, but they can only believe in the probability of this expectation and never know it for certain. The land-sea dichotomy, therefore, is but one attempt to secure security, an addempt moreover that may or may not be efficacious. (113)

„There must be freedom from every disturbance of the mind, not only from desire and fear, but also from distress, from both the mind’s pleasure and anger, so that there may be present the tranquility and security of the mind, which bring not only constancy but also dignity.“ The list of disturbing passions is presented as what must be vacated (vacandum est), a privative gesture that underscores the removal expressed by the prefix se-. Cicero is very specific: „Desire and fear, distress and pleasure, and anger“ need to be shunted to the side, if the soul is to enjoy a carefree life. Cicero therefore provides a genealogy of securitas, a brief account, entirely indebted to the Stoics, of how security is accomplished: destructive passions must be identified and summarily pushed away from the soul. (121)

We could provisionally conclude that, for Cicero at Tusculum, the concepts of securitas and its close synonym tranquilitas have less to do with the messy realm of the human, where every opinion remains subject to modification, and relate more to the quasi-divine sphere of the „blessed life“, the beata vita. Here, in this transcendent domain, rigid adherence to philosophical terminology is entirely in order. In the purely theoretical reflections that constitute the Tusculan Disputations, Cicero remarks: „But how can anyone possess that greatly desirable and coveted security – for I now call freedom from distress the security on which the blessed life is based – anyone for whom there is present or can be present a multitude of evils?“ (123-124)

Although anger is an evil pathos or perturbatio, which threatens the individual’s rationality and therefore must be eliminated (vacandum est), it can be domesticated in euthymia, that is, made to negotiate with ration, and thereby safeguard the mind from all pathic disturbancs. Anger thus becomes a cura that assists in the removal of cura, just as the guardians’ violence is trained to quell violence. Police science (Polizeiwissenschaft) as it would develop in the eighteenth century is indeed but a footnote to these proceedings. (127)

Part III – Occupying Security
Fortitude is thus caught in the double bind that will come to characterize the practice of security. As for Aristotle, he attempts to extricate his argument from this potential aporia by revertin to reason or logos. Courage is „the pursuit of logos“; and logos, it would appear, is capable of producing fortitude, not despite but because of the double bind. Virtue (arete) is an achievement precisely because of its difficulty. It is better, then, to understand the Aristotelian mean less as „moderation“ or „mediocrity“, and more as a dynamic tension that negotiates two bad excesses. Provocatively expressed, the surest way to be courageous is to be fearless while being afraid. (148)

As Aristotle continues, courage is grounded in civil recognition. Presumably, a death at sea or a death in illness would fail to be acknowledged, because both fall beyond the limit of civil recognition. It appears that to succumb to sickness would be to suffer reduction to bare animal life, to move from bios to zoe, whereas to perish at sea would be to pass away far from the shores of sommunal existence. One may or may not fear shipwreck or illness, but in either case one has no opportunity to exhibit fortitude, for virtue cannot subsist without one’s humanity or without one’s society. Virtue is virtue recognized. The two major definitions of mankind that Aristotle ha bequeathed to posterity – that man is both a „political animal“ and an „animal possessing logos“ – propels the societal exile as well as the bearer of bare life beyond the realms where recognition of fortitude may be gained. (149)

To understand peace as the mere absence of belligerence is to regard war as an accident. From this perspective, mankind is essentially sociable and benign, and peace is but a return to this original harmony. This line of thought would be Aquinas’s operative premise. In contrast, to interpret peace as a victory over enmity is to recognize mankind as originally savage, ready to do violence unless prevented. This position is commonly associated with Cicero. In the De inventione, for example, Cicero alludes to a primal era „when men used to roam randomly in the fields in the manner of beasts,“ a time of utter lawlessness ruled only by individual cupidity and brute strength, until a „great and wise man“ (magnus … vir et sapiens) eloquently introduced a system of education, with which he could render his fellow man „gentle and civilized“ (mites et mansuetos). (158)

Thus, Security balances the gallows in clear view. Peace may rest upon the armor beneath her pillow once order has been achieved, but she cannot discard it. Likewise, Security must remain tirelessly ready to execute the established laws. More abstractly, when related to both triumphant peace and concord, Security reveals the indispensability of opposition. (158)

No security project can allow itself to be decimated by fear; however, being altogether blind to potential menace would result in sheer recklessness. Lorenzetti’s composed maiden, who stares out at the sinister scene, is the figure of an idea of security as vigilance – as the fearless confrontation with recognized fear, as a disposition that is unafraid precisely by being afraid. (159)

For Fromm, then, the crucial theological shift, motivated by unconscious responses to sociohistorical circumstances, is an abandonment of the „adoptionist doctrine“ (Jesus the man elevated to divinity) and the establishment of the „doctrine of consubstantiality“ (God descended to humanity). In the former case Jesus was portrayed as a violent usurper, whereas in the latter he was characterized by forgiving care. Psychoanalytically, any remaining aggression toward the father could now be directed inward: an individual’s sins, and not the power of the sovereign, were to blame for suffering in this world. The internalization only further reinforced social stability. (166)

This negative view [of Agamben] is certainly valid, yet it does not exclude the converse. Although the exception may thus be used as a nefarious technique for encompassing bare life, it may just as well supply the gap in legalism through which the law can be reanimated, perhaps enabling a transition from „biopower“ to what Roberto Esposito ordains as „biopotentiality“ (biopotenze, as opposed to biopotere) – „a biopolitics that is finally affirmative. No longer over life but of life, on that doesn’t superimpose already constituted (and by now destitute) categories of modern politics on life, but rather inscribes the innovative power of life rethought in all its complexity and articulation in the same politics. The law’s porosity may be the only means for preventing it from stiffening into cold mechanicity. (177)

Descartes’s philosophical quest to secure epistemology with provisional certainty, to excatavate and build a fundamentum inconcussum upon solid ground, however slight, should be understood within the same political context. Starkly expressed, the presupposition – often quite explicit – of the emerging international system of sovereign states, where each should enjoy authority within its territorial limits, is that the state be regarded as a rational subject, as a res cogitans, as a unitary figure set upon the edge of turbulent waters. Upon land, this single entity – be it the individual subject or the sovereign nation – could rest somewhat assured in the face of the conflicts that raged beyond the shored-in limits, where opposing religious doctrines or other, aggressive states were poised to crash in and potentially flood the ground. The „antient Security,“ which in some remote past had presumably been maintained by hierarchical structures of church and empire, would now, following the Great Schism, the fragmentation of principalities, and decades of devastating war, seem achievable only if the sovereign bordrs retained their definition in a more lateral relationship, if unity held out before roaring plurality. The history of every contemporary walled state, the plotting of every fortified barrier, from Israel to Arizona, is traceable to Westphalia, invariably linked to this threat to sovereign unity. (200)

That God may not be merely inscrutable but in fact careless invariably jeapordized any prolonged sense of security, for how could care be removed if there was no ultimate agent to remove it? Voltaire’s Candide (1759) speaks directly to these concerns, both by means of a satirical critique of Leibnizian theory – of „sufficient reason“, of „monads“, and, not least, of „the best of all possible worlds“ – and by elevating each individual to the status of caretaker. The text’s famous conclusion – „il faut cultiver notre jardin“ (we must cultivate our garden) – redefines human security as the condition of being without as well as with care. (207-208)

In maintaining the security (Sicherheit) of bare life, the state is regarded as a biopolitical machine – a cold mechanism or clockwork no longer in need of God. In the place of the mechanical state, Fichte posits the nation, whose purpose exceeds security as safety and protection by allowing transindividual freedom to serve as security (Pfand) through adversity for the reward of posterity. For this reason, the antistatist nature of Fichte’s bold nationalism is no contraditction. All the same, the nation, too, so portrayed, engages in a biopolitical theory, not as a mechanical regime over life but as a living organism in its own right. Fichte’s now notorious promotion of Germanness – the originality and uniqueness of its language and culture, blood and soil – readily assumes the horrific shape of racism, but only with the gradual conflation of state and nation, a conflation that Fichte’s addresses certainly do not discourage. It is at this point, that the state’s promise of security becomes coupled with the ultimately thanatopolitical drive of a nation pathologically intent on preserving its dangerously well-constructed sense of purity. Around 1800, the dfeat at the hands of the Revolutionary Army may be reconfigured as an opportunity, yet this oppostunity, like any chance, cannot master its eventual effects. (237)

Michelet’s inaugurating, fear-provoking view from the shore (La mer vue du rivage) stresses the division into “two worlds”: the one where human life can be sustained and the other where itc annot. To face the sea is to contemplate demise, including one’s own possible absorption into the infinitude of breathlessness. (240)

As a prehistorical zone, the sea is also an origin or maternal source of history—la mer est la mère. The prehistorical is the condition of possibility of the historical. Its formidable power is inescapable. Lionel Gossman’s reflections on Michelet’s naturalist endeavors are particularly evocative in this regard: “History, for Michelet, is … nothing less than the never-ending struggle against the ancien régime of nature, the process by which nature, woman, and the past in their confusing multitude of unstable, constantly varying forms, are progressively transformed from capricious mistresses of human destiny into trained assistants in the creation of a specifically human order.” (241)

Whereas Michelet lamented the dreadful boundlessness of the sea and struggled in vain to secure his and his nation’s identity, Friedrich Nietzsche celebrated beside the watery abyss, gaily dancing at God’s funeral and at the Self’s wake. Although Nietzsche would concede the existence of some instinct of self-preservation, he would view it as one of any number of consequences to a more profound instinct: the notorious “will to power.” This will lies deeper than the individual self and is an expression of life itself: namely, life’s will to expand, to explode any and all determinations, any and all fixed forms, even or especially when life destroys itself in the process. “The wish to preserve oneself is the symptom of a condition of distress, of a limitation of the really fundamental instinct of life, which aims at the expansion of power, and wishing for that [in diesem Willen], frequently risks and even sacrifices self-preservation.” (244-245)

For Nietzsche, the thesis of self-overcoming entails that any measure of self-preservation must be provisional, lest it become a means of devitalizing self-paralysis. The provisionality of preservation wards off complacency, lethargy, and therefore vulnerability. Life is the perpetual striving to avoid being no longer. One may relate this tendency to the capacity for immanent transcendence, to the human potential to detach from the experiential world to which mankind nevertheless belongs. This freedom from natural restrictions is what Max Scheler defined as man’s “world-openness” (Weltoffenheit), a capacity for emancipation from instinctual drives and environmental circumstances. For Scheler, this fundamentally human condition is at once a source of transcendent possibility and pure anxiety. In Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos (Man’s Place in Nature, 1928), Scheler unfolds a “philosophical anthropology” that considers the various travails of modernity—isolation, mechanization, social disintegration, and so forth—as a fundamental lack of orientation, of man not knowing his “position in the cosmos.”35 Yet this problem of localization becomes the source for human ingenuity, the very precondition for human creativity. (255)

Constituted by Being, the essence of technology names yet another challenge by means of which human being becomes a challenge to itself. By pursuing the question concerning tehcnology, thinking expedites Being’s disclosure, a „bringing-forth“ (Hervor-bringen) out of concealment into unconcealment. In the Technology essay, Heidegger focuses on the term Entbergen, a word that literally means „to dig up“, conjuring quasi-romantic scenes of mining. The verb bergen means „to rescue“, „to harbor“, and therefore also „to secure in hiding“. Thus, the „unconcealment“ that is truth (aletheia) is a kind of „de-securing“ (Ent-bergen): letting something burst forth from its fixed or secured hiding into revelation. (263)

While Heidegger views security as impeding thought’s piety, it is elsewhere clear that some idea of security may contribute to authentic concern. In other words, Heidegger appears to inherit the dynamic ambivalence associated with the word’s complex semantic career. On the one hand, there is the cold distance of Lucretian security, which describes the theoretical position that objectifies all experience in a resolutely scientific, calculating, and ultimately nonphilosophical (unthinking) manner. For Heidegger, this metaphysical standpoint dubiously consigns the subject to a position out of the world to which he nonetheless belongs. On the other hand, the „paths of thinking“ (Denkwege) seem to be lined with the courageous asphalt that paves the way and prevents a fall into inauthenticity. (263)

[…] Heidegger is able to apply Augustine’s series of reflections to construct an entire theory of care that will subsequently ground his reshaping of phenomenological inquiry. In brief, cura names for Heidegger the motivating force that compels human life in one of two directions: either toward the „delight“ (delectatio) that defines self-possession in God; or toward the „temptation“ (tentatio) that works against this goal by submerging the self back into the world. If cura leads to delight, the result is „continence“ (continentia), a coming to rest in the One that is God; but if cura leads to temptation, the result is „dispersal“ (defluxus) into the multiplicity of worldly experience. […] The primary philosophical problem with this kind of evaluation is that it gives priority to a condition of security, insofar as Augustine himself explicitly defines delight as „the end of concern“ (finis curae). For Heidegger, security of this nature presupposes a path that inauthentically circumvents the difficulties and troubless of life. (265-266)

The careful attendance to the facticity of existence prevents thinking from evading the conditions of „this very life“, ista vita. In Heidegger’s fundamental reversal, cura counters everything that would have us fall away from our fallenness. Throughout Being and Time, the attraction of tranquility is tantamount to inauthenticity, insofar as it causes us to neglect the fallen condition of our existence. As Heidegger explains, this Verfallenheit is decidedly not a „’fall’ from a purer and higher ’primal state’ [Urstand]“ but rather the state of the only life we have. His critique of security, therefore, is always specifically a critique of securitas as the „removal of care“, which he implicitly distinguishes from asphaleia as the „prevention of falling“ or, more specifically, as the „prevention of falling from our fallenness.“ Evading our constitution in time begins with the translation from Greek to Latin. (267-268)

For Heidegger, Saturn’s judgment is therefore truly an Urteil, a decision that maintains and exacerbates what Friedrich Hölderlin called the „primal split“ or Urtheilung: the converged divergence of corporeal sensibility and spiritual rationality that orients how human existence comes to take place. Care alone holds the polarities together, like a bridge that crosses an otherwies uncrossable river. As a result, any substantial, permanent, transcendent subject – like the one Descartes dreamed of against radical doubt – is shown not to rest on an „unshakeable foundation“ (the fundamentum inconcussum of the Meditations) but rather upon the soft humus into which it inevitably sinks. (269)

Despite the vast, unbridgeable distances between their ideological commitments and philosophical premises, every time one of these thinkers, Schmitt included, betrays to greater or lesser degree an adherence to a certain vitalist, Nietzschean tradition as articulated by Weber, one that protests the gross quantification of human life and the bureaucratization of human relations, in brief, one that restists the reduction of experience to technological calculability. With slight modification, they would all agree with Weber’s assessment of the times as being enslaved to the „might cosmos of the modern economic order,“ which is a mechanism of its own making. (279)

WITHOUT CARE NO ONE can be secure. This is true for security as well as for safety. Yet, the requirement of care does not mean that the concern must fall solely to the one to be secured. Because threats—particlarly those that jeopardize life itself—can often overwhelm the wherewithal of a single subject, it is common to appeal to institutions and agencies that are better equipped and therefore in a more advantageous position to take care of individuals. The secured subject relinquishes the responsibility of care by submitting to a higher authority, by obeying the will of a collective, or simply by trusting technology. A sovereign state, which occupies a privileged place above the populace, can arguably foresee and identify threats better than others. The structure that defines this relation between the one securing and the one secured differs little from that which allows gadgets, devices, and sensors to catch what human senses might miss. In both cases, individual care is relegated to persons or machines that are designed, technologically or ideologically, for accuracy. The provision of security, then, is not only an act of care but also an expression of power. (284)

The state that cares only for itself can never provide security for anyone or for anything other than itself. Its security program exclusively removes the concerns that threaten its own legitimacy and power. Its effects, therefore, are to spread insecurity among the populace. (287)

To be secure requires the capacity to envision as many specific threats as possible. One’s imaginative faculty—the Einbildungskraft—must be fully engaged; it must be capable of picturing what could happen, of internally producing an image (Bild), regardless of likelihood. In order to be safe, one must have recourse to the imagination, one must be able to foresee all potential (not yet actual) events—a delusional enterprise, since the event qua event is unforeseeable. It is precisely this reasoning that motivated the now famous judgment proclaimed by the United States’ 9/11 Commission Report, namely that the governmental intelligence agencies in charge of predicting attacks were to blame for a “failure of the imagination.” (295-296)

A situation of heightened security, in whatever form, stands to be unnerving insofar as it calls to mind the lurking dangers and the potential losses that continue to pose a threat. It serves as a reminder that there are significant risks that may at any point impinge upon our existence or upset our calculations. This disquieting consequence for the subject of security is unavoidable. Modes of protection invariably conjure what is being warded off. (296)

By issuing endless warnings, the state apparatus perpetuates the Hobbesian contract that purchases security with individual freedom. (297)

However, not every warning that Eldagsen cites promotes complacency or immobility. At times, albeit rarely, the “nanny state” (as Eldagsen’s Australian friends characterize their country) expects you to unbuckle yourself and leap into live action. In these special cases, the general advice to avoid or ward off danger is replaced by proactive instructions. To return to the coast off Sydney, we follow other references suggesting that, for the observer, staying on the shore would hardly offer relief. (297)


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).

Jacqueline Berman “The ‘Vital Core'”

November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Berman, Jacqueline 2007. The ‘Vital Core’: from Bare Life to the Biopolitics of Human Security. – Giorgio Shani, Makoto Sato, Mustapha Kamal Pasha (eds). Protecting Human Security in a Post 9/11 World: Critical and Global Insights. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 30-49.

[…] human security discourse seeks to move the debate away from national sovereignty and towards individual survival – towards security as a matter of adequate food, water, shelter, work, a clean environment, individual and public health, freedom of religion and human dignity. (30)

That is to say that subjecting biological life to ‘security talk’ reconstructs the link between personal and national security and reinvests the state with the authority/purpose of providing security not just to the state but of human life itself. (31)

In human security discourse, the state is put in charge of the bodily security of the citizen and the meaning (if not the structure) of sacrifice is reconfigured. Placed in charge of biological life, the state can no longer be constructed through individual sacrifice; it must instead become party to ensuring sufficient food, shelter and freedom for the individual to survive. (31)

Among the effects of human security’s extended purview over biological life is the encroachment of the state on the human body, giving the state a greater stake in and control over that body. The body becomes both individualized and massified, singled out and aggregated as the needs of the state and global capital demand (and upon which, they depend). (32)

Rather than a goal or a pursuit, it is now possible to interrogate security as ‘a principle of formation that does things’ – as a discourse of Western modernity that deploys danger, violence and fear to control what can be imagined as the political but never finally ascends to any fixity (Dillon 1996: 16). Security is not a final moment, but a final moment that never comes, a modern technology of political practice. (35)

The oft-cited 1994 UNDP Human Development Reportdefines human security in relation to seven dimensions: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security. Its main focus is on a globalized vision of ‘freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’, where the state serves as only one means by which to provide individual security. More specifically, the report refers to human security as (a) ‘safety from such chronic threats as hunger, disease and repression’; and (b) ‘protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life – whether in homes, in jobs or in communities’ (UNDP 1994). That is to say that among human security’s most immediate concerns are the ‘basic needs (i.e. sustenance, protection)’ of individuals, needs that engage fundamental ethical and moral questions (Graham and Poku 2000: 17). (37-38)

Human security is about the ‘lives of human beings – longevity, education, opportunities for participation’, about ‘the conditions that menace survival, the continuation of daily life’ (CHS 2003: 10). In other words, human security concerns itself, first and foremost, with basic human survival and bare life. (39)

Human security relies upon a similar juxtaposition of secure/insecure or security/threat, locating ‘otherness’ at the site of the state which it simultaneously and contradictorily relies upon to provide, at least in part, that security. (41)

From this perspective, it would seem that human security, a concept designed to diminishthe centrality of the state, functions as a form of biopolitics. It does so by positioning human bodies and populations as central to the question of security, thus rendering human bodies a central component of and resource for security, even as it seeks to save them. (42)

Because it focuses on biological life, human security as a discourse delivers the bare life of the citizen and the death of others to national security’s disciplining dominion; it functions as a technology of access, measurement and control over biological life itself, placing ‘basic material needs’ and biological human survival at the centre of ‘security talk’. (43)

To consider ‘bare life’ a subject of security is to subject it to the state’s security demands. It does not remove the state from the calculus but in fact positions the state ever closer to ‘the patterns of daily life’ and thus better able to designate life and death in terms commensurate with the productivity of the state. Rather than liberating security discourse from national priorities, human security inextricably links and thus subjects food, health, shelter, work, etc. to them. In the end, human security can function to reinforce rather than disrupt the centrality of the state and as such, reinforce a national focus for security. (44)

[…] human security’s focus on the individual cannot overcome the limitations of an oppositional discursive structure. (47)

As a form of biopolitics, human security puts security discourse in immanent relation to biological life such that these realms once considered beyond or irrelevant to the machinations of the state become security’s central focus. In an era of a ‘war on terror’, biological life as a security concern subjects individual bodies to the demands of state security, to be carefully controlled and regulated less they become bodies out of control, bodies of insecurity. From this perspective, only the state remains equipped to provide the security necessary to fend off fears of encroachment and penetration. And bare life becomes a vital core of national security’s eternal return. (48)