22.Aug

1968 – Biopolitical Philosophy and its Historical Fundamentum. Take one

One of the peculiar features of the (recent) biopolitical philosophy has been its constant urge to periodize. For sure, store this urge to historicize (itself) is nothing exclusive to biopolitical theory: the same could amount to pretty much every intellectual activity in modern times. But, visit this nevertheless, I will claim that this recent obsession [...]

By admin

One of the peculiar features of the (recent) biopolitical philosophy has been its constant urge to periodize. For sure, store this urge to historicize (itself) is nothing exclusive to biopolitical theory: the same could amount to pretty much every intellectual activity in modern times. But, visit this nevertheless, I will claim that this recent obsession in periodizing is not only a by-product of a theory grown prominent – and therefore a theory in need of a broader historical legitimation. 

I will argue that this singular obsession is much more a result of the unresolved relationship biopolitical thought has entertained towards the so-called classical philosophical canon. This argument shall be specified, insofar it is the domain of the (classical) political philosophy which stand as the paradigmatical placeholder for biopolitical philosophy’s relating towards the philosophical tradition.

Again, even this specific and troublesome relationship with political philosophy could not be said to belong only to biopolitical philosophy. Take for example Badiou’s or Ranciere’s political writings and some very similar attitude props up. And if to extend the argument to the most extreme, it could be said that since Marx has made the discipline of political economy prominent political philosophy proper has become a kind of philosopher’s stone. A reference and institution whose refusal has in some sense become necessary if to think and act politically anew.

It is Roberto Esposito’s work which has shed most light into those intricacies of biopolitical theory and (classical) political philosophy. And I shall here discuss most often his argumentation, then I hold his perspective to be the most elucidating on that particular issue which – not exactly by the same, but a very similar – token has been put asside by Foucault, Negri, Agamben or Virno. And it is, perhaps, Esposito’s own enterprise which outlines best the basic problem of biopolitical philosophy. Namely, if – as Esposito argues – the proper biopolitical epoch (and for Esposito, this is modernity) has been broadly defined by classical corpus of political thought and if this very same modern epoch has come to an end, at least two important questions and consequences emerge. First, if modernity is over subsequently a new mode of political thinking is on the agenda. This, as is well known, has been a step taken by almost all philosophical schools and directions. But it is the second consequence which puts a call for an alternative or innovative political thinking on test. 

I will formulate it rather bluntly: if (modern/modernist) biopolitics was the background of (classical) political philosophy, and if that very (biopolitical) background or frame has been exhausted – there arises a fundamental difficulty for biopolitical reflection itself. How is it that biopolitical theory emerges in a period non-biopolitical? Or, what is the historical fundamentum (a history’s name) biopolitical philosophy exacly evokes – if biopolitical period proper is over?

A way out of this problem could be in stating that while political philosophy has evoked life in negative manner (by stressing the conservationist and immunizing aspect) biopolitical philosophy proposes, or at least tries so, a kind of affirmative, positive biopolitics. There are textual references that support this strategy in all of the abovementioned authors, and with some right it could be said that it is precisely this dichotomic way of arguing they in the final instance pursue. 

BUT … but, there is at least one caesura which stalls this easy-way-out. And this is the event of Nazism. To invoke “life” after it has been invoked and mobilized and misused absolutely becomes a sort of impossible. Agamben or Esposito are both rather clear on this issue, and only a rather one-sided reading could declare biopolitical philosophy triumphalist in its vitalistic naivite. 

SO … what, then, could be that name, that unique denominator, biopolitical philosophers are striving for? What is, better to say, the historical fundamentum on which this kind of philosophy has emerged? Answers or names authors in question offer are few. Be it multitude, love, a non-relational community-to-come, munus… And they are, for sure, some more technical names to be accounted for. But, again – those names seem to me rather vague and not less ambivalent than those political philosophy has famously cited.

The historical fundamentum I will like to set-up as the prime experience for biopolitical philosophy itself and its political consequences shall be something I will call the encounter of the those (people/persons or otherwise) landless with those stateless. I will discuss one such examplary encounter, taken from Aleksandar Petrović’s movie Biće skoro propast sveta, nek propadne nije šteta [Yugoslavia, 1968].  Revolting Yugoslav socialist peasants, land-workers meeting the stateless Czechoslovak tourists, stranded somewhere deep in Panonia after the Soviet intervention.

 

This will be a kick-off for a broader theoretical considerations mentioned above. In months to come, I hope to keep this posting going – in constant touch with some people or texts I consider crucial for the so briefly outlined research. Eyal Weizman, Gil Anidjar, Tom Keenan, Reza Negarestani and Ugo Vlaisavljević. And not to forget the people who actually have put pressure on me to write this down: Mislav, Marko, Stipe, Leonardo.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*