When politics subsumes life, we must consider the question of what precisely this “life” indicates. What form does life take at the moment when it is touched by politics? In the “Critique of Violence,” Benjamin calls it “bare life,” a life reduced to itself, divested of adornments and form. The object of biopolitics is precisely life in this sense. It goes without saying that today the thinker developing the most profound theorization of “bare life” is Giorgio Agamben. In Homo Sacer he expands on Foucault’s concept of biopower, developing a study of biopolitics in line with Benjamin and, above all, with Carl Schmitt. What can life do, what can the body do, what potentials do life and the body hold? Is the force that life nurtures external to it or immanent in it? In other words, is biopower, the power to make something live, an immanent potential in life or is it a force that intervenes from the outside? If we consider that from a certain point in time, a force that was previously external to life has now begun to intervene in it, this becomes a theoretical question concerning the apparatuses of power that are separate from the potentials of the body. Thereby this force called “power” becomes something with entirely different origins from that of life—but it is precisely Nietzsche who insists on something different from this way of grasping the question of power.
Tazaki Hideaki; Nietzsche in Contemporary Biopolitics. positions 1 February 2019; 27 (1): 159–173. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-7251871
Download citation file: