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Improper Life

Technology and Biopolitics from Heidegger to Agamben

Timothy C. Campbell

Publication Year: 2011

Has biopolitics actually become thanatopolitics, a field of study obsessed with death? Is there something about the nature of biopolitical thought today that makes it impossible to deploy affirmatively? If this is true, what can life-minded thinkers put forward as the merits of biopolitical reflection? These questions drive Improper Life, Timothy C. Campbell’s dexterous inquiry-as-intervention.

Campbell argues that a “crypto-thanatopolitics” can be teased out of Heidegger’s critique of technology and that some of the leading scholars of biopolitics—including Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Peter Sloterdijk—have been substantively influenced by Heidegger’s thought, particularly his reading of proper and improper writing. In fact, Campbell shows how all of these philosophers have pointed toward a tragic, thanatopolitical destination as somehow an inevitable result of technology. But in Improper Life he articulates a corrective biopolitics that can begin with rereadings of Foucault (especially his late work regarding the care and technologies of the self), Freud (notably his writings on the drives and negation), and Gilles Deleuze (particularly in the relation of attention to aesthetics).

Throughout Improper Life, Campbell insists that biopolitics can become more positive and productively asserts an affirmative technē not thought through thanatos but rather practiced through bíos.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Posthumanities


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright

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pp. ii-iv


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pp. v-v

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Preface: Bios between Thanatos and Technē

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pp. vii-x

At a recent conference on politics and life, one of the foremost American scholars of Foucault observed that the inflation surrounding the term biopolitics had reached truly pernicious proportions. There was something so totalizing about the term, he argued, something so unwieldy, that made it unfit as a paradigm for understanding the kinds ...

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1. Divisions of the Proper: Heidegger, Technology, and the Biopolitical

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pp. 1-30

That this chapter should open with the thought of Martin Heidegger in a context of the thanatopolitical is perhaps surprising. Yes, it’s certainly true that Heidegger’s thought continues to generate enormous attention—one need only consider the titles that appear every year dedicated to him1—but my impression is that few have ...

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2. The Dispositifs of Thanatopolitics: Improper Writing and Life

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pp. 31-82

In the preceding chapter, I took up the question of the relation between thanatopolitics and technology in the thought of Martin Heidegger by focusing on the distinction between proper and improper writing. In this chapter, I want to turn to two of the most important Italian philosophers writing today in an ostensibly thanatopolitical ...

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3. Barely Breathing: Sloterdijk's Immunitary Biopolitics

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pp. 83-117

This chapter grows out of an abiding appreciation of that philosopher who, along with Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito, has attempted to think through the aporiae of the biopolitical. In those important pages in which the thanatopolitical springs forth, German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk explicitly deploys a Heideggerian ...

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4. Practicing Bíos: Attention and Play as Technē

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pp. 119-157

Is the drift toward thanatos the only possibility for contemporary forms of technologized existence? With increased technologization and its contamination with apparatuses, is bíos now pursuing a “decisive tack” in which “any residual hint of the anthropological is abandoned in the fact that techn-ology becomes properly speaking ...


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pp. 157-183


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pp. 185-189

Other Works in the Series, About the Author

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pp. 191-193

E-ISBN-13: 9780816678433
E-ISBN-10: 081667843X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816674657

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Posthumanities
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OCLC Number: 776592243
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Improper Life