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Terms of the Political:Community, Immunity, Biopolitics

Community, Immunity, Biopolitics

Roberto Esposito

Publication Year: 2012

Terms of the Political: Community, Immunity, Biopolitics presents a decade of thought about the origins and possibilities of political theory from one of contemporary Italy's most prolific and engaging political theorists, Roberto Esposito. He has coined a number of critical concepts in current debates about the past, present, and future of biopolitics-from his work on the implications of the etymological and philosophical kinship of community (communitas) and immunity (immunitas) to his theorizations of the impolitical and the impersonal. Taking on interlocutors from throughout the Western philosophical tradition, from Aristotle and Augustine to Weil, Arendt, Nancy, Foucault, and Agamben, Esposito announces the eclipse of a modern political lexicon-"freedom," "democracy," "sovereignty," and "law"-that, in its attempt to protect human life, has so often produced its opposite (violence, melancholy, and death). Terms of the Political calls for the opening of political thought toward a resignification of these and other operative terms-such as "community," "immunity," "biopolitics," and "the impersonal"-in ways that affirm rather than negate life. An invaluable introduction to the breadth and rigor of Esposito's thought, the book will also welcome readers already familiar with Esposito's characteristic skill in overturning and breaking open the language of politics.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v

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pp. 1-13

Foucault once said that political theory had still not reckoned with the end of sovereign power. In like fashion, one can say that political theory is only just now starting to confront itself and its languages with the consequences caused by the entrance of biology and biological considerations into questions of government. Roberto Esposito is perhaps the contemporary thinker who has gone furthest in questioning the traditional categories of political...

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pp. 14-26

I’d like to reflect on community beginning with the word’s original Latin root. The meaning that all etymological dictionaries suggest as most probable is the one that combines cum with munus (or munia). Such a derivation is important insofar as it designates precisely what holds the members of a community together. These members are not bound by just any relationship, but precisely by a munus— a “task,” “duty,” or “law.” According to...

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pp. 27-36

What kind of relationship exists between these two terms? Is there something essentially “common” in melancholy, and does melancholy have something to do with the very form of community? The answer that the literature on melancholy has off ered has often been negative. Within both its pathological interpretation as a sickness of the body and spirit and its positive one as genial exceptionality, melancholy has generally been situated as not...

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pp. 37-46

Does the term community refer to democracy? Might it, or is it too profoundly rooted in the conceptual lexicon of the romantic, authoritarian, and racist Right? This question, first posed in the context of American neocommunitarianism, is emerging once again in Europe, above all in France and Italy, as we venture a new thought about community. This question is not only legitimate but in certain ways quite unavoidable at a time when...

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pp. 47-56

Before taking up how the theme of freedom relates to community, I would like to consider something even more fundamental that involves the entire political lexicon and the growing difficulty such a lexicon faces in signifying its own object— namely, the political.1 A true barrier seems to have been erected between language and politics. It is as if politics has escaped from language, as if language no longer has any words with which to name politics. ...

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pp. 57-66

In an essay dedicated to Kant as an interpreter of the Enlightenment, Michel Foucault identifies the task of contemporary philosophy in a certain kind of attitude. It has to do with our strained relationship to the present that he calls the “ontology of actuality.” What does he mean? What does it mean to place philosophy at the point, or on the line, in which actuality reveals itself in all the richness of its historicity? ...

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pp. 67-78

More than fear or hope, perhaps surprise is what recent international events have made us feel. Before they turn out to be positive, negative, or even tragic, international events are first and foremost unexpected. Moreover, they seem to contradict all reasonable calculation of probability. From the sudden and bloodless collapse of the Soviet system in 1989 to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and everything that followed, what we can...

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pp. 79-87

1933–2003. Is it legitimate to turn once again to the question of Nazism seventy years after it took power? The answer, I believe, can only be yes: not just because forgetting Nazism would represent an unbearable off ense for its victims but also because, despite an ever increasing body of literature, something about Nazism remains in the dark, something that touches us. What might it be? What links us invisibly to what we point to as the most...

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pp. 88-99

Th e “Letter on Humanism” that Martin Heidegger published in 1946 at the culmination of an historical and biographic defeat seems to spell the end of the secular event of humanism. Despite the attempts to restore humanism to a spiritualist, Marxist, or existentialist form, the great humanist tradition could not withstand the dual trauma of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, in which the opposite of humanity laid waste to the very idea of humanity.1 ...

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pp. 100-111

Toward a philosophical interpretation of the twentieth century. How should we understand this expression? What meaning should we assign it? We might suggest two different answers to these questions, which are in some ways even contradictory. The first is the classic answer, associated with the great twentieth-century philosophical tradition of Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre, to mention a few of the most well-known names. This answer calls...

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pp. 112-122

Never before has the notion of the person constituted such an indispensable point of reference for all philosophical, political, and juridical discourses that lay claim to the value of human life as such. Setting aside ideological and theoretical differences, not one of them casts doubt on the importance of the category of the person, which is the indisputable (and undisputed) premise of each perspective. This tacit convergence is especially evident in...

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pp. 123-134

Humankind has always seen community and violence as inherently related. Such a relation is, in fact, at the heart of the most important expressions of culture across history, be they of art, literature, or philosophy. The first graffiti etched in prehistoric grottoes depicted the human community through scenes of violence (hunting, sacrifice, battles). So too would war be the theme of the first great poem of Western civilization. Almost all world literatures...


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pp. 135-144


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pp. 145-152

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246274
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823242641
Print-ISBN-10: 0823242641

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2012