This article presents a reading of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Alien (1979), with a specific focus on the film’s latent political conflict. The film has often been read through feminist and psychoanalytic approaches, but such approaches essentially deflect attention from the literalness of the film’s political dimension. This political dimension is in many ways one that comes close to the problem Carl Schmitt discussed in connection with his concept of the state of exception, as well as his notorious reinterpretation of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan. To Schmitt, power is ultimately justified through its right to rule over the exception. During the state of exception, the sovereign may legally suspend the social contract, or, the constitution — in order to protect, defend, and preserve it. In the absence of the anomaly, however, the state is in danger of losing its power. Thus, it is essential for the authoritarian, anti-liberal state to establish a relation to the anomaly — i.e. Behemoth, or the state of nature — in order to reassert itself. Alien envisions such a scenario, and it shows Ripley, as a loyal citizen, fighting against power’s sinister attempt to restore fear and terror — even if she thereby, simultaneously, comes to personify the absolute, unlimited sovereign, as well as the alien, that is, the outlawed, banned life; hero and enemy of the state — or friend and enemy — at one and the same time.


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pp. 51-78
Launched on MUSE
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