Intended both as an introduction to the thought of the Italian philosopher Roberto Esposito and as a mapping of current biopolitical practice, this essay traces the contributions and the limits of recent Italian contributions to the discussion of biopolitics. The essay offers a summary of Esposito's insight into the relation of community and immunity and compares his thinking to other philosophers who take immunity as their object of study (particularly Jacques Derrida). Campbell goes on to read Esposito's privileging of bios in the light of Giorgio Agamben's emphasis on zōē, while making reference as well to Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt's understanding of biopower. He concludes by arguing that the stakes of Esposito's analysis for an affirmative biopolitics concern fundamentally the nature of community and its opening to all life forms as bios.
In the following excerpt from Bios, Esposito sketches the template of immunity as a response to what he calls a "hermeneutic block" in Foucault's notion of biopolitics. After singling out those moments of greatest tension in Foucault's reading of biopolitics especially as it relates to Nazi thanatopolitics, Esposito sets out in detail the most important features of what he calls the immunization paradigm. Consisting of three dispositifs, namely sovereignty, property, and liberty, the immunitary paradigm has for Esposito a decisively modern inflection. Indeed modern biopolitics cannot be thought apart from the mode by which communities immunize or protect themselves.
In his first interview to appear in English, Esposito answers a number of questions as they relate to his elaboration of an affirmative biopolitics. He suggests where his own understanding of biopolitics converges and diverges with other contemporary Italian thinkers working on biopolitics, namely Giorgio Agamben and Antonio Negri, and then offers a concise summary of his own work on immunity, especially as it emerges in his Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy. He concludes the interview with a series of reflections on the meaning of death and birth for Nazism in light of its perverted concept of biopolitics.>
What is the relation of risk to negativity? Is it possible to think a notion of the negative that doesn't exclude the other via inclusion? These two questions are at the heart of Massimo Donà's discussion of immunity. Drawing on Roberto Esposito's genealogy of immunity in community, Donà shows how immunity depends upon a paradox of separation that brings the common and the immune closer together. After sketching the relation of immunity to the notion of polemos, Donà argues that the immune subject, by including the other, negates itself so that the other becomes the true self. The essay closes with a series of reflections on how to think negation and immunity together through pregnancy; a negation that affirms a nonsubstitutive or alternative way of being.
In this survey of Roberto Esposito's thought, Bonito Oliva reflects upon the stakes of reading biopolitics in an immunitary key. After sketching the features of a "fundamental crisis in the sense of coexistence," the author, moving from ancient to modern philosophy, emphasizes the centrality of fear in Esposito’s understanding of the origins of community. The importance of fear explains in part the intrinsic relation community has to immunity for Esposito, in which immunity is figured primarily as a negative form of community. In the essay's closing pages, the author shows how deeply immunity informs Esposito's understanding of contemporary biopolitics. She goes on to note Esposito's indebtedness to Hegel, especially with regard to the negative, and echoes Esposito’s and Deleuze's own calls for the construction of "an immanent norm of life."
This article explores the category of biopolitics through the use Roberto Esposito and Giorgio Agamben make of two Greek words, bios and zōē. In particular, I argue that the separation of bios and zōē as introduced in Homo Sacer has no “natural” nor “lingual” relevance. The exposition of such a fabulous antinomy simply ruins the historical matter of Agamben’s discourse on biopolitics. Here, Esposito’s research could be read as an attempt to found the category of biopolitics anew without repeating the fiction of a bifurcation between zōē and bios. However, Esposito, in his own celebration of biopower, undermines the very power of language and, thus, ignores the variation of the invariant that is history. Esposito’s and Agamben’s difficulties lead us back to the possible ambition of all politics to absorb all life, as it was already expressed (and partially displaced) by Aristotle. In this sense, “(post)modern biopolitics” becomes a case study for the totalitarian temptation of political order.
“Zones of Exception: Biopolitical Territories of the Neoliberal Era” explores the biopolitical in Roberto Esposito together with the notion of exception in Giorgio Agamben to think diverse scenarios of social, economic, and cultural conflict of the neoliberal era. Focusing on the Argentine piqueteros and the clandestini at the Centers of Temporary Permanence in Italy, we discuss how the economic rationality of neoliberal rule both produces “bare life” and is haunted by its disruption, in ways that neoliberalism can’t fully contain. This dislocation, its paradoxical and unstable nature between bodies and territories, may become the instance of an actual or potential resistance.
In this essay Laura Bazzicalupo surveys the contemporary biopolitical landscape from the war on terror to biotechnology to migration. Characterizing the biopolitical chiefly as a move from the juridical toward the normalizing, Bazzicalupo both critiques recent neomaterialist theorizations of biopower as vitalist and singles out some currents of feminist thought for their modern, anticommunitarian bias. A discussion of Arendt's analysis of depoliticization is then taken up from the perspective of immunity, one indebted to the thought of Roberto Esposito. She concludes with a spirited defense of aesthesis, which she defines as the creative assimilation of the other and an active reactivity, and an argument in favor of a non-normative ethics capable of resolving some of the most glaring ambivalences of biopolitics.