Rethinking the norm of Life Beyond Biopolitics. Towards an Ethical Framework

Raimondi, S. 2018. Rethinking the norm of Life Beyond Biopolitics. Towards an Ethical Framework. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Social Sciences

TitleRethinking the norm of Life Beyond Biopolitics. Towards an Ethical Framework
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsRaimondi, S.
Abstract

This thesis is concerned with the qualification of forms of life in approaches of biopolitics and vitalism, two main perspectives that map discussions around the politics of life in contemporary political theorising. The literature on biopolitics highlights how modes of life are given meaning as effect of regimes of power that construct the value ascribed to forms of living. The idea of a norm of life captures the functioning of biopolitical apparatuses that operate through logics of inclusion and exclusion of forms of life, by rearticulating the ancient Greek distinction between zoe and bios. Opposite to biopolitics, vitalism looks at life in its materiality and attempts to re-ground the value ascribed to forms of living in an ontological dimension that starts from the assumption of a power intrinsic to life as the principle to inform also the laws of the social and political domain. Even though formulating an apparently opposite account to biopolitics, the thesis argues that perspectives of vitalism entail an idea of life that reproduces qualifications and exclusions in drawing out their political projects. By so doing, they are unable to reframe the terms of the debate of the politics of life in a way that fundamentally challenges the premises of biopolitics.
After providing a schematic of this debate, the thesis elaborates an alternative perspective that, following the trajectory of the engagement with life that runs through the works of Michel Foucault, Georges Canguilhem and contemporary Spinozist perspectives, argues that a more comprehensive account of the ways in which power and life relate to each other cannot be captured by either a discursive or a materialist account only and needs to be seen as dependent on the contingent situations in which the engagement and encounter with modes of life are defined. By critically deploying William Connolly’s notion of ontopolitics, the argument maintains that this approach, which fosters a practical ethics of life, remains open and receptive to modes of life and their interaction with multiple levels of power. To this aim, the analysis formulates an ethical approach that conceives of modes of existence not as object of a discursive power over life only nor as a purely vital-materialist power of life, but treats modes of life in their singularity.

Year2018
File
Publication dates
PublishedDec 2018

Related outputs

From Schmitt to Foucault: Inquiring the Relationship between Exception and Democracy
Raimondi, S. 2016. From Schmitt to Foucault: Inquiring the Relationship between Exception and Democracy. Democratic Theory. 3 (1), pp. 52-70. https://doi.org/10.3167/dt.2016.030104

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