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Biopolitics of Security

Michael Dillon



Michael Dillon is Professor of Politics at the University of Lancaster,
UK. His books include: Politics of Security: Towards a Political
Philosophy of Continental Thought (1!"# Foucault on Politics, Security
and War ($%%&# co'ed (ith )ndre( *eal"# The Liberal Way of War:
Killing to Mae Life Li!e "$%%, (ith +ulian ,eid"# and, #iopolitics of
Security in the $%st Century& ' #iopolitical 'nalytics of Finitude
(Dece-ber, $%%"
()othing is *ore i*portant than a re!ision of the concept of security as
a basic principle of state politics&+ ",iorgio 'ga*ben, $--%.
(The ga*e of freedo* and security is at the heart of this new
go!ern*ental reason/&0t1he proble*s of what 2 shall call the econo*y
of power peculiar to liberalis* are internally sustained as it were, by this
interplay of freedo* and security&+
"Michel Foucault, $--3: 45.
Introduction:
.here are no( several schools of bio/olitics. 0n addition to those ins/ired
by the (ork of Michel 1oucault and 2ior3io )3a-ben, others include
that of Paolo 4irno ($%%5", *e3ri and Hardt ($%%%# $%%6" and, -ore
recently, ,oberto 7s/osito ($%%&". .his cha/ter leaves the detailed task of
differentiatin3 bet(een these different schools of bio/olitics for another
occasion. 0t nonetheless does offer a su--ary overvie( of the t(o -ost
/ro-inent accounts of bio/olitics. .he first of these is the ori3inal one
su//lied by 1oucault. .he other is that su//lied by )3a-ben. 0n
e8/lainin3 ho( 1oucauldean bio/olitics funda-entally differs fro-
)3a-ben9s, the cha/ter also indicates ho(, takin3 these different /ro:ects
as their ins/iration, 1oucauldean bio/olitics focus on the -icro'/ractices
and 3overnin3 technolo3ies of conte-/orary bio/olitics, e8/lorin3, in
addition, ho( these chan3e alon3 (ith chan3in3 accounts of the nature of
life and of the econo-y of s/ecies e8istence to (hich life is reduced
1
bio/olitically, (hile the bio/olitical analysis ins/ired by )3a-ben tends,
instead, to focus on the nihilis- of -odern /olitics, the :uridical
reduction of ;natural9 life to bare life and the ra-ifications of the clai-
that the :uridical e8ce/tion is the rule and that ;the <concentration= ca-/9
is the no*os of rule ()3a-ben 1# $%%%".
1oucauldean bio/olitics has in -any res/ects, ho(ever, been so-e(hat
overshado(ed by )3a-ben9s in the last ten years. )lthou3h 1oucault9s
The 6rder of Things (1&" first /resa3ed, and The 7istory of Se8uality
(1&1" first broached, the idea of bio/olitics for the )n3lo')-erican
(orld, the lecture series in (hich he e8tensively e8/lored bio/olitics have
only recently been /ublished and translated into 7n3lish (1oucault $%%>#
$%%?# and $%%". 1or that reason, /erha/s, 1oucault9s account of
bio/olitics re-ains in so-e res/ects less (ell e8/lored in the 7n3lish
s/eakin3 (orld than that of )3a-ben9s# and this des/ite the si3nificantly
-ore esoteric and /hiloso/hically difficult account (hich )3a-ben
/rovides. @hereas 1oucault9s account is 3enealo3ical, clearly influenced
in addition by *ietAsche9s e-/hasis on the i-/ortance of relations of
force, )3a-ben9s bio/olitics is very -uch -ore concerned (ith
interro3atin3 Bthe ori3inaryC relation of la( to life. 0n conseDuence,
)3a-ben9s bio/olitics is driven -uch -ore by his en3a3e-ent (ith the
2er-an :urist and /olitical theorist Earl Fch-itt and, in /articular, (ith
/ursuin3 @alter Gen:a-in9s critiDue of Fch-itt9s theory of the
correlation of soverei3n /o(er, the la( and the e8ce/tion (Gen:a-in
$%%6# Fch-itt $%%&# $%%?# $%%5a". B0n fact,C as Eatherine Mills observes
in her e8cellent study of The Philosophy of 'ga*ben, )3a-ben9s,
Baccount of bio/olitics is -ore accurately read as an atte-/t to fulfil or
co-/lete Gen:a-in9s critiDue of Fch-itt9s theory of soverei3nty than it is
an atte-/t to ;co-/lete9 1oucaultC (Mills $%%".
1oucault9s bio/olitics is thus a direct e8tension of his 3enealo3ical
analysis of the diverse and hetero3eneous do-ain of -odern /o(er
relations, in (hich the issue of the ori3inary nature of thin3s is dis/laced
by differentiation of the concrete -icro'/ractices throu3h (hich
historically different a//aratuses or technolo3ies of -odern /o(er and
3overnance (ork. )3a-ben9s /ro:ect is instead a direct e8tension of his
/reoccu/ation (ith lan3ua3e ()3a-ben 1># 1c", sustained critiDue
of the nihilis- of (estern -eta/hysics ()3a-ben 11# 1b", the
(orkin3s of its ;anthro/olo3ical -achine9 ()3a-ben $%%6", and a certain
/olitics of the -essianic ()3a-ben $%%5b". 0f 1oucault9s /ro:ect can
therefore be said to be that of interro3atin3 the /o(er of truth'tellin3 in
the -odern /eriod, and the collateral effects (hich different orders of
$
/o(erHkno(led3e have on the si-ultaneous e-/o(er-ent and sub:ection
of the -odern sub:ect, )3a-ben9s /ro:ect is in -any (ays -ore
traditionally /hiloso/hical# ho(ever idio-atic every /hiloso/hical voice
-ay be, and )3a-ben9s is Duite distinctive.
Less concerned (ith the ethos and /o(erHkno(led3e of truth tellin3, and
of different fi3urations of the truth'teller, as is 1oucault, )3a-ben is
-ore concerned (ith the takin3 /lace of lan3ua3e as such (Mills $%%".
Dee/ly influenced also therefore by Heide33er, as 1oucault ad-itted that
he (as too, the Heide33er in )3a-ben is, ho(ever, not leavened by
*ietAsche in the (ay that it is in 1oucault. *either is )3a-ben9s account
of lan3ua3e the sa-e as that of Heide33er9s, or of (hat he re3ards as the
ne3ativity of the -eta/hysical tradition as a (hole in the conte8t of
(hich he (ould still locate Heide33er9s account of lan3ua3e. )3a-ben9s
concern for history also conflates -ore than it discri-inates. 0t is the
history of (estern -eta/hysics, its nihilis- and the /ros/ect of a ne(
takin3 /lace of the e8/erience of lan3ua3e in (hich the /oe-, es/ecially,
for e8a-/le, is said to reveal, Bthe 3oal of its /roud strate3y: to let
lan3ua3e finally co--unicate itself, (ithout re-ainin3 unsaid in (hat is
said.C ()3a-ben in Mills: 6%"
*either 1oucault nor )3a-ben is ena-oured of (estern /olitics and
/o(er relations, therefore, but that does not -ean that they share a
co--on *odus operandus or, indeed, share the sa-e terrain of enDuiry.
Des/ite )3a-ben9s insistence in 7o*o Sacer (1&" that he is follo(in3
1oucault, an insistence he re/eats in his -ost recent (ork 2l 9egno e la
,loria ($%%&", their bio/olitical analytics, and in /articular their
bio/olitical analytics of the bio/olitics of security, differ substantially. 0t
(ould therefore be careless to /ursue the bio/olitics of security throu3h
conflatin3 the /ro:ects of these t(o thinkers (2enel $%%!# I:akan3as
$%%5".
0n short J brutally and therefore incautiously short ' if 1oucault9s /ro:ect
-ay be said to be ;/o(er9, )3a-ben9s -i3ht be said to be ;lan3ua3e9. 0f
the analytics of /o(er led 1oucault to lan3ua3e in the for- of orders of
discourse and kno(led3e, the e8/erience of the takin3 /lace of lan3ua3e
takes )3a-ben, a-on3 other concerns, to novel conce/tions of identity,
ethos and co--unity, as (ell as to a certain account of ;the -essianic9 in
his reflections on ethics and 3overnance. 0f 1oucault, finally, calls for the
unfinished (ork of freedo- to be continued throu3h e8/eri-entation in
(hat it is to be a sub:ect or a self, )3a-ben9s calls for Ban e8peri*entu*
linguae, or a ne( e8/erience of the takin3 /lace of lan3ua3eC (Mills
$%%: 1>>". .heir /ro:ects, and the bio/olitics of security in /articular
>
(hich follo( fro- the-, nonetheless do intersect at a variety of key
/oints, includin3: soverei3nty, biolo3ical bein3# e-er3ency# econo-y#
and, onto/olitics. )nd they do so in a variety of (ays. @e (ill return to
these, in the conclusion, once so-e basic clarification of their different
tra:ectories of thou3ht, and the i-/lications that these have for the
bio/olitical security analysis, have been clarified a little -ore.
Agamben and Foucault
@hereas 1oucault did address hi-self directly to the re'/roble-atisation
of security (hich takes /lace (hen security discourses and /ractices also
take the biolo3ical /ro/erties of hu-an s/ecies as their referent ob:ect of
security ($%%?", )3a-ben does not directly address the bio/olitics of
security as a ;/olitics9 of security. His (ork has nonetheless influenced
-any concerned (ith, for e8a-/le, the ca-/ as the no*os of (estern
society and security /olitics (Diken and Lausten $%%5# 7dkins $%%>",
(ith the vast increase in /o(ers of surveillance by (estern 3overn-ents
in res/onse to their (ides/read hy/erbolicisation of security (Lyon $%%!",
and in the unla(ful holdin3 of sus/ected ;terrorists9 in a (ide variety of
;ca-/s9 3lobally, on the 3rounds of security, the -ost notorious of (hich
has been 2uantana-o (1leur $%%5# 2re3ory $%%!# Munster $%%6# *eal
$%%!# Fcheuer-an $%%!# .hursch(ell $%%&". Ir, at least, )3a-ben
sho(ed little interest in doin3 so until the hy/erbolicisation of security
follo(in3 H11. 0n a celebrated ne(s /a/er article in the Franfurter
'llge*eine :eitung on $%
th
Fe/te-ber $%%1, in (hich he also dra(
directly on 1oucault9s 1?%s lectures, )3a-ben observed:
B.oday (e face e8tre-e and -ost dan3erous develo/-ents in the
thou3ht of security. 0n the course of a 3radual neutraliAation of
/olitics and the /ro3ressive surrender of traditional tasks of the state,
security beco-es the basic /rinci/le of state activity. @hat used to
be one a-on3 several definitive -easures of /ublic ad-inistration
until the first half of the t(entieth century, no( beco-es the sole
criteriu- of /olitical le3iti-ation. .he thou3ht of security bears
(ithin it an essential risk. ) state (hich has security as its sole task
and source of le3iti-acy is a fra3ile or3anis-# it can al(ays be
/rovoked by terroris- to beco-e itself terroristicC ()3a-ben $%%1,
http://www.egs.edu/faculty/agamben/agamben-on-security-
and-terror.html, last referenced $!
th
Ictober, $%%&"
1or )3a-ben, then, bio/olitics of security -ay be said to be an inte3ral,
violent and /ractical, e8/ression of the nihilis- of (estern -eta/hysics.
6
1or 1oucault, ho(ever, it re-ains characteristically distinctive of a
s/ecific re3i-e of /o(er, that of liberal 3overnance, in (hich security
and freedo- are, -oreover, inti-ately correlated in the establish-ent of a
-utable but e8traordinarily effective dispositif of /o(er.
*either thinker is, of course, concerned (ith -akin3 security /ractices
-ore effective or /o(erful. .heir tar3et is not satisfyin3 the insatiable
de-and of security /ractitioners for -ore effective -eans of securin3#
ho(ever that securin3 is /roble-atised# (hatever its ob:ect# and, ho(ever
it is /ursued. Kuite the contrary each, albeit differently, is concerned (ith
detailin3 ho( the /ro:ect of securin3 is foundational /olitically, ho( it is
e8/ressive of distinctive o/erations of /o(er and (hat is lost, e8cluded or
elided fro- the hu-an e8/erience, in the /rocess. Here, in both of their
thou3ht, the analytic of security does not ai- at a//lyin3 -ore /o(erful
econo-ic -etrics of truth to the -any different /ro:ect of securin3. 7ach
is focused ulti-ately on indictin3 the de'/oliticisin3 /oliticisin3 (hich
security /ractices relentlessly enact in their different (ays. 0n
conseDuence each, albeit differently, /rovides a basis of funda-ental
dissent fro- our conte-/orary bio/olitics of security.
@hereas 1oucault9s tar3et is e8/licitly historical, it is liberal
3overn-entality that he e8/ressly sees as /eculiarly characteristic of
bio/olitics# )3a-ben9s tar3et is the (estern tradition of la( and
soverei3nty as such. 0n neither instance ho(ever can a 1oucauldean or an
)3a-benian analytics of the bio/olitics of security re-ain at the level of
-ere descri/tion. 0n that sense, these bio/olitics of security are al(ays
already critical enter/rises. Gut ho( they are ;critical9, indeed if they are
critical at all by so-e -easures of (hat ;critiDue9 -eans (*eocleous
$%%&", re-ains a basic -atter of discussion and dis/ute.
Ine final introductory, and indeed obvious, /oint to -ake is that the
nature of nature, s/ecifically, here the nature of hu-an nature, is
traditionally taken for the foundation of /olitics and rule# consider
classically, for e8a-/le, )ristotle, Machiavelli and Hobbes.
1
Gio/olitics
thus refers to the (ays in (hich /olitics and /o(er are instituted and
o/erate (hen this, /olitically foundational, ;nature of hu-an nature9 is
taken to lie in the biolo3ical /ro/erties that hu-an bein3 dis/lays as a
for- of s/ecies e8istence (1oucault", or (hen a /roduction of bio/olitical
life as bare life lies at the centre of the o/eration of soverei3n la(
()3a-ben".
1
@ith the si3nificant caveat that this /oint (ould have to be detailed in relation es/ecially to
1oucault9s discussion of the nature of natures, both ;natural9 and ;hu-an9, in The 6rder of Things
(1&". 1or a fascinatin3 reflection on the nature of nature as hidden, ho(ever, see, Pierre Hadot
($%%!"
5
Biopolitics of Security: Foucault
(/only when we now what this go!ern*ental regi*e called liberalis* was, will we
be able to grasp what biopolitics is&+
"Foucault $--3: ;4, n& 5.
Ine cannot understand 1oucault9s account of bio/olitics J and thereby of
the bio/olitics of security J unless one first addresses that 3eneric
understandin3 of /o(er (hich lies behind 1oucault9s analytic of liberal
3overn-entality in /articular.
1oucault teaches that /o(er is less a co--odity that can be held than a
force (hich co-es into circulation (hen hu-an bein3s J (hich he
considers in his (ay to be free bein3s J co-e into relation (ith one
another. .o be crude, for 1oucault, /o(er as a force that circulates is
-ore like electricity than it is like a -echanical device or a (ea/on. 1ro-
1oucault9s /ers/ective, hu-an bein3s are also e8traordinarily 3ood
conductive -aterial for the 3eneration and circulation of /o(er. Ho(ever
ener3isin3 and conductive they -ay be, ho(ever, it is also fair to say that
1oucault does not think that hu-an bein3s e8ist for the sole /ur/ose of
3eneratin3 and conductin3 /o(er. @hatever they are J and, since
1oucault scru/ulously avoids sayin3 (hat they are, 0 sus/ect he thinks
that the Duestion is not only radically undecidable but also the (ron3
/lace to be3in any analytics of /o(er if it does not also reco3nise that the
(ay the Duestion is /osed and ans(ered are radically historical ' hu-ans
are not -ere creatures or e/i/heno-ena of /o(er relations.
0f all conductive -aterial dis/lays resistance to the /o(er that it conducts,
one -i3ht therefore say that for 1oucault hu-an bein3s are no different.
Hu-an conductivity to any individual for- of /o(er therefore also
a//ears in 1oucault as bein3 restricted by the resistance that this very
;-aterial9 also dis/lays. Hu-ans resist /o(er out of the co-/osition of
the radically undecidable -aterial of (hich they see- to be co-/rised.
Posin3 the Duestion ;@hy resistL9 to 1oucault, therefore /oses the (ron3
Duestion. .he ri3ht Duestions for 1oucault are: ;@hich resistanceL9 and,
BHo( is resistance -anifestedLC 0n the /rocess, the hu-an9s ca/acity to
continuously also 3enerate ne( /o(er relations, by 3eneratin3 different
3rids of intelli3ibility for the-selves, is al(ays also in /lay. 1inally,
1oucault considers that /o(er relations are not only also diverse and
chan3in3, the traction they 3ain is al(ays /artial and fallible. @hen he
rests fro- analysin3 the o/erations of /o(er, 1oucault see-s -ost
!
interested in those /ractices (hich e8cite hu-an bein3s into e8/lorin3 the
e8ercise of their undecidability and actin3 it out in novel (ays. .his is
(hat he calls the unfinished (ork of freedo-.

0n 3eneral ter-s, then, (e can characterise 1oucault9s understandin3 of
/o(er as relational and strate3ic. ,elational, because it arises in the
conte8t of net(orks of relations established (hen hu-an bein3s relate to
one another and to ;thin3s9, strate3ical, because relations of /o(er are
structured by different 3enerative /rinci/les of strate3ic for-ation.
$
.he
result is not only a field of for-ation, in (hich the dyna-ics of the lo3ic
of strate3ic for-ation can be con:u3ated, but (hat 1oucault also calls a
;field of intervention9. 1ields of intervention are (here the /roble-s
addressed by different strate3ic for-ations of /o(er find their s/ecific
/roble-atisation. .hese in turn allo( /o(er to discover (hat 1oucault
also calls their s/ecific ;/oints of a//lication9. ) 3ood e8a-/le of a site
or /oint of a//lication brou3ht into /lay throu3h the e8ercise of
bio/olitical re3ulation e8ercised throu3h bio/o(er (ould be ;/o/ulation9.
0t is the one to (hich he first 3ave -ost attention, but bio/o(er -ay find
-any /oints of a//lication accordin3 to (hich biolo3ical features the
hu-an as s/ecies life -ay be said to dis/lay: for e8a-/le, (hat is no(
(idely said to be its co-/le8 ada/tive behaviour.
0n the instantiation of the /olitical rationalities, and in the o/eration of the
3overnin3 technolo3ies, of bio/olitics, 1oucault also adds, ne( surfaces
of friction arise and ne( fields of adversity e-er3e. He clarifies this
s/ecific observation at a nu-ber of /oints in The #irth of #iopolitics
es/ecially. @hile discussin3 the develo/-ents (hich led to the
e-er3ence of 2er-an neo'liberalis- to(ards the end of the 1>%s,
s/ecifically the thinkers of the 1reibur3 Fchool, for e8a-/le, 1oucault
e8/lains that, B*aAis- enabled the- to define their field of adversity that
they had to define and cross in order to reach their ob:ective.C (1%!" 0n
the /rocess they Bhad to define not :ust the set of adversaries they could
co-e u/ a3ainst in achievin3 this ob:ective, but, funda-entally, the
3eneral syste- (hich this ob:ective and the /ursuit of this ob:ective could
clash.C (1%!'1%?" .racin3 the for-ation of an adversarial field in this
(ay, he also noted ho(, in res/onse to 2er-an econo-ic /olicy after
16&, ne( surfaces of friction e-er3ed (hich called for a -ulti/lication
of :uridical interventions.
.his 1oucauldean analytic is not Fch-ittean. 1oucault is not e8a-inin3
any declaration of e8ce/tion follo(in3 the identification of an e8istential
ene-y on the basis of (hich the state -ay be founded. He is instead
$
1oucault 3ives a concise account of (hat he -eans by strate3y on /a3e 6$ of The #irth of #iopolitics.
?
(orkin3 throu3h ho( a ne( for-ulation of econo-y (as develo/ed by
neo'liberals, 2er-an and later )-erican anarcho'liberals9, ho( that
account of econo-y differed fro- classical econo-ics and ho( it also
led to a transfor-ation of bio/olitical 3overn-ental re3ulation# notably
foundin3 /olitics, the ne( 2er-an state (.he 1ederal ,e/ublic of
2er-any" and the 77E, on a ne( account of econo-y. Here 1oucault
ar3ues that the /olitical econo-y of the classical a3e (as ecli/sed by the
neo'liberal revision of the nature of econo-ic activity. .he -arket
econo-y J (here the -arket e-er3es as a kind of truth'tellin3 -achine
(1oucault $%%&: >$'>>" ' beca-e foundational not :ust to the
establish-ent but also to the le3iti-ation of the ne( state. .hat state
thereby beca-e an econo-ic /olity rather than the locus of a /olitical
econo-y (1oucault $%%&". *ot (ithout failure and dissent, the idea
continues to infor- the 7U today.
) third 3eneric /oint needs e-/hasisin3. 1or 1oucault, -odern /o(er
relations are also distin3uished by the fact that they seek to 3round
the-selves in truth, s/ecifically the re3ional truths or rationalities of their
referent ob:ects or fields of intervention and /oints of a//lication. .hus,
for e8a-/le, the rationality of soverei3n /o(er in the -odern /eriod (as
raison d<etat. Eorres/ondin3ly (e -i3ht say that bio/o(er seeks to
3round itself in ;the truth9 of hu-an bein3 as biolo3ical bein3 and -ore
3enerally no(, in the $1
st
century, in the ;infor-ationalised truths9 and
;econo-ic truths9 of (hat is no( said to be a livin3 bein3 as such# life as
a dyna-ic, infor-ationally constituted and driven, /roductive and re'
/roductive bioecono-y. .hat /o(erHkno(led3e revolves thus around its
referent ob:ect does not -ean that /o(erHkno(led3e succeeds in 3ras/in3
its referent ob:ect. Euriously the ob:ect, the e/iste-ic ob:ect of
/o(erHkno(led3e, continuously esca/es or other(ise re-ains fu3itive to
the very /rocesses that seek e/iste-ically to fi8 it (,heinber3er, 1?".
.here is e8cess and an e8teriority here that incites /o(erHkno(led3e
/recisely in evadin3 the (ill to /o(erHkno(led3e.
) final 3eneric /oint therefore concerns the traction that relations of
/o(er 3et on their referent ob:ects. =ispositifs of /o(er, their very fields
of intervention and /oints of a//lication, are never (ithout controversy
and dis/ute. .hey fail to 3ain traction, their techniDues -isfire, break'
do(n and have unintended conseDuences. 0ndeed, this is another (ay of
s/eakin3 about the e-er3ence of countervailin3 ;fields of adversity9 and
;surfaces of friction9. Fuch 3overn-ental asse-bla3es are al(ays
/ro:ects, rather than acco-/lish-ents, and they transfor- their very o(n
conditions of e-er3ence: BFo (e arrive, if you likeMat the idea that in
the end this liberal art of 3overn-ent introduces by itself or is the victi-
&
fro- (ithin <of= (hat could be called crises of 3overn-entality.C
(1oucault $%%&: !&"
>
Discussin3 the conditions that /reci/itated the
transfor-ation of classical econo-ics by neo'liberal econo-ics, 1oucault
observes, for e8a-/le, ho( Bthe liberal art of 3overn-ent <had beco-e=
inti-idated, so to s/eak, by its o(n conseDuences.C (1oucault $%%&: 115"
Des/ite callin3 for the dethronin3 of the soverei3n conce/tion of /o(er,
1oucault also -aintains that (hat he calls the ;royal Duestions9 of /o(er
continue to set the scene for the o/eration of the /lural and diverse -odes
of -odern /o(er relations, includin3 those of liberal bio/olitics. )nd
here is another 3eneric /oint to -ake. I/enin3 his #irth of #iopolitics
lectures on 1% +anuary 1?, 1oucault announced that: B0 (ould like to
continue (ith (hat 0 be3an to talk about last year, that is to say to retrace
the history of (hat could be called the art of 3overn-entC ($%%&: 1". *ot
only is bio/olitics an historical rather than a :uridical /heno-enon for
1oucault, he associates it very directly (ith the liberal art of 3overn-ent.
0n his earlier lectures on Society Must #e =efended ($%%>" and Security
Territory Population ($%%?", 1oucault had detailed ho( bio/olitics arises
as one of the /rinci/al -eans by (hich liberal res/onse to soverei3n
absolutis- ori3inally sou3ht both to constrain soverei3n /o(er, and
itself, to offer its o(n distinctive account of ho( /o(er, as such, and in
/articular the rule of rule, -i3ht best o/erate to rule -ore effectively. 0n
The #irth of #iopolitics ($%%&" he further details ho( bio/olitics is not
only characteristic of liberal re3i-es of /o(er, ho(ever, he also details
ho( they are characterised by brin3in3 econo-ic criteria to bear on the
/roble-atic of rule ' introducin3 a ho*o oecono*icus disru/tively into
the s/here of the sub:ect of ri3hts established under soverei3n rule ' and
ho( they also suffer successive ;crises of 3overnance9 as (ell (1oucault
$%%&". Ine -i3ht even observe here that, in as -uch as 1oucault had
al(ays clai-ed that bio/olitics (as distin3uished by the (ays in (hich it
brou3ht econo-y into /olitics, the revision of classical econo-y
introduced by neo'liberalis-, (hich he e8a-ines in such detail in The
#irth of #iopolitics, also led to a revised neo'liberal bio/olitics.
Ine of the key /oints to e-/hasise is therefore this. 1oucault treats
econo-y not only as one of those ;natural9 re3ional ontolo3ies, or
inde/endent, do-ains of e8istence /osited by the /olitical ontolo3y
underlyin3 the e/iste-olo3ies (/o(erHkno(led3e" of liberal re3i-es of
/o(er# that one ori3inally defined in ter-s of relations of /roduction and
>
1oucault s/ecifically differentiates these crises of 3overnance fro- crises of ca/italis-. Erises of
ca/italis- -ay also /roduce crises of 3overnance, he says, but crises of 3overnance -ay occur in (ays
and at ti-es unrelated to the crisis cycles of ca/italis- (1oucault $%%& !'?%".

e8chan3e. He also treats ;econo-y9 as a s/ecific rationality, a set of


criteria introduced into the o/eration of rule to 3uide and continuously
-easure and Dualify ho( (ell rule rules. Moreover, ;econo-y9 for hi-
(as introduced less because it served a /re'for-ed class interest than that
it introduced a novel and e8traordinarily effective -etric that (as
ori3inally used to constrain absolutist clai-s as it served, in addition, to
i-/rove 3overn-ental re3ulation. Pro3ressively, once can therefore say,
(hat 3ets a//lied increasin3ly in bio/olitics, and to each and every
relation and institution of social and cultural life, is ;the truth9 of
econo-y: econo-y as a rationality and not si-/ly econo-y as an
uneDual distribution of (ealth and (ealth creatin3 /o(er. 1or econo-y is
not only a distributive syste-# socially deter-inin3 (ho 3ets (hat,
(here, (hen and ho(. .here is, in addition, a ;truth9 or a rationality9 to
econo-y# albeit, of course, (hat the /o(erHkno(led3e of econo-ics, for
e8a-/le, says that truth and rationality consists in also chan3es. 0t is that
very rationality, that very -echanis- of -akin3 true, accordin3 to
1oucault, (hich 3ets si3nificantly revised by neo'liberalis- in its
revision of the very nature of econo-y as such. Eorrelatively, such a
revision of econo-y necessarily introduced a revision of 3overn-ental
bio/olitics, the bio/olitics of neo'liberal 3overnance (1oucault $%%&".
.his is a 3overn-ental analytic of econo-y.
1oucault is also concerned (ith ho( this ;truth9, a truth in the e-er3ence
of -odern /o(er relations, distinctive of liberal re3i-es of /o(er, 3ets
a//lied to every as/ect of life. Gio/olitics, and s/ecifically one -i3ht
also say throu3h the bio/olitics of security, is a veridical -achine, one
that seeks ;to -ake true9. 1ro- the /ers/ective of this bio/olitical
analytic, ca/italist econo-ies are vast e8/eri-ents in the securin3 of
(ides/read social en3ineerin3 throu3h the 3overnin3 of life.
Here one can also observe an under'e8a-ined connection bet(een
s/ecies life and econo-y. 1oucault9s lectures The #irth of #iopolitics
($%%&" are al-ost e8clusively concerned (ith the universal e8tension and
a//lication of a revised neo'liberal truth of econo-y to the
/roble-atisation and o/eration of 3overn-ent and 3overnance via
successive ;crises of 3overnance9 in the $%
th
century. @hat he does not
recall directly or e8/licitly, althou3h the /oint is clear in retros/ect, is that
if circulation and contin3ency funda-entally characterise s/ecies
e8istence (Dillon $%%!# 1oucault, $%%> and $%%?", so also does econo-y
(1oucault $%%&". 0n as -uch as s/ecies e8istence is said to be a re'
/roductive econo-y of continuous transaction and e8chan3e bet(een the
or3anis- (in this case hu-an bein3" and its environ-ent it is a for- of
econo-y# to (hich the truth or rationality of econo-y J essentially
1%
different for-s of utile -eans'ends analysis J can, and is, also ri3orously
a//lied. Little (onder, therefore, that risk, for e8a-/le, should beco-e
such a /revailin3 bio/olitical security /ractice# since risk -akes
contin3ency fun3ible and co--odifies the e8/osure to dan3er and
o//ortunity for advanta3e (hich constitute risk (Dillon $%%&a# 1oucault
$%%&: 166'165".
0t is also /ossible no(, ho(ever, not only to observe ho( the a//lication
of econo-y to 3overn-ent and 3overnance hel/ed curtail the tyranny of
soverei3n absolutist /o(er, but also to observe ho( econo-y itself has
beco-e a tyrannical ;rule of rule9, one a//lied re-orselessly throu3hout
the $%
th
century to all the relations and institutions of (estern societies via
the neo'liberalis- revision (hich -oved liberal 3overn-entality fro-
classical /olitical econo-y to neo'liberal econo-ic /olity. .here it has
been the en3ine of relentless refor- of al-ost all relations of social and
cultural institutions and co--erce# /ro3ressively, drivin3'out other
criteria of rule (hich once a//lied to the-, or (hich they once a//lied to
the-selves.
0t is hel/ful, in addition, to -ake clear that, and ho(, a funda-ental shift
occurs in the kind of Duestions asked of 3overn-ent and 3overnance
(hen the hu-an is thus reduced to s/ecies life and to econo-y, indeed to
the econo-y of s/ecies e8istence. ,es/ectin3 the truth of econo-y as a
-etric (hich itself could be a//lied to the evaluation of the rule of rule,
fro- the 1&
th
century on(ards the task of rule acDuired a ne( criterion
bio/olitically and a ne( 3rid of intelli3ibility. Fub:ect to the truth of
econo-y, both as a -etric of rule as (ell as a se/arate do-ain of social
behaviour, it (as no lon3er sufficient, for e8a-/le, to ask if rule (as
le3iti-ate. 1oucault observes that it also beca-e necessary to ask,
bio/olitically, if rule (as effective and successful:
B...you can see that this critical 3overn-ental reason, or internal
criticis- of 3overn-ental reason, no lon3er revolves around the
Duestion of ri3ht and the Duestion of the soverei3n9s usur/ation or
le3iti-acy. 0t (ill no lon3er have that kind of /enal a//earance that
/ublic la( still had in the si8teenth and seventeenth centuries (hen
it said: 0f the soverei3n breaks this la(, then he -ust be /unished by
a sanction of ille3iti-acy. .he (hole Duestion of critical
3overn-ental reasonin3 (ill turn on ho( not to 3overn too -uch.
.he ob:ection is no lon3er to the abuse of soverei3nty but to
e8cessive 3overn-ent.C (1oucault $%%&: 1!J1?"
11
0ndeed, it beca-e obli3atory to ask the Duestion, and /ursue diverse
-eans of ans(erin3 it, if the bio/olitical /ro:ect of rule to -ake life
live (as to be /racticed and realised. ) ne( -oral, and bio, /olitical
econo-y (as thereby instituted. 1oucault su--arises the shift this
(ay:
B) 3overn-ent is never sufficiently a(are that it al(ays risk
3overnin3 too -uch, or 3overn-ent never kno(s too (ell ho( to
3overn :ust enou3h. .he /rinci/le of a -a8i-u-H-ini-u- re/laces
the notion of natural eDuilibriu-, or ;eDuitable :ustice9 that
/reviously or3anised the /rince9s (isdo-C (1oucault $%%&: 1?"
.he criteria of success (ere no( to be found, therefore, in ho( (ell
/o(er re3ulated these do-ains of life, navi3atin3 bet(een re3ulatin3 too
little and re3ulatin3 too -uch, seekin3 to discover ho( -uch re3ulation
(as enou3h for successfully /ro-otin3 life in /ursuit of -akin3 life live.
.he direct relevance of all this to the bio/oliticisation of security has
be3un to be inti-ated but let -e no( address it directly. @hen /o(er
co-es to take s/ecies e8istence as its referent ob:ect, and (hen the
bio/olitics of security co-e to take s/ecies life as their referent ob:ect as
(ell, then the dispositif of /o(er relations follo(s suit and be3ins to
revolve around the /ro/erties of s/ecies e8istence. .here is little s/ace to
3o into (hat the /ro/erties of s/ecies e8istence are said to be, or e8/lain
in detail ho( the account of s/ecies e8istence has been chan3in3 over the
last t(o hundred years alon3 (ith transfor-ations in both econo-y and
the life sciences. Fuffice to say that it has, and that as it has done so
bio/olitics and the bio/olitics of security in /articular have follo(ed suit
(Dillon and Lobo'2uerrero, $%%&# Dillon, $%%&a". Gut (e can add that
(hereas for 1oucault circulation and contin3ency (ere the /ri-ary
characteristics of s/ecies e8istence (hich he addressed in Society Must
#e =efended and Security, Territory, Population, so also, later, (as
econo-y# a /oint he see-s hi-self to for3et (hen in a footnote to
Lecture 6 (>1 +anuary, 1?" of The #irth of #iopolitics he a/olo3ised to
his audience for havin3 talked too -uch about neo'liberalis-9s revision
of econo-y instead of bio/olitics (!, n. 5". My /oint is si-/ly that
havin3 earlier identified econo-y as a definin3 characteristic of
bio/olitics, the neo'liberal revisions of econo-y that 1oucault details in
The #irth of #iopolitics are in fact, of course, directly relevant to neo'
liberal revisions and intensifications of bio/olitics as (ell.
.hus, under conte-/orary neo'liberal re3i-es, in (ays con3ruent also
(ith ho( life has co-e to be defined by the life sciences as (ell, s/ecies
1$
are said to survive throu3h the o/eration of a continuously contin3ent
econo-y of circulation in (hich the, no( radically infor-ationalised,
livin3 entity e-er3ently co'evolves (ith its environ-ent. Moreover,
(hen the truth of econo-y be3ins to be a//lied syste-atically to the
3overnin3 /ractices of security and (ar J to the very transfor-ation of
co3nition brou3ht to the re'/roble-atisation of the entire /roble- s/ace
of security and (ar throu3h transfor-ation of -ilitary strate3ic discourse
and security talk, as (ell as o/erational conce/ts, doctrines and
eDui/-ent acDuisition, such that -ilitary strate3ists can no( say that they
-ake (ar in the sa-e (ays in (hich ca/italis- -akes (ealth
(Eebro(ski and 2artska 1?" J further radical conflation of the civil and
the -ilitary takes /lace throu3hout the 3overnin3 /ractices of liberal
societies. Fuch has been the e8/erience of the so'called ,evolution in
Military )ffairs of the last t(enty years, of the advent of net(ork centric
(arfare and the intensification of The Liberal Way of War (Dillon and
,eid $%%", in (hich killin3 to -ake life live has beco-e the /ervasive
rationale of security and (ar for the /o(ers of the )tlantic basin.
0t is therefore i-/ortant to recall 1oucault9s ori3inal re-arks on the
reduction of life to s/ecies e8istence. .he discourse of life understood as
s/ecies e8istence ' esp>ce hu*aine Jdiffers funda-entally, he observed
in his lectures on Security Territory, Population, fro- life understood as
;le 3enre hu-aine9 (1oucault, $%%?". .he root of le genre hu*aine J gens
' refers to the ?us gentiu* of ,o-an and -edieval la(. Usually translated
as ;the la( of nations9, and e8tensively treated in the (ork of t(o early
-odern international :urists, Hu3o 2rotius and 7--erich de 4attel, the
gentiu* of ?us gentiu* invokes the :uridico'/olitical and cultural notion
of a ;/eo/le9 or ;/eo/les9 belon3in3 to3ether in res/ect of la( and
custo-, and not the biolo3ical notion of ;s/ecies9 (the root of esp>ce, or
@tre biologiAue", in (hich the /rinci/le of belon3in3 to3ether is furnished
by shared biolo3ical /ro/erties. Btre biologiAue is therefore not, for
e8a-/le, Machiavelli9s or the ,enaissance9s re/ublican ci!ere ci!ile. .he
-ove fro- gentiu* to esp>ce thus effects a transfor-ation in the very
discursive understandin3 of (hat it is to be a livin3 bein3 and,
corres/ondin3ly also therefore, of ho( the 3overn-ental re3ulation of
such a livin3 thin3 (ill o/erate.
@hat follo(ed, then, in that shift fro- gentiu* to esp>ce (as a
transfor-ation not only in the referent ob:ect of /o(er relations, in the
very -echanis-s by (hich /o(er o/erates and circulates, but also in the
very understandin3 of the ;nature of the nature9 fro- (hich /olitics and
/o(er are said to follo(# (hat 1oucault calls the /olitical rationalities as
(ell as the 3overnin3 technolo3ies of /o(er. F/ecifically, in relation to
1>
esp>ce hu*aine, /o(er co-es to be e8ercised on, in and throu3h the
biolo3ical -ass (hich constitutes the ;s/ecies9, an e-/irical e8a-/le of
(hich is ;/o/ulation9, rather than the :uridico'/olitical and cultural
/rocesses of belon3in3 and rule said to constitute the gens of gentiu*, or
of ;le genre hu*aine9 (Dillon and Lobo'2uerrero, $%%&".

1oucault thus ar3ues that the ei3hteenth century (itnessed an historically
uniDue event, one indeed attached to the e-er3ence of the s/ecific
3overn-ental re3i-e of liberalis-, that is, Bthe entry of /heno-ena
/eculiar to the life of the hu-an s/ecies into the order of kno(led3e and
/o(er, into the s/here of /olitical techniDuesC (1oucault, 1&1: 161'16$".
He 3oes on to clai- that Bfor the first ti-e in history, no doubt, biolo3ical
e8istence (as reflected in /olitical e8istenceC (16$". 0t (as to do so both
as biolo3y and econo-y J indeed throu3h the /ro3ressive conflation of
biolo3y and econo-y. .hus the ad-inistration of life has beco-e the
central characteristic and definin3 rationale of the re3i-e of /o(er
o/erative in the -odern (orld.
1ro- this, 1oucault su33ests that the conce/tion of -an /ro/osed by
)ristotle as a Blivin3 ani-al (ith the additional ca/acity for a /olitical
e8istenceC should be revised to ackno(led3e that B-odern -an is an
ani-al (hose /olitics /laces his e8istence as a livin3 bein3 in DuestionC
(16>". 1ro- there he 3oes on to ar3ue, (ith so-e force, that (ars -ade in
the na-e of -akin3 life live -ake -assacres and 3enocide vital and that
the threshold of -odernity is reached (hen it co-es to (a3er the life of
the s/ecies on its o(n /olitical strate3ies# strate3ies by -eans of (hich
(ar is not the e8tension of /olitics by other -eans but strate3ies, rather,
in (hich /olitics is construed as the e8tension of (ar by other -eans
(1oucault $%%># Dillon and *eal $%%&# Dillon and ,eid $%%". Fecurity
discourses and /ractices thus beco-e the -eans by (hich the logos of
war is dee/ly inscribed into the logos of /eace. 0ndeed, bio/olitical
security discourses are the logos of (ar (ritten as the logos of /eace
(Dillon and *eal, $%%&# Dillon and ,eid $%%".
Ine final -ove reDuires e8/lanation, and that is ho( 1oucault sees
security as inte3rally involved (ith the bio/oliticisation of /olitics. .he
first /oint to -ake is this. Like discourses and /ractices of /o(er,
security discourses and /ractises, not(ithstandin3 the fu3itive nature of
the ob:ect referred to earlier, si-ilarly also revolve around the /ro/erties
of their referent ob:ect. Gio/olitical security /ractices revolve around the
/ro/erties of biolo3ical bein3, includin3 that of its necessary freedo- to
transact. Ither security /ractices do not. 2eo/olitical security /ractices,
for e8a-/le, revolve around soverei3n territoriality, its /ro/erties and
16
e8i3encies. 0n each instance one should add that s/ecies is no less an
elusive fu3itive ob:ect than is soverei3nty. 0n this 0 side -ore (ith +ohn
Locke than (ith ,obert Goyle in their dis/ute about the real or no-inal
character of s/ecies. *either s/ecies nor soverei3nty territoriality arises
outside the co-/le8 /rocesses of si3nification in (hich they arise as
s/ecies, or as soverei3n territoriality.
.raditional security discourses and /ractices tend to su//ose the
e8istence of /re'for-ed sub:ects co-/rised of -ore or less fi8ed
/ro/erties or values (hich it is the :ob of security /ractices, in the -ain
/ro/hylactically, to /reserve. Foverei3n /o(er has not disa//eared.
*either has its allied 3eo/olitical account of security. Gut thin3s are
different bio/olitically because the referent ob:ect of bio/olitical security
/ractices, life, is different. Giolo3ical bein3s are not co-/rised of
/refor-ed bodies characterised by -ore or less fi8ed attributes.
Giolo3ically s/eakin3, es/ecially these days, (hat it is to be a livin3 thin3
has beco-e radically infor-ationalised, defined in ter-s of infor-ational
/rocesses, such that biolo3ical bein3s are said to be co-/le8 ada/tive and
continuously e-er3ent bioecono-ic infor-ation e8chan3e /rocesses.
.heir /ro/erties are not /re'3iven. .hey are al(ays under for-ation
because biolo3ical bein3s are observed to evolve and ada/t not :ust their
behaviours, but, ulti-ately also, their very constitutive -ake'u/. .hey are
no( said to consist as -uch in /otential as they do in actuality, and the
actuality of their /otentiality is s/ace'ti-e de/endent. 0t de/ends a-on3
other thin3s, even in res/ect of the e8/ression of their 3enetic
co-/osition, on the correlations of ti-e and /lace.
My e8/ression for this is that the -ode of biolo3ical bein3 is no(
understood as ;bein3'in'for-ation9. Fecurin3 the -akin3 of life live is
co-/rised of an asse-bla3e of techniDues, discourses and no( also
institutions and /ractices that articulate, (hile they si-ultaneously also
interro3ate refine and further de/loy, this truth of biolo3ical bein3. Gy
and lar3e, then, if you seek to secure a livin3 thin3 /ro/hylactically
sealin3 it fro- its environ-ent you (ill assuredly constrain that life, or
kill it off. Life as s/ecies bein3 thus /oses a different /roble-atisation of
security for -odern security. 0t turns the- into bio/olitical re3ulators of
life. Here, bio/olitically, security is less a -atter of raison d<Ctat than it is
a life science.
.he very /roble-atisation of security and the very -echanis-s of
security are thus radically transfor-ed (hen their referent ob:ect
beco-es that of -akin3 life live. 1oucault -akes this /oint directly in the
very early lectures of Security, Territory Population ($%%?". .here he
15
e8/lores ho( the early e-/irical ob:ect of the bio/liticised referent ob:ect
of security beco-es /o/ulation and ho( /o/ulation is characterised,
a-on3 other features, by its radical contin3ency and by circulation
(Dillon $%%5# $%%!". He also states Duite baldly that bio/olitics is a
dispositif de sCcuritC desi3ned to /ro-ote the -ulti/le transactional
freedo-s (hich co-/rise biolo3ical e8istence, and that, therefore,
;freedo-9 J this transactional account of freedo- ' is nothin3 but Bthe
correlative of the develo/-ent of a//aratuses of securityC ($%%?".
Fecurity is secured throu3h rather than a3ainst the transactional freedo-s
of s/ecies life.
0t is /ossible here, ho(ever, also to /ursue the lo3ic of bio/olitical
securitisation beyond 1oucault. Ir, at least, to sche-atise, in (ays that he
did not, this re'/roble-atisation of the entire /roble- s/ace of security J
its -anifold fields of intervention, /oints of a//lication, fields of
adversity and surfaces of friction. .here is s/ace to s/ecify only a fe(
salient /oints. 1irst, biolo3ical bein3 as bein3'in'for-ation e8ists in a
/er-anent state of e-er3ence. 7-er3ence is ho(ever a dual /rocess. 0t
si-ultaneously entails destruction as (ell as /roduction. 0ndeed, there is
no novel /roduction of ne( for-, ne( -odes of individuation, (ithout
the destruction of old ones. .his /er-anent state of e-er3ence is
therefore also a /er-anent state of e-er3ency# an e-er3ency (hich
differs si3nificantly in its drivers and attributes fro- that (hich )3a-ben
details in 7o*o Sacer (1&". .hat is ho( and (hy bio/olitics
hy/erbolicises security. Makin3 life live J bio/olitics ' si-/ly is a
security /roble-atic, one -oreover (hich o/erates throu3h the freedo-s
of liberal bio/olitics. Fecond, in the very /rocess of its e-er3ent
ada/tation and chan3e there is no 3uaranteein3 that life (ill not 3o
acerbic and beco-e a dan3er to itself. Life understood as bein3'in'
for-ation is life understood to be continuously also beco-in3'dan3erous.
.hird, then, (hereas the /ro:ect of -akin3 life live a//ears to be an
un/roble-atically beni3n /ro:ect, it is far fro- that. 0f life is to be
/ro-oted, life has to be ri3orously assessed and sorted. Fo-e life is 3ood
for life and so-e life is not. Gio/olitics institutes a re-orseless assay of
livin3 thin3s sub:ectin3 the- to the -ost intense evaluation of their
bio/olitical utility J the contribution they -ay -ake to the bio/olitical
/ro:ect of -akin3 life live. Life that fails this test, or scores lo( on its
-any /roliferatin3 3overn-ental -etrics, is syste-atically de-oted,
devalued, cast aside and, if necessary, eli-inated. 1oucault con:u3ated
this bio/olitical strate3ic lo3ic to(ards the end of Society Must be
=efended ($%%>". .here he detailed ho( race o/erates as one such -etric,
or sortin3 device, for deter-inin3 (hich life is utile for -akin3 life live
1!
and (hich life is not. )ll three of these features therefore hel/ e8/lain
ho( it is that bio/olitics is a lethal security business. 0t is characterised,
a-on3 other features, by racial discri-ination (Dillon $%%&b# Ftoler
15"# necro/olitics (M-be-be $%%># Monta3 $%%5"# and, (ar (hose
(arrant is killin3 to -ake life live (Dillon and ,eid, $%%".
@hat -ost therefore defines a 1oucauldean bio/olitics of security is a
/reoccu/ation (ith the -anifold (ays in (hich the /ro/erties of s/ecies
e8istence deter-ine ho( -akin3 life live beco-es a chan3in3 ense-ble
of security /ractices, or dispositif de sCcuritC. 1or the /ur/oses of its
current dispositif de sCcuritC, the -ost characteristic /ro/erties of s/ecies
e8istence at the be3innin3 of the $1
st
century include: the transactional
freedo-s of s/ecies e8istence# its radical contin3ency# its 3lobalHlocal
s/ace of circulation# the truth of the econo-y of this 3lobalHlocal
contin3ency and circulation# and, the /er-anent state of e-er3ency /osed
by its continuous e-er3ence.
Biopolitics of Security: Agamben
)s Eatherine Mills observes: B.he entry of life into the -echanis-s of
/o(er and correlative or3aniAation of /olitical strate3ies around the
survival of the s/ecies constitutes the ;threshold of -odernity9 for
1oucaultC (Mills $%%: 5". His bio/olitical analytic is, ty/ically, an
analytic of the advent, /lural and hetero3enetic character of -odern
/o(er relations, ho(ever -uch they continue to correlate (ith
soverei3nty. .his is /recisely (here the t(o -ost currently /ro-inent
accounts of bio/olitics, those of 1oucault and )3a-ben, not only -eet
but also differ, and they do so funda-entally.
)3a-ben clai-s instead that, rather than bein3 characteristic of the
-odern era, bio/olitics and soverei3nty articulate in -uch -ore
funda-ental and /re'-odern (ays 3oin3 back to the very ori3inary
definition of /olitics su//lied by )ristotle. 1or 1oucault, bio/olitics
e-er3es in co-/le8 correlation and co-/etition (ith soverei3n /o(er, as
each for- of /o(er develo/ed out of the /olitical, econo-ic, reli3ious
and intellectual revolutions (hich so transfor-ed 7uro/ean civiliAation
fro- the 1?
th
century on(ards. )3a-ben clai-s, ho(ever, that rather
than bein3 characteristic of the -odern era, bio/olitics and soverei3nty
articulate in such a (ay that B/roduction of a bio/olitical body is the
ori3inal activity of soverei3n /o(erC# that bio/olitics is therefore Bat least
as old as the soverei3n e8ce/tionC# and that ;the soverei3n e8ce/tion9
1?
3oes back to the )ristotelian account of -an as an ani-al (hich has
/olitics ()3a-ben 1&: !".
+ust as these rival accounts of bio/olitics be3in (ith Duite different
conce/tions of the ori3ins of bio/olitics, so also do 1oucault and
)3a-ben differ in the -echanis-s they see o/eratin3. 0n 1oucault, those
-echanis-s tend to be /lural because they /roliferate accordin3 to (hat
historical truths and rationalities are told about s/ecies bein3. 7ssentially,
these concern those that arise in the life sciences and in chan3in3
accounts of econo-y# albeit (hat the life sciences es/ecially consist in is
also a diverse and variable -atter. 0n 3eneral for 1oucault these are
e/iste-ically driven.
6
0f s/ecies bein3 is construed as o/eratin3 (ithin an
econo-y of radical contin3ency, for e8a-/le, then risk based strate3ies
of bio/olitical re3ulation (ill be a natural conseDuence. 0f s/ecies bein3
is said to be e8istence in ti-e (hose horiAons are funda-entally futural,
then /reventive and /re'e-/tive security strate3ies (ill be a natural
conseDuence. 1inally, if s/ecies e8istence is said to be ada/tive and
e-er3ent, then the sciences of e-er3ence (ill furnish bio/olitics (ith
strate3ies of re3ulation and control desi3ned to breed the ri3ht kinds of
(hu-an" ani-als (Dillon, $%%?# $%%&a and b". Liberal bio/olitics, for
e8a-/le, and for that reason, is lo3ically 3iven to eu3enics ()3ar, $%%6".
0n )3a-ben there is only one -echanis- albeit that -echanis- (ill find
different sites of o/eration. )3a-ben9s bio/olitical -echanis- is that of
the structure of the o/eration of soverei3n la( itself.
)3a-ben9s herita3e is thus not so -uch the *ietAschean e-/hasis on
relations of force, that so dee/ly infor-s 1oucault9s 3enealo3ical
a//roach to bio/olitics of security, but the -eta/hysical or ontolo3ical
concerns of )ristotle, Heide33er, Gen:a-in and Fch-itt# even thou3h
these are critically refor-ulated by )3a-ben. *either is )3a-ben
interested in the s/ecification of s/ecies life or the historical
transfor-ations in the life sciences and of econo-y (hich so concerned
1oucault, and (hose further develo/-ent into the $1
st
century have so
influenced other 1oucauldean ins/ired interro3ations of the bio/olitics of
security ()-oore $%%!# )-oore and 2oede $%%?# Eoo/er $%%!# 7lbe
$%%5# Lobo'2uerrero $%%? a and b# Masters and Dau/hinN $%%%?# ,eid
$%%6 and $%%?". 0n a sense )3a-ben is not interested in the chan3in3
accounts of the s/ecification of the biolo3ical /ro/erties of livin3 bein3s
at all.
6
The 6rder of Things is, for e8a-/le, an account of the historical a /rioris or Duasi'transcendentals
(s/ecifically life, labour and lan3ua3e" (hich such e/iste-ic /o(erHkno(led3e -ust ;retro:ect9 in
order to sustain itself. .hey thereby beco-e the unackno(led3ed assu-/tions on the basis of (hich
-odern /o(erHkno(led3e currently o/erates (1oucault 1&# and, Han $%%$".
1&
the econo-y in the -odern sense, that is, the historical self'/roduction of
hu-anity.C <He has recently ho(ever a//lied hi-self to a /hiloso/hical
analysis of ;econo-y9 that ty/ically focuses u/on the se-antic re3ister of
the (ord oiono*ia its entry into Ehristian theolo3ytheolo3y of
econo-y, in 2l 9egno e la ,loria $%%?=. 0ndeed, )3a-ben9s account of
the referent ob:ect of /o(er, bio/olitically, is not the /roduct of those
discourses of /o(erHkno(led3e concernin3 the chan3in3 truths told about
the nature of s/ecies bein3 (hich so concerned 1oucault# dee/ly
infor-ed as he (as also by his teacher Ean3uilhe- (1&&# 11".
)lon3side his funda-ental /reoccu/ation (ith lan3ua3e, )3a-ben is
concerned (ith la(.
)/art fro- his cursory identification of bio-etrics as a di3ital version of
the tattooin3 (hich took /lace in the ca-/s, therefore, )3a-ben has
sho(n little if any sustained interest in the historical develo/-ent of the
life sciences or, until recently, of ;econo-y9 and the /o(erHkno(led3e
effects of their truth'tellin3. He be3ins instead (ith a rea//raisal of the
structural character of soverei3n /o(er (hich takes hi- back to a
reconsideration also of )ristotle9s base distinction bet(een :oD and Eios#
in (hich :oD stands for /olitically Dualified life and Eios stands for
biolo3ical live. ,esistin3 1oucault9s account of bio/olitics as distinctively
-odern o/eration of /o(er, )3a-ben therefore finds the source of
bio/olitics in an ;ori3inary9, rather than an historical, relation, Moreover,
that ori3inary condition does not lie in the relation bet(een chan3in3
historical orders of /o(er and life, but in a /re'ordinate relation bet(een
la( and life that has obtained throu3hout the history of (estern
-eta/hysics, its /olitical i-a3inary and the no*os (hich has 3overned
its e8istence. Derivin3 fro- this base )ristotelian distinction, )3a-ben
also finds the bio/olitics of the (est o/erationalised throu3h the
;e8ce/tional9 structure of soverei3n la(. )ccordin3 to )3a-ben, then,
/olitical order in the (est arises out of a certain -anoeuvre that institutes
the la( itself. 0n effect ;la(9 J that is to say soverei3n la( J is this
-anoeuvre, one that continuously re'/roduces itself.
.he order of (estern /olitics, accordin3 to )3a-ben, is considered as if it
(ere dissolved, so that the le3al /o(er that institutes and /reserves it -ay
be s/ecified and continuously re'instituted. )lso en3a3in3 the contract
theorists of the 1?
th
century, Hobbes in /articular for e8a-/le, )3a-ben
-aintains that the state of nature, (hich he also says stands for the state
of e8ce/tion, is, Bnot a real e/och chronolo3ically /rior to the foundation
of the city but a /rinci/le internal to the city, (hich a//ears at the
-o-ent the city is considered tanAua* dissolutaC (1&: 1%5" Moreover,
the foundation of soverei3n /o(er (hich occurs throu3h this -anoeuvre,
1
Bis not an event achieved once and for all but is continually o/erative in
the civil state in the for- of the soverei3n decisionC (1%". .his ensures
the Bsurvival of the state of nature at the very heart of the stateC(1%!".
Gy virtue of its very for-al structure, then, the /olitical
to/olo3isin3 of soverei3n /o(er tends to(ards the indistin3uishability of
the s/heres of insideHoutside, physisHno*os, nor-He8ce/tion (hich it
clai-s to establish and /reserve. .he state of nature (in )3a-ben9s ter-s
that of ;the e8ce/tion9" e8/ress t(o as/ects a sin3le to/olo3ical :uridical
-anoeuvre in the /rocess of (hich (hat (as B/resu//osed as e8ternal
(the state of nature" no( rea//ears, as in a Mobius stri/ or a Leyden :ar,
in the inside (as state of e8ce/tion"C (1%" 0n its /olitical to/olo3isin3,
soverei3n /o(er in fact beco-es a'to/ic as this Bvery i-/ossibility of
distin3uishin3 bet(een inside and outside, nature and e8ce/tion, physis
and no*osC (>?". @hich is (hy the search for the definitive /lace in
(hich soverei3nty ulti-ately resides is al(ays a -ythic, a'to/ic or even
u'to/ic, one. 0ndeed, it is inte3ral to the (ay in (hich )3a-ben
understands the functionin3 of soverei3n /o(er that it cannot be located
in a -aterial /lace since it is itself the /rinci/le that does the locatin3 and
differentiatin3 of inside fro- outside as such.
Precisely s/eakin3, then, the /olitical to/olo3y of soverei3n /o(er is not
a s/ace at all for )3a-ben but a -ode of o/eration. )s such it does (ork.
.hat (ork is not si-/ly or even e8clusively, ho(ever, to co--and and
/reserve the do-ain of the inside of la( and order, or to /ro-ote the
interests of the inside e8ternally (ith and a3ainst soverei3n outsiders.
,ather, it o/erates as a s(itchin3 -echanis- that effects a /assa3e
bet(een inside and outside, la( and violence, physis and no*os, nor-
and e8ce/tion. 0n co--andin3 the traffickin3 thus instituted, as it (ere
by it for it, soverei3n /o(er thereby continuously institutes and re'
institutes itself. 0t is the -ode of /o(er (hich :uridically both establishes
and re3ulates this traffickin3. .he state of e8ce/tion is not so -uch a
s/atio'te-/oral sus/ension, therefore, as a co-/le8 to/olo3isin3 fi3ure
in (hich not only the e8ce/tion and the rule but also the state of nature,
e8ce/tion and la( ' outside and inside ' /ass in and out of /hase (ith one
another. Foverei3n /o(er ' as a 3enerative /rinci/le of for-ation that
institutes a strate3ic orderin3 of relationshi/s, thereby institutin3 itself
throu3h that very -anoeuvre as the arbitrator of the /lay of the relations
thus established ' is si-ultaneously /re-ised, then, both, Bon the violence
that /osits la( and the violence that /reserves itC(6%".
Here then also lies another key /oint of distinction bet(een )3a-ben and
1oucault. .he life (hose bio/olitical re3ulation co-/rises the very ob:ect
of )3a-ben9s account of bio/olitics as the o/eration of soverei3n la( is
$%
not biolo3ical life at all. 0t is not the /olitically Dualified life of Eios, of
course, but neither is it :oD& 0t is in fact a life constituted by the la( for
the /ur/oses of re-ainin3 al(ays a-enable to the (rit of the la(# (here
la( is of course understood as the o/eration of e8clusion to include as
e8cluded. 0f the life that infor-s 1oucault9s account of bio/olitics refers
to chan3in3 understandin3s of s/ecies e8istence /rovided in /articular by
the life sciences and by chan3in3 accounts of ;econo-y9, the life that
under(rites )3a-ben9s bio/olitics is a life constituted by the o/eration
of soverei3n /o(er itself.
.he na-e of that life is (hat )3a-ben calls nuda !ita, usually translated
as ;bare life9. )nd (hat characterises bare life -ost is not any account of
its biolo3ical /ro/erties but the fact that the o/eration of soverei3n /o(er,
as )3a-ben understands it, /laces ;life9 in the /osition of bein3
continuously e8/osed to death. Gare life is therefore not biolo3ical life.
Gare life is, as )3a-ben says Duite /recisely, ho*o sacer. )nd ho*o
sacer is a for- of ;le3ally9 constituted life that arises out of the
re-orseless o/eration of the very structure of soverei3n la( as such, as
)3a-ben understands it. Ine -i3ht therefore say that if the /ro:ect of
1oucauldean bio/olitics is to secure -akin3 life live, the /ro:ect of
)3a-benian bio/olitics is to secure the continuous re/roduction of the
bare life of ho*o sacer.
.hus, as Eatherine Mills /ithily su--arise the /oint, for )3a-ben, Bthe
state of e8ce/tion, la( (ithout si3nificance, /asses into life (hile life
al(ays subsists in relation to the la(C (Mills, $%%: !6". )nd she
e-/hasises the /oint in a (ay that deserves further e-/hasis:
B0-/ortantly, )3a-ben is not si-/ly su33estin3 that natural or biolo3ical
life founds the e8istence of la(. ,ather the key fi3ure in the e8clusive
inclusion is bare life, understood as ;the Aone of indistinction9 or hin3e
throu3h (hich /olitical and natural life articulate.C (Mills $%%: !6" )s
)3a-ben hi-self states, Bnot si-/le natural life, but life e8/osed to
death (bare life or sacred life" is the ori3inary <bio= /olitical ele-entC
(1&: &&". Moreover, this bare life is no -odern invention. 0t has been,
he says, foundational to the very /olitical i-a3inary and o/eration of the
(est since its earliest 2reek ince/tion.
.hus, if (e characterise 1oucault the analyst of /o(er as constantly
askin3 the Duestion (hat truths and rationalities ins/ire -odern /o(er
relations, )3a-ben is Duite differently ins/ired. @hen addressin3 hi-self
to (estern bio/olitics, the Duestion he asks (as that first for-ulated in
@alter Gen:a-in9s celebrated essay B:ur Kriti der ,ewaltC, translated
as BEritiDue of 4iolenceC (Gen:a-in $%%6". )nd that Duestion is this:
$1
;1ro- (hence does the force of la( ariseL9
5
His ans(er is ;bio/olitical9
in the sense that the force of la( derives fro- the (ay in (hich la(
reduces ;natural9 life (in )ristotelian ter-s :oD" to nuda !ita or bare life.
0t does this he says, follo(in3 but refor-ulatin3 Fch-itt, by decidin3 the
e8ce/tion. .he e8ce/tion is not so-e chaos /recedin3 order. .he
e8ce/tion is the outco-e of a decision (hich institutes the la( by
deter-inin3 (here and (hen, or, to be /recise, in the for- of ho*o
sacer, to (ho-, it does not a//ly. .hus: <t=he e8ce/tion does not subtract
itself fro- the rule# rather, the rule, sus/endin3 itself, 3ives rise to the
e8ce/tion and, -aintainin3 itself in relation to the e8ce/tion, first
constitutes itself as a rule. .he /articular force of la( consists in this
ca/acity of la( to -aintain itself in relation to an e8teriorityC ()3a-ben
1&: 1&". @hich e8teriority, (e should add, the la( itself constitutes as
it institutes itself.
.he for-al structure of soverei3n la(, understood as a strate3ic /rinci/le
of for-ation rather than a -eta/hysical /oint of ori3in, is therefore
/recisely this: ;the e8cluded included as e8cluded9. Gy virtue of that
inclusion as e8cluded, bare life is si-ultaneously both /roduced by the
e8ercise of soverei3n la( and sub:ect to it in a /articular (ay. )s
e8cluded life, bare life the /roduct of the strate3ic orderin3 of soverei3n
la(, is life e8/osed to death ' life available to be killed J ho*o sacer.
Mundanely, it is life that is dis/osable J at the dis/osal of the la( (hich
dis/oses of it. .hus created, nuda !ita is included in the /olitical order
Bsolely throu3h an e8clusionC ()3a-ben 1&: 11" 0t is that ;included as
e8cluded9 (hich /roduces bare life, allo(in3 )3a-ben to -aintain, as
(e observed earlier, that: B.he /roduction of bare life is the ori3inary
activity of soverei3ntyC ()3a-ben 1&: &>". Inly by effectin3 a Aone of
indistinction bet(een no*os and physis ' inside and outside, la( and
nature J does the force of soverei3n la( therefore co-e into o/eration.
)ll force of la(, all /o(er, reDuires -aterial u/on (hich it can 3ain
traction. 0t reDuires -aterial that is, in fact, /eculiarly a-enable in its
co-/osition and for-ation, to that traction. @ithout such traction there is
no force of la(. )3a-ben9s /oint is, in effect, that the force of soverei3n
la( lies in the (ay in (hich it /roduces the very -aterial that it reDuires
to 3ain traction for itself. ) for- of life is thereby instituted that is
ca/able of continuously bearin3 the rule, of bein3 ;included as e8cluded9
as a correlate of the /o(er (hich /roduces it. .he na-e (hich )3a-ben
3ives to this ;securin39 of bare life ' and by no( it is evident that (hat is
5
0 deliberately use the ter-s of Derrida9s eDually celebrated res/onse to Gen:a-in in his essay B1orce
of La(. .he ;Mystical 1oundations of )uthority9C (Derrida, 1$". Derrida and )3a-ben studiously
avoided en3a3in3 one another. )-on3 other thin3s, in askin3 fro- (hence arises the force of la(
Gen:a-in /lays on the ter- ;2e(alt9, (hich -ay both force and violence.
$$
bein3 ;secured9 here is continuous e8/osure of life to death via the force
of la( ' bio/olitics. .his is not a deliberately obscure account of
bio/olitics of security. 0t is a different one. 1or )3a-ben also clai-s that
all life is ca/tured throu3h this -anoeuvre: Blife...<is= the ele-ent that, in
the e8ce/tion, finds itself in the -ost inti-ate relation (ith soverei3ntyC
(1&: !?". Fince the la(, he ar3ues, Bis -ade of nothin3 but (hat it
-ana3es to ca/ture inside itself throu3h the inclusive e8clusion,C it e8ists
in the, Bvery life of -enC (1&: $?". 0ndeed life beco-es (hat soverei3n
la( -akes of it, and nothin3 falls outside the all enco-/assin3
-anoeuvre by -eans of (hich soverei3nty secures a /eculiar status for
life, that ulti-ately of bein3 at the dis/osal, alone, of soverei3n la(. 0t is
this state of e8ce/tion, he concludes, (hich has beco-e the nor- not
only of (estern bio/olitics, but of soverei3nty as bio/olitics. .hus
(hereas 1oucault continued to discern a distinction bet(een the security
/olitics of soverei3n and bio/o(er, )3a-ben detects an e/ochal
conflation of crisis /ro/ortions. @hat is -ore, for )3a-ben, soverei3n
la( has no /ur/ose or function other than the o/eration of this continuous
bio/olitical securin3 of life. 0t is, he says, Bin force (ithout si3nificanceC
()3a-ben, 1&: 51". Gio/olitically, for )3a-ben, life is reduced to
bein3 that (hich is reDuired for the force of soverei3n la( to
continuously re'institute itself. @hile this ;la( (ithout si3nificance9
/asses into life, life /asses out of itself bio/olitically for )3a-ben into
;la( (ithout si3nificance9 (Mills, $%%: Eha/ter >". Gio/olitics of
security beco-es the livin3 death of life (hich characterises late -odern
ti-es after )usch(itA for )3a-ben, and in (ays (hich (hile
intersectin3 (ith, nonetheless also differ fro-, the necro/olitics inte3ral
to the bio/olitical appel of 1oucauldean bio/olitics.
Conclusion
1oucault and )3a-ben9s bio/olitics therefore do intersect on a variety of
issues. .hose intersections serve les to conflate the t(o accounts of
bio/olitics, ho(ever, than they serve to further illu-inate their key
differences. )nd so, for e8a-/le, (here these t(o accounts intersect in
relation to the /roble-atic of soverei3n /o(er one -i3ht say that
)3a-ben9s account of soverei3n /o(er is far -ore /hiloso/hically
so/histicated than that of 1oucault9s. Gut, one can also see fro-
)3a-ben9s account of it, that soverei3nty is not only nothin3 to do (ith
the e8/ression of a (ill, but the o/eration, instead, and in a curiously
1oucauldean (ay, of a kind of -anoeuvre or strate3y.
0n res/ect of the biolo3ical bein3 )3a-ben has little to say about ho(
accounts of its /ro/erties translate into a//aratuses of re3ulation of
$>
/o/ulation and 3lobal circulation of every conceivable kind of -aterial
descri/tion, fro- /eo/le to infor-ation and -oney, or ho( these also
i-/act on health care strate3ies desi3ned to re3ulate the incidence and
circulation of disease, -ilitary strate3ic discourse and the o/erational
conce/ts, doctrines and bur3eonin3 surveillance techniDues of net(ork
centric (arfare, ho-eland security and national resilience strate3ies
desi3ned around 3lobalHlocal circulation and flo(s as (ell.

Ince it is understood ho( /ervasively the account of s/ecies e8istence
has beco-e radically infor-ationalised J such that (hat it is to be a
livin3 thin3s is al-ost defined in ter-s of bein3 in infor-ational
e8chan3e, hence the interest in cybor3 life and theorisations of the /ost'
hu-an ' it is /ossible also to reco3nise ho( conte-/orary accounts of
biolo3ical e8istence e-/hasise its co-/le8 ada/tive and e-er3ent
character. Here life unfolds in radically contin3ent e-er3ent (ays. Gut,
as (as e8/lained earlier, such e-er3ence is also an e-er3ency since as it
unfolds such life is continuously also en3a3ed, and necessarily so, in
destructive as (ell as a /roductive /rocesses. .his state of e-er3ency
also differs radically fro- the )3a-benian understandin3 of the
/er-anent state of e-er3ency instituted by soverei3n la( throu3h its
o/eration of the -anoeuvre of inclusion by e8clusion or /er-anent ;state
of the e8ce/tion9 that )3a-ben derives fro- his Gen:a-inian torsionin3
of Fch-itt. .he e-er3ency of e-er3ency derives fro- the (ay biolo3ical
life is said to be contin3ently ada/tive. .he /er-anent state of e8ce/tion
is instituted by the structural -anoeuvre (hich characterises soverei3n
la(.
0t is, ho(ever, in relation to securin3 the ;onto/olitics9, indeed the
securin3 onto/olitics that the relation bet(een )3a-ben and 1oucault9s
accounts of bio/olitics re-ains in -any (ays si3nificantly under
e8a-ined. 1oucault is 3enerally coy (here ontolo3y or -eta/hysics is
concerned. His instinct is for the historical and the -icro'/ractical. Gut,
like )3a-ben, 1oucault is nonetheless also a kind of /hiloso/her and
(hen he /hiloso/hises in his o(n distinctive (ay he does directly address
the historical a /rioris and transcendentals (hich under(rite -odes of
historical bein3 of (hich liberal bio/olitics is a direct e8/ression (Han
$%%$". .his he did (ith su/re-e skill in The 6rder of Things (1&".
Here, nonetheless, it is /ossible to observe that 1oucault9s account of the
analytics of finitude, a direct e8/ression of (hich is the bio/olitics of
security, contrasts once a3ain (ith )3a-ben9s analytics of soverei3n
e8ce/tion a direct e8/ression of (hich is a bio/olitics dedicated to
securin3 the bare life of ho*o sacer as that for- of life (hich soverei3n
la( reDuires if it is continuously to enact and institute itself.
$6
References
)3a-ben, 2. (11" (trans. Karen 7. Pinkus and Michael Hardt"
Language and =eath& The Place of )egati!ity, Minnea/olis: Minnesota
University Press.
OO (1>" (trans. ,onald M. MartineA" StanFas& Word and Phantas* in
Western Culture, Minnea/olis: Minnesota University Press.
OO (1&" (trans. Daniel Heller',oaAen" 7o*o Sacer: So!ereign
Power and #are Life (Ftanford, E): Ftanford University Press".
OO (1a" (trans. Daniel Heller',oaAen" 9e*nants of 'uschwitF& The
Witness and the 'rchi!e, *e( Pork: Qone Gooks.
OO (1b" (trans. Daniel Heller',oaAen" Potentialities& Collected
Gssays in Philosophy, Ftanford: Ftanford University Press.
OO (1c" (trans. Daniel Heller',oaAen" The Gnd of the Poe*& Studies
in Poetics, Ftanford: Ftanford University Press.
OO ($%%%" (trans. 4incenAo Ginetti and Eesare Easarino" Means
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