Biopolitics and Vitalism

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1 a paper presented at Workshop 16, Mapping Biopolitics, of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) Joint Sessions of Workshops, Granada, April 2005 Institute for Environment, Philosophy and Public Policy Lancaster University Lancaster University LA1 4YG United Kingdom In this paper I explore the productivity of bringing together two currents of thought biopolitics and vitalism. By biopolitics I mean that current of social and political theory which tries to understand modern forms of power and social ordering as involving the shaping and optimising of the very biological life of society and individuals. And by vitalism I am referring to biophilosophical conceptions of the animacy of living things and processes which refuse to see this animacy as reducible to processes of mechanical, efficient causation. While both traditions of thought take life as their object, there has been insufficient exploration of their capacity to be mutually illuminating. In this paper I focus on ways in which neo-vitalist thought might assist in the addressing of certain deficits of the social and political theory of biopolitics. In Part I of the paper I give a brief summary of the biopolitical ideas of three influential thinkers: Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben. I suggest that, despite its undoubted significance, this body of work is limited in various ways by conceptualisations of life, of the bios that is the subject of biopolitics, which underplays the creative potency of the life process, confines it to the immaterial realm of ideas, and/or fails to give an adequate account of the dynamism of biopolitics the changing mode of insertion of the life process into the social body. In Part II I seek a remedy to such shortcomings in the revival of vitalist thought in the twentieth century, focusing on the work of Henri Bergson, who conceived of life as inherently durational, as a creative, divergent temporal process, and the further development of Bergson s ideas in the work of Gilles Deleuze. In Part III I explore the implications of bringing together these two currents of thought, initially through a consideration of Michael Hardt and Antoni Negri s Empire, which draws explicitly on Deleuze s ideas, and conclude with some speculative suggestions for the further development of this line of inquiry.

2 I BIOPOLITICS Hannah Arendt and the human condition Perhaps the first clear formulation of modern politics as consisting of the administration of the life process was Hannah Arendt s neo-aristotelian account of The Human Condition (1958). For Arendt, the ceaseless vitality of nature is an inescapable part of the human condition, in that as humans we are also animals. In the preface to the book, Arendt decries as a form of earth alienation any technological attempt to transcend our material, organic nature, and thus to deny our belonging to life and dependency on the processes of nature. For Arendt, when we meet our biological needs through labour we do so as animals; labour is life performing itself. Labour allows us to experience the sheer bliss of being alive which we share with all living creatures... toiling and resting, labouring and consuming (1958: 106). 1 But at the same time that labour is a blessing, it also represents a kind of imprisonment. As the requirements of necessity are never finally fulfilled, humans are compelled to labour unceasingly. The redemption of this imprisonment can only come from outside labour, from more specifically human forms of activity from work (the fabrication of enduring objects), and action (meaningful speech and gesture). For Arendt, moral freedom requires us not simply to survive, to meet our animal needs through labour, but to fabricate an artefactual human world which can serve as an enduring backdrop for meaningful action, for word and deed. Unlike human beings, other animals are immortal not because individual animals never die, but because they are part of the never-ending flow of life; as a species their immortality lies in the sheer repetition of procreation. It is only in the enduring context of the artefactual world that human beings can retain their own continuing identity and only against this stable background that human beings can be seen as mortal, as having a recognizable life story (bios) from birth to death (1958: 97). But this very mortality can itself provide the conditions for a this-worldly immortality in the collective memory of a society, achieved through word and deed. One function of the artefactual world for Arendt is thus to keep life out to create an enduring human space from which the cyclic and endless meeting of necessity is kept at bay. However, for Arendt, the rise of labour as the organising feature of modern societies was the breaching of the boundaries of this human world, unleashing into it the endless performativity of life. The factory system and the division of labour transformed communities into societies of labourers and jobholders... centred around the one activity necessary to sustain life This elevation of labour threatens the world s permanence because, whereas work serves the world, building it up and preserving it over time, labour serves only life itself (1958: 46-7). 2 For Arendt the modern human world should thus be understood as exhibiting a hypertrophy of life s potency, an unnatural rise of the natural (1958: 47); the very imbalance toward growth and productivity, unchecked by cyclical decay, that is exhibited by capitalism manifests its character as an unnatural extension of the life process, one which compromises the integrity and purpose of the artefactual world, with a number of deleterious implications. Politics is transformed from a realm of freedom, a polis in which excellence and self-revelation can occur, into one of necessity, simply the public organisation of the life process, whereby society is conceived as an oikos, a giant household to be managed (1958: 46). Society organised in this way expects from each of its members a certain kind of behaviour, imposing innumerable and various rules, all which tend to normalize its members, to make them behave, to excluded spontaneous action or outstanding achievement (1958: 40). 2

3 And people exhibits a growing world-alienation, abandoning the togetherness of a shared public world, retreating instead into the subjectivism of consumption or therapy. Michel Foucault and biopower Some two decades after the publication of The Human Condition, Michel Foucault developed his own, Nietzschean account of modernity in terms of the administration of the life process, without explicit reference to Arendt s work. In Discipline and Punish (1977) and The History of Sexuality vol. 1 (1979) he traced the connections between new forms of state disciplinary power that developed during the eighteenth century with the emergence of a more biological understanding of the human. Up to the eighteenth century, the key form that power took was sovereignty ; the sovereign had power to decide life and death whether indirectly by asking subjects to put their lives at risk by defending the state, or directly by putting to death those who transgressed his laws or rose up against him. Sovereignty was a right of seizure: of things, time, bodies and ultimately life itself (1979: 136). From the eighteenth century onwards, by contrast, sovereignty was replaced by biopolitics as the key organising principle of society, and power became the right to administer life not to impede or destroy the forces in society in the name of supernatural splendour, but to bend and optimize them, to make them grow in particular directions. 3 Power thus came to be conceived in terms not of transcendence and difference, but of the maintenance of society s own immanent coherence. Even the resistance to state power became conceived in the very terms that that power was taking, in terms of life: of the right to life, health and happiness (1979: 154). This represents a shift away from the understanding of this world as pointing towards the next one as both symbolizing transcendent truths, and preparing the faithful for eternal life. Instead, there is a focus on the endless reproduction of life-processes within this world. the biological becomes seen as a self-sufficient mode of existence; what modern power administers is no longer legal subjects but living beings (1979: 142-3). Foucault argues that it is at this time that life is first conceived as an object to be administered, and that this new power over life took two forms. The first, anatomopolitics, focused on the administration of the individual human body, regarded as a machine to be measured, disciplined and optimized. The second, bio-politics, emerged later, and focused on populations, the management of life. 4 Both of these, Foucault notes, were vital for the emergence and growth of capitalism, so that bodies and populations could be effectively inserted into productive and economic processes. Law, too became less focused less an less on displays of murderous splendour for those who transgress sovereign power, and simply part of an array of technical apparatuses regulating and measuring life, trying to bring it to the norm. For Foucault, this was the entry of life into history ; rather than the biological exerting pressure on society from outside in the form of epidemics and famines, it was increasingly an object of control within society. Life was at once placed outside history, by being conceived in biological, natural terms, and inside it, in that it was subjected to politics (1979: ). Giorgio Agamben and bare life In his Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998), Giorgio Agamben explicitly sets out to extend and correct Foucault s account of biopolitics. First he argues that sovereignty and biopolitics, rather being contrasting regimes of power, 3

4 have always been closely linked in Western thought and culture that the inclusion of bare life in the political realm constitutes the original if concealed nucleus of sovereign power (1998: 6). Thus the rise of modern biopolitics is neither the intrusion of biology into politics, nor the constitution of a radically new object for politics life but simply the working out of a logic latent within Western ideas of sovereignty. Second, he claims that the totalitarian state and the concentration camp have to be attended to as the exemplary spaces of modern biopolitics (1998: 4). But is also worth remarking that, in an explicit link to Arendt, Agamben also returns to an Aristotelian framing of the question of biopolitics as one concerning the relationship between bios and zoē between conditioned and bare life; between substantive understandings of the good life and mere biological life; between accounts of how we should live and the simple statement that we live. Nevertheless, he does not share Arendt s nostalgia for the classical world, instead seeking a more radical overcoming of the whole Western problematic of the relation between bios and zoē. Agamben provocatively draws attention to the homology between the sovereign, who is above the law in his ability to inaugurate and suspend it, and homo sacer, the outlaw, who is below the law in his lack of protection by it. Agamben suggests that such states of exception, in which a case is excluded from the application of the law, are not simple applications of sovereignty, or simple suspensions of the law, but the creation and definition of the very space in which the juridico-political order can have validity. Building on the thought of Jean-Luc Nancy, he thus suggests that the primary political relation is the ban, conceived as a positive relation, in which an individual is not simply set outside the law but abandoned by it, that is, exposed and threatened on the threshold in which life and law, outside and inside, become indistinguishable. Thus [t]he matchless potentiality of the nomos, its originary force of law, is that it holds life in its ban by abandoning it (1998: 19, 28, 29). Something is turned into bare life by being placed in a zone of indistinction between zoë and bios, at once excluded from the law and constituted by it; and the central feature of this bare life is not that it lives but that it can be killed. Agamben thus departs from Foucault in granting a much longer history to biopolitics, and in connecting biopolitics (the politics of life) firmly to thanatopolitics (the politics of death). For Agamben the only thing that is new is that, in modern society, what was once the exception is now the norm. We are all abandoned by the law, are reduced to bare life, are homo sacer, are reduced to our biological existence, can be killed, and are made subject to the biopolitical logic of the ban. The biopolitical body of the West is simply the last incarnation of homo sacer (1998: 187), and its nomos is revealed not in the disciplinary institutions of modern capitalist society but in the death camps. The bare life is at once pure zoë, and caught by the law in the ban, subject to a continuous threat of death, and so intensely political (1998: 183-4). The suggestion here is that, for example, the merging of politics with medicine (particularly in biotechnology) in the care of populations and individuals contains a sinister logic. But Agamben also disagrees with Arendt, suggesting that her appeals to the classical categories of oikos and polis are rendered redundant by the contemporary indistinction between the private and the public, the biological and the political. For Agamben, the only way out is to think a wholly different politics, one pointing forward to the constitution and installation of a form of life that is wholly exhausted in bare life and a bios that is only its own zoē (1998: 188). In The Open (2004) he explicates this conception further, drawing on Walter Benjamin s conception of the saved night (Die gerettete Nacht). This is a life freed of any dimension of mystery, 4

5 attained not through any solving of its mystery but simply by a severing of any relationship with it. To elucidate this idea Agamben draws on the writings of the second century Gnostic Basilides, who takes up St. Paul s idea of the groaning of creation, its awareness of its need for redemption (Rom 8: 22). In his account of the final liberation of spirit from matter, Basilides suggests that the matter abandoned by spirit will at once be perfectly blessed, no longer missing or desiring redemption, so that every creature may retain in its natural condition and none desire anything contrary to its nature. Life in this condition will no longer be human, since it will have abandoned any attempt of rational mastery of its existence; but neither will it be animal, since it will not exhibit what Heidegger called poverty in world (Heidegger 1995: ), the animal s captivation by its own instinctual relationship with its milieu. Its savedness will consist not in being brought into logos, into language and reason, but in its very unsavability, its severing from any relationship with logos or spirit. This is a messianic vision of a nature given back to itself, existing outside of history and Being (Agamben 2004: 81-92). II VITALISM The writers discussed above have all been extremely productive and influential in recent attempts to grasp the essential character of modern society, not least in order better to understand the possibility and limits of critical thought in a liberal capitalist society that seems all but unstoppable. However, I want to argue that there are problems with their conceptualization of life, of the bios that is the subject of biopolitics, problems which might be addressed by drawing on other traditions of modern thought. For example, Arendt can be criticised for overstating the cyclical and hence futile nature of labouring and other life processes, interpreting their repetition as a form of stasis, rather than as a creative, productive power, and for uncritically retaining Aristotle s hylomorphic view of artefacts and other objects in her understanding of the fabrication process as the active imposition of a pre-existing form onto passive matter (Simondon 1958). Foucault, for his part, could be accused of remaining too structuralist in his analysis of biopower, and thus tending to a quasifunctionalism that can only with difficulty account for social change (Hardt and Negri 2000: 28). And finally Agamben might be charged with having a too anthropological notion of biopower, one which confines it, and the processes through which it might be transformed, to the immaterial realm of ideas (Hardt and Negri 2000: 421 n.11). In Part III of the paper I will pursue the idea that the analysis of contemporary society in terms of biopolitics might best be advanced through incorporating a more thoroughgoing material analysis of the life process and its organisation in society, and that this can best be carried out through a rapprochement with the contemporary neovitalist tradition. In this section I will therefore give a brief introduction to the neovitalist revival in twentieth century thinking. Vitalist thought has been a presence in the West in one form or another since classical times and before, and has gone through a number of stages. Georges Canguilhem suggests that the history of the conceptualisation of life can be divided into four main stages: life as animation, as mechanism, as organisation and as information (Canguilhem 1994: 74-88). I will supplement this history with a further subsection on life as duration, discussing the twentieth century philosophy of Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze, who provide a radical reconceptualisation of life in terms of a monist temporal ontology of creative becoming. 5

6 Life as animation Pre-modern thought was vitalist in the sense that what we would term as non-organic processes like motion and causation were explained in terms of organismic development; the pre-modern world was vital, full of life. Aristotle, for example, understood living things in terms of their possession of a soul or anima. But he also explained what we would call non-organic processes, such as the motion of stones and planets, in terms of organic concepts; his was a teleological world, in which things developed. Through the Christian period the world had the same vitality metals were seen as gestating in the earth, and metalwork was understood as a continuation of these biological processes, conceived by analogy with baking or winemaking (Channell 1991: 49). Life as mechanism The rise in the seventeenth century of modern, Newtonian science (with its debt to voluntarist theology) had all but put paid to the world s animacy matter was inert, moved lawfully by God. Thus mechanical philosophers like Descartes sought to explain animal life using mechanical principles. But the problem still remained of explaining the different behaviour of living and dead organisms, and the development of embryos. A radically different, Enlightenment, vitalism thus emerged as a supplement to Newtonian materialism, seeking a vital substance or force which would explain the difference between animate and inanimate matter. However, by the middle of the eighteenth century vitalists had more or less abandoned the search for a vital substance, instead seeking an immaterial vital force. Writers such as de Maupertuis and de Buffon argues for a force similar to gravity to explain vital activity including embryo formation; and in the nineteenth century it became common to associate this vital principle with electricity (Channell 1991: 55-7). Life as organisation Enlightenment vitalism, whether a vitalism of substance or of energy, never overcame the problems of how to incorporate the phenomenon of life in a mechanical world, and particularly the problem of how to give an adequate account of embryo development (Canguilhem 1994: 84: 296). But during the eighteenth century an alternative way of conceptualising vitality developed as the concept of the organism, a self-organising form of organisation, was further refined (e.g. Kant 1978). During the early nineteenth century, and particularly with the development of cell theory, the living organism became conceived not as a mechanism but a society. Indeed, during the nineteenth century the ideas of organism and of society developed so closely together that it becomes difficult to say which is metaphor for the other (Canguilhem 1994: 84). For example, Claude Bernard ( ) built a social theory of cells and organs not as simple parts instruments of the organism as a whole, but as individuals. The use of an economic and political model meant that nineteenth century biologists such as Bernard could grasp that the relation of parts to whole in an organism is one of integration; the parts were themselves individuals, their survival the ultimate end (Canguilhem 1994: ). More broadly, the nineteenth century saw a sea change in thought in which large swathes of the sciences departed from the methods of reductionistic analysis that had characterized their operations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Rather than areas of knowledges being organized in terms of relations of observable similarities and differences between empirical entities, many of them thus started to be reorganized according to the idea of hidden relational unities lying underneath a 6

7 surface of differences (Foucault 1970: 251). In Cuvier s biology, for example, beneath the surface of the differences between species and species, and between organisms and their environment, lie the great unities of life function respiration, digestion, sensation and so on not reducible to constituent material elements or visible to the senses, but nevertheless in many ways more ontologically fundamental. This was ethe emergence of biology in the modern sense; up to end of eighteenth century all there was were static, spatial categorisations of living beings natural history. 5 As Foucault puts it, life itself did not exist. As sociology developed as a science, it too adopted this new spatial metaphor, of life functions, vital activities and energetic flows of labour, capital and resources. Life as information With the informationalisation of life in molecular biology, the vitalist tradition enters a new phase, in which life is made material, and matter is made vital. In 1944 Schrödinger proposed a physics of life, that at the same time laid the foundations for what might be call the reductionism of molecular biology, and also elevated matter to a vital force, one which locally speaking can break the second law of thermodynamics and increase order: What an organism feeds upon is negative entropy. Or, to put it less paradoxically, the essential thing in metabolism is that the organism succeeds in freeing itself from all the entropy it cannot help producing while alive. But Schrödinger also made life informational the foundation of life is a code-script, written in the chromosomes: The chromosome structures are at the same time instrumental in bringing about the development they foreshadow. They are law-code and executive power or, to use another simile, they are architect s plan and builder s craft -in one (Schrödinger 1944). In 1954, with Watson and Crick s discovery of DNA, Schrödinger s proposal seemed to be fulfilled. In the ordering of bases along the DNA molecule, and the processes by which this molecule controls the synthesising of proteins, molecular biology seemed to offer a new language for life, one which dropped the vocabulary and concepts of classical mechanics, physics and chemistry in favor of the vocabulary of linguistics and communications theory. Messages, information, programs, codes, instructions, decodings: these are the new concepts of the life sciences (Canguilhem 1994: 316). Life as duration But at the turn of the twentieth century Henri Bergson was articulating an alternative understanding of vitality as duration. In Creative Evolution Bergson argued that time had not been adequately conceptualised in the sciences, which typically treat the past and the future as simply calculable functions of the present, and thus conceptualising time spatially and not as essentially temporal at all. In the understanding of evolution, Bergson rejected both the mechanism of neo-darwinism, and the finalism of neo- Lamarckism, which he saw as which explaining the present by reference to the compulsion of the past and the future respectively, and thus denying the essentially creative nature of duration (Ansell Pearson 1999: 41-2) Bergson was influenced by August Weismann ( ), whose conception of the germ plasm, passed down through heredity, laid the grounds for the future development of a mechanistic understanding of evolution. For Weismann, the germ line is the real, immortal, subject of life, and individual organisms merely its vehicle. Bergson took this idea of the temporal continuity of life and made it more philosophically complex. For Bergson, what is transmitted is not simply the physico- 7

8 chemical elements of the germ plasm but also the vital energies and capacities of an embryogenesis and morphogenesis that allow for perpetual invention in evolution (Ansell Pearson 1999: 40). He conceived of evolution as driven by a tension between two tendencies between the entropic tendency of matter to descend into stasis, and the creative tendency of life to produce divergent directions amongst which its vital impetus gets divided. In reality, life is a movement, materiality is the inverse movement, and each of these two movements is simple, the matter which forms a world being an undivided flux, and undivided also the life that runs through it, cutting out in it living beings all along its track (Bergson 1921: 263). But Bergson is not saying that life simply a negentropic force, and that the enclosure of life in matter, in organisms, limits its vitality. For Bergson evolution is creative exactly because of the endless conflict between the stabilization of life in the organism and its breaking out into new directions. The organism prevents dissipation of life energy and makes life as invention and duration possible. As Ansell Pearson puts it, [l]ife enters into the habits of inert matter and from this learns how, little by little, to draw from it animate forms and vital properties (Ansell Pearson 1999: 43-5). In a series of works from the 1960s onwards Gilles Deleuze progressively combines Bergson s understanding of creative evolution with a radically monistic ontology (Deleuze 1988; Deleuze and Guattari 1988; Deleuze 1994). Following Spinoza, he insists that the world consists of a singular infinite substance, with all bodies simply its finite modes. Yet this singular substance itself contains difference and multiplicity. Bergson had opposed mechanism by showing that the essential motor of difference is internal to identity, deriving from the internal explosive force of life ; variation and change thus had to be seen not as merely accidental but as essential to the ongoing process of creative evolution itself (Ansell Pearson 1999 : 66). Deleuze develops this idea into the basis of a vital monism, in which the creative powers of life as duration as constantly diverging creative invention are internal to the structure of Being itself. But Deleuze progressively departs from Bergson s narrative understanding of life as a developing, creative narrative, driven by the tension between an anti-entropic vital principle and the dissipative tendencies of matter. Instead, he comes to conceive of the world as a movement of nomadic singularities and fields of intensities, a plane of immanence, a saturnine power that devours at one end what it created at other (Ansell Pearson 1999: 76). Bergson s creative tension between life and matter is replaced by a more hostile conflict between anorganic and organic life between Being s creative and transgressive powers, and its capture or stratification in organisms and institutions. To articulate this neovitalism, Deleuze and Guattari develop a new vocabulary, with terms often arranged in contrasts between the free flow of life s creativity, and its articulation in equilibrated structures for example the molecular and the molar, intensities and strata, the rhizomatic and the arborescent. As Deleuze and his co-author Félix Guattari put it, [t]he truly intense and powerful life remains anorganic (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 503). 8

9 III VITALIST BIOPOLITICS In Part I of the paper I gave a brief survey of some of the key thinkers who have developed ideas of biopolitics of modern society as in some way being organised around the management of its biological life. In Part II I described the historical transformation of conceptions of life, concluding with a discussion of the neo-vitalism of Bergson and Deleuze. In this final part I want to try to see how the two might be brought together to explore how our understanding of biopolitics might be altered by incorporating a neo-vitalist understanding of the life that is the subject of biopolitics. Michael Hardt and Antoni Negri and biopolitical production One obvious place to start such an exploration is Hardt and Negri s Empire, which explicitly draws on Deleuze s work. Hardt and Negri endorse Foucault s conception of biopower, as a form of power that regulates social life from its interior, following it, interpreting it, absorbing it, and rearticulating it (Hardt and Negri 2000: 23-4). However, they also develop further the argument made by Deleuze, in his Postscript on the Societies of Control (Deleuze 1995), that Foucault s specific account of biopolitics is one that only applied to a particular period of modernity, one that has been superseded since the late twentieth century. Developing ideas that started to appear in Foucault s later works, Deleuze suggested that disciplinary power was characteristic of the mercantile and organised capitalisms of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and was canalised through spaces of enclosure such as prisons, hospitals, factories, schools and the family, each with their own set of normalising rules. By contrast, he described a new form of biopolitics as emerging in the late twentieth century after a period of crisis in all the environments of enclosure, and with the emergence of post-fordist forms of production. Hardt and Negri describe this new society of control as one in which mechanisms of Command become ever more democratic, ever more immanent to the social field, distributed throughout the brains and bodies of the citizens. The behaviors of social integration and exclusion proper to rule are thus increasingly interiorized within the subjects themselves. The society of control might thus be characterized by an intensification and generalization of the normalizing apparatuses of disciplinarity that internally animate our common and daily practices, but in contrast to discipline, this control extends well outside the structured sites of social institutions through flexible and fluctuating networks (Hardt and Negri 2000: 23). In a sense this is a more perfect biopolitics than that described by Foucault. Disciplinarity fixed individuals within institutions but did not succeed in consuming them completely in the rhythm of productive practices and productive socialization; it did not reach the point of permeating entirely the consciousnesses and bodies of individuals, the point of treating and organizing them in the totality of their activities. By contrast, when power becomes entirely biopolitical, the whole social body is comprised by power s machine Society, subsumed within a power that reaches down to the ganglia of the social structure and its processes of development, reacts like a single body. Power is thus expressed as a control that extends throughout the depths of the consciousnesses and bodies of the population-and at the same time across the entirety of social relations (Hardt and Negri 2000: 24). However, for Hardt and Negri this taking up of the whole of life itself into the process of capitalist ordering does not result in a totalitarian completion of capitalism, since the very subsumption of the social bios disrupts the linear and totalitarian figure of 9

10 capitalist development. In the classical biopolitics of Foucault, resistance had been coordinated outside the spaces of enclosure, in civil society; in the new society of control, by contrast such resistances have been taken up into the state, exploding the state into a diverse set of networks (Hardt and Negri 2000: 25). We can see here how the Bergsonian conception of a difference that is internal to identity has clear biopolitical implications. The final capture of life s vitality by capital in post-fordist modes of production and regulation results in the breaking up of the organised, character of the state. The centred state of fordist capitalism represents a manifestation of the stratification of the life process, its sedimentation into organism-like, equilibrium systems, on the alloplastic or social level. As Ansell Pearson argues, Deleuze does not attack the organism itself but the organism construed as a given hierarchized and transcendent organization... abstracted from its molecular and rhizomatic conditions of possibility (1999: 154). The molecular and rhizomatic conditions of possibility of the state, for Hardt and Negri, are to be found in the unruly creative powers of the multitude ; the absorption of these powers into the state/economy complex disrupts the latter s organismic unity, creating a new emancipatory opportunity for the rhizomatic vitality of the multitude. Here Hardt and Negri are drawing on the work of Italian Marxists such as Paolo Virno (2003), who see the growing importance of intellectual, immaterial, and communicative labour in the knowledge economy as having a radical political significance. Virno contrasts the disciplined and individualised people of Hobbes political theory with the more unruly and plural multitude of Spinoza: For Spinoza, the multitudo indicates a plurality which persists as such in the public scene, in collective action, in the handling of communal affairs, without converging into a One, without evaporating within a centripetal form of motion. Multitude is the form of social and political existence for the many, seen as being many: a permanent form, not an episodic or interstitial form. For Spinoza, the multitudo is the architrave of civil liberties (Spinoza, Tractatus Politicus) (Virno 2003: 21). He then suggests that the shift towards immaterial labour in the post-fordist economies of the developed world (here he seems to be particularly thinking of the service industries) means that common, rather than specialised, forms of speech what Marx called the general intellect are coming to the fore in human existence, and that the Hobbesian people, always defined in relation to the state, is being displaced by the Spinozist multitude as the primary form of political subjectivity. Thus post-fordism, itself partially a response to the trade union and social movement demands of the 1960s and 1970s, has given life to a sort of paradoxical communism of capital, realising in a different register the demands of that failed revolution (Virno 2003: 111). Hardt and Negri go even further than Virno in seeing the multitude as the creative driver behind capital accumulation in post-fordist society, as was the manual worker in earlier forms of capitalism. More significantly, they also go further in according emancipatory powers and a political programme to the multitude that has been brought into being by post-fordism: The mode of production of the multitude reappropriates wealth from capital and also constructs a new wealth, articulated with the powers of science and social knowledge through cooperation. Cooperation annuls the title of property. In modernity, private property was often legitimated by labor, but this equation, if it ever really made sense, today tends to be completely destroyed. Private property of the means of production today, in the era of the hegemony of cooperative and immaterial labor, is only a putrid and tyrannical obsolescence. 10

11 The tools of production tend to be recomposed in collective subjectivity and in the collective intelligence and affect of the workers; entrepreneurship tends to be organized by the cooperation of subjects in general intellect. The organization of the multitude as political subject, as posse, thus begins to appear on the world scene. The multitude is biopolitical selforganization (Hardt and Negri 2000: ). Biopolitics as the regulation of potentiality The work of Hardt and Negri makes a highly significant contribution to the development of a vitalist biopolitics. Their incorporation of a Deleuzian understanding of life as an inventive potentiality in Being itself, one which is canalised into and through stable organismic forms but can never be reduced to them, provides a welcome recognition of the sheer materiality of the life process, and the radical creativity inherent in its processes of repetition. As such they offer potential solutions to some of the problems identified in the work of the key writers on biopolitics discussed in Part I. They also take the idea from Foucault and Deleuze that a new form of the biopolitical ordering of society was emerging in the late twentieth century, and develop a powerful synthetic account of its nature and potentialities. However, it might be said that Hardt and Negri s sense of the pressing need to develop a framework for thinking about radical politics in the twenty first century means that more general questions about biopolitics remain underdeveloped. And one of these questions is how a more general account of biopolitics as the management of life s potential might be developed. In Virno s discussion of biopolitics he discusses the passage in the Grundrisse where Marx observes that the use value which the worker has to offer to the capitalist, which he has to offer to others in general, is not materialized in a product, does not exist apart from him at all, thus exists not really, but only in potentiality, as his capacity (Marx 1973). Virno suggests that where something which exists only as possibility is sold, this something is not separable from the living person of the seller. The living body of the worker is the substratum of that labor-power which, in itself, has no independent existence. Life, pure and simple bios, acquires a specific importance in as much as it is the tabernacle of dynamis, of mere potential. The living body thus becomes an object to be governed because it is the substratum of what really matters: labor-power as the aggregate of the most diverse human faculties (the potential for speaking, for thinking, for remembering, for acting, etc.) (Virno 2003: 82, 83). What is interesting here is the way that Virno seems to link questions of political economy of the source of surplus value in capitalist accumulation to life s vital powers. Bergson s understanding of life as duration emphasises that vitality is an essentially temporal phenomenon, irreducible to the spatiality of the present; the differentiation of the elan vital over time is the unpredictable expression of the difference that is internal to Being. Life thus is always potentiality, always temporal, always oriented to an open future. This conceptualisation of vital potentiality in Bergson is echoed in Arendt s work in her notion of natality the capacity for creating the radically new that she, following Augustine, sees as confined to the human being (see Brunkhorst 2000). So, first, more work needs to be done on specifying the distinctiveness of the forms that vital potentiality takes in the human being as opposed to other living things (for ways of thinking about this, see Ansell Pearson 1999: 51-6; Agamben 2004). Second, we need to develop a more systematic vitalist theory of political economy the way that this potentiality can be captured and converted into mobile and storable reifications of social power into capital. Virno and Hardt and Negri have assisted by giving us a better understanding of how in post-fordist economies it is the communicative, not physical potential of human 11

12 beings that is the main source of value. But we also need a vitalist political economy, for example, of the high technology sector, which understands better the capture of value from the vital, evolutionary character of human technical powers. And third, we need a vital political economy of the state s biopolitical role, a theorisation of the way that a species can develop technologies that take hold of its own vital powers, artificial organs that are turned back on their progenitor to shape and change their natural being. NOTES 1 Here she departs from Karl Marx, for whom it is the capacity to labour that sets humans apart from other animals. 2 For Arendt the liberation of labour into the human world reached its theoretical acme in Marx, who merged work with labour, in service of life, and for whom all things would be understood, not in their worldly, objective quality, but as results of living labour power and functions of the life process (Arendt 1958: 89). 3 Wars, for example, are no longer the defence of the juridical existence of sovereignty; at stake is the biological existence of a population. And the death penalty is less to do with the enormity of the crime, of attacking the sovereign s will, than the incorrigibility of the criminal their biological endangerment of others (Foucault 1979: 137-8). 4 The term biopolitics is often used to cover both of these sets of practices. 5 Here history is being used in its original sense as a telling, rather than in the specific sense of history that emerges in the nineteenth century. REFERENCES Agamben, Giorgio (1998) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, tr. Daniel Heller-Roazen, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Agamben, Giorgio (2004) The Open: Man and Animal, tr. Kevin Attell, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Ansell Pearson, Keith (1999) Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze, London: Routledge. Arendt, Hannah (1958) The Human Condition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bergson, Henri (1921) Creative Evolution, tr. Arthur Mitchell, London: Macmillan. Brunkhorst, Hauke (2000) Equality and Elitism in Arendt, in The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt, ed. Dana Villa, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp Canguilhem, Georges (1994) A Vital Rationalist: Selected Writings from Georges Canguilhem, tr. Arthur Goldhammer, New York: Zone Books. Channell, David F. (1991) The Vital Machine: A Study of Technology and Organic Life, New York: Oxford University Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1988) Bergsonism, New York: Zone. Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, tr. Paul Patton, London: Athlone Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1995) Postscript on the Societies of Control, October, (59), pp Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1988) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, tr. Brian Massumi, London: Athlone Press. Foucault, Michel (1970) The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, London: Tavistock. Foucault, Michel (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, London: Allen Lane. Foucault, Michel (1979) The History of Sexuality Vol. 1: An Introduction, tr. Robert Hurley, London: Allen Lane. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri (2000) Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Heidegger, Martin (1995) The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, tr. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Kant, Immanuel (1978) The Critique of Judgement, tr. James Creed Meredith, Oxford: Clarendon. Marx, Karl (1973) Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy: Rough Draft, tr. Martin Nicolaus, Harmondsworth: Penguin. 12

13 Schrödinger, Erwin (1944) What Is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Simondon, Gilbert (1958) Du Mode D Existence Des Objets Techniques, Paris: Aubier. Virno, Paolo (2003) A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life, tr. James Cascaito and Andrea Casson Isabella Bertoletti, Cambridge, MA: Semiotext(e). 13

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