This week’s discussion kept my mind working and throughout the whole weekend I always came back to think about Agamben’s somehow horrifying notion that the destiny of the homo sacer is inevitable.
Although I was fairly familiar with the idea of biopolitics, I never saw it in the bigger picture of a nation state’s attempt to regulate its people in order to enhance government interests. I somehow always saw the budgeting aspect as the most prominent one, which could also be seen positively; however after reading Agamben it becomes difficult to view biopolitics in any other way than as a questionable policing of the body which eventually controls everybody and thus results in turning every political being into a homo sacer.
This made me realize how often my understanding of my home nation state is influenced by a naturalized assumption of the nation state’s rightness as a formula. But why does a nation state feel so natural? Nation states are artificial through and through. They function according to structures and methods developed by humans and are subject to constant change and progress. This opportunity for progress, I guess, leaves the impression that governments work in ways that are maximized to current standards and needs. So, because government’s operational modes assumingly belong to a system that always optimizes itself in my interest, they are naturalized in such sense as that their modes and applications often remain unquestioned up until a point where they become problematic to the individual him- or herself or clash with a particular viewpoint.
Some examples to make myself a little clearer: I may never oppose a system of grades through which performance and achievement are evaluated, because I never received a grade which was not justified. I won’t necessarily question inheritance laws, if I never inherit anything which may get me into trouble with these laws, and I may never realize the legal limits of registered partnerships (the momentary legal status of same-sex marriage in Germany) as equivalent to opposite-sex marriage and its many wonderful benefits. These experiences may never become part of my epistemic privilege initiating no distrust in my nation’s institutions and methods of operating. Although this clearly shows that the state is not working in everyone’s interest, I could live a happy life within the boundaries of the nation state without facing any limits to my way of living thus leaving the impression that the nation state’s way of operating is simply logic and natural.
If I follow Agamben then, the system of biopolitics does not only apply to marginalized groups or individuals but turns every citizen into an object which loses its decision-making power to a sovereign who decides what’s best for the object. It is no longer possible to stay within governmental regulations but control on the ground of devaluating its status of a political being and based on the sole body opens up endless possibilities to manipulate the being, because biopolitics has its finger in every pie.
However, thinking about the biopolitical dimensions of laws, rules, rights and regulations, enables the political being to critically analyze a state’s legitimacy more easily, because it shifts the focus from the individual case of, for example, ruling a body improper to be rightfully married, to the greater context of the loss of self-exercising one’s status as a political being, and it helps detecting connections between laws, rules, rights and regulations and government interests.
This leaves me with only one thought in mind: May the overall zoe be prevented.
– franziska krause