The biopolitical paradox: population and security mechanisms

Emiliano Sacchi Diagnosing the present between Kant and Nietzsche
the present or ontology of ourselves. That must be considered not as a theory or doctrine, nor even as a permanent body of knowledge that is accumulatAttempting to understand the meaning of biopoli- ing; it must be conceived as “an attitude, an ethos, tics according to Foucault involves referring to a a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same discontinuous series, the fragtime the historical analysis of mentary emergence of this Emiliano Sacchi holds a degree in Political the limits that are imposed on problematisation throughout Science from the National University of us and an experiment with the his writing, posthumous texts, Rosario (UNR) in Argentina. He lectures in possibility of going beyond and the works of those who political philosophy at UNR and is a guest lecturer at the Political Philosophy Seminar them” (Foucault 1991). are continuing it today. at the National University of the Littoral Without a doubt, this However, this paper proposes (UNL). He participates in research projects approach is one of the essena possible reading centred on exploring aspects of contemporary philosotial tasks that thought must security mechanisms as the phy at UNR and UNL. He currently holds a tackle, that is, thinking about key to accessing a diagnosis scholarship from the National Scientific and one’s own present in a sagitof our present political exTechnical Research Council (CONICET), thanks to which is he studying for a doctortal manner, which continuperience shaped by the ate in Social Sciences at the University of ously brings us back to the paradox of biopolitics. The Buenos Aires, where he is undertaking task of thinking about a posproposition arises as a conseresearch into the relationship between life sible future. This is what quence of a certain philoand politics in contemporary political Deleuze called Foucauldian sophical gesture that Foucault thought. Email: the Actual, stating that, for himself called the attitude of Foucault, what counts is the modernity, a gesture between difference between the Kant and Nietzsche. Thus, it seems appropriate to begin with a present and the Actual. Current reality is all that is detour via this philosophical gesture, a gesture that, new and interesting. Current reality is not what we according to Foucault, we can position as a philo- are, but rather what we become, what we are sophical event in the answer given by Kant in 1784 becoming; in other words, it is the Other, our to the question Was ist Aufklärung? It is in that becoming-other. The present, on the contrary, is answer that the question of current reality as a what we are and, therefore, what we are already philosophical problem appeared for the first time. ceasing to be (Deleuze 1986, pp.113–114).1 Although it was not that text that commenced the And it is precisely this becoming-somethingreflection on the present, it did commence and find other-than-what-we-are that can be set in motion its originality in a way of thinking about the rela- through the Kantian gesture that Foucault retrieves tionship with one’s own present and one’s virtual and places at the centre of his work. In this sense, current reality. In Foucault’s terms, what Kant thought is presented as a task of problematisation. established was the possibility of an ontology of Updating our thought means being able to formu-

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but that. Nietzsche discovered that the particular activity of philosophy consists of diagnostic work: the question What are we today? What is this “today” in which we live? But in that practice. and what terms are mixed up in it. The Will to Knowledge. after describing the general transformation of technologies of power in the West from the seventeenth century. But. the nature of that paradox. through that questioning formulation. he presents. . In both cases. make our present current. It is in that difference.392 Emiliano Sacchi late a precise form of inquiry and. when Foucault stated in that famous passage from The Will to Knowledge that. Therefore.173). In Deleuze’s terms. we must critically and historically question the ways in which life has been and continues to be put at risk in Western modernity through certain mechanisms that produce and intensify life while. starting with the lectures he gave in Rio de Janeiro in 1974. biopolitics is merely one sign among many others in our present. Hence. about the considered and unconsidered aspects of our practices. p. Thus. that interrogative gesture. also. p. for that very reason. Foucault repeatedly pointed out the precise points at which this power to promote life was inverted into its deadly opposite: a policy of death. Population. thinking that is interested in the present experiences the possibility of updating it. The possibility of thinking of biopolitics as a paradoxical figure between life and death appears in Foucault’s first commentaries on the subject and is frequently revisited thereafter. in a way. The texts in which Foucault refers most specifically to that paradoxical structure are the 1976 lectures Genealogy of Racism and the book published that same year. which has simultaneously proven to be thoroughly deadly. about the ways in which we think about ourselves and do not think about ourselves. Occasionally. seek to question us critically and historically about ourselves. paradoxically. In this sense. Territory. it is not about the teleological unfolding of an origin. of becoming-other. what diagram of forces makes that paradox possible. in what happens. between the present and the Actual. the critical question must be taken beyond Kant to its Nietzschean positive form in the sense of a historic investigation that seeks to deduce from the contingency of what we are the possibility of a becoming-other. revealing lines of fragility. with the resultant emergence of a technology that serves to strengthen and manage life. it is necessary to analyse the origin (Herkunft) of that sign and open a possible space for a future (Zukunft). Western man has learned what no Ancient Greek could have: to be governed as a population of living beings. If the diagnosis surrounding the present seeks to wreck the play of recognition and need. until modernity. at the same time. biopower is contemporary © UNESCO 2013.159). the historical ontology of ourselves performs a diagnosis based solely on signs perceived in the present and. What type of experience are we capable of achieving in our present? How was that experience formed? How is it possible that we are who we are? And then. It is precisely through the crack worked open by this questioning that it is possible to make our present become other and then ask ourselves: How it is possible for us to become others? How is another politics of life possible? Bio-thanato-politics After this necessary detour. at the same time. how is it possible that we become others? It is there. make our present become other. it transformed itself into an animal whose politics placed its existence as a living being in question (Foucault 1976. a cure. he also discovered a therapy. Using the terminology of both Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito. those two famous passages imply that there is no need whatsoever in the biopolitical experience of the present. In particular. Thus. which apparatuses activate it. in that difference. but about chance and forces. what produces a crack in what we are. and through that gap. More precisely. we shall attempt to elucidate how the apparatuses in which life is put at risk in Western modernity typically function. as a biological multiplicity (Foucault 2004a. we shall try to understand how bios and thanatos. the contradiction inherent in that technology. we could say that it is the imperceptible point of passage from biopolitics to thanatopolitics. thereafter. that Foucault decided to inscribe or engrave his lines which. he was talking about the present: its discontinuity with history and the limits it imposes on us. The diagnosis concludes that our present has become biopolitical. are interwoven in our biopolitical present. that it becomes essential to read the question of a biopolitics. as he had already done in 1974. destroying and annihilating it. question us about the limits of our experience. points out. As he said in Security. humanity was what it was for Aristotle.

The fact that this power of death. and so © UNESCO 2013. charred cities. is not exercised on behalf of the sovereign means precisely that it does not establish a power relationship between death and sovereignty. If laws are born from battles. hierarchise. p. through the law.2 Therefore. the figures of crimes against humanity and genocide correspond immanently to the biopolitical forces diagram. Following the Foucauldian distinction between the deadly power of the sovereign and the modern biopower. Perhaps it is not a reappearance but just that political philosophy has not yet managed to cut the sovereign’s throat. one could suggest that we are seeing a reappearance of the murderous sovereign: a “phantasmagoric reappearance of the sovereign”. that is. It is a paradoxical structure: it is this same power to make live that can and needs to make die. a question arises about death and the ways in which death can be organised in biopolitical modernity: how was biopower able to set up monstrous factories of death? On this point. perhaps only an optical illusion created by Foucault’s text and his constant contrasts with sovereign power. Indeed. the deathbringing power.The biopolitical paradox: population and security mechanisms 393 and complementary not only to the bloodiest wars. This conclusion is similar to the one he reached in his talks on the Abnormal in 1975. Therefore. This caesura was only possible after the appearance of races in the biological continuum of the human species (Foucault 1997. However. they are waged on behalf of the population and its survival: “It is as managers of life and survival . p. devastated lands. In the lectures Foucault gave in 1976.165). p. . There we have the first function of racism: to fragment biology with the appearance of races. determine who is inferior and who is superior. Even though the ethico-political stain of the Armenian genocide did not reach the scale of the Jewish genocide. between a power of consuming and devouring the bodies and life of subjects. . However. That is to say. Death has become vital.165). he asserted that racism – biological State racism – is the condition that allows the right to cause death to be exercised in biopolitical modernity. and certain mechanisms of power that are immanent to it. In this sense: “massacres have become vital” (Foucault 1976. Foucault said in The Will to Knowledge that “wars are no longer waged in the name of a sovereign who must be defended”. that of the population. the reappearance is delusive. distinguish. p. and to do so on an unlimited scale. It is precisely biological or biomedical racism that appears as a condition of a biopolitical death. take out the king’s eyes (Ogilvie 2007. and is therefore entirely modern and belongs irreducibly to biopolitical modernity. this has the function of introducing a caesura in the living continuum that biopower took over: the gap between what should live and what should die. on the contrary. which represents and increases the devouring power of the sovereign. between death and the power of life. Biopolitics taken to the extreme of its paradox establishes a positive relationship between death and life. this concept soon demonstrated its legal-political roots in the Nuremberg Trials.36) proposes. if we recall the distinction between the sovereign power of letting live and making die and the biopower of making live and letting die. the power to bring death is not a simple parallel. that so many regimes have been able to wage so many wars. the sovereign and the convict. It is not about the play between two political bodies. as Esposito (2004. A reading of Foucault allows us to question the possibility of thinking about death in the biopolitical context under the phantasmagorical figure of the sovereign decapitated in the great revolution. genocide – as a legal concept and as an overdetermined signifier in politics – has emerged between the margins that indicate the Armenian and Jewish genocides. it is a strictly biopolitical death. but reflects a complementarity that contributes to the strength of biopower. it is in the name of life and the survival of the population that the power to impose death can and has been exercised in modernity. from the pure space where forces clash. above all. at that time already. p. in other words.230). p. On that subject. Foucault observes that such a formidable power to bring death seems. It is more a question – following Foucault’s suggestion – of thinking that it is death itself that enters the historic future. Death is no longer the torture of Damiens.165). but about a single body. although it is considered that genocides have existed since the start of our era. Occasionally. causing so many men to be killed” (Foucault 1976. and a power of producing and safeguarding life. massacres. but also to the most horrific genocides.92). to be the complement of a power that is exerted positively over life (Foucault 1976. the possibility of punishment was thought up under the (specially created) concept of crimes against humanity. .

394 Emiliano Sacchi on. as it is a life without vital value. At that moment. therefore. the aim was to annihilate them. since the emergence of biopower. wholesome and healthy way of life. According to Foucault. the “abnormal” – basically. The aim is to avoid shrouding the extermination of the Jews in a sacrificial aura and to understand that their life without vital value was thought of as mere biological data. p. etc. the “sub-race” – and life. even more crucial. This caesura between one life that is worthy of life and another that is unworthy (unwertes). Giorgio Agamben’s refusal to use the term holocaust to refer to the extermination of the Jews should be understood in this way. Hoche’s work reveals. the strength of the bio-thanatopolitics paradox is greater than that: is not only about an external biological other. exterminated like a bacteria through a process of Desinfektion of the population through “public hygiene” or. on an ever-increasing scale.230). racism managed to bring it back to a strictly biological level. That bio-racial relationship states that: “the more inferior species die out.231). . biopolitics does not kill. and the more I – as species rather than individual – can live. is not an adversary or enemy. Death is the only route to proposing the building of a “supra-race”. the population becomes healthier and death emerges as the threshold of regeneration. There is no war because there are no adversaries. Although this positive relationship seems typically bellicose. the whole cycle of the ghenos. the most murderous States of our modernity will be the most racist. Foucault highlighted a second. Through inoculation against death itself. a saved humanity. when States have imposed death. a “life unworthy of life” (Agamben 1995). which is “the paroxysmal development of the new mechanisms of power” (Foucault 1997. On this subject. eliminate them: “Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens”. Irrespective of the legal-political problem raised by Agamben. function of racism according to the deadly strategy of biopolitics: racism made it possible to establish a positive relationship between death and life that posits that: “the more you let die. they have had to view it through the prism of biologism and. biopower introjects the racial other. . Agamben has suggested that we see in this caesura and in the resultant figure of the “lebensunwertes Leben” the fundamental biopolitical structure of modernity. biopower becomes completely con- © UNESCO 2013. while at the same time unleashing formidable deadly power.233). The meaning of Vernichtung here is very different to simply kill. the Other of biopolitics. exposing it to the ultimate danger of death. the fewer degenerates there will be in the species as a whole. since they were eliminated not in a delirious holocaust “but. as Hitler had announced. It is a biological normalisation that. However. illness and accidents. the more you will live” (Foucault 1997. implying instead a complete destruction similar to that expressed by the Latin verbs annihilare and extermina ¯ re. Binding and A. but rather that which marks the caesura in the biological continuum of the human species: an external or internal threat to the population and its life. as the Nazis called it. It is a positive relationship between the death of the “degenerate”. the stronger I will be. the more vigorous I will be. it is interesting to highlight the condition of the unworthy life of the “degenerates”. procreation and heredity. Indeed. On that subject. the more abnormal individuals are eliminated. given that. towards whom the theoretical efforts of the Nazi doctors were aimed. the Jews were annihilated. ‘like lice’ . “Rassenhygiene” (“racial hygiene”). literally. . in the terms of the doctors of the Nazi regime.147). nor a hostis or barbarus. p. like a biological hazard. However. as the title of K. particularly. but biopolitics” (Agamben 1995. Thus. Foucault pointed out that. the good. a superior life-form. The object of annihilation. p. the “sub-race” and analyses the whole population. p. “imbeciles”. and eliminated as such. The scale at which the extermination took place is neither religion nor law. That is the ultimate meaning of a biopower for which killing has become essential and that is the key that Foucault offers to interpret the most suicidal moment of the Nazi regime: the order issued in April 1945 to eliminate the conditions of life of the German people themselves. evolutionism. It has only been possible for States to “update” death through racism and its dual functions. A very clear example of this is provided by Nazism. but “exterminates biological threats” (vernichtet) and therefore directly produces and strengthens life. makes it possible – as was the objective of the Nazi doctors – to set a threshold beyond which a life can be eliminated without the act legally constituting a murder or sacrifice. I will be able to proliferate” (Foucault 1997. seeks to demarcate the caesura around a “lebensunwertes Leben”. In other words. the Nazi State seized control of the biological aspect of society. “abnormals”.

the interesting thing about his proposal is that the figure of immunitas provides an opportunity to question Foucault’s biopolitics in such a way that its structure can be thought of as paradoxical. from this perspective. but also. Esposito considers that it is unclear whether the phrase should be read in the sense of the objective or subjective genitive. this semantic gap or snag in Foucault’s term is highly problematic. is not only inherent in the Nazi regime. we should not lose sight of Foucault’s statement regarding the fact that the genocide and suicide planned and perpetuated by the Nazi regime should be understood as the paroxysmal point of a series of apparatuses and mechanisms that precede it. By articulating the ambivalence that © UNESCO 2013. limiting it. while also separating it from the necessary relationship with racism as presented above. The Italian philosopher has approached the question of biopolitics by closely following Foucault’s intermittent reflections. For Esposito. In relation to the thanatological becoming of biopolitics. In this immunitary paradigm. it can be acknowledged that life and power have been inextricably linked since antiquity. As expressed by the notion of immunity.49). Esposito has attempted to position himself at a fluctuating distance from Foucault.The biopolitical paradox: population and security mechanisms 395 sistent with a power to bring death and the whole biological continuum that falls within the sights of that power is placed at risk of death. Autoimmunity Autoimmunity is the concept that has been taken up by Roberto Esposito. in a general technology of power. These two variations of the life/power relationship are articulated internally in such a way that a negative relationship can be established between both. it demonstrates how biopolitics can produce and strengthen life while at the same time denying and destroying it. The term biopolitics can be interpreted as both a politics of (della) life and a politics on (sulla) life. as the immunisation approach allows biopolitics to be inserted into a historically determined grid (Esposito 2004. perhaps more interesting is his proposal to dissociate himself from those complications. namely the relationship between modernity and biopolitics. in which case it is a politics on life. His proposal is to examine biopolitics through the prism of what he has called the immunity paradigm (Esposito 2002). the instrument for keeping life alive (Esposito 2004. . we have the possibility of approaching the question of biopolitics in such a way that the ambiguity or fluctuation between a positive derivation and a negative one is tied to a single mechanism: immunisation. in the power of the despot over the slave or the power of life and death of the paterfamilias over his children. regrettably. but rather there is no power outside of life and life does not occur outside of power. Immunisation both protects and denies life: it protects life by denying it. p. but similarly. That prompts us to think about the biopolitical apparatuses and mechanisms through which life is put at risk today. Politics is. as it establishes an intrinsic relationship between life and power. In other words. therefore. which are part of its origin: this play is actually incorporated into the functioning of all modern States (Foucault 1997). we must be aware that the paradox of biopolitics. In turn. p. as that figure emphasises the contradictory play between the protection and negation of life. it is a politics of life that strengthens life.42). first of all. if the term is understood to mean a “politics of life”. however. negation. Either biopolitics has an affirmative effect. as the connotation of immunity is entirely modern. Beyond the two Foucauldian ambiguities that Esposito seeks to clear up. This paradigm has enabled him. is the way life is preserved and develops through power. This seems possible given that. maintaining that there is ambivalence in Foucault’s interpretation of the term biopolitics. the negative variation. life does not appear to be “at stake” in a politics from a certain moment. according to Esposito’s reasoning. However. Thus. constricting it and ultimately killing it. Nazism is just one of its possible terrible faces. So. its thanatological becoming. via the notion of immunity it is possible to clear up a second ambiguity in Foucault’s interpretation. the concept of immunisation makes it possible to overcome or suspend the choice between a power that preserves and strengthens life and a power that destroys and denies life. or it has a negative effect. it can be acknowledged that immunity in the strict sense is absent from those relationships. for example. to overcome the irreducible distance that he considers exists in Foucault between the two elements of the notion of bio-politics since. Consequently. Esposito suggests a series of consequences about the scope of Foucault’s understanding of biopolitics.

the autoimmunitary mechanism recognises in itself the danger against which it must protect itself and which it must deny and destroy. the immunity that is produced by the inoculation of the antigen. In this sense. that already deadly logic can become even more radicalised and it is precisely this point of radicalisation that Derrida pointed out when he drew attention to the immunisation of immunisation. but when it somehow becomes part of it” (Esposito 2002. upon excluding it. However. Diseases referred to as “autoimmune” do not involve a blocking or failure of the immune mechanism. As the logic of immunity © UNESCO 2013.396 Emiliano Sacchi seemed insurmountable in the concepts of biopolitics. Esposito has traced the origins of the notion of immunity. the “disease” itself is the cure. Like in homeopathic medicine (similia similibus curantur). an immunodeficiency. for immunisation. p. treating it as a piece of data. if biopolitics ultimately wants to strengthen life.142). This means that the mechanism presupposes the existence of evil (the disease). it becomes necessary to include it. the latter is bio-medicine. giving rise to an excluding inclusion or an inclusive exclusion: “poison is not defeated by the organism when it is expelled by the body. prolonging it and forestalling death – in other words.232). Obviously. Derrida returned to this logic as a framework of analysis to interpret the horrific events of 9/11. but also in the sense that the immunisation acts through its use. identifying one archaic aspect and another modern aspect. without expelling it. As in the Ancient Greek pharmakós. the risk or danger. an excessive immune response that unfurls and then closes in on itself. conversely. . rather. p. a non-lethal amount of the virus that generates the antibody required to neutralise the real manifestation of the disease. we can say (as immunologists do) that the former mechanism is a defence strategy against an external enemy. but rather its turning on itself (its suicide). The important thing about this second.18). tries to destroy ‘itself’. death is both a cure and a poison. in turn. What is absent from the latter mechanism is clearly the idea of externality: “There is no passage from outside to inside: the inside fights against itself until it self-destructs” (Esposito 2004. There we have the terms involved in this logic that both protects and denies life. it becomes possible to understand something like the dual status of a power that in modernity cultivates life and death. Derrida was not as interested in the concept of immunity as in the more complex concept of autoimmunity: the terrifying and fatal logic of autoimmunity. the attack against the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. To be precise. From this point of view. It can be said that the immunitary mechanism supposes the externality of both evil. Indeed. When the immune system turns on itself. This logic does not act by excluding evil – in a terminology more similar to security mechanisms. had been put forward by Derrida when he asserted that pharmakon was the old name for the logic of autoimmunity. reproducing (in a controlled manner) the evil against which it seeks to protect itself. On this subject. Thus. that is. Derrida noted that an autoimmune process is a mechanism of the living being that “in an almost suicidal manner. 9/11 was the symptom of an autoimmune crisis and he proposes viewing politics itself within this logic. immunity should be understood as the refractoriness of an organism to the danger of contracting a contagious disease (Esposito 2002. The notion of immunity as a figure for thinking about political modernity had already been introduced by Jacques Derrida. Death as an antigen is essential and is included through its own exclusion. but rather introjecting it. for Derrida. Analysing those events. to gain immunity against ‘its own’ immunity” (Derrida 2003. its own protections. in the sense that the immune system takes on whatever is threatening it. not only in the sense that from it is derived the very need for immunisation. if its aim is to prevent death in order to strengthen life – the introduction of death is always necessary. modern aspect is the change that leads from “natural” immunity to an “acquired” or actively produced immunity. the difference between immunity and autoimmunity is not so clear. the paradox of biopolitics or the thanatological becoming of biopolitics. they are linked by a deep relationship and autoimmunity is no more than a radicalisation of immunity.16). so the “disease” is included to exclude it or. p. and the antigen. but the normal tendency of any immune system: the normality (of the immune system) is (autoimmune) crisis. of risk or danger – but through a neutralisation. in other words. Esposito considers that the figure of autoimmunity was already implicit in the homeopathic principle of the concurrence of cure and poison which. the autoimmune crisis. it is not an exceptional malfunction of the normal immune mechanism. However. p.

causes degeneration. p. in view of all the foregoing. However. For the purposes of this article. to ensure survival. on the contrary. that is the value of the figure of immunity. Security mechanisms All these paradoxical actions of the immune system have remained on the margins of Foucault’s argument about the two functions of racism in biopolitical modernity: breaking up the biological continuum and establishing a direct relationship between life and death. of the Nazi regime’s terrible conception of genocide as a therapy. but the very life of the whole population. If what one seeks to eliminate is precisely that Great Death that corrodes the individual or social organism from within. especially. variolation. and vaccination. Thus. Vernichtung). According to Foucault. Think. in order to prevent a possible full-blown disease. it enables an analysis of the paradoxical structure of biopolitics (and therefore of death. death was both remedy and poison. its particular ways of updating itself. without the need to rely on the notion of racism. Nazism. is this typical morphology that encompasses mechanisms ranging from vaccination to the economic governance of scarcity by physiocrats? What structural analogy exists between mechanisms that artificially produce a “small disease” in the population. but under such conditions that cancellation could happen at the very moment of a vaccination which did not result in a full-blown disease” (Foucault 2004a. closely tied to this double death and its infinite echoes. but as its mirror image.). the authors who have analysed that figure have largely overlooked the lecture given by Foucault in 1978. the Nazi regime. degeneration theory. etc. variolation “did not seek to prevent smallpox but. not so much as a thanatological exception of biopolitics. in order to safeguard life from disease and death. it was exposed to death as a principle of regeneration in a monstrous autoimmune crisis. p. turning on itself. anomalies. a moment of autoimmunity and suicide. However. life is gambled on the margins of two types or faces of death: that which must be avoided and that which must necessarily occur. it pushed its immune mechanism to the point that it became suicidal. cause smallpox in inoculated individuals. What. one must respond by eliminating it. we have called the immunitary function. pulling itself into the implacable logic of autoimmunity. . a moment of immunity and homicide. Territory. If we think of inoculation. it was no longer just part of the population or biological continuum that had to be exposed to the holy fire of death. then. mass annihilation. a type of typical morphology.234). In other words.. As we know. its individual apparatuses. Population. it enables us to describe the functioning of a general technology of power. an inclusive exclusion. in Esposito’s terms. derived from racism as a specific apparatus. as the figure of immunity emphasises the contradictory play between the protection and negation of life. for example. precisely. entitled Security. points out that variolation and vaccination integrate and intersect with the other security mechanisms through a type of structural analogy. and then. etc. our digression to explore the workings of immunity and autoimmunity has allowed us to get closer to the bio-thanato-political paradox that Foucault referred to repeatedly from 1974 (in positive iatrogenesis. we can ask ourselves whether what Foucault calls security mechanisms in the lectures might already describe the figure of an immunitary machine. operates in each of the security mechanisms. As Foucault pointed out back in 1976. of the entire body it is intended to defend” (Esposito 2004. The rule of a power that preserves life is the exception that annihilates it.79). It is this morphology that. beyond its specific bases. detached from any base. first. between one’s own life and one’s own death. a dose of death in life itself. a mechanism that does not operate by means of simple exclusion but through neutralisation. and those other economic/political mechanisms that seek to tackle the problems of scarcity and a hungry population? That typical morphology is the morphology created by the articulation that excludes the negative element of the relationship through its inclusion.The biopolitical paradox: population and security mechanisms 397 always involves the incorporation of the negative. Foucault. There. this logic is illustrative of the functioning of all security mechanisms. between one’s own life and the death of the biological other. introducing a small evil into it. it is clear that they are mechanisms of power that perform the function which. was crushed in its own cogs. The delirious dream of the immunitary mechanism: kill Death to ensure life.3 This absence is problematic as. co-opts each of © UNESCO 2013. In the biopolitical and immune mechanism. through self-destruction. the phenomenon of autoimmunity is its confirmation and radicalisation: “the destruction.

excluded the updating of scarcity. although it is deadly. however. without associating it with any particular base. the result will be a gain of several thousand people. but each of the phenomena that are neutralised by the security mechanisms. which may be found to different degrees in each of the mechanisms and apparatuses in which the population and its phenomena are put at stake. In those lectures.79). If the sovereign tried to prevent leprosy by excluding lepers and to pass laws banning hunger. We could call it an immunitary machine. this is an immunological and homeopathic therapy. Deathbringing power is already a presupposition of the mechanisms themselves. including its strong and useful elements. geographical.66–68). . Thus. introducing hunger among the “people” (non-lethal dose of scarcity) and excluded the smallpox epidemic by introducing the smallpox virus into the whole population (in non-lethal doses).67–68). as it kills children in the cradle. they neutralise it. inoculation. the danger is less because smallpox is a generalised eruption and inoculation affects only a small part of the surface of the skin” (apud Foucault 2004a. – do not need it as a technique and strategy that. makes it possible to put into practice the function of death. whereas smallpox affects the whole population. the abstract and frictionless machinery of power. there will be certain levels of deaths. This typical morphology. rather a strictly biopolitical logic: hunger and its lethal effect on the “people” were necessary to safeguard the life of the “population” (Foucault 2004a. A whole logic of immunity can be seen clearly in this argument. in statistics and probabilities. Security mechanisms safeguard the population against a phenomenon. diseases and accidents that are normal for each (age. According to Esposito. In effect. As security mechanisms take the population as both a means and end. the lecturers given by Foucault in 1978 reveal a painstaking analysis of the functioning of the bio-thanato-political paradox that these security mechanisms involve and of the whole logic of safeguarding (and immunity). security mechanisms. maybe it is worth keeping the Foucauldian concept of security mechanisms. in the sense that Esposito refers to the immunity paradigm. Just as inoculation only affects a portion of the skin’s surface and smallpox the whole body. how inoculation was theoretically justified in the eighteenth century by Daniel Bernoulli. who asserted in his Essai d’une nouvelle analyse de la mortalité. in its dual function. pp. in Foucault’s terms. as security mechanisms do. fragmenting the continuum of the population without that necessarily supposing a bellicose or racial logic. racism no longer appears as a necessary element for updating the death-bringing function in a biopolitical context. so that the phenomenon cancels itself. it is preferable to smallpox which causes the death of adults who have become useful to society. a relationship between the life of the population as an objective and death. Thus. both at the biomedical level of variolation and at the economic/political level of physiocratic mechanisms. defines the abstract form in which a general technology of power operates.398 Emiliano Sacchi those specific apparatuses. but also of limiting them to certain very particular phenomena. adopting that approach could have the effect not only of giving the analysis great precision regarding the way these mechanisms function. it is not only death that unfurls like the Greek pharmakon. p. which expresses this “logic of immunity” and more. they can use the population and its biological phenomena as an instrument. while it is true that the generalisation of inoculation risks replacing the great epidemics with a permanent state of endemic disease. the mechanism generates. © UNESCO 2013. through its inclusion. as in the case of scarcity. it can be said that the inoculated disease affects a small proportion of the population. etc. in 1766. however. Let us see. now. When this whole game is put in series of series. children. they exclude it through itself. the definition of a caesura in the continuum of the population and establishes a direct relationship between its death and life. The safeguarding mechanisms – the physiocratic anti-scarcity apparatus. physiocratic thought introduced a caesura between the relevant level and the irrelevant or non-instrumental level of the population (the “people”). the physiocrats tried to find in the very phenomenon of scarcity the conditions for it to cancel itself (Foucault 2004a. This death is both the Great Death that must be eliminated and the smaller-scale (controlled and contained) death that must be instrumentalised. Indeed. if the disciplines sought to curb the spread of the plague by curing the sick or monitoring contagion and to eliminate scarcity by regulating transactions ad infinitum. pp. with statistical arguments (a fundamental technique of biopolitics). that: “if inoculation is adopted. that is. on the other hand. So.

p. giving Life a whole new autonomy that had not existed previously. Thus. these last shifts should be taken into account given that they enable a retrospective reading of the development of the notion in Foucault and are essential to understand current biopolitical mechanisms. Even though individuals are all that exists.The biopolitical paradox: population and security mechanisms 399 occupational. life is just one of those phenomena. But. In parallel. can neutralise itself. miasmas from cities. redefine the notion. although all individual variations are possible and are only put to the test after they have appeared in a given environment. anything that means risk. after the appearance of evolutionism.) series and infinitesimal general and specific caesuras will proliferate around the population. and eventually leads him to pose the question of governmentality. in order to understand the scientific rationality of biopolitics. which ties in with a long presence of the theme of governance in Foucault (government of the insane. in view of the aforementioned shifts. albeit the most important one. In this way. If biology cannot be thought of before Cuvier (Foucault 1966). there was a very simple reason for it: that life itself did not exist” (Foucault 1966. Rather. the environment as the space for natural selection – sets out all the elements of a scientific and political rationality that is decisive for the analysis of modern biopolitics. breaking open the narrow limits of racism: whenever an apparatus is proposed to protect the population from any risk. it can be said that. However. gave rise to the need to abandon or. the continuation of the type through differential reproduction rates. danger (scarcity. everything came together to demonstrate the contingency of living beings and their formation.128). a danger that. biopolitics was located between the environment and © UNESCO 2013. accidents. In other words. death. population is not a scientific problem before Darwin. Life became a fundamental problem at the end of the eighteenth century. for Foucault. . On this point. all of them different. continuity. However. raison d’état. but that. given that the laws of variation and evolution cannot be deduced from them alone. but they do not realize that biology did not exist then. taken to its extreme. Thus. it becomes more difficult to bring biopolitics back to its relationship with something like “life”. Once the ideas of need.). a singular pharmakon. In this way. . it is not only life and death that are at play in these mechanisms. whether understood as zoe or as bios. what was that object of knowledge for Darwin? It was no longer living individuals. Christian pastoral work). the bio-thanato-political paradox clearly ramifies into each security apparatus. as only the totality of the organisms that live and succeed each other in time was of interest. And that. if its redefinition is preferable to its abandonment. we believe that the lack of interest in the immunity reading in these shifts gives rise to misunderstandings. . at least. through the safeguarding procedures. identifying it as a hazard. that means: only the population lives. Schematically then. . which is the framework within which Foucault presents the birth of biopower. series of individuals. the expansion of biopolitics through this figure. if we are to continue the reflection on biopolitics. can also be its own cure. each time. it is useful to bear in mind these two events in the history of science. Everything that denies and strengthens the population is at play. statistics as its method of analysis.5 Only those types have a strictly biological reality and. etc. exclude itself inclusively. evolution theory liberated the living world from all transcendence and any factor that could not be known. there will be an apparatus designed to fragment the continuum of the population and define the relevant level and the purely instrumental level. every new object or range of objects that the security mechanisms highlight in reality.4 Biopolitics gradually opens the way for a genealogy of the ways of governing populations (Polizei. the struggle for existence is no more than a struggle for reproduction. Every danger. when deployed against itself. when a new configuration overturned the old space of natural history once and for all. which has as its poles the population and security mechanisms. summarised into an average. rendering it visible and expressible. Life was neither expressible nor visible to the classical episteme: “historians want to write histories of biology in the eighteenth century. etc. but a series of phenomena concerning the population. evolution theory – with the population as its biological reality. of children.). it seems more accurate to examine the link between the bios of bio-politics and population in the modern knowledge/power complex. According to Foucault. All that existed were living beings in the series of all creatures that form Universal Harmony. and harmony in the living world had been rejected. if biology was unknown. transformed into an objective and an instrument of biopolitics. etc. but rather the population. is. disease. the classification of living forms is based only on types.

succinctly. as a biological problem and as power’s problem” (Foucault 1976. More precisely: with population as a problem that is at once scientific and political. it is in order to be able to understand that transformations are currently occurring. p. that is. Foucault said: “Bio-politics deals with the population. might in fact have been a deliberate omission.400 Emiliano Sacchi the population. nowadays. genetics) entail a redefinition of life and the living. that does not mean that the mechanisms that Foucault described and whose paradoxical logic we have attempted to present in this paper have become obsolete. for Foucault. On this subject. Although Esposito did not refer to the 1978 lecturers in his works dedicated to the question of biopolitics. it is neither the individual nor the population nor the individual and his or her descendants. 3. By maintaining this reference. Moreover. he paid considerable attention to them © UNESCO 2013. but increasingly common for them to be located in a new dimension which is a result of those transformations. which Esposito identifies as a problematic absence. it can be understood why Foucault’s evasion of a definition of the notion of “life”. However. the terrible scene of entire populations that have become dispensable and disposable proves that. it becomes possible to make out the features of today’s biopolitical apparatuses. With regard to this last point. of its sudden appearance in the disposition of knowledge and a genealogy of its emergence in the apparatuses of power. in the historical framework that Foucault assigns to biopolitics. if we have stressed the need to understand that. life is only real as a phenomenon of a population. how they combine with modern security mechanisms and with what specific logics they do so. within the framework of the modern knowledge-power. as they can alter the programme of a living being before it appears in a given environment and they no longer need to operate on the environment as a way of accessing the organism. in his prologue to the book Il goberno delle vite: Biopolitica ed economia by Laura Bazzicalupo. one can understand the modern specificity of biopolitics. retrospectively. it can be stated that since the technical and epistemological development of the life sciences in the twentieth century. Lemkin set about giving a name to the nameless.g. Therefore. Thus. Investigating what new biopolitical mechanisms are operating in the biomolecular dimension of life. there is no avoiding the fact that the bios of bio-politics refers to the population because. on the contrary. The current discussion of biopolitics seems to disregard the ruptures pointed out by the archaeology of knowledge that Foucault never abandoned.254).. Notes 1. it has become less and less common for present-day biopolitical mechanisms to be located between the environment and the population. Obviously. Therefore. however much the question of the population ultimately involves. In this way. but a new dimension of life that is at stake in contemporary biopolitical apparatuses. thinking – beyond biopolitics – about the figure of modern governmentality. the birth of the concept can be precisely dated: after Churchill’s statement in 1941 that the crime being perpetrated by the Nazis was “a crime that has no name”. . its increasingly broad expansion into a series of apparatuses that are unrelated but isomorphic in terms of their security rationality. of the population and consequently the organism. This omission contrasts with Foucault’s emphasis on population and his numerous attempts in pursuit of an archaeology. the population is both the object of knowledge and the target of power. but systematically recommenced in the light of his genealogical research. in the lecturers he gave in 1976. insofar as alteration of the environment gives rise to the modification of types. we consider that biopolitics should be questioned through the coupling of knowledge and power. 2. One particular person is behind the specific concept of genocide: Raphael Lemkin. All references correspond to the Spanish editions. biopolitical apparatuses operate with such greater force than in the past that they are both reinforced and complicated by new mechanisms that superimpose and attach themselves to those that already exist. and therefore of biopolitics. with them. the techniques of contemporary biology (e. indeed. is the challenge that must be tackled. These techniques operate in a dimension prior to selection. and in 1943 coined the term “genocide” (Lemkin 1933).

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