File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_2000/foucault.0004, message 6

Date: Fri, 07 Apr 2000 18:17:06 +1000
Subject: Re: biopower: Agamben/Foucault.

Hi, in response to your questions:

>Could you explain more exact whast he means by "bare life" and why the
book has
>the title
>homo sacer? I could be interested to look at the book.

'Homo Sacer' is a figure that Agamben finds in ancient Roman law and which
roughly translates as 'sacred man'.  Agamben argues though that the
sacredness of man does not have anything to do with the supposed sanctity
of life, or with holiness and so forth, but instead, of being impure and
having the characteristic of being that which can be killed with impunity.
Homo sacer is constituted as the legitimate object of violence since it is
a figure doubly excluded, that is, both from human and divine law.
Regarding bare life, it is a little bit hazy in Agamben's argument but I
think he proceeds through an association of homo sacer or sacred life to
that of bare life, natural life or zoe or what he considers to be only
included in politics through its exclusion.  Bare life pretty much means
what it literally states, but it maintains a peculiar position within the
history of sovereignty, since for Agamben it appears that it is the
original content of sovereign power.  Agamben's argument is quite involved
and I'm not sure I'm doing it justice here. I'd recommend having a look at
the book.

>Do Agamben draw a link between modern constructivism and biopolitics?
>If you mean by 'modern costructivism' the radical constructivist position
that some people derive from Foucault, I would say no.  He doesn't address
this explicitly here - he's more concerned with the historical operations
of biopolitics and sovereignty.  

Hope that's of some help to you.



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