Improper Life: Technology and Biopolitics from Heidegger to Agamben (Posthumanities)

Improper Life: Technology and Biopolitics from Heidegger to Agamben (Posthumanities)

Timothy C. Campbell

Language: English

Pages: 232

ISBN: 0816674655

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Has biopolitics actually become thanatopolitics, a field of study obsessed with death? Is there something about the nature of biopolitical thought today that makes it impossible to deploy affirmatively? If this is true, what can life-minded thinkers put forward as the merits of biopolitical reflection? These questions drive Improper Life, Timothy C. Campbell’s dexterous inquiry-as-intervention.

Campbell argues that a “crypto-thanatopolitics” can be teased out of Heidegger’s critique of technology and that some of the leading scholars of biopolitics—including Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Peter Sloterdijk—have been substantively influenced by Heidegger’s thought, particularly his reading of proper and improper writing. In fact, Campbell shows how all of these philosophers have pointed toward a tragic, thanatopolitical destination as somehow an inevitable result of technology. But in Improper Life he articulates a corrective biopolitics that can begin with rereadings of Foucault (especially his late work regarding the care and technologies of the self), Freud (notably his writings on the drives and negation), and Gilles Deleuze (particularly in the relation of attention to aesthetics).

Throughout Improper Life, Campbell insists that biopolitics can become more positive and productively asserts an affirmative technē not thought through thanatos but rather practiced through bíos.




















that goes under the name of Enframing (Gestellen). The Lexicon of Life Any discussion of Agamben and Heidegger surely must begin with the opening distinction that Agamben makes between bíos and zoē in Means without End. Ours will be no different: The Greeks had no single term to express what we mean by the word “life.” They used two terms that, although traceable to a common etymological root, are semantically and morphologically distinct: zoē, which expressed the simple fact of living

of the hand: Heidegger’s reading of “Homecoming/To Kindred Ones” from 1942, published in Elucidations on Hölderlin’s Poetry; 1954’s “The Question Concerning Technology”; and finally, his “Letter on Humanism” from 1947. The term in question is technē and its derivative technology.3 The second term is nearly as familiar to contemporary readers, though it is rarely, if ever, named in connection with Heidegger’s thought. I’m speaking of biopolitics, the seemingly never-ending inscription of biology

equation of security with individual forms of life. Sloterdijk’s formulation emphasizes less the Hobbesian Leviathan of the sovereign or state who protects the body politic’s members and instead evokes the intense pages of Of Man, in which Hobbes puts forward a notion of extraordinary power as good “because it is useful for protection, and protection provides security.”30 Sloterdijk, much like Hobbes, and Schmitt before him, also sees the increase in individual protection as good because the

repressed: In this characterization, Broch’s narrative art is held to rest upon the discovery of atmospheric multiplicities, through which the modern novel was able to go beyond mere representations of individual destinies. Its subject is no longer individuals in their entangled actions and experiences, but rather the extended entity of individual and breathing space. Its plots no longer take place between people, but between respiratory economies and their respective residents. The ecological

71 Crary, Techniques of the Observer, 18. 72 Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), 13–14. 73 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Attention and Judgment,” in Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London: Routledge, 1962), 30. 74 Ibid., 31. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid., 34. 77 Compare Francis Bacon’s perspective on clichés: “It would be much better to abandon oneself to clichés, to collect them, accumulate them, multiply

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