Issue 1 – Crisis of European Biopolitics

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“It will be decided by them alone whether Europeans carry within themselves an absolute Idea, instead of being a mere anthropological grouping as we find in China or India; at the same time, it will be decided whether the spectacle of the Europeanisation of all foreigners has the courage to claim for itself an absolute sense and direction pertaining to the sense of the World, and not to a historical non-sense”

E. Husserl, Crisis of european sciences and transcendental phenomenology, (1936) §6


Humanity, Europeanisation, Historicity. Here are the three coordinates of the critical framework Husserl sketched out – almost as a premonition of things to come – in order to address the current state of the world just before the Second World War. Even so, they also function as the hypothetical coordinates of a clinical framework opening onto another vista, our own, one very different from that of The Crisis of European Sciences. In fact, if Husserl’s critical framework expressed the desire for a “return” to the subject’s “lifeworld” – itself originating from the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle –, today a number of questions present themselves, in regards to its contemporary relevance, and regarding our ability to update this critical framework. First of all, we must ask who currently functions as Husserl’s “civil servant of humanity”? Is it the courageous and subversive philosopher, or rather the poet, psychoanalyst, revolutionary, economist, manager, banker, migrant, Homo sacer, or the multitude?

1. As a matter of fact, the world today is no longer the one Husserl lived in, which is to say it is no longer unified, whereby the West acts as a “big family”, with its Father-Capital and its Mother-USA and/or Germany. However, if a return to the “lifeworld” is no longer thinkable today, we are justified in asking ourselves if we can salvage from Husserl’s work a form of responsibility beyond any possibility of return. Today, we are confronted with a proliferation of other avenues, of other community, economic, social, and family structures, which produce what we now call power: on the one hand, this points to the capacity to include the greatest possible array of forms of life and, on the other, to practices of exclusion coextensive with its very functioning. In these terms, one finds the need for a more in-depth critique of contemporary biopolitics, deriving from an interrogation of the becoming-other of bios. It is therefore a matter of analysing the non-European becomings of biosand of politics, drawing on both Post-Colonial Studies and Australian or Amerindian anthropology (Glowczewsky, Viveiros de Castro). This critique of biopolitics can – and must – become the starting point for a mode of thinking no longer exclusively centred on humanity, but which also includes the worlds of technics and of animality.

2. Overcoming the Husserlian paradigm requires an equally etymological, epistemological, and political reflection on the very concept of biopolitics. In this regard, we must distinguish between two “classical” senses of this notion, firstly a more encompassing one which subsumes under it the entire history of the relations between life and politics (Agamben), and another one which relates to the system of knowledge-power linked to the emergence of the biomedical domain (Foucault). On the one hand, these definitions need to be re-interrogated in light of the new technocratic apparatuses of Neo-liberal governmentality. On the other, they provoke a strategico-political question: if it is to be used as an instrument to intervene in and transform our lives, what are we to do with the double sense of the notion of biopolitics? This question enables us to search for answers at the level of collective action – rather than with un-contextualized (and thus unproductive) definitions – by engaging with the construction of both new channels for intervention and new forms of subjectivity which take on responsibility for such channels. To start with, we must diagnose the symptoms of our contemporary material and ideological sickness, since the impoverishment, proletarianization, and systematic stupidity produced by administrative strategies (as provoked by the current economic-financial crisis) render all resistance to capitalistic biopower ineffective (Negri-Hardt). To cope with these apparatuses we must therefore search for new social and political means to become “worthy of what happens to us”.

3. As it integrates new problematics into it – such as psychopower (Stiegler) and the growing automatisation of every aspect of our lives – the very notion of biopolitics is complicated by becoming both broader and more precise. The concept of the psychotechnics of the cultural industry (Adorno and Horkheimer) thus provides us with the problematic of psychopower, concerning the technics through which cognitive and libidinal processes are controlled by increasingly more calculable means. This applies particularly to individual and collective habits and behaviours. It is therefore a matter of an algorithmic governmentality (Rouvroy) coalescing around the convergence of different aspects of capitalism: cognitive, cultural, linguistic, financial, or libidinal. By emphasising the latter, we underline that analysing psychopower today requires a reformulation of the concepts of needand desire. The individual as “self-contractor”, following the managerial paradigm, is aware of this movement from a logic of need to a logic of the drive which is, all things considered, but an impoverishment of the social dimension of desire (Deleuze and Guattari).

4. On the plane of need, we are dealing in the West with a capitalism of austerity that corresponds, on the plane of desire, to a capitalism of misery, and at their meeting point what truly becomes impoverished is bios. What are affected are the three constitutive aspects of biopolitics as conceived of by Foucault: health, education, and work (as we can see in Greece, Spain, and Italy). The biopolitics of the State thus becomes the bio-economy of the Market, whose invisible band has been sequestered by the Troika and lead to commit veritable crimes against bios. It is mainly a matter of social crimes (the phrase “blood and tears” captures this well) that are themselves almost invisible, since the logic of TINA (“There is no alternative”) conceals their gravity by disguising them in sanctions that simultaneously bar all critique in the name of the Market’s functioning.

5. Another side of this invisible crime concerns the organisation of wars and of international conflicts by the apparatuses of power of the West. This gives rise to a reticular – later to become robotic – armed branch of this absolute power which puts “autonomous weapons systems” in place, in the name of the myth of a technological progress without alternative, epitomized today in the politics of the drone war (Chamayou). We thereby move from biopolitics to a kind of thanatopoliticslacking any agent responsible for its humanitarian crimes, to the extent that they are delegated to machines. It is a question of a technocratic strategy aiming for the dissolution – or domination – of conscious moral existence, and aiming to reprogram or eliminate it. Its lethal weapons having become autonomous, humanity has finally gained its own non-right to life.

6. For our present-day digital society, the question being posed to twenty-first century philosophy can be formulated as follows: how do we protect this conscious moral existence – this “place of life”, which has progressively lost its natural space – from the generalised automatisation of every aspect of every mode of existence, human and non-human? What are these “new weapons” which Deleuze and Guattari have spoken about? One way of approaching this is through the rehabilitation of “bioaesthetics” (Montani), which is to say through the analysis of the resistance to the processes that suffocate our shared ability to experience emotions. Despite being limited, unfortunately, to particular practices, is it possible for us to expand our capacity to defend ourselves – and battle – against the manipulation (and technical administration) of the senses, and against allan-aestheticisation, drying-up, and atrophying of emotional and cognitive processes?

7. One must also underline that an analysis of aesthetic experience cannot be neatly limited to the study of the individual in the private sphere, outside of any interaction with his or her community. The bioethical question of milieu implies the description of the transductions of experience between public and private, entailing an implicit yet crucial critique of today’s “flat ontologies” (DeLanda) and “irreductive” principles (Latour). A veritable “aesthetics of life” can no longer remain solely within a strict anthropological (or anthropocentric) framework, but must account for a plurality of degrees and dimensions of non-human and “preindividual” subjectivity.


All these questions, aligned on an axis both aesthetic and political, foreshadow a transition from a “biophilosophical logic of sense” to a “biopolitical logic of sensation” (Alliez). The research questions we suggest here, however, aim to define of the capacity to feel, as the means of instituting a new social dimension of desire. This starting point – these bio-psycho-techno-political conditions – forces us to practice what Deleuze called the art of control, which is to say the technics aimed at reversing mechanisms of surveillance. This is to be done by putting them to work for that which opposes the dominant power, and so as to invent new modes of living.


Suggested themes:

1. The current economic climate and its metamorphoses

Post-colonialism, post-humanism, financial crisis, and the financialisation of life.

2. Re-interpretation/Re-invention

New definitions, strategic reactions of movements and of collectives, symptomatologies of neo-liberalism.

3. Psychopower

Digital social networks, neuromarketing, algorithmic governmentality, libidinal exploitation

4. Bioeconomy

Job insecurity, the relation of Capital/Labour, communal goods, bitcoin

5. Thanatopolitics

Drones, international war scenarios, bioethics

6. Bioaesthetics

An-aestheticisation, symbolic misery, the “art of control”

7. Bìos beyond Man

Individual/communal bios, public/private experience, systems of machines, critique of anthropocentrism.


Deadline: February 1st, 2015

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La deleuziana Editorial board, in collaboration with Riccardo Baldissone and Alain Bonneau.