January 23, 2009

Zizek: how to break with biopolitics In his introduction to the edited volume of Robespierre's writings, Zizek presents the radical stance of Lenin and Lacan (a stance that does not search for cover for the revolutionary act in the big Other) as the only possibility that allows us to break with today's predominant mode of politics, post-political biopolitics, which is a politics of fear, formulated as a defense against a potential victimization or harassment. Therein resides the true line of separation between radical emancipatory politics and the politics of the status quo: it is not the difference between two different positive visions, sets of axioms, but, rather, the difference between the politics based on a set of universal axioms and the politics which renounces the very constitutive dimension of the political, since it resorts to fear as its ultimate mobilizing principle: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of the excessive state itself (with its burdensome taxation), fear of ecological catastrophes--such a (post)politics always amounts to a frightening rallying of frightened men. Questions: 1. In what sense is biopolitics a politics of fear and in what sense is this a fear of potential victimization? Within a Zizekian frame of the decline of symbolic efficiency, we would have fragile imaginary subjects always competing and never certain and thus always vulnerable. It's not clear to me, though, what (if anything) specifically underlies the notion of biopolitics mentioned here. If we bring Foucault in here, we can fill out the notion of state-phobia. We...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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