Biopolitics As Method

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Emanuele LEONARDI, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal
The paper aims at delineating a general methodological framework – defined biopolitics as method – through which a situated object of study (in this case the current environmental crisis) can be politically investigated. Michel Foucault's notion of biopolitics, in fact, allows for the elaboration of a simultaneously ontological and epistemological grid of intelligibility which is potentially able to fruitfully articulate the productive frictions between the formal status of theory and its historical consistency. In particular, the newly articulated concept of population whose peculiar naturalness opens up a new field of power intervention – the environment – which will be defined as the permanent negotiation between natural and historical determinations.

Foucault's “biopolitical hypothesis” is discussed in depth and subsequently problematized in its methodological implications. As a red thread, the research question which is deployed is the following: how can a biopolitical framework help us in defining the specific features of the ecological crisis? To properly answer, the paper proposes a methodological understanding of the notion of biopolitics based on some revisions to it proposed by Giorgio Agamben and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Through a critical discussion of some of their philosophical formulations, a (post)Marxist-Foucauldian methodology is proposed. It is grounded on three fundamental assumptions: a) the simultaneously ontological and historical character of the concept of freedom in the late Foucault; b) the politico-epistemological explanatory power provided by the notion of antagonistic tendency as elaborated by the Italian workerist tradition, and lately popularised by Hardt and Negri; c) the philosophical articulation of the relation between ontology and politics such as the one proposed by Agamben, in which the two elements are thought as distinct but inseparable: they are not the same thing, but outside of their relation they lose their meaning as theoretical categories.