CR: The New Centennial Review 19 (3):99-128 (2019)

Thomas Clément Mercier
University Adolfo Ibañez
In its hegemonic definition, biopolitical governmentality is characterised by a seemingly infinite capacity of expansion, susceptible to colonise the landscape and timescape of the living present in the name of capitalistic productivity. The main trait of biopower is its normative, legal and political plasticity, allowing it to reappropriate critiques and resistances by appealing to bioethical efficacy and biological accuracy. Under these circumstances, how can we invent rebellious forms-of-life and alternative temporalities escaping biopolitical normativity? In this essay, I interrogate the theoretical presuppositions of biopolitical rationality. I provide a deconstruction of the conceptual and temporal structures upholding the notion of biopolitics, in view of laying the ground for new forms of resistance. The articulation between life and power has a long philosophical history, which has been largely ignored by social theorists and political thinkers using biopolitics as an interpretative model. I re-inscribe this model within the tradition of critical materialism, by articulating Foucault’s ‘critical ontology’ to recent philosophical works on biological plasticity (Malabou). In these discourses, the logic of biopower depends on a representation of life – ‘the living’ – as living present. Biopower finds itself anchored in the authority of the present, that is to say, of being-as-presence (ontology); it sustains presentist definitions of life and materiality, be it under the form of a ‘plastic’ ontology. By drawing on Derrida’s notions of ‘spectrality’ and ‘life-death’ and Francesco Vitale’s work on ‘biodeconstruction’, I deconstruct these discourses on life and materiality and attempt to dissociate them from their ontological grounding, in order to suggest new paths of resistance to biopower. In particular, I follow the tracks of “the monster” in the work of Foucault, Derrida and Malabou. Foucault tells us that the monster is a singular figure, parasitic and subversive, beckoning a life beyond life, at once organic and non-organic, located at the limit between the normal and the exceptional, and exceeding the scope of biopolitical normativity in both theoretical and practical terms. It exists at the intersection of what Foucault names “the symbolics of blood” and “the analytics of sex”. As such, it materialises a self-transformative dimension of the living which remains, I argue, inadequate to Malabou’s representation of plasticity. The monstrous is a self-deconstructive motif calling for another biopolitical rationality, before or beyond ontological reductions or reconstructions.
Keywords Jacques Derrida  Michel Foucault  Catherine Malabou  Plasticity  Monster  Monstrosity  Power  Biopolitics  Biopower  Philosophy of life  Norms and normativity
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

View all 12 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Foucault’s Biopower and E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India.Mohsen Hanif & Maryam Madadizadeh - 2020 - Aisthesis. Pratiche, Linguaggi E Saperi Dell’Estetico 13 (1):101-114.
The World is One Great Hospital.David-Olivier Gougelet - 2010 - Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 18 (1):43-66.
State Racism and the Paradox of Biopower.Elisa Fiaccadori - 2015 - Foucault Studies 19:151-171.
FOUR / Biopolitics and the Concept of Life.Catherine Mills - 2020 - In Vernon W. Cisney & Nicolae Morar (eds.), Biopower: Foucault and Beyond. University of Chicago Press. pp. 82-101.
Biopower: Foucault and Beyond.Vernon W. Cisney & Nicolae Morar (eds.) - 2015 - University of Chicago Press.


Added to PP index

Total views
65 ( #176,373 of 2,507,887 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
47 ( #18,154 of 2,507,887 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes