Roberto Esposito’s ‘Affirmative Biopolitics’ and the Gift

Theory, Culture and Society 33 (2):53-76 (2016)
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Abstract

This article develops the affirmative biopolitics that Roberto Esposito intimates in his trilogy – Communitas, Immunitas and Bı´os. The key to this affirmative biopolitics lies in the relationship between the munus, a form of gift that is the root of communitas and immunitas, and the gift discourse that developed throughout the 20th century. The article expands upon Esposito’s interpretation of four theoretical sources that are crucial to his biopolitical perspective: Mauss and the gift-exchange tradition; Hobbes’s social contract theory, which Esposito presents as the anti-gift that founded modernity’s thanatopolitical ‘immunization paradigm’; Bataille’s dangerous concept of sacrifice, which gestures toward an affirmative biopolitical community; and, finally, Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay, L’Intrus, which reflects on the near-decade Nancy lived as the recipient of the gift of a transplanted heart. This discussion of Mauss, Hobbes and Bataille is used to further develop Esposito’s interpretation of L’Intrus in a manner that supports his conception of an affirmative biopolitics ‘of, not over, life’.

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Thomas Tierney
College of Wooster

References found in this work

Empire.Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri - 2000 - Science and Society 67 (3):361-364.
Why Giorgio Agamben is an optimist.Sergei Prozorov - 2010 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (9):1053-1073.

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