Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Werewolves in the Immunitary Paradigm

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Werewolves in the Immunitary Paradigm

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

The biopolitical perspective initiated by Michel Foucault highlights the limitations of traditional categories of political philosophy to explicate power relations. As Foucault notes, power "produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourses. It needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body, much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression."1 Power is a vast technology that crosses all social relations; it can produce both subjects and subjectivities.

Based on this point, we will consider monstrosity as a political category2 that allows us to conceive the way in which biopower produces subjectivities. Monstrosity can be understood in two ways: in the negative sense it can be taken as subjectivities that are the negative converse of the "useful and docile"3 bodies. Consequently, monstrosity becomes an objective of biopower that aims to neutral ize and eliminate it. However, monstrosity can also be taken in a positive sense as subjectivities that resist appropriation by biopower and create life in common.4

The category of monstrosity reveals a semantic ambiguity as it consists of an inherent tension between the negative and positive meanings. These are related by the exercise of power in a specific direction. For the negative orientation, we can use the expression "politics over monstrosity"-stressing over-and "politics of monstrosity"-stressing of-for the positive direction.

In this article we are going to focus on politics over monstrosity, that is, on the subjectivities that are constituted as monsters by power because they cannot be integrated into (captured by) the logic of normalization, whose aim is homogenization, or subsumed under classifications in binary oppositions-such as, male/female and capitalist/worker.5 These subjectivities can be seen as a way of life, a negative way of life, which can be observed in the expressions "life unworthy of being lived" outlined by Giorgio Agamben or the "life without grievability" according to Judith Butler,6 for example.

We would like to refer to an old metaphor which allows us to understand the inherent relation between State and monstrosity, when monstrosity is introduced in the State. That is, the werewolf metaphor, which summarizes the meaning of a sentence used by Thomas Hobbes:7 "homo homini lupus," man is a wolf to man. We will thereby focus on the monstrosity that the human being represents, and not on the Leviathan, which is usually recognized as a political monster.8

Even though Hobbes is hostile to the use of metaphors in sciences,9 he uses them extensively. As Robert Stillman argues, "Hobbes is fond of metaphors of the monstrous, and his employment of them, especially in crucial accounts of his own vocational ambitions, is recurrent and revealing."10 However, this should not be seen as a contradiction in his thought, but rather as a rhetorical strategy.11 In this respect, we note that Hobbes only refers to the Leviathan three times in the voluminous book that takes this name. In a similar way, although the sentence "homo homini lupus" is used only once by Hobbes, this idea imbued his anthropological conception.

Hobbes's thought is relevant from a biopolitical perspective as he was the first philosopher to demonstrate the direct relation between life and politics.12 Politics is perceived as a protection against violent death, which is the cause of fear among men. It is out of fear of being murdered, which can be interpreted as political existentialism, that men create the State. In this sense, politics is understood as conservatio vitae, a preservation of life against the constant threat of death in the state of nature.

In this paper, we do not intend to analyze Hobbes's political theory but rather to look at the werewolf figure, which allows us to understand monstrosity from a biopolitical paradigm. This figure has traditionally been conceived as a mix of species, a combination of human and beast and, as Jeffrey Cohen indicates, the werewolf can express the radical difference between men and beasts or a hesitation during which, what is supposed to be contrastive remains coexistent, indifferent. …

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