Originally posted on Progressive Geographies:
Abstract: Much has been written about bio-political sovereignty in the wake of Giorgio Agamben’s work, which relies, at least in the first volume of Homo Sacer, on Carl Schmitt’s transcendental account of sovereignty. I will argue, however, that Foucault and Arendt rightly identify what Derrida once called the “changing shape and place of sovereignty” in modernity, which for them is horizontal and disseminated within a presupposed nation. For this reason, we will look to the source of modern philosophical immanentism, Spinoza, to show that he is not extrinsic to this modern bio-politics, and demonstrates how the sovereign exception and its nationalized version work hand-in-glove in the era of which he was a part. In this way, we argue that it is Spinoza’s political theology, not Schmitt’s, that is the better pass-key to what Foucault and Arendt identify as biopolitical. By doing so, I put in tension two trends in recent Continental philosophy–philosophical vitalism and the critique of biopolitics–while raising questions about the use of political, if not ontological, forms of immanence.
Bio: Peter Gratton is a professor of Philosophy at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He has published widely in political, Continental, and intercultural philosophy and is the author of The State of Sovereignty: Lessons from the Political Fictions of Modernity (SUNY Press, 2012) and Speculative Realism (Continuum, forthcoming). Co-Editor of the influential interdisciplinary journal Society and Space, executive board member of the North American Sartre Society and other national philosophical societies, and area editor for Africana philosophy for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Peter has also edited Traversing the Imaginary (Northwestern University Press, 2007), co-edited with John Mannousakis, and Jean-Luc Nancy and Plural Thinking: Expositions of World, Politics, Art, and Sense (SUNY Press, 2012), co-edited with Marie-Eve Morin. Peter is currently a Research Fellow in the Humanities Centre at Australia National University.