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The biopolitical condition: re-thinking the ethics of political violence in life-politics

Schwarz, Elke (2013) The biopolitical condition: re-thinking the ethics of political violence in life-politics. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This project interrogates how the biopolitical rationale conditions our contemporary subjectivities, politics and ethics, in order to critique the ethical justifications of technology driven practices of political violence put forth in present counter-terrorism struggles. Employing the work of Hannah Arendt, and her insights into life-politics and technology to construct a biopolitical lens that adds to traditional Foucaultian analyses of biopolitics, my original contribution to knowledge is thus twofold in a) elaborating core aspects of an Arendtian theory of biopolitics, with which then to b) identify the theoretical underpinnings of biopolitically informed forms of ethics in emerging practices of technology-driven political violence. While a number of scholars have drawn on Arendt for the analysis of the biopolitical dimensions of contemporary violence, a systematic independent account of her work on biopolitical trajectories and technologies remains under-developed in current scholarship. In this work, I suggest that the Arendtian life-politics account allows us to recognise a duality at work in the biopolitical shaping of subjectivities: the politicisation and technologisation of zoe, on one hand, and the ‘zoeficiation’ of politics on the other. It is this duality that conditions the human, politics, and the role and justifcations of violence in modernity. Within these two umbrella categories, the project addresses the equally under-examined but pressing question of the ethics of technology-driven modalities of political violence in a contemporary context and argues that a biopolitically informed rationale of ethics occludes the possibility to engage with ethics as a perpetual and ever-anew arising and political demand that must be taken responsibility for. The analysis in this work unfolds in two parts to draw out and critically address the biopolitically informed ethical rationales of political violence. The first part engages closely with Arendt’s work to establish the theoretical framework of biopolitics for the project’s central analysis. The second part then departs from an exposition of Arendt’s work and draws on this framework to highlight and critique the implications of biopolitically infused subjectivities, politics, violence and ethics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Elke Schwarz
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hutchings, Kimberly

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