Introduction to the politics of life: a biopolitical mess

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  • Bird, G. & Lynch, H. (2019) Introduction to the politics of life: a biopolitical mess

    Rights statement: Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). This is the a post-peer review, pre-copy edited version of the article published in European Journal of Social Theory and may differ slightly from the final published version of the work. This work is made available in line with the publisher policy.

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Early online date24 Apr 2019
StateE-pub ahead of print - 24 Apr 2019


This introduction to our special issue focuses on the messiness of biopolitics. The biopolitical is a composite mixture of heterogeneous, and sometimes conflicting, forces, discourses, institutions, laws, and practices that are embedded in and animated by material social relations. In the now extensive literature on biopolitics, our biopolitical era is characterized by the blending and mixing of what were previously thought of as separate realms: life is biologized, politics is biologized and biology is politicized, life and politics have been economized, and making life is intertwined with making death. This paper provides a general overview of two strains of these biopolitical entanglements. We begin by examining the largely French and Italian focus on how politics and life have become economized in contemporary neoliberalism. We then turn to the largely Anglo-American focus on the biologization of life. We conclude by taking up the central problem that arises from the messiness of biopolitics: whither the political of the biopolitical economy of life? Is there such a thing as the political proper in our era? If not, then what type of politics must be deployed to address the issues of our biopolis?


  • anthropocene, posthumanism, necropolitics, biopolitics, homo oeconomicus, Foucault, geontopolitics

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