The State of Exemption as a Paradigm of Government Response

I’ve generally associated modernity with the explosion of the urban populous because of and resulting in various other historical contexts.  However, thinking about modernity as characterized by the rise of political bodies now controlling the fate of physical bodies, Agamben has me, for the moment, convinced in the threshold of biopolitics as the driver of modern society as opposed to the urban condition and the economics behind consumerism. Demonstrating how all political parties, government systems and regimes engage in one way or another in a process of camp making and exclusion we can see how they are uniformly alike.  These powers, through exclusion and purification, seek to self-sustain and through their efforts of identity preservation strongly influence their cultural products.  It seems true that in all cases we’ve bought into a voluntary servitude of individuals to a system of objective power and in doing so we partake in this transformative process of exclusion that goes through cycles of purification creating divisions between people. 

However his argument, that the city is a product of camps, created by politics of inclusion casts an entirely alternative view to the construction of cities.  How cities are a direct product of camp making is a statement that is never developed with regards to zoe or bios.  As just described a camp nomos, or system of experiences, is structured around politics’ -government, laws, officials, boundaries- ability to put lives in jeopardy or to control bodies by engaging in acts of division. As he puts it, “it is a place where government power confronts bare life with no mediator.”  To say that the city is a place where this control is exhibited is unfounded because I have never, while walking through the urban landscape, found myself unable to distinguish between the natural and the controlled, the law and the fact.

Moreover I have never felt a fear of the government’s grip in the city.  This is not to say that they do not have a grip or the ability to control at will, they do, and it is a fear illegal immigrants do contend with daily in this country. However, that power can be exercised at any level of population density and it is not in any way more apparent in the city than in rural conditions.  If anything the ability to escape the government, to exceed their reach should you find yourself and bare body in danger of this power (in the case of an illegal immigrant fearing exclusion and purification through deportation) is at its highest in the density of the urban. Simply put there are more places to hide and more people to stand with you.  This is why revolution and rioting against regimes in Egypt or Libya take place in urban contexts.  It could be said cities are the ultimate tool in replacing camp systems as opposed to Agamben who views camps and cities as one in the same. 

Homo Sacer is mentioned a few times, is it a specific type of individual within modern society or everyone within modern society?

The various ways in which zoe and bios interact are numerous, is there as specific one which he argues for or does he argue for a return to their separation?

Can we stop the cyclical purification in order to form identity without disrupting things we find as universally good? ie: if we stop deporting illegal immigrants is there a way to provide services for a populous saturated with lower income individuals or if we eradicate class warfare (communism) is there any way to create competition to produce the best products for the populous?  


About mhgoblue

Architecture Undergrad University of Michigan

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