Roberto Exposito and Affirmative Bio-politics

Michel Foucault teaches that control and surveillance over bodies increased in the seventeenth century with the rising tide of epidemics. This surveillance of the bodies alongside global pandemic has developed in an immunological paradigm. We can see a new immunological thinking in the work Roberto Exposito and Italian thinker. It does not see immunology as a protection from expropriation of the good life (bios) of the individual and the community. Byung-Chul Han, a South Korean born, German thinker debunks immunological thinking in his book, Burnout Society. I also embrace de-immunological thinking. But to arrive at critical de-immunological mode of thinking, we have to come to the political theory of Exposito as he does raise important questions that centre around politics and immunization effort, borders and spectres of totalitarianism. Our denture into the thought of Exposito may give us insight how what is named as Hindu Nationalism or other ethnic nationalisms elsewhere are forms of immunological thinkings which attempts to immunize against the other who is demonized and thought as afflicting the body of our nation.

Exposito challenges the notion of person and thinks that what we deem as success of the political discourse of human rights is founded on the notion of person and is actually the manifestation of its failure. He says that notion of person has come out of the notion of individual freedom. Hence, he argues that to experience fullness of personhood one is led to keep or push the other living individuals to edge of thingness. This is why he favours the philosophy of the impersonal. He thinks that the very notion of the person leads us to the denial of the same in others. This is because he says that the notion of human person is still exercising its performative power of creating a split, a separation between rights and life. It leads us to construe that some people are ultimately more human than others. The caste inequality as well as discrimination of Hindutva politics is one such a manifestation where some are of more dignity then others. Perhaps, we too need to embrace the philosophy of the impersonal to redeem ourselves from casteism and politics of discrimination in our society.

Exposito proposes his impersonalism to counter the reigning Immunological thinking. He says that the philosophies of the second person ( You) get trapped in the philosophy of the first person. I is always directed to the You whom it addresses as You , similarly there is no you without the I who separates the You from itself . The third person escapes this dialectics of recognition . The third person ,however, opens the possibility of being a non-person and assists us to develop a philosophy of the non-person. This philosophy places beneath apparent person the power of the impersonal which is not a generality but singularity at the highest order. Thus, the philosophy of the third person centres the haecceity ( unique thisness) of an individual. It is too soon to declare that this turn made my Exposito will rescue the project of human rights. Thus, we can notice that Exposito’s effort to bring immunity to the project of human rights. His philosophy of the third person is an attempt at a new spacing ( Jacques Derrida) aimed at disassociating and dislocating the philosophies of the first person and the second person from the project of the human rights.

Exposito, thus, demonstrates that it is the philosophy of the person that once immunized the rhetoric of human rights and is becoming today ncreasingly untenable. His philosophy of the third person is impolitical politics. Hence, he tries to rethink immunological thinking. His rethinking of the immunological is indeed insightful. He moves away from the immunological thinking that seeks to protect what is thought or deemed as proper of community by means of exclusionary practices. To him an immune system is a not a exclusionary barrier but a filter for the inner and the outer. His thinking in the third person takes us to life ( Bios) and assist us to see the socios with favor.

May be we can take biological medical notion of immunity to understand the kind of immunological thinking that Exposito abandons . Just like our biological body needs immunization to protect what is proper for its internal harmony, balance and integrity, so too the political body of a society requires immunization from the external improper. This form of immunological thinking of a community leads to the conversion of the community into a militant fortress. This is because the immunological apparatus creates a mythological sense of unification. This myth makes it difficult to distinguish the inside and the outside. The inside is already marked by what it wants to exclude and becomes a xenophobic community. Exposito, therefore, tell us that we have to ,therefore, return to the regime of the common which is replaced by the regime of the proper after Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Rousseau in political thinking which gave the individual what is proper in the community. It, therefore, developed politics around the individual and the state. Hence, Exposito critiques the proper and immunological paradigm and proposes affirmative freedom.

He thinks of the community as what is not one’s own. This means the community can only be experienced as loss. It voids one’s identity rather than fulfils it. Hence, he challenges us to give up immunizing models that lock individuals or collectives and embrace de-immunological open community. Thus, to him freedom is not what one has which then has to be immunized rather freedom is something that one is and can be. In the strict sense there is nothing that we can call freedom. One is not really free. One can only become free. Doing this, Exposito , places freedom in the locus of difference, plurality and alterity away from the modern sense of freedom that has its locus in dentity, belonging , appropriation. Thus, freedom can only be experienced in a community that resists immunization. We in Indian are yet to be free in this sense.

Coming back to the common and leaving the shores of the proper, Exposito comes closer to the etymology of munus (Latin) which means exposure to otherness. Thus, expropriation of difference would mean denial of something positive and good and hence, is immunological in the true sense of the word. Thus, there is nothing proper to the self in the community. It is the munus, or the openness to otherness that makes both the individual and the community enjoy bios or life. Thus, moving away from the mainstream politics but staying within the immunological paradigm Exposito defines his politics as impolitical and claims that he grounds his politics in nothing and not in things but in affirmative biopolitics. When it comes to India, we have to think like the Buddha . This require us to think non-substantively and non-hierarchically what is common to all Indians. This will enable us to think beyond Hindutva that thinks that Hinduism and nothing else is proper to India. Hence, thought of Exposito does have emancipative dimension to our society.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao