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The concepts of powerlessness and vulnerability centred in the experience of life have often featured in political philosophical discourse as ways of rethinking not only issues of political subjectivity but also the concept of government in general. Life’s fragile and mortal demeanour offers itself, for the French philosopher, mystic and activist Simone Weil, as the main condition of existence. In her poetic and insightful Gravity and Grace, she observes that ‘the vulnerability of precious things is beautiful because vulnerability is a mark of existence’. (Weil, 2002, Gravity and Grace, p. 108.) For Michel Foucault, the same essential freedom that, is conceived in its relationship to agonism is what compels the subject to confront the fundamental question about the meaning of freedom, and by extension, of life itself under capitalist governmentality; ‘[this is] a relationship,’ he maintains, ‘at the same time reciprocal incitation and struggle’ (Dreyfus and Robinow, 1982, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, pp. 221–222). But the centrality of this relationship is perhaps most explicitly elaborated in Giorgio Agamben’s philosophical work whose persuasive analysis has grandiosely exposed human life as already having become a dispensable economic value, adhering to the logic of biopolitical governmentality. Indeed, his argument presents us with an invaluable reading of the passage from mere life to political life conceived as a necessary prerequisite for life’s entering the domain of politics. Grounding the workings of biopolitics on the exclusion and domination of mere life, Agamben locates the idea of ‘bare life’ at the centre of bio-political vulnerable life. ‘Bare life’, in this sense, emblematically represented by the figure of the ‘sacred human’, maps out the biopolitical terrain upon which sovereign power is exercised and by which human life is transformed into sacred—hence, perishable—life.
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