Nietzsche: Critical theory, genealogy and the question of biopolitics

Researcher: Vanessa Lemm

Proyecto Semilla 2007-2008.
Universidad Diego Portales


In the western tradition of political thought, politics has often been conceived as a mechanism to protect human life against the animality of human beings. The question of whether social and political organization is inseparable from power over animal life, and power over the body, is a fundamental theme in the conception of domination found in the programmatic work of the Frankfurt School, Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s “Dialectic of Enlightenment”. It is also a theme in the genealogical work of Foucault who coins the terms of bio-politics and bio-power in order to describe the change of orientation that politics undergoes starting in the baroque period, when the management of the biological life of populations becomes the foremost goal of the state. In a first moment this research project intends to examine the relation between these two theories of power over life or bio-power by focusing on the role played by Nietzsche’s philosophy of life and animality in both Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s “Dialectic of Enlightenment” as well as in Foucault’s understanding of genealogy and its relation to bio-politics. My hypothesis is that Nietzsche’s critique of morality, understood as a practice that requires the separation of human life from animal life and the subsequent domination of the latter, provides the basic framework common to the ideas of domination developed by critical theory and genealogy, two of the central political philosophical discourses of the 20th century.

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