Innocence, in the sense of complete lack of responsibility, was the mark of their rightlessness as it was the seal of their loss of political status. Totalitarianism is production of human waste. This, despite its excesses and crimes of its own, did limit the more sinister effects and goals of politics.
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And to Arendt that is no progress. In the end Arendt fails to explain the destructive drive of totalitarianism. For her as for Levi there is no why, in the end there is no explanation. It seems the limit of understanding for Arendt is grounded in her conception of the modern state as a guardian of life and that the totalitarian state inverts this into a destroyer of life.
Committed to a statist understanding she can ultimately only look at the killing machines with horror. Lifton 14, 15, his italics. Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben whose work is inspired by Schmitt, Arendt and Foucault offers an explanation for the black totalitarianisms which seems inspired by Arendt though without any references but which also transcends her analysis by offering a bio-political reading of the same transformation of enmity as Arendt observes. Just as enmity changes, he observes a profound transformation in the concept of war.
War ceases to be primarily outward and contained and becomes inward and permanent. The line between friends and enemies are doubled inside the territory and is drawn with biological rather than political criteria. It becomes a war not against an armed threat but a pollutant, a degeneracy, an invisible threat coming not from any open enemies but from hidden carriers. Illness rather than opposition becomes the problem; and illness equals social disorder, fluid decomposition of order Sontag chap.
This is not the place to rehearse the concept of bio-politics but we can say that it concerns the optimization of life and life processes.
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It is a politics having life as its goal, object and language and that implodes the differentiation made by Arendt between democratic and totalitarian states. Both have life and its manipulation as their object. Bio-politics is not, as a sovereign power condemning or pardoning this particular person, occupied with the individual but with the population.
It wants to intervene in aggregates and it constitutes biological questions of birth, death, age, health, abilities as political problems. Sovereign power is an individualizing power. Bio-politics is a race or species power. The problem is no longer momentary epidemics and the like but statistical occurrences and general trends. Politics is to intervene in the background conditions of life at population level trying to regulate the patterns of life.
Bio-politics differentiates between life to be furthered and increased and life to be hindered, reduced, ultimately killed. In the biopolitical enmity, the enemy is named in biological and psychological terms and the enemy is found within the social body. The line between an inside, the friends, and an outside, the enemies, is no longer meaningful. The enemy lives among us and the biopolitical state takes it upon itself to single out those, who threaten the health of the community.
This concept of enmity is also highly discriminatory. This is where health campaigns and extermination programs connects. The Nazis were the first to implement an anti-smoking campaign and we should see this not as the dark secret behind the present health craze but as the range of bio-policies. This is what bio-politics does.
It views life through a statist, economist, nationalist or racist perspective and it measures its worthiness according to collective standards. In the biopower system, in other words, killing or the imperative to kill is acceptable only if it results not in a victory over political adversaries, but in the elimination of the biological threat to and the improvement of the species or race.
Foucault The enemy becomes the abnormal threatening the health of the community.
What is to be defended are no longer the outer borders but also and more importantly the reproduction of healthy genes, of optimized life. This is the internal racism of permanent purification. The fact that the other dies does not mean simply that I live in the sense that his death guarantees my safety; the death of the other, the death of the bad race, of the inferior race or the degenerate, or the abnormal is something that will make life in general healthier: healthier and purer.
The killing is no longer reduced to war, that is to an exceptional situation of immediate peril, but becomes routine. The heroic battles, looking the enemy in the eye and shooting, get replaced by micro-strategies minimizing the lethality of some while increasing that of others. Killing becomes normal politics, administration. The totalitarian concept of war and enmity implodes the distinction between exception and normalcy, applying the categories and instruments of the exception on everyday life. Totalitarian bio-politics is a generalized state of exception viewing its own population as the object to be defended against itself.
It is a shift from citizen to carrier. Instead of spectacular but singular deaths we get statistical death. Instead of the sovereign manifestation of power in ritualized executions demonstrating omnipotence we get operations of the secret police, cattle wagons transporting people away, death camps far away from public eye. The goal of a biopolitical war is not to reach a modus vivendi with the enemy but to eliminate him.
This is a total war:. The enemies who have to be done away with are not adversaries in the political sense of the term; they are threats , either external or internal, to the population and for the population. Foucault , my italics.
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The totalitarian extermination is a system of what Foucault calls vital massacres. Vital because they destroy life to enhance life Foucault There can be no mutuality in the totalitarian enmity. It is a one-sided declaration of war within the social body itself. What the biopolitical enmity makes clear is the normalization of the exceptional, as the biopolitical state declares war on parts of its own population, not only in form of extermination but also quarantining of the sick, surveillance, exclusions, imprisonments, institutionalization of the abnormal etc.
The heroic battles are replaced by micro-technologies that maximize the mortality of some groups and minimize it for others. The sovereign does not manifest himself in splendid displays of power, public executions, but in the actions of the secret police, disappearances and extermination camps Foucault chap. The biopolitical state emerges, where racism and statism meets.
This is the internal racism of permanent purification Foucault The generalization of biopolitical technologies marks the breaking point of the difference between norm and exception. The borderland is reinstated as the exception.
In the biopolitical enmity, we can see how arbitrary the dividing line between friend and enemy is. Enmity is generalized. Instead of a war contained in time we get a process of permanent purification, turning ever inwards until self-annihilation; a point on which Foucault and Arendt concurs: the logical end point of totalitarianism is suicide. The German sociologist Wolfgang Sofsky observes a crucial about the enemy logic behind the concentration camps.
The purpose of the social persecution is, as Arendt would concur, expulsion and annihilation.
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