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Improper Life: Technology and Biopolitics from Heidegger to Agamben (PostHumanities)


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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Has biopolitics actually become thanatopolitics, a field of study obsessed with death? Is there something about the nature of biopolitical thought today that makes it impossible to deploy affirmatively? If this is true, what can life-minded thinkers put forward as the merits of biopolitical reflection? These questions drive Improper Life, Timothy C. Campbell’s dexterous inquiry-as-intervention.

Campbell argues that a “crypto-thanatopolitics” can be teased out of Heidegger’s critique of technology and that some of the leading scholars of biopolitics—including Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Peter Sloterdijk—have been substantively influenced by Heidegger’s thought, particularly his reading of proper and improper writing. In fact, Campbell shows how all of these philosophers have pointed toward a tragic, thanatopolitical destination as somehow an inevitable result of technology. But in Improper Life he articulates a corrective biopolitics that can begin with rereadings of Foucault (especially his late work regarding the care and technologies of the self), Freud (notably his writings on the drives and negation), and Gilles Deleuze (particularly in the relation of attention to aesthetics).

Throughout Improper Life, Campbell insists that biopolitics can become more positive and productively asserts an affirmative technē not thought through thanatos but rather practiced through bíos.

Book News Annotation:

Contemporary biopolitics, argues Campbell (Italian, Cornell U.), frequently devolves into thanatopolitics, or a politics of death. The key to understanding why this is so, he contends, is in the unexplored relation between techne and death that can be found in the writings of many of the most prominent philosophers exploring the realm of biopolitics, including Martin Heidegger, Giorgio Agamben, and Roberto Esposito. He draws on Michel Foucault's Security, Territory, Population and Hermeneutics of the Subject in order to posit a theory of the practice of bios in terms of attention and play that he thinks is better able to avoid the problems of mastery that characterize the accounts of techne that tend towards thanatopolitics. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


How biopolitics can get beyond its obsession with death

About the Author

Timothy C. Campbell is professor of Italian in the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University.

Table of Contents


Preface: Bíos between Thanatos and Technē

1. Divisions of the Proper: Heidegger, Technology, and the Biopolitical

2. The Dispositifs of Thanatopolitics: Improper Writing and Life

3. Barely Breathing: Sloterdijk’s Immunitary Biopolitics

4. Practicing Bíos: Attention and Play as Technē



Product Details

Campbell, Timothy C.
University of Minnesota Press
Philosophy & Aspects
Philosophy : General
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
8.5 x 5.5 x 1 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Reference » Science Reference » Philosophy of Science

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How biopolitics can get beyond its obsession with death

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