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N.2/2018 Dell'Uomo e dei Diritti

Diritti umani e sovranità sul vivente. E se la biopolitica leggesse Adorno?

Marco Maurizi

Published in December, 2018

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Human rights and sovereignty over the living. What if the biopolitics read Adorno?


In the last decades, Biopolitics has criticised “human rights” from a theoretical and political point of view. A similar, though distinct criticism had been provided by Adorno’s negative dialectics. Adorno’s reflections on the concentration camp as pars pro toto of the post-war political order, his stress on the concept of domination as a hidden mechanism where the power relation emerges from a material and ideal negation of the Other which is subsumed under its universality (Knowledge/Praxis, Intellect/Senses, Soul/Body, Human/Animal, Male/Female etc.), his critique of the reification of revolutionary praxis, marks a clear anticipation of Biopolitics. Still, his name is rarely evoked in such theoretical frame, when not routinely dismissed as a example of metaphysical thinking. By tracing back the origin of the biopolitical discourse in the way Agamben, Esposito and Negri read/interpret Foucault and misread Adorno, the present essay offers an alternative analysis of the shortcomings of “human rights”. It is possible, as it will be argued, that the way in which Biopolitics understands life and its relation to society and history, leads to ideological consequences. Adorno’s negative dialectics could help to articulate such relation in order to avoid three main features of such ideology: an undialectical philosophy of nature, a mythological disdain for the categories of mediation and totality.


Human Rights, Adorno, Agamben, Negri, Biopolitics, Negative Dialectics, Universalism, Enlightenment

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