Jean-Luc Nancy responds to Giorgio Agamben about the Coronavirus

This appeared as a pingback to the comments to the Agamben translation. We are linking it here to further draw attention to this thoughtful blogpost by John Paul Ricco, which includes a translation and discussion of Jean-Luc Nancy’s response to his “friend Giorgio,” originally published in Italian and French. 


One Reply to “Jean-Luc Nancy responds to Giorgio Agamben about the Coronavirus”

  1. Here is Roberto Esposito’s response to Nancy, originally published in Antinomia ( Translated on the Facebook page of the Newcastle University, Philosophical Studies (

    “Reading this text by Nancy I find the traits that have always characterized him – in particular an intellectual generosity that I myself have experienced in the past, drawing wide inspiration from his thought, especially in my work on the community. What interrupted our dialogue at one point was Nancy’s clear aversion to the paradigm of biopolitics, to which he has always opposed, as in this same text, the relevance of technological devices – as if the two things were necessarily in conflict. Instead, even the term “viral” indicates a biopolitical contamination between different languages – political, social, medical, technological – unified by the same immune syndrome, understood as a polarity semantically contrary to the lexicon of communitas. Although Derrida himself made abundant use of the immunization category, Nancy’s refusal to confront the biopolitical paradigm may have influenced the dystonia he inherited from Derrida with respect to Foucault. We are, however, talking about three of the greatest contemporary philosophers.
    The fact is that today anyone with eyes to see cannot deny the full deployment of biopolitics. From the interventions of biotechnology in areas once considered exclusively natural, such as birth and death, to biological terrorism, to the management of immigration and more or less serious epidemics, all current political conflicts have at their core the relationship between politics and biological life. But it is precisely the reference to Foucault that must lead us not to lose sight of the historically differentiated character of biopolitical phenomena. It is one thing to argue, as Foucault does, that for two and a half centuries now politics and biology have become increasingly entangled in an ever tighter knot, with problematic and sometimes tragic outcomes. Another is to homogenize incomparable events and experiences. Personally, I would avoid putting special prisons in any relationship with a quarantine of a couple of weeks in the Bassa. Of course, from a legal point of view, the decree of urgency, which has long been applied even in cases where there would be no need for it like this, pushes politics towards exceptional procedures that can, in the long run, undermine the balance of power in favour of the executive. But to go so far as to speak, in this case, of a risk to democracy would seem to me to be at least exaggerated. I believe that we must try to separate the plans, distinguishing long-term processes from recent news. From the first point of view, for at least three centuries politics and medicine have been linked in a mutual implication that has ended up transforming them both. On the one hand, there has been a process of medicalisation of a politics that, apparently freed from ideological constraints, is increasingly devoted to the “care” of its citizens from risks that it often emphasizes itself. On the other hand, we are witnessing a politicisation of medicine, invested with social control tasks that do not belong to it – which explains such heterogeneous assessments by virologists on the relief and nature of the coronavirus. Both of these tendencies deform politics, compared to its classical profile. This is also due to the fact that its objectives no longer include individuals or social classes, but segments of the population differentiated by health, age, gender or even ethnicity.
    But once again, with respect to certainly legitimate concerns, it is necessary not to lose the sense of proportion. It seems to me that what is happening today in Italy, with the chaotic and somewhat grotesque overlapping of state and regional prerogatives, has more the character of a decomposition of public powers than those of a dramatic totalitarian squeeze.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *