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Affect and Biopower: Towards a Politics of Life

Anderson, B.



In this paper I stage an encounter between two concepts that have become popular placeholders for a broad concern with a politics of life: affect and biopower. Through engagement with Antonio Negri’s writings on the ‘real subsumption of life’ in contemporary capitalism and Michel Foucault’s lectures on neo-liberalism, I show that understanding how forms of biopower work through affect requires attending to three relations: affective relations and capacities are object-targets for discipline, biopolitics, security, and environmentality; affective life is the outside through which new ways of living may emerge; and specific collective affects (including ‘state-phobia’) are part of the conditions for the birth of forms of biopower. In what is simultaneously a departure from, and an affirmation of, recent work on affect, I argue that attending to the dynamics of affective life may become political as a counter to forms of biopower that work through processes of normalisation. The consequence is that understanding how biopower works on and through affect becomes a precondition for developing affirmative relations with affective life.


Anderson, B. (2012). Affect and Biopower: Towards a Politics of Life. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(1), 28-43.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2012
Deposit Date Jan 12, 2011
Journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Print ISSN 0020-2754
Electronic ISSN 1475-5661
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 1
Pages 28-43
Keywords Affect, Life, Biopower, Biopolitics, Non-Representational Theories, Neo-liberalism
Publisher URL