chapter  3
Politics: biopolitics, sovereignty and nihilism
Pages 22

In what is perhaps his best-known book, Homo Sacer, Giorgio Agamben takes up the concept of biopower proposed by Michel Foucault to provide a radical reinterpretation of the modern political condition as one of legal abandonment and nihilism. In the final chapter of The History of Sexuality, Foucault argues that the regime of power that emerged from the seventeenth century onwards involved a fundamental reversal of the principle of power’s operation.1 He claims that whereas sovereign power operated on the principle of the right to commit its subjects to death in order to enhance the strength of the sovereign, modern power reverses this axis and works through the administration of life. The entry of life into the mechanisms of power and correlative organization of political strategies around the survival of the species constitutes the “threshold of modernity” for Foucault.