IMMUNITY, Isabell Lorey & Roberto Esposito

To understand why the commons of social production (particularly care-giving and affective relatedness) is constitutively abandoned and warded off in capitalist democracies we have to understand the ensemble of the precarious and the dynamics of biopolitical immunization of ‘western’ governmentality. While in liberal capitalism precarity was forced upon those who were constructed as threatening ‘others’ in diverse ways, in neoliberalism precarization has become normalized and has taken on the role of a new instrument of governing. Isabell Lorey distinguishes three dimensions of precarious, all intertwined in neoliberal societies: precariousness of human life (never autonomous, never completely protectable and thus dependent on social networks, on sociality and care work), precarity(all those insecurities, anxieties, discriminations and injuries in relations of inequality that result from domination relations along gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, nationality), governmental precarization (governmentality in democratic-capitalist societies and the governable biopolitical subjectivations and economic exploitation emerging with it). A politically and economically induced precarity is necessary in order to continue to create ever-new security mechanisms. Instead of guaranteeing broad social rights and a good life for everybody, we are facing a new European polit-economic Governmentality, based on sociopolitical and economic insecurity that is less built on productive labor than on productive individualized and competitive subjectivation.For Lorey politics of immunization exist in a constitutive relation to the precarious life, and they also inhabit a constitutive relation to threats such as epidemics, infections, or insurrections. There are three figures into which the politics of immunization can be condensed: two figures of the immune that confirm domination, called juridical immunity and biopolitical immunization, and the subversive figure, constituent immunization. When speaking of political immunization, Lorey takes the genealogy of the political and juridical meanings of immunity, leading back to the Latin term immunitas, which originally meant exemption from charges, taxation, obligation: from dues or give-aways. The Latin word munus that is also contained in immunitas, does not only mean 'dues' or 'duty', but in a second line of meaning that shows in the verb munio also 'to defend', 'secure', 'protect'. Munus in its ambivalent meaning of dues and protection is not merely a part of the word immunitas, but also of communitas. Hence munus keeps community as well as immunity together, so to speak. This means that political immunization with the aim of confirming domination always implies a specific conception of community, and this is why the notion of community requires some specification before addressing the figures of the immune.Two extreme perspectives of debates about community can be glimpsed, not so much mutually exclusive as constitutive of each other. One of these extreme perspectives views community as union and identity, as unification. An example of this is Ferdinand Tonnies' conceptionof a patriarchal community that safeguards the rule of the protective father. Important for such a community are precise demarcations towards an outside, which fortify, protect, and secure and retain one's own and property through belonging: wife and children, servants, one's home, land, and cattle. The second, seemingly diametrically opposed perspective sees itself as a transformation of com-munis 'sharing common give-aways, common charges or obligations'. Roberto Esposito, has proposed an alternative conception of community based on this perspective. For him, its meaning of community lies in the fact of sharing certain dues and precisely not in erecting walls for the protection of one's own. Esposito stresses the obligation to give something away, to exchange things with others, so that living together will be possible. This foundational sharing and giving away means a dispossession. Munus is here understood as a gift that one must not refuse, as an obligation, a compulsory mutual debt, as a duty that connects. Communitas is based on a lack, a loss and a "substraction": munus always also means minus.This mutual negation between communitas of give-away and community of protection can only be sublated or synthesized according to Esposito. He looks for a new form of community, one that neither abandons self-protection - immunity understood in these terms - nor the connection with the Other. Instead of defence, his goal is "immunitary tolerance" of the threatening forces within the interior of the self, the alien that cannot be expelled or rejected, but is kept alive. This synthesis (that he conceives as immunity, as immunitas) Esposito finds in the "female body." Besides organ transplants he repeatedly mentions pregnancy as an example of how living with an Other, as living with one another is not negated. For Esposito the "female body" becomes an allegory of the "social body" that, based on the model of pregnancy, "re-establishes the relation to communitas and to munus in its original sense." (Here Esposito problematically reiterates heterosexual gender normativity and also comes close to positions of anti-abortionists who can only view abortion as a negation, as a lethal threat to life).Juridical immunity can be characterized as follows: It evolves from the negation of the give-away, from the Latin im-munis, and denotes, as has been claimed, to be freed from give-aways [Abgabenfreiheit]. Negation here means an exemption. This form of immunity relieves from the duties and burdens of the common munus. In Roman Antiquity duties and taxes were connected with the diverse ranks of civic rights; and the exemption from such duties did not imply the loss of such rights in general, but very often meant a law of exception, a privilege. Juridical immunity, attempts to secure sovereignty through the negation of conflict and exception of the threatened, the exception as privilege. That which is imagined as threatening and dangerous is defeated and negated in order to protect the unity and closure of the political community, the political body.Biopolitical immunization, developed from the Latin verb immunio, primarily denotes securing and building up protection. The prefix in- in immunio means a movement into something that already exists, into something worth protecting. Biopolitical immunization is characterized through the movement of Hereinnahme, of taking-into, of incorporating or integrating what is constructed as threatening in order to overcome its threat. A biopolitical government of the population deals with danger in the following way: those who are categorized as different and dangerous are either carefully dosed - as a healing drug - taken into, incorporated and neutralized to increase the security, strength, and health of the political and social majority community; or they are initially discriminated as different and abnormal, then preventively excluded and rejected as 'poisonous' Other. If the immunizing strategy is neutralising integration, then this also means that the conflict with what is threatening is dissolved in the consensus of the tolerable and the potentials of resistance are (to be) domesticated. In this immunizing dynamic the borders of acceptability constantly need to be redrawn and regulated anew in order to prevent dangerous insurrections. It risks the politically and economically induced precarity all the way to its normalisation in neoliberalism. Community constitutes itself via domesticating integration.A subversive figure constituent immunization is a practice of instituting, or a renewed ordering in which the constituting of those that are constructed as a threat is at stake. Instead of a movement of incorporation into an already constituted political body, verb immunio can also be used to highlight the movement of constituting (the Hineinnahme, taking into) - as a constituent creation and composition. In this figure of constituent immunization safeguarding the political body is no longer at stake, but the constituting of those that are constructed as a threat - of those that are relegated socially, politically or economically into a dangerous 'outside' through juridical immunity or domesticated into a contained 'interior' through biopolitical immunization. The con- in constituent, the ‘with’, is not geared towards a community, a com-munitas (defined by being united and / in sharing the commons), but to the common that is to be found in compositions and cooperations (being linked by a lack in sharing obligation, duty, debt, and, concomitantly, care).Constituent immunization escapes from the political community that must be immunized as a political body. Such a resistant form of the immune ruptures the dynamics of immunization in which political and economic domination functionalizes the precarious-threatening in different ways. The constituent immunization of the precarious attempts to let the established mechanisms of domination run empty again and again through refusal and recomposition, through exodus and constituting. This happens especially through transnational discussions about precarization. What is important is that the precarious do not merely strive to protect themselves and others against precarity, prevent precarization, or view it only as a threat. They highlight the conditions of subjection, but also emphasize the new forms of subjectivation. Although these new ways of self-government are precarious, they do not fit into a logic of immunization that is one of fear, obedience and subjection, but point towards new experiences and a new knowledge, towards ways in which another life might be possible.Isabell Lorey link:https://transversal.at/transversal/1107/lorey/en#_ftn10https://transversal.at/transversal/0811/lorey/enhttps://www.e-flux.com/journal/17/67385/becoming-common-precarization-as-political-constituting/

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