Craig at theoria suggests that because an individual is indivisible, and that because politics is based on divisions, then “the basic unit of politics” [the individual] is “un-political.”
I would have several questions about this.
First, is the basic unit of politics the person (not, “does politics involve the person,” but “is the person its basic unit“?).
Depending on what a “basic unit” is, let’s assume it is the primitive or primary object of politics. This now forces us to define politics a little more closely. I have always had some notion like “making decisions about how to live [in the polis].” Therefore it may or may not take the individual as its object. Roughly speaking, when it does we can refer to it as “disciplinary” power.
But what about the mass, the group and the population? Roughly speaking this is biopolitics, meaning the characteristics of the population itself. If governmentality is the “contact point” (as I called it elsewhere) between domination and oneself, biopolitics is the management of these selves and others (make sense?).
Second, are individuals truly indivisible and thus a-political? Can we not say that they are without resorting to autism or whatever? Here’s Hacking on “making up people”:
How does making up people take place? Long ago, ‘hip’ and ‘square’ became common names in white middle-class culture. By a parody of Nietzsche, two new kinds of people came into being, the hip and the square. As is the way of slang imported from another social class, both kinds had short shelf lives. But I am concerned with the human sciences, from sociology to medicine, and they are driven by several engines of discovery, which are thought of as having to do with finding out the facts, but they are also engines for making up people. The first seven engines in the following list are designed for discovery, ordered roughly according to the times at which they became effective. The eighth is an engine of practice, the ninth of administration, and the tenth is resistance to the knowers.
3. Create Norms!
10. Reclaim our identity!
So then we can see that politics (of identity) can pull people in different directions and that these pulls apply to the body of the individual.
Third, the big conclusion:
Hence, liberal political theory quickly dissolves into ethics and policy. Or, as the philosophy departments have it, “political and moral philosophy.”
The language here (“quickly dissolves”) indicates that this result is problematic, and it is insofar as the “political” is linked back to the “moral” (for the individual). We would certainly need to know more about why this is so.
So in my view then I don’t think you can say that the individual is un-political (no surprise to readers, I’m sure, given that it would vitiate the notion of disciplinary power!).
Filed under: Biopolitics