Beyond Agamben’s ‘Homo Sacer’

The ‘pandemic’ as final reduction of humanity to ‘bare life’

Keywords: Agamben, bare life, homo sacer, pandemic, vaccines


The current ‘pandemic’ is approached through the lens of (mainly) the concept of Homo sacer, elaborated on by Giorgio Agamben (1998). Taking the work of Michel Foucault on the ‘disciplinary society’ and ‘bio-politics’ further, and drawing on the role played by the principle of homo sacer in antiquity, Agamben uncovers the disconcerting extent to which this principle has become generalised in contemporary societies. In antiquity, the principle of ‘sacred man/human’ was invoked in cases where someone was exempted from ritual sacrifice, but simultaneously seen as ‘bare life’, and therefore as being fit for execution. Agamben argues that the sphere of ‘sacred life’ has grown immensely since ancient times in so far as the modern state arrogates to itself the right to wield biopolitical power over ‘bare life’ in a manner analogous to ancient practices, and finds in the concentration camp the contemporary paradigm of this phenomenon. Arguing that today we witness a further downward step in the treatment of humans as ‘bare life’, these concepts are employed as a heuristic for bringing into focus current practices under the aegis of the COVID-19 ‘pandemic’. In particular, here the spotlight falls on those areas where burgeoning ‘bare life’ practices can be detected, namely ‘origin of the virus’ and ‘lethal vaccines’. In an upcoming second article, other aspects are addressed, as well as the question of commensurate psychotherapy.


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How to Cite
Olivier, B. (2022). Beyond Agamben’s ‘Homo Sacer’: The ‘pandemic’ as final reduction of humanity to ‘bare life’ . Psychotherapy & Politics International, 20(3), 1-23.