Vol. 41 No. 2 (2021): The body and its surplus

Biopolitics’ second life. From the body as surplus to the insti-tution of life (1995-2020).

Francesco Marchesi
Dipartimento di Civiltà e Forme del Sapere, Università di Pisa
Il corpo e la sua eccedenza, the body and its surplus

Published 2021-12-07


  • biopolitics,
  • surplus of life,
  • immunitas,
  • body,
  • institution

How to Cite

Marchesi, F. (2021). Biopolitics’ second life. From the body as surplus to the insti-tution of life (1995-2020). Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 41(2), 59–76. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v41i2.133


The international debate concerning biopolitics has been a global impact during the last three decades. After Michel Foucault’s introduction of the term in the philosophical discussion in the Seventies, the problematic has been particularly developed in the Italian philosophy of the Nineties.

Authors like Giorgio Agamben and Antonio Negri significantly contribute to define a perimeter that, if represents an important evolution of the Foucauldian investigation, constitutes only one among many approaches to this issue. In the new century, indeed, a multiplicity of new positions about biopolitics emerged: if Agamben and Negri, even in a very distinct way, share the idea of a surplus of the biopolitical body (individual and collective) with respect to the forms of political power, the second line of biopolitics, also in a pluralistic way, emphasizes the problem of the forms of life, of the protection of life and of its affirmation through, and not against, the institutions. The philosophical studies  of  Roberto  Esposito  and  Miguel  Vatter,  the  sociological  research  of  Thomas Lemke and the medical investigation of Didier Fassin, among others, claim that the individual and collective body is a creation of political power, rather than a excess, autonomous with respect to the political apparatuses. In this view life is a political construction, and the forms of this creation affirm or negate life itself.

This  essay intends  to  reconstruct  this transformation:  in  the  first  part  we  will  describe  the  anti-institutional  foundation  of  the  biopolitical  philosophy  especially in the Italian context, then we will analyze the positions that provoke a change in this theoretical framework. Finally, also taking into account recent developments, we will illustrate some possible evolutions of the whole problematic.