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Systems of LifeBiopolitics, Economics, and Literature on the Cusp of Modernity$
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Richard A. Barney and Warren Montag

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823281725

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823281725.001.0001

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Systems of Life, or Bioeconomic Politics

Systems of Life, or Bioeconomic Politics

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction: Systems of Life, or Bioeconomic Politics
Source:
Systems of Life
Author(s):

Richard A. Barney

Warren Montag

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823281725.003.0001

This collection of essays takes its cue from the ascendancy of system in dicated by Adam Smith’s work in order to articulate a framework in which to grasp the complex relations among biological knowledge, economics, and politics in Europe and its colonies from the mid–eighteenth century to the mid–nineteenth. In these terms, this volume aims to draw on recent scholarly accounts of the significance of system in Renaissance and Enlightenment contexts in order to reevaluate the importance of the systematic to biopolitical theory, which has paid particular attention to the importance of this historical period, especially in the case of analysts such as Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Roberto Esposito. Considered as a whole, the essays in this volume can therefore be taken as an argument that the concept of “system” can help specify all the more concretely the ways that the “bio” was articulated in relation to the “political” in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century biopolitics, with “economy” serving as a useful mediating term between them by offering a way to articulate their “order” as a matter of exchange, valuation, or management. Given Smith’s remark about the “beauty” of systems, moreover, it is no accident that several of the essays in this volume examine the relevance of aesthetic production—whether poetry, fiction, comedy, or visual art—to the deployment of economic values in relation to both biological and political spheres.

Keywords:   Giorgio Agamben, biopolitics, Roberto Esposito, Michel Foucault, Adam Smith, systems

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