Public Reason: Vol. 4, No. 1-2, June-December 2012
Philosophy, Terror, and Biopolitics
Cristian Iftode


Abstract. The general idea of this investigation is to emphasize the elusiveness of the concept of terrorism and the pitfalls of the so-called “War on Terror” by way of confronting, roughly, the reflections made in the immediate following of 9/11 by Habermas and Derrida on the legacy of Enlightenment, globalization and tolerance, with Foucault’s concept of biopolitics seen as the modern political paradigm and Agamben’s understanding of “the state of exception” in the context of liberal democratic governments. The main argument will state that the modern Western individual and the modern terrorist are in a way linked together as products of the same biopolitical network. So I shall argue that religious fundamentalism and international terrorism are not external factors to the Western civilization, nor even some radical late forms of ‘Counter-Enlightenment’ threatening the Western ‘way of life,’ but phenomena revealing what we could call, borrowing J. Derrida’s biological metaphor, a “crisis of autoimmunization” of Western neo-liberal democracies. The only long term solution to the threat of global terrorism would have to involve the “deconstruction” of our common notion of tolerance and the experience of an unconditional hospitality that is actually the inversion of the terrorist action that is threatening us “from within,” according to Derrida. But we cannot reasonably hope for this radical change in our relationship to others unless we aren’t really trying to modify the relationship to the self that is prevalent in contemporary Western societies: a vision of us as self-encapsulated monads or ‘nuclear’ selves, for whom genuine community life is, at the most, only a nostalgic evocation of a past long gone, and the respect for the others, a strategic name for moral indifference.

Key words: terrorism, biopolitics, war on terror, modern individualism, hospitality, Foucault, Derrida, Habermas.



Iftode, Cristian. 2012. Philosophy, Terror, and Biopolitics. Public Reason 4 (1-2): 229-39.