The prominence and variety of global movements of resistance indicates that the idea of politics as governance is contested. However, the political canon continues to reinforce a narrow definition of politics according to liberal principles and practices. This book develops a new theory of political life that includes, and highlights, the interconnectedness of forces of order, disorder, governance, resistance, violence and difference.
Using the concept of the milieu— both a mechanism of governance and a force of difference and transformation—this book stages an encounter between the modern political and international thought of Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant and the contemporary philosophy of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. The writings of Foucault and Deleuze will serve to explore and contextualize the milieu and will function to highlight the complex mobility and relationality of notions of politics, life, governance and resistance.
Prologue / Acknowledgements / Introduction: Politics of Life / 1. Sovereignty, War, Nature / 2. Mechanics, Movement, Organization / 3. Biology, Security, Life / 4. Circulation, Naturalization, (De)politicization / 5. Complexity, Relationality, Involution / 6. Politics, Life, Movement / Bibliography / Index
In this book, the author draws . . . on the impact of the ideas of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, a pair whose influence on French thought . . . made a deep impression on her. De Vries mentions them together many times in her introduction and throughout the book apears [sic] to follow their lead. She seeks to reconfigure the ways in which politics has been understood. The method requires the 'denaturalization' of political concepts and the 're-imagination' of them, according to 'the favored methods' typically pursued in 'critical and post-structuralism scholarship.' Applying these methods to two important figures in political thought, Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant, de Vries says she will pursue the notion of the milieu as it emerges in the thought of Hobbes and Kant, then of Michel Foucault, Deleuze, and Guattari. The idea of the milieu enables the study of 'modes of movement,' an approach to imagining political life 'without constructing solid foundations or positing an end point.' In the last analysis, the emphasis on 'milieu-relations' brings forward a 'different relationality of politics-life.'
Entering “in the middle” of critical thinking about the politics of life as it has been articulated in the history of European political philosophy, Leonie Ansems De Vries brings the politics-life problematic up-to-date with attention to both contemporary political issues and the current critical philosophical work within which “life” is on the agenda. The book is timely, nuanced and politically acute. It deserves the attention of scholars and students of political theory everywhere.
This book is a fascinating exploration of what it means to understand politics as ‘being in the middle’. Ansems De Vries takes us through various understandings of ‘milieu’ by contrasting liberal conceptions with Deleuze’s and introducing various lines of thought on ‘the milieu’ upon which Deleuze drew, ranging from Darwin over complex systems to Bergson. This work is particularly powerful in introducing conceptions of multiplicity and movement that go beyond a progression of one point to the next, from one order to the other, and from an inside to an outside and back. It is an important work for everyone who is interested in developing ways of analysing the fracturing, multiplicity and immanent openness of the worlds we experience without falling back on modern political ontologies.
Re-Imagining a Politics of Life is an invitation to think and challenge the modes in which governance has been reasoned as practices of ordering. It is an urgent reminder that political life is nothing more than a problematic practice of vital demarcation that can always be thought differently. Through a double-move encompassing the denaturalisation of political thought and the re-imagination of the liberal image, Ansems de Vries takes the thinking of politics-life a step further and presents it as movement with connectivities, circulations and complexities. Inspired by the thought of Deleuze and Guatari as well as Foucault, the book engages the political through ‘its middle’ by focusing on the relationality it effects instead of on traditional questions of origins and destinations. Highly recommended for students and scholars of political theory.
Leonie Ansems de Vries is lecturer in politics at Queen Mary University of London. She has written journal articles for Theoria, Global Society and Cultural Politics.