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The Biopolitics of StalinismIdeology and Life in Soviet Socialism$
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Sergei Prozorov

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474410526

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474410526.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

Stalinism in the Theory of Biopolitics: A Brief Genealogy of a Reticence

Stalinism in the Theory of Biopolitics: A Brief Genealogy of a Reticence

Chapter:
(p.38) Chapter 2 Stalinism in the Theory of Biopolitics: A Brief Genealogy of a Reticence
Source:
The Biopolitics of Stalinism
Author(s):

Sergei Prozorov

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474410526.003.0003

Chapter 2 provides a theoretical introduction to the study, addressing the puzzling status of Soviet socialism more generally in the canonical theories of biopolitics, where it has been largely ignored at the expense of liberalism and Nazism. We address the scant dossier of the remarks on Soviet biopolitics by the three key authors in the field – Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito. We begin with Foucault’s influential move of subsuming Soviet biopolitics under Western rationalities of government, rejecting the existence of anything like a properly socialist governmentality of life. We then proceed to Agamben’s theory of biopolitics, which was produced at the time of the collapse of the USSR and was understandably less interested in the socialist case. Agamben’s famous claim about the ‘inner solidarity’ of democracy and totalitarianism in biopolitical terms leads him to deny any specificity to the Soviet case. Finally, we address Esposito’s attempt to differentiate between totalitarianism and biopolitics as two paradigms for grasping the 20th century. In the conclusion we propose to approach the question of socialist biopolitics by addressing the problematization of life at work within the governmental rationality of Stalinism: how does life function in the mode of political reasoning that defines the Stalinist project?

Keywords:   Foucault, Michel, Agamben, Giorgio, Esposito, Roberto, Stalinism, Socialism, Biopolitics, Governmentality

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