In Necropolitics Achille Mbembe, a leader in the new wave of Francophone critical theory—theorizes the genealogy of the contemporary world, a world plagued by ever-increasing inequality, militarization, enmity, and terror, as well as by a resurgence of racist, fascist, and nationalist forces determined to exclude and kill. He outlines how democracy has begun to embrace its dark side, or what he calls its “nocturnal body,” which is based on the desires, fears, affects, relations, and violence that drove colonialism. This shift has hollowed out democracy, thereby eroding the very values, rights, and freedoms liberal democracy routinely celebrates. As a result, war has become the sacrament of our times, in a conception of sovereignty that operates by annihilating all those considered to be enemies of the state. Despite his dire diagnosis, Mbembe draws on post-Foucault debates on biopolitics, war, and race, as well as Fanon's notion of care as a shared vulnerability, to explore how new conceptions of the human that transcend humanism might come to pass. These new conceptions would allow us to encounter the Other not as a thing to exclude, but as a person with whom to build a more just world.
Introduction. The Ordeal of the World 1
1. Exit from Democracy 9
2. The Society of Enmity 42
3. Necropolitics 66
4. Viscerality 93
5. Fanon's Pharmacy 117
6. This Stifling Noonday 156
Conclusion. Ethics of the Passerby 184
"The appearance of Achille Mbembe's Necropolitics will change the terms of debate within the English-speaking world. Trenchant in his critique of racism and its relation to the precepts of liberal democracy, Mbembe continues where Foucault left off, tracking the lethal afterlife of sovereign power as it subjects whole populations to what Fanon called ‘the zone of non-being.’ In these pages we find Mbembe not only engaging with biopolitics, the politics of enmity, and the state of exception, but he also opens up the possibility of a global ethic, one that relies less on sovereign power than on the transnational resistance to the spread of the death-world."
“This book establishes Achille Mbembe as the leading humanistic voice in the study of sovereignty, democracy, migration, and war in the contemporary world. In the essays assembled here, Mbembe accomplishes the nearly impossible task of finding a radical path through the darkness of our times and seizes hope from the jaws of what he calls ‘the deadlocks of humanism.’ It is not an comforting book to read, but it is an impossible book to put down.”
“Mbembe refreshes the debate in a Europe consumed by the ‘desire of apartheid.’ This is a man who is not afraid to throw national history, identities, and borders out the window. French universalism? ‘Conceited,’ asserts Mbembe. . . . In the style of Edouard Glissant . . . he doesn’t limit his geography to the level of the nation but expands it to the ‘Whole-World.’ He dreams of writing a common history of humanity that would deflate all the flashy national heroism and redraw new relations between the self and the other. In a France and a Europe which are even afraid of their own shadows, one can clearly see the subversive potential of Mbembe’s thought. His latest book Necropolitics, draws the unpleasant portrait of a continent eaten up by the desire of ‘apartheid,’ moved by the obsessive search for an enemy, and with war as its favorite game.”
“[Mbembe’s] new book . . . is a precious tool to understand what occurs in the North as well as in the South. The analyses of this faithful reader of Franz Fanon are irrevocable: war has become not an exception but a permanent state, ‘the sacrament of our era’. . . . One of the biggest challenges we have to face, Mbembe warns us, is to defend our democracies while including this ‘other’ whom we don’t want if we are to build our common future.”
Séverine Kodjo-Grandvaux and Michael Pauron