The Eroticization of Biopower: Masochistic relationality and resistance in Deleuze and Agamben

Hannah Richter

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This article examines Gilles Deleuze’s and Giorgio Agamben’s thoughts on the immanent creativity emergent from formal, impersonal life as a pathway for resistance to biopolitics. In Coldness and Cruelty, Deleuze explores masochism as the inversion of the sadistic, biopolitical use of the body which can bring forth genuinely new expressions. Agamben dismisses masochistic creativity because it leaves the dialectical ontology of biopower intact to conceptualize his form-of-life as a space of indiscernibility between ontological essence and legal-political actualization. For Agamben, the form-of-life escapes biopolitical capture because it is absolutely detached from its relations. This article argues that the radicalness of this detachment calls into question the political capacity offered by the form-of-life to actively change the relations of biopower. Against this background, Deleuze’s masochistic eroticization of power offers an alternative conceptualization of relationality as external to its terms and productive of expressions which are both thoroughly immanent and genuinely creative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-398
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Biopolitics
  • Deleuze
  • Agamben
  • Relationality
  • Resistance
  • creative formalism
  • life
  • resistance
  • relational ontology


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