Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Esposito, R. The dispositif of the person, Law, Culture and the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 1, February 2012, Pages 17-30

In this essay one of Italy’s leading philosophers examines the category of person from legal, historical, and biopolitical perspectives. Reading texts ranging from Roman law to Christian theology to bioethics, Esposito shows how person functions in Foucault’s terms as a dispositif, that is as a way of arranging the relation between the human and animal in contemporary subjectivity. Drawing on the etymology of person from persona or mask, Esposito shows how the term allows a subject to dispose of his or her animal half through the gift of grace in order to become a human person. Reading Saint Augustine, Simone Weil, and others, Esposito shows how the archaic role played by the person in Roman law returns today in liberalism’s objectification of the body as a thing. Esposito concludes by elaborating a counter dispositif of the impersonal as a way of transforming our political lexicon.

Author keywords
Classical sovereignty; Giorgio Agamben; Human rights; Impersonal; Living being; Roman law; Saint Augustine; Simone Weil; Slave as property

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