“Life” and the Rhetoric of the Multitude



Stuart J. Murray

This presentation joins the conversation concerning the changing value and meaning of the term “life,” bios. Specifically, by what terms, whose grammar, which techniques and technologies, are we coming to understand “life” in the contemporary scene?

I will turn to Foucault’s late work on ethics as the “care of the self,” which is characterized as that style of life that unfolds in the self’s transformative relation to itself. I contend that in this shift from biopolitics to bioethics, Foucault employs two antithetical notions of life. It is the latter, relational, notion of life that I read alongside Italian theorist Paolo Virno’s recent work, A Grammar of the Multitude (2004).

Stuart Murray received his PhD in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley. He currently holds a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship in Philosophy at the University of Toronto, where he is also a Senior Fellow at The McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology.

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