Paolo Virno's criticism of Agamben
Agamben is a thinker of great value but also, in my opinion, a thinker with no political vocation. Then, when Agamben speaks of the biopolitical he has the tendency to transform it into an ontological category with value already since the archaic Roman right. And, in this, in my opinion, he is very wrong-headed. The problem is, I believe, that the biopolitical is only an effect derived from the concept of labor-power. When there is a commodity that is called labor-power it is already implicitly government over life. Agamben says, on the other hand, that labor-power is only one of the aspects of the biopolitical; I say the contrary: over all because labor power is a paradoxical commodity, because it is not a real commodity like a book or a bottle of water, but rather is simply the potential to produce. As soon as this potential is transformed into a commodity, then, it is necessary to govern the living body that maintains this potential, that contains this potential. Toni (Negri) and Michael (Hardt), on the other hand, use biopolitics in a historically determined sense, basing it on Foucault, but Foucault spoke in few pages of the biopolitical - in relation to the birth of liberalism - that Foucault is not a sufficient base for founding a discourse over the biopolitical and my apprehension, my fear, is that the biopolitical can be transformed into a word that hides, covers problems instead of being an instrument for confronting them. A fetish word, an "open doors" word, a word with an exclamation point, a word that carries the risk of blocking critical thought instead of helping it. Then, my fear is of fetish words in politics because it seems like the cries of a child that is afraid of the dark..., the child that says "mama, mama!", "biopolitics, biopolitics!". I don't negate that there can be a serious content in the term, however I see that the use of the term biopolitics sometimes is a consolatory use, like the cry of a child, when what serves us are, in all cases, instruments of work and not propaganda words.
From 'General intellect, exodus, multitude.Interview with Paolo Virno', published in Spanish in Archipélago number 54. See the whole interview here