Before the Law, We Are All Animals

Précis Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame

    Cary Wolfe, in Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame, argues that the deconstruction of the human/animal binary must be brought into conversation with biopolitics. First, he considers how the animal has haunted central figures of the biopolitical discourse, such as Arendt, Foucault, and Agamben. Then, Wolfe considers how the bounded limit of the individual as human is fundamentally in contradiction to some of the most insightful revelations of biopolitics and points to work such as Nicole Shukin’s as an example. Occasionally, he explores “scandalous” examples such as the cephalopod, who deeply troubles biases such as the necessity of long life spans and social networks as necessary precursors for cognitive complexity. As a result of Wolfe’s many-faceted exploration, many of the so-called “dreaded comparisons” in animal studies, such as slavery and the holocaust, take on troubling new stakes. Finally, the reader is left wondering if, given the illimitable and interminable violence along the human/animal binary (against animals both human and non-human), perhaps comparisons such as the holocaust might not in point of fact be too euphemistic. Cary Wolfe writes this work of literary criticism and philosophy in order to bring into conversation the question of the animal with biopolitics.

Wolfe, C. (2012). Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame. University Of Chicago Press.