Becoming Precarious in the age of neoliberal bio-politics

Even though during the 1980s it had been articulated a political agenda of reinforcing the public character of health and education, the decade of the 1990s witnessed a gradual devaluation and even stigmatization of the “public space” and “social goods” which was manifested in a new law consolidating a “free-market” discourse in healthcare according to the neoliberal doctrine. This means, for example, that people with disabilities and chronic diseases, during the last thirty years were always in a „state of crisis”, in a state of precarity and marginality as they had to address their request for social benefits to a complex bureaucratic network, where the result of this offer was never easy and the access to free and public healthcare wass never a given.

Nevertheless, we tried to trace how, since the 15th of September 2008, after the bankruptuncy of Lehman Brothers, the impact of this problematic situation for the investment banking bussiness meant to change radicaly the Greek g-local context and how the dominant narrative of „crisis” was used to naturalize and medicalize poltical processes of redistribution of resources and services. The declaration of “the state of emergency” by the Greek government in 2009 can be seen as a “critical event” that generated new social categories and forms of actions, resignifying the public landscape as a source of corruption, blaming it for the creation of the debt increase. In this context, the high co-payments for a series of medical exams and drugs for the patients, the evacuation of hospitals and their transformation into minor, basic healthcare centers, the “mobility” process of the personnel, the restrictions of the patients’ access to the healthcare system, the everyday suicides are not a result of a general and indeterminate use of the “crisis”, but rather a constitutive element of the “opportunity” the politics of “crisis” brings. As Michael Hardt puts it: “we move from welfare to debtfare”, where debt is for neo-liberals the bio-political tool to articulate, in a cynical way, that “public health is a bad business” (as political philosopher Montserrat Galcerán Hugue aptly stated it in the Teaching the Crisis summer school).

Besides, we tried to examine how the so-called financial “crisis” is not a matter of a problematic economic situation but rather a new kind of governmentality in a wider political and social space. However, Aihwa Ong (2007) reminds us that even if the neoliberal narrative is based on market rationality, this narrative is not a singular, coercive, monolithic doctrine, but a flexible and complex network which is more a “mobile technology” rather than a universal and static command. Ong, through this dynamic approach, explores this mobility and flexibility of the neoliberal discourse, showing the “assemblage” of mobile biopolitical choices in a specific cultural context, examining the open space of the unpredictable which arises through multiple sites and levels of resistances, negotiations, conflicts that take place in this war-frame. Similar to Ong, Italian political philosopher Sandro Mezzandra stated, in the context of the Teaching the Crisis summer school, that “we need an analytical framework for understanding crisis and neo-liberalism not through homogeneity but through the complexity of heterogeneous practices and discourses.”

However, we contend that in states of emergency, as states of exception, we need to be open and sensitive to the subtle and imperceptible inscriptions that take place within, during and even, some times, against such violent en-rationalizations of life, past and present. This niche is far from being against to theoretical examinations of the “unpredictable” through sites of resistances, negotiations and conflicts. To the contrary, it is an effort to understand the future horizons that are projected in the present and are most clearly reflected in the bodies of the inappropriate, the damned and the abjected. As German philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin was focusing on the prostitute to discuss the urban nuclear family and the flâneur so to accentuate the everyday life in modernity, so do we believe that focusing on the unlivable bodies as the debris of crisis is to focus on the resistance, the negotiation and the conflict per se, on the shifts they bring to the rationalities and the everyday common sense reasoning, and the images of tomorrow that are projected in the present as a way to surpass crisis.

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