PSi Lexicon


immunity [1] 

Etymology:            1.   In [negation of, exemption from]- munus [civic duties]

  1. Im[take into, include]  munire [fortification][2]


The ideological backbone of the neo-liberal capitalistic society, a society, which seems to insist that it is post-ideological, nonetheless. One of main researchers on Immunity, Isabell Lorey, distinguishes in Weißsein und Immuniserung [Whiteness and Immunization] two figures of immunity: the juridical and the biopolitical.

Juridical immunity is based on the exemption from what it is that constitutes the social, the munus, according to Italian philosopher Roberto Esposito. The munus is primarily made up of civic duties, responsibilities shared by all citizens. The immune are those subjects not sharing in the commonality of the munus.  As Esposito points out, the immune live in a parasitic relationship to the rest of society, since they can only live within society and at its costs.

Biopolitical immunity is based on the medical practice of immunization that first appeared in Europe as early as the 18th Century AD. The praxis consists in deliberately infecting the body with a weak dose of a specific disease, in order for the body to produce anti-bodies and be able to tackle autonomously the much more dangerous actual disease, which could have lethal consequences. Not only for Lorey, but also for Foucault and Esposito, Immunization marks the beginning of what is defined as the bourgeois capitalist governmentality, namely biopolitics. As Lorey points out, contrary to the juridical figure of immunity based on exclusion, biopolitical immunity is based on the idea of including something (bad) into society in small doses, in order to consequently rendered it harmless, normalized.

In the case of the neoliberal capitalist society the main tool for political immunization is precarization. The precarious can take many forms (simultaneously) such as at best financial instability and un(der)employment, indebtedness, spatiotemporal flexibility. At the core of precarization is the production of an existential fear, which in neoliberalism is used as a tool to increase productivity.[3] Ana Vujanovic in her talk proposes the emergence of the comm