Mark NeocleousMay 12, 2022
The Politics of Immunity
Security and the Policing of Bodies
Verso Books 2022
Our contemporary political condition is obsessed with immunity. The immunity of bodies and the body politic; personal immunity and herd immunity; how to immunize the social system against breakdown. The obsession intensifies with every new crisis and the mobilization of yet more powers of war and police, from quarantine to border closures and from vaccination certificates to immunological surveillance.
Engaging four key concepts with enormous cultural weight – Cell, Self, System and Sovereignty – The Politics of Immunity: Security and the Policing of Bodies (Verso, 2022) moves from philosophical biology to intellectual history and from critical theory to psychoanalysis to expose the politics underpinning the way immunity is imagined. At the heart of this imagination is the way security has come to dominate the whole realm of human experience. From biological cell to political subject, and from physiological system to the social body, immunity folds into security, just as security folds into immunity. The book thus opens into a critique of the violence of security and spells out immunity’s tendency towards self-destruction and death: immunity, like security, can turn its aggression inwards, into the autoimmune disorder. Wide-ranging and polemical, this book lays down a major challenge to the ways in which the immunity of the self and the social are imagined.
In this interview, I spoke with Mark Neocleous about his fascinating and wide-ranging book The Politics of Immunity. We also spent time discussing his previous work on security and police power, the personal context informing this work, and connections with the ongoing UK undercover policing controversy (discussed in my previous interview with the authors of Deep Deception).
Content warning: between 43-45 minutes into the podcast, there is a brief discussion of suicide in the context of Mark's forthcoming work.
Mark Neocleous is Professor of the Critique of Political Economy at Brunel University in London, and is well-known for his influential work on police power and security. His recent books include The Universal Adversary: Security, Capital and 'The Enemies of All Mankind' (2016); War Power, Police Power (2014); and the newly-reissued A Critical Theory of Police Power: The Fabrication of Social Order (2021).
Catriona Gold is a PhD candidate in Geography at University College London. She is currently researching the US Passport Office's role in governing Cold War travel, and broadly interested in questions of security, surveillance and mobility. She can be reached by email or on Twitter.