Vol. 8 No. 1 (2024)
Peer Reviewed Articles

Contemporary Extinctions and Multispecies Thanatopolitics

João Aldeia
Centre for Functional Ecology, University of Coimbra

Published 2023-06-30 — Updated on 2024-01-17


  • biopolitics,
  • extinctions,
  • multispecies interdependencies,
  • thanatopolitics,
  • modernity

How to Cite

Aldeia, João. 2024. “Contemporary Extinctions and Multispecies Thanatopolitics”. The Journal of Population and Sustainability 8 (1):71-94. https://doi.org/10.3197/JPS.63799953906868.


Contrary to what Foucault argued, modern biopolitics is inherently thanatopolitical, i.e., it is a politics of life premised on a politics of death. This becomes clear when non-human elements are given greater relevance than Foucault afforded them. Since the reproduction of life results from interdependencies between species and abiotic elements, multispecies relations are at the core of ‘a power to foster life or disallow it to the point of death’. In modernity, biopolitical interventions in what Foucault defines as the milieu are intended to foster the lives of (certain) human populations, while they are also premised on killing non-human species. This occurs whether these species are needed to make humans live (e.g., as food) or whether they oppose the goal of fostering the lives of human populations (e.g., as pests or weeds). The ongoing proliferation and acceleration of the extinction of non-human species is one of the extreme manifestations of this thanatopolitical drive of biopolitics, showing that biopolitics promotes death to the point of eliminating entities and relationships on which the reproduction of life depends, which makes it increasingly difficult to keep intervening with the goal to ‘make live’.


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