143 pages, no illustrations
In our age of ecological disaster, Plant Theory joins the growing philosophical literature on vegetable life to ask how our present debates about biopower and animal studies change if we take plants as a linchpin for thinking about biopolitics. Logically enough, Plant Theory uses animal studies as a way into the subject, but it does so in unexpected ways. Upending critical approaches of biopolitical regimes, it argues that it is plants rather than animals that are the forgotten and abjected forms of life under humanist biopower. Indeed, biopolitical theory has consistently sidestepped the issue of vegetable life, and more recently, has been outright hostile to it. Provocatively, Jeffrey T. Nealon wonders whether animal studies, which has taken the "inventor" of biopower himself to task for speciesism, has not misread Foucault, thereby managing to extend humanist biopower rather than to curb its reach. Nealon is interested in how and why this confusion predominates. Plant Theory turns to several other thinkers of the high theory generation in an effort to imagine new futures for the ongoing biopolitical debate.
"In this powerful and original book, Jeffrey Nealon engages some of today's urgent problems, giving us a new perspective on both the ethical issues raised by recent work in animal studies and related disciplines and the political issues at stake in any analysis of biopower and neoliberalism."
– Steven Shaviro, Wayne State University
"Ironic but mercifully not postmodern, patient and eminently readable, Jeffrey Nealon's book engages with and ultimately calls into question some of the guiding principles of animal studies. It is without question a singular contribution to recent research on biopolitics, animal studies, and the burgeoning field of 'plant theory.'"
– Timothy Campbell, Cornell University
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Jeffrey T. Nealon is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University.