In such a way, there is no more opposition between sovereign power and biopower. Sovereign power is the same as biopower. Nor is there any opposition between absolute state power and the Rights of Man. The Rights of Man make natural life appear as the source and the bearer of rights. They make birth appear as the principle of sovereignty. The equation would still have been hidden at that time by the identification of birth—or nativity—with nationality, that is, with the figure of the citizen. The flow of refugees in the twentieth century would have split up that identity and made the nakedness of bare life, stripped of the veil of nationality, appear as the secret of the Rights of Man. The programs of ethnic cleansing and extermination would then appear as a radical attempt to draw the full consequences of this splitting. This means that the secret of democracy—the secret of modern power—can now show up at the foreground. Now state power has concretely to do with bare life. Bare life is no longer the life of the subject that it would repress. Nor is it the life of the enemy that it would have to kill. It is, Agamben says, a “sacred” life—a life taken within a state of exception, a life “beyond oppression.” It is a life between life and death that can be identified with the life of the condemned man or the life of a person in a state of coma.
[….] Let us to try to make sense of the sentence—or develop the equation. It is clear that the equation cannot be resolved by the identification of a single x. The Rights of Man are not the rights of a single subject that would be at once the source and the bearer of the rights and would only use the rights that she or he possesses. If this was the case, indeed, it would be easy to prove, as Arendt does, that such a subject does not exist. But the relation of the subject to his or her rights is a little more complicated and entangled. It is enacted through a double negation. The subject of rights is the subject, or more accurately the process of subjectivization, that bridges the interval between two forms of the existence of those rights. Two forms of existence. First, they are written rights. They are inscriptions of the community as free and equal. As such, they are not only the predicates of a nonexisting being. Even though actual situations of rightlessness may give them the lie, they are not only an abstract ideal, situated far from the givens of the situation. They are also part of the configuration of the given. What is given is not only a situation of inequality. It is also an inscription, a form of visibility of equality.