Bene vivere politice: On the (Meta)biopolitics of “Happiness”

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


This chapter approaches the question of biopolitics in ancient political thought looking not at specific political techniques but at notions of the final aim of the political community. It argues that the “happiness” (eudaimonia, beatitudo) that constitutes the greatest human good in the tradition from Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas is not a “biopolitical” ideal, but rather a metabiopolitical one, consisting in a contemplative activity situated above and beyond the biological and the political. It is only with Thomas Hobbes that civic happiness becomes “biopolitically” identified with simple survival; for modernity, as Hannah Arendt puts it, mere being alive becomes the greatest human good, and happiness is understood as a subjective “quality of life.” In both models, the political realm is a means to an end. Arendt draws our attention to a neglected third alternative to both the classical/metabiopolitical and the modern/biopolitical ideals: “public happiness” consisting in political participation itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBiopolitics and Ancient Thought
EditorsJussi Backman, Antonio Cimino
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780191939518
ISBN (Print)9780192847102
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameClassics in Theory
PublisherOxford University Press


  • political philosophy
  • Aristotle
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Michel Foucault
  • Hannah Arendt
  • history of political philosophy
  • ancient political philosophy
  • biopolitics
  • biopower
  • governmentality
  • history of political thought
  • ancient political thought


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