The appropriation of abandonment: Giorgio Agamben on the state of nature and the political [Book Review]

Continental Philosophy Review 42 (3):327-353 (2009)
Abstract
The paper addresses Giorgio Agamben’s affirmation of post-sovereign politics by analyzing his critical engagement with the Hobbesian problematic of the state of nature. Radicalizing Carl Schmitt’s criticism of Hobbes, Agamben deconstructs the distinction between the state of nature and the civil order of the Commonwealth by demonstrating the ‘inclusive exclusion’ of the former within the latter in the manner of the state of exception, which functions as a negative foundation of any positive order. Since the state of nature is no longer cast as spatially external and temporally antecedent to the former, it cannot be escaped by the perfection of the legal order, nor can it itself be posited in an essentialist manner as a pre-political site uncontaminated by sovereign violence. While denying any way out of the state of exception, Agamben nonetheless argues for the possibility of its appropriation in the way that dissociates anomie from the locus of sovereignty and reclaims it as an attribute of free social praxis. The paper analyzes three central features of this ‘post-sovereign’ politics and concludes with a discussion of the differences between Schmitt and Agamben with regard to the fate of Hobbes’s Leviathan in late modern politics.
Keywords Agamben  Hobbes  Schmitt  Sovereignty  The political  Anomie
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