Southern Journal of Philosophy 46 (2):161-179 (2008)

Vernon Cisney
Gettysburg College
This essay is an exploration of the relationship between Agamben’s 1995 text, Homo Sacer, and Derrida’s 1992 “Force of Law” essay. Agamben attempts to show that the camp, as the topological space of the state of exception, has become the biopolitical paradigm for modernity. He draws this conclusion on the basis of a distinction, which he finds in an essay by Walter Benjamin, between categories of life, with the “pro-tagonist” of the work being what he calls homo sacer, orbare life—life that is stripped of its humanity and value. Five years earlier, in 1990, Derrida had given a lecture at UCLA in which he had analyzed the very same essay by Benjamin and had highlighted the distinction between “base life” and “just life.” The implications of his analysis show a discomforting prox-imity between Benjaminian messianism and the Nazi “final solution,” a conclusion that Agamben dismisses entirely. Inthis paper, however, I demonstrate that the structures of the two works are quite similar in many important ways. I argue that, though the broad scope of Agamben’s work is original in many respects, and I would not wish to reduce Agamben’s work to Derridean repetitions, he nevertheless utilizes much more of Derrida’s analysis, specifically with respect to the categori-zation of life, than he would like the reader to believe.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0038-4283
DOI southernjphil20084629
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,199
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

On Agamben's Use of Benjamin's “Critique of Violence”.Adam Kotsko - 2008 - Telos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary 2008 (145):119-129.
A Broken Constellation: Agamben's Theology Between Tragedy and Messianism.Agata Bielik-Robson - 2010 - Telos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary 2010 (152):103-126.
Agamben's Foucault: An Overview.Anke Snoek - 2010 - Foucault Studies 10:44-67.
Giorgio Agamben's Franciscan Ontology.Lorenzo Chiesa - 2009 - Cosmos and History 5 (1):105-116.
Agamben’s Fictions.Colin McQuillan - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (6):376-387.
The Letter and the Witness: Agamben, Heidegger, and Derrida.Gert-Jan van der Heiden - 2015 - Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 46 (4):292-306.


Added to PP index

Total views
59 ( #194,827 of 2,518,147 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #408,577 of 2,518,147 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes