Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (5):563-595 (2007)

Religion has become a vital resource for attempts to rethink the meaning of the political. This article rehearses the efforts of two recent figures, René Girard and Giorgio Agamben, to transform the political by renewing its connection to religion. Both thinkers struggle to escape politics as defined by Carl Schmitt's friend/enemy distinction. Girard and Agamben do clash ideologically, but their inquiries into sacrifice and messianism take similar courses. Regarding origins, Girard argues for the sacrificial crisis as the common parent to religion and politics. Conversely, for Agamben, the Roman figure of homo sacer distinguishes politics from religion. With respect to the future, Girard's messianism installs Christian belief as the only way to move beyond violence. By contrast, Agamben steers Pauline messianism toward the efforts to displace sovereignty and reopen the political. I conclude that Agamben breaks with Schmitt while Girard reinscribes his politics at a higher level. Key Words: Giorgio Agamben • Rey Chow • Christianity • René Girard • homo sacer • messianism • politics • sacred • sacrifice • Carl Schmitt.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453707078920
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