Abstract: Giorgio Agamben's recent works have been preoccupied with a certain obscure passage from St. Paul's 'Second Epistle to the Thessalonians,' which describes the portentous events that must occur before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ can take place---specifically, the appearance of a 'man of lawlessness' (the Antichrist?) and the exposure of who or what is currently restraining the 'man of lawlessness' from being exposed as the Antichrist: a mysterious agency called the 'katechon.' In 'The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI (...) and the End of Days,' this obscure passage is connected with the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI through certain equally obscure references to the fourth century theologian, Tyconius, although the precise connection between these apocalyptic events and their mysterious agents remains obscure. This review attempts to shed some critical light upon this cryptic subject, both by considering the world-historical context of St. Paul's epistle, and by asking what role these apocalyptic figures play in Agamben's political theology. But, to begin with, the review also asks: Who, really, is the Antichrist? a scarcely rhetorical question that demands a sardonic answer. Although various candidates from contemporary politics are proposed, the review finally argues that the Antichrist and the katechon are not specific individuals or worldly institutions, but rather refer to world-historical trends within Western European Christian civilization itself that have resulted in what Friedrich Nietzsche called 'the devaluation of all higher values' and 'the desecration of the Christian moral world-view': an apocalyptic turn of events which Nietzsche equally sardonically referred to in 'The Antichrist.'. (shrink)
A review of Francoise Laruelle's General Theory of Victims, which places Laruelle's theory in the context of post-colonial theories of the subaltern subject after Gayatri Spivak and Edward Said. The review questions whether Laruelle's General Theory of Victims really allows the so-called victims to speak for themselves, or simply represents another attempt by Western (French?) intellectuals to speak to/through the victims, for their own political and theoretical purposes.
Peter Sloterdijk's 'In the Shadow of Mt. Sinai' and Alain Badiou's 'Our Wounds Are Not So Recent' represent distinctly different attempts to come to grips with the conflict between the West (the US, the UK, France) and the Muslim world after the September 11th attacks. Although Sloterdijk finds the source of conflict in the religious zealotry of the Abrahamic religions, while Badiou blames the multinational capitalist system for drating a disaffected underclass, the two complementary perspectives work together to make this (...) ongoing conflict intelligible, if not, finally, to stop the war on terrorism. (shrink)
A review of Giorgio Agamben's The Use of Bodies that considers Agamben's Homo Sacer series as a contribution to Post-Marxist political theory, and attempts to place Agamben's politial theology in the context of 1970s Italian radical politics. The review also poses the question whether Agamben's anarchist/aestheticist theory is a helpful contribution to political praxis in the contemporary period of the global hegemony of multinational military-industrial technocratic capitalism.
Kostas Axelos' 'Introduction to a Future Way of Thought' attempts to bring together two strong thinkers often thought to represent diametrically opposed political traditions: Martin Heidegger and Karl Marx. This review considers this attempt as a result of Axelos' political background, as a Greek communist revolutionary who emigrated to France and came into contact with Postwar French Heideggerian thought. Axeols then helped to establish the Heideggerian Marxism characteristic of the influential journal, Arguments.
Fifteen years after the September 11th terror attacks, the United States still exists in a state of exception or state of emergency, in which the executive branch claims extraordinary powers to carry out bombing strikes or drone attacks in foreign nations and to engage in surveillance against its citizens outside the boundaries of international and constitutional law. This blog-piece argues for a restoration of the constitutional limiuts on sovereign executive powers and a cessation of the war on terrorism.
This study situates Romantic literature in a historical narrative that runs from the Fall of the Bastille to Waterloo, and places Romantic texts against contemporary events like the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the rise of European imperialism in Africa and Asia that mark the period from 1789 to 1832. At the same time, this study considers the relation of the Romantic epic to narratives of universal history from Hegel to Marx. A central concern is the appearance of the (...) Romantic hero as a Promethean subject of history in the bourgeois social revolutions of the age. Napoleon's career provides a paradigm for the bildungsroman of the Romantic subject; while the life of Goethe expresses this dynamic life-history as an aesthetic narrative. Taken together, then, these narratives define the milieu in which the Romantic subject is constituted, and delineate the parameters of the revolutionary transformations of modernity. ;The concept of modernity as a process of development came into currency as a description of the radical changes undergone by European society during the emergence of industrial capitalism, the democratization of the public sphere, and the rise of a world-imperial order. The Romantic period thus constitutes an event like the postmodern break in which the narratives through which history is mediated to individuals are shattered by a traumatic shift in modes of cultural production. Romantic epics like Faust, Part II, Jerusalem, Don Juan and The Excursion respond to this crisis of representation by reinserting historical experience into an overarching narrative of development that describes the evolution of the representative individual or collective subject, "Man," in his fall into alienation and self-division in social forms, and his rise toward utopian self-unification as a figure of desire for restored human community. The contradictions of modernity are thus reproduced in the Romantic epic, which both projects the totalized form of an emancipatory metanarrative and records the deconstruction of that narrative by social change. Romanticism, then, is a displaced ideological afterimage of the inception of modernity as it is experienced by Romantic writers in all its apocalyptic violence and utopian promise. (shrink)
In Questioning Martin Heidegger, Martin Heidegger’s “Overcoming Metaphysics” provides the jumping-off point for a wide-ranging critique and deconstruction of Western philosophy. This book also addresses Martin Heidegger’s controversial relationship with German National Socialism and the Holocaust, as well as with contemporary philosophers like J. F. Lyotard and Jacques Derrida.
A review of Giorgio Agamben's The Mystery of Evil: Bendict XVI and the End of Days, which attempts to place Agamben's peculiar argument regarding Pope Benedict's abdication in the context of his reading of St. Paul's 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, and, more generally, in terms of his political-theology in the Homo Sacer series. The questions, 'Who is the Antichrist?' and 'Who (or what) is the katechon?' are also explored, in the attempt to translate Agamben's obscure theology into contemporary political terms.