The work of Giorgio Agamben, one of Italy's most important and original philosophers, has been based on an uncommon erudition in classical traditions of philosophy and rhetoric, the grammarians of late antiquity, Christian theology, and modern philosophy. Recently, Agamben has begun to direct his thinking to the constitution of the social and to some concrete, ethico-political conclusions concerning the state of society today, and the place of the individual within it. In Homo Sacer, Agamben aims to connect the problem of (...) pure possibility, potentiality, and power with the problem of political and social ethics in a context where the latter has lost its previous religious, metaphysical, and cultural grounding. Taking his cue from Foucault's fragmentary analysis of biopolitics, Agamben probes with great breadth, intensity, and acuteness the covert or implicit presence of an idea of biopolitics in the history of traditional political theory. He argues that from the earliest treatises of political theory, notably in Aristotle's notion of man as a political animal, and throughout the history of Western thinking about sovereignty, a notion of sovereignty as power over "life" is implicit. The reason it remains merely implicit has to do, according to Agamben, with the way the sacred, or the idea of sacrality, becomes indissociable from the idea of sovereignty. Drawing upon Carl Schmitt's idea of the sovereign's status as the exception to the rules he safeguards, and on anthropological research that reveals the close interlinking of the sacred and the taboo, Agamben defines the sacred person as one who can be killed and yet not sacrificed—a paradox he sees as operative in the status of the modern individual living in a system that exerts control over the collective "naked life" of all individuals. (shrink)
Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer was one of the seminal works of political philosophy in recent decades. It was also the beginning of a series of interconnected investigations of staggering ambition and scope, investigating the deepest foundations of Western politics and thought. The Use of Bodies represents the ninth and final volume in this twenty-year undertaking, breaking considerable new ground while clarifying the stakes and implications of the project as a whole. It comprises three major sections. The first uses Aristotle's discussion (...) of slavery as a starting point for radically rethinking notions of selfhood; the second calls for a complete reworking of Western ontology; and the third explores the enigmatic concept of "form-of-life," which is in many ways the motivating force behind the entire Homo Sacer project. Interwoven between these major sections are shorter reflections on individual thinkers, while the epilogue pushes toward a new approach to political life that breaks with the destructive deadlocks of Western thought. The Use of Bodies represents a true masterwork by one of our greatest living philosophers. (shrink)
Unquestionably an influential thinker in Italy today, Giorgio Agamben has contributed to some of the most vital philosophical debates of our time. "The Coming Community" is an indispensable addition to the body of his work. How can we conceive a human community that lays no claim to identity - being American, being Muslim, being communist? How can a community be formed of singularities that refuse any criteria of belonging? Agamben draws on an eclectic and exciting set of sources to explore (...) the status of human subjectivities outside of general identity. From St Thomas' analysis of halos to a stocking commercial shown in French cinemas, and from the Talmud's warning about entering paradise to the power of the multitude in Tiananmen Square, Agamben tracks down the singular subjectivity that is coming in the contemporary world and shaping the world to come. Agamben develops the concept of community and the social implications of his philosophical thought. "The Coming Community" offers both a philosophical mediation and the beginnings of a new foundation for ethics, one grounded beyond subjectivity, ideology, and the concepts of good and evil. Agamben's exploration is, in part, a contemporary and creative response to the work of Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Blanchot, Jean-Luc Nancy, and, more historically, Plato, Spinoza, and medieval scholars and theorists of Judeo-Christian scriptures. This volume is the first in a new series that encourages transdisciplinary exploration and destabilizes traditional boundaries between disciplines, nations, genders, races, humans, and machines. Giorgio Agamben currently teaches philosophy at the College International de Philosophie in Paris and at the University of Macerata (Italy). He is the author of "Language and Death" (Minnesota, 1991) and "Stanzas" (Minnesota, 1992). This book is intended for those in the fields of cultural theory, literary theory, philosophy. (shrink)
This volume constitutes the largest collection of writings by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben hitherto published in any language and all but one appear in English for the first time. The essays consider figures in the history of philosophy (Plato, Plotinus, Spinoza, Hegel) and twentieth-century thought (Walter Benjamin, Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, the historian Aby Warburg, and the linguist J.-C. Milner). They also examine several central concerns of Agamben: the relation of linguistic and metaphysical categories; messianism in Islamic, Jewish, and Christian (...) theology; and the state and future of contemporary politics. Despite the diversity of the texts collected here, they show a consistent concern for a set of overriding philosophical themes concerning language, history, and potentiality. (shrink)
Arguing that Western power is both "government" and "glory," this book reveals the "theological-economic" paradigm at the origin of several of the most important components of modern politics and illuminates the function of consent and the ...
In this book the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben looks closely at the literature of the survivors of Auschwitz, probing the philosophical and ethical questions raised by their testimony."In its form, this book is a kind of perpetual commentary on testimony. It did not seem possible to proceed otherwise. At a certain point, it became clear that testimony contained at its core an essential lacuna; in other words, the survivors bore witness to something it is impossible to bear witness to. As (...) a consequence, commenting on survivors' testimony necessarily meant interrogating this lacuna or, more precisely, attempting to listen to it. Listening to something absent did not prove fruitless work for this author. Above all, it made it necessary to clear away almost all the doctrines that, since Auschwitz, have been advanced in the name of ethics."--Giorgio Agamben. (shrink)
The end of human history is an event that has been foreseen or announced by both messianics and dialecticians. But who is the protagonist of that history that is coming—or has come—to a close? What is man? How did he come on the scene? And how has he maintained his privileged place as the master of, or first among, the animals? In The Open, contemporary Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben considers the ways in which the “human” has been thought of as (...) either a distinct and superior type of animal, or a kind of being that is essentially different from animal altogether. In an argument that ranges from ancient Greek, Christian, and Jewish texts to twentieth-century thinkers such as Heidegger, Benjamin, and Kojève, Agamben examines the ways in which the distinction between man and animal has been manufactured by the logical presuppositions of Western thought, and he investigates the profound implications that the man/animal distinction has had for disciplines as seemingly disparate as philosophy, law, anthropology, medicine, and politics. (shrink)
He proposes, in his characteristically allusive and intriguing way, a politics of gestureOCoa politics of means without end.Among the topics Agamben takes up are the properly political paradigms of experience, as well as those generally not ...
The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has always been an original reader of texts, understanding their many rich and multiple historical, aesthetic, and political meanings and effects. In Profanations, Agamben has assembled for the first time some of his most pivotal essays on photography, the novel, and film. A meditation on memory and oblivion, on what is lost and what remains, Profanations proves yet again that Agamben is one of the most provocative writers of our time. In ten essays, Agamben ponders (...) a series of literary and philosophical problems: the relation among genius, ego, and theories of subjectivity; the problem of messianic time as explicated in both images and lived experience; parody as a literary paradigm; and the potential of magic to provide an ethical canon. The range of topics and themes addressed here attest to the creativity of Agamben's singular mode of thought and his persistent concern with the act of witnessing, sometimes futile, sometimes earth-shattering: the talking cricket in Pinocchio; "helpers" in Kafka's novels; pictorial representations of the Last Judgment, of anonymous female faces, and of "Rosebud," the infamous object of obsession in Citizen Kane. "In Praise of Profanity," the central essay of this small but dense book, confronts the question of profanity as the crucial political task of the moment. An act of resistance to every form of separation, the concept of profanation reorients perceptions of how power, consumption, and use interweave to produce an urgent political modality and desire: to profane the unprofanable. Agamben not only provides a new and potent theoretical model but describes it with a writerly style that itself forges inescapable links among literature, politics, and philosophy.Giorgio Agamben is Professor of Aesthetics at the University of Venice. His many publications include Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, The Coming Community, and State of Exception. (shrink)
What is a rule, if it appears to become confused with life? And what is a human life, if, in every one of its gestures, of its words, and of its silences, it cannot be distinguished from the rule? It is to these questions that Agamben's new book turns by means of an impassioned reading of the fascinating and massive phenomenon of Western monasticism from Pachomius to St. Francis. The book reconstructs in detail the life of the monks with their (...) obsessive attention to temporal articulation and to the Rule, to ascetic techniques and to liturgy. But Agamben's thesis is that the true novelty of monasticism lies not in the confusion between life and norm, but in the discovery of a new dimension, in which "life" as such, perhaps for the first time, is affirmed in its autonomy, and in which the claim of the "highest poverty" and "use" challenges the law in ways that we must still grapple with today. How can we think a form-of-life, that is, a human life released from the grip of law, and a use of bodies and of the world that never becomes an appropriation? How can we think life as something not subject to ownership but only for common use? (shrink)
We can no longer speak of a state of war in any traditional sense, yet there is currently no viable theory to account for the manifold internal conflicts, or civil wars, that increasingly afflict the world's populations. Meant as a first step toward such a theory, Giorgio Agamben's latest book looks at how civil war was conceived of at two crucial moments in the history of Western thought: in ancient Athens and later, in the work of Thomas Hobbes. It identifies (...) civil war as the fundamental threshold of politicization in the West, an apparatus that over the course of history has alternately allowed for the de-politicization of citizenship and the mobilization of the unpolitical. The arguments herein, first conceived of in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, have become ever more relevant now that we have entered the age of planetary civil war. (shrink)
In this philosophical detective story, Giorgio Agamben reads the mysterious 1938 disappearance of atomic physicist Ettore Majorana as an intentional and decisive objection to how quantum physics had reduced the real to probability.
In this follow-up to The Kingdom and the Glory and The Highest Poverty, Agamben investigates the roots of our moral concept of duty in the theory and practice of Christian liturgy. Beginning with the New Testament and working through to late scholasticism and modern papal encyclicals, Agamben traces the Church's attempts to repeat Christ's unrepeatable sacrifice. Crucial here is the paradoxical figure of the priest, who becomes more and more a pure instrument of God's power, so that his own motives (...) and character are entirely indifferent as long as he carries out his priestly duties. In modernity, Agamben argues, the Christian priest has become the model ethical subject. We see this above all in Kantian ethics. Contrasting the Christian and modern ontology of duty with the classical ontology of being, Agamben contends that Western philosophy has unfolded in the tension between the two. This latest installment in the study of Western political structures begun in Homo Sacer is a contribution to the study of liturgy, an extension of Nietzsche's genealogy of morals, and a reworking of Heidegger's history of Being. (shrink)
Creation and salvation -- What is the contemporary? -- K. -- On the uses and disadvantages of living among specters -- On what we can not do -- Identity without the person -- Nudity -- The glorious body -- Hunger of an ox : considerations on the Sabbath, the feast, and inoperativity -- The last chapter in the history of the world.
In this book, one of Italy's most important and original contemporary philosophers considers the status of art in the modern era. He takes seriously Hegel's claim that art has exhausted its spiritual vocation. He argues, however, that Hegel by no means proclaimed the 'death of art' (as many still imagine) but proclaimed rather the indefinite continuation of art in a 'self-annulling' mode. With astonishing breadth and originality, he probes the meaning, aesthetics, and historical consequences of that self-annulment. He argues that (...) the birth of modern aesthetics is the result of a series of schisms - such as between artist and spectator, genius and taste, and form and matter - that are manifestations of the deeper, self-negating yet self-perpetuating movement of irony. He offers an imaginative reinterpretation of the history of aesthetic theory from Kant to Heidegger. The final chapter offers a dazzling interpretation of Dürer's Melancholia. (shrink)
La question de la méthode est ici abordée à partir d’une réflexion sur trois concepts : le paradigme, la signature, l’archéologie. L’analyse du paradigme permet de dessiner les lignes essentielles d’un chapitre qui fait défaut dans l’histoire de la logique occidentale – la théorie de l’exemple et de l’analogie. Sur les traces des traités de l’âge baroque et de la Renaissance de signatura rerum, le deuxième volet définit la signature comme « signe dans le signe », qui joue un rôle (...) décisif dans l’interprétation des signes, de la théorie médiévale des sacrements à Benveniste, de la doctrine des transcendantaux à Warburg et à Freud. Le troisième, enfin, poursuit les analyses de Foucault sur la relation entre archéologie et histoire et pose un concept d’origine qui ne reste pas isolé dans le passé, mais qui, comme les mots indo-européens en grammaire comparée ou l’enfant en psychanalyse, ne cesse d’agir dans le présent pour le rendre intelligible. L’entrelacs de ces trois noeuds problématiques ouvre l’espace d’un court traité sur la méthode, question première et ultime pour tout travail en philosophie et en sciences humaines. (shrink)
What does it mean to be responsible for our actions? In this brief and elegant study, Giorgio Agamben traces our most profound moral intuitions back to their roots in the sphere of law and punishment. Moral accountability, human free agency, and even the very concept of cause and effect all find their origin in the language of the trial, which Western philosophy and theology both transform into the paradigm for all of human life. In his search for a way out (...) of this destructive paradigm, Agamben not only draws on minority opinions within the Western tradition but engages at length with Buddhist texts and concepts for the first time. In sum, Karman deepens and rearticulates some of Agamben's core insights while breaking significant new ground. (shrink)
Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben is the rare writer whose ideas and works have a broad appeal across many fields, and his devoted fans are not just philosophers, but readers of political and legal theory, sociology, and literary criticism as well. In March 2009, Agamben was invited to speak in Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral in the presence of the Bishop of Paris and a number of other high-ranking church officials. His resulting speech, a stunningly lucid and provocative look at the history and (...) state of the Church and its role in society, is presented here. The Church and the Kingdom is at once a pointed attack on the institutional structure of the Catholic Church and a theoretical excursus on the concepts of messianic time and economy. Presenting an exegesis of certain key passages in the New Testament, Agamben examines the philology and philosophy at the root of the Church and of its earthly reign. With its examinations of the foundational texts of the Church, which are also the foundational texts of our modern idea of economy, The Church and the Kingdom reveals significant connections and parallel ideologies which are imperative to understanding the current global situation. This edition of Agamben's text is accompanied by photographs by artist Alice Attie. Made from folded and twisted reproductions of paintings culled from Christian iconography, these works of art evoke the restless challenge that well-characterizes Agamben's four decades of philosophy and critique. This book will be welcomed by Agamben's many readers across the disciplines. (shrink)
In attempting to answer the question posed by this book's title, Giorgio Agamben does not address the idea of philosophy itself. Rather, he turns to the apparently most insignificant of its components: the phonemes, letters, syllables, and words that come together to make up the phrases and ideas of philosophical discourse. A summa, of sorts, of Agamben's thought, the book consists of five essays on five emblematic topics: the Voice, the Sayable, the Demand, the Proem, and the Muse. In keeping (...) with the author's trademark methodology, each essay weaves together archaeological and theoretical investigations: to a patient reconstruction of how the concept of language was invented there corresponds an attempt to restore thought to its place within the voice; to an unusual interpretation of the Platonic Idea corresponds a lucid analysis of the relationship between philosophy and science, and of the crisis that both are undergoing today. In the end, there is no universal answer to what is an impossible or inexhaustible question, and philosophical writing—a problem Agamben has never ceased to grapple with—assumes the form of a prelude to a work that must remain unwritten. (shrink)
La ricerca può essere effettuata anche con parole non complete. Per esempio - per la ricerca dell'autore 'Gerardus van der Leeuw' può bastare l'inserimento della parola 'lee' o di altre parti del nome o del cognome. Questa possibilità facilita la ricerca di parole difficili o di cui non è semplice memorizzare la trascrizione. Se invece si inserisce nella ricerca, oltre al cognome dell'autore, anche il nome ed il titolo del libro, o almeno alcune parole significative del titolo, il risultato della (...) ricerca sarà più selettivo. (shrink)
L'eclissi della politica è cominciata da quando essa ha omesso di confrontarsi con le trasformazioni che ne hanno svuotato categorie e concetti. Accade così che paradigmi genuinamente politici vadano ora cercati in esperienze e fenomeni che di solito non sono considerati politici: la vita naturale degli uomini restituita al centro della polis; il campo di concentramento; il rifugiato; il linguaggio come luogo politico per eccellenza, oggetto di una contesa e di una manipolazione senza precedenti; la sfera dei mezzi puri o (...) dei gesti, ossia dei mezzi che, pur restando tali, si emancipano dalla loro relazione a un fine. Il libro cerca di ripensare le categorie della politica in una nuova realtà. (shrink)
Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer series is one of the seminal Works of political philosophy in recent decades. A twenty-year undertaking, this project is a series of interconnected investigations of staggering ambition and scope, investigating the deepest foundations of every major Western institution and discourse.
This chapter is an intervention into the interpretation of Franz Kafka's great novels The Trial and The Castle; implicitly, it constitutes a divided assault on the divisiveness of the law. In Roman law, slander represented so serious a threat for the administration of justice that the false accuser was punished by the branding of the letter K on his forehead. The gravity of slander is a function of its calling into question the principle itself of the trial: the moment of (...) accusation. K.'s strategy can be defined with more precision as the failed attempt to render impossible, not the trial, but the confession. The profession of the protagonist of The Castle is addressed. The interpretation according to which K. wants to be accepted by the castle and settle in the village would then appear all the more mistaken. (shrink)
In the perspective of the philosophical archaeology proposed, here, the arkhé towards which archaeology regresses must not be understood in any way as an element that can be situated in chronology ; it is, rather, a force that operates in history—much in the same way in which Indoeuropean words express a system of connections among historically accessible languages, in which the child in psychoanalysis expresses an active force in the psychic life of the adult, in which the big bang, which (...) is supposed to have originated the universe, continues to send towards us its fossil radiation. But the arkhé is not a datum or a substance. It is much rather a field of bipolar historical currents within the tension of anthropogenesis and history, between point of emergence and becoming, between arch-past and present. And as such—that is to say, to the extent to which it is something that it is necessarily supposed to have factually happened, and which yet cannot be hypostatized in any chronologically identifiable event—it is solely capable of guaranteeing the intelligibility of historical phenomena, of ‘saving’ them archaeologically within a future perfect, yet not grasping its origin, but rather its history, at once finite and untotalizable. (shrink)
"Is it meaningful to call oneself a democrat? And if so, how do you interpret the word?" -/- In responding to this question, eight iconoclastic thinkers prove the rich potential of democracy, along with its critical weaknesses, and reconceive the practice to accommodate new political and cultural realities. Giorgio Agamben traces the tense history of constitutions and their coexistence with various governments. Alain Badiou contrasts current democratic practice with democratic communism. Daniel Bensaid ponders the institutionalization of democracy, while Wendy Brown (...) discusses the democratization of society under neoliberalism. Jean-Luc Nancy measures the difference between democracy as a form of rule and as a human end, and Jacques Rancière highlights its egalitarian nature. Kristin Ross identifies hierarchical relationships within democratic practice, and Slavoj Zizek complicates the distinction between those who desire to own the state and those who wish to do without it. -/- Concentrating on the classical roots of democracy and its changing meaning over time and within different contexts, these essays uniquely defend what is left of the left-wing tradition after the fall of Soviet communism. They confront disincentives to active democratic participation that have caused voter turnout to decline in western countries, and they address electoral indifference by invoking and reviving the tradition of citizen involvement. Passionately written and theoretically rich, this collection speaks to all facets of modern political and democratic debate. (shrink)
Why has power in the West assumed the form of an "economy," that is, of a government of men and things? If power is essentially government, why does it need glory, that is, the ceremonial and liturgical apparatus that has always accompanied it? In the early centuries of the Church, in order to reconcile monotheism with God's threefold nature, the doctrine of Trinity was introduced in the guise of an economy of divine life. It was as if the Trinity amounted (...) to nothing more than a problem of managing and governing the heavenly house and the world. Agamben shows that, when combined with the idea of providence, this theological-economic paradigm unexpectedly lies at the origin of many of the most important categories of modern politics, from the democratic theory of the division of powers to the strategic doctrine of collateral damage, from the invisible hand of Smith's liberalism to ideas of order and security. But the greatest novelty to emerge from _The Kingdom and the Glory _ is that modern power is not only government but also glory, and that the ceremonial, liturgical, and acclamatory aspects that we have regarded as vestiges of the past actually constitute the basis of Western power. Through a fascinating analysis of liturgical acclamations and ceremonial symbols of power—the throne, the crown, purple cloth, the Fasces, and more—Agamben develops an original genealogy that illuminates the startling function of consent and of the media in modern democracies. With this book, the work begun with _Homo Sacer_ reaches a decisive point, profoundly challenging and renewing our vision of politics. (shrink)
L'uomo moderno è ancora capace di esperienza o la distruzione dell'esperienza è da considerare un fatto ormai compiuto? Da questo interrogativo prende avvio la ricerca che dà il titolo al volume per proporre un ripensamento radicale del problema dell'esperienza, in cui il tema si allarga sino ad abbracciare motivi apparentemente lontani; la sotterranea solidarietà di razionalismo e irrazionalismo nella nostra cultura e lo scivolare della fantasia dalla sfera della conoscenza a quella dell'irrealtà; la scissione fra desiderio e bisogno e l'apparizione (...) del concetto di inconscio; il rifiuto delle ragioni dell'esperienza da parte dei movimenti giovanili e lo spostarsi dell'avventura dal quotidiano allo straordinario; la nascita dell'io e la rivendicazione dell'inesperibile nella poesia moderna. (shrink)
In 2013, Benedict XVI became only the second pope in the history of the Catholic Church to resign from office. In this brief but illuminating study, Giorgio Agamben argues that Benedict's gesture, far from being solely a matter of internal ecclesiastical politics, is exemplary in an age when the question of legitimacy has been virtually left aside in favor of a narrow focus on legality. This reflection on the recent history of the Church opens out into an analysis of one (...) of the earliest documents of Christianity: the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, which stages a dramatic confrontation between the "man of lawlessness" and the enigmatic katechon, the power that holds back the end of days. In Agamben's hands, this infamously obscure passage reveals the theological dynamics of history that continue to inform Western culture to this day. (shrink)