Catastrophe and Redemption: The Political Thought of Giorgio Agamben (SUNY Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Offers a striking new reading of Agamben’s political thought and its implications for political action in the present. Challenging the prevalent account of Agamben as a pessimistic thinker, Catastrophe and Redemption proposes a reading of his political thought in which the redemptive element of his work is not a curious aside but instead is fundamental to his project. Jessica Whyte considers his critical account of contemporary politics—his argument that Western politics has been “biopolitics” since its inception, his critique of human rights, his argument that the state of exception is now the norm, and the paradigmatic significance he attributes to the concentration camp—and shows that it is in the midst of these catastrophes of the present that Agamben sees the possibility of a form of profane redemption. Whyte outlines the importance of potentiality in his attempt to formulate a new politics, examines his relation to Jewish and Christian strands of messianism, and interrogates the new forms of praxis that he situates within contemporary commodity culture, taking Agamben’s thought as a call for the creation of new political forms.
on the rigid division of man's private life in the home (oikos) and his public life in the state, thus Arendt's dismissal of human rights (and her valorization of the rights that are granted through participation in the political sphere) is premised on a narrow conception of the political, from which social questions, including poverty, labor, and reproduction are excluded. This expulsion was necessary, she argues, if the political sphere was to be a realm of freedom. It was this distinction
will live to see the exalted moment of a great Jewish wedding: the rebirth and rise of a Jewish state.”120 Here we see in its starkest form that belief in the intertwining of catastrophe and redemption that I have suggested informs Agamben's account of politics and his reading of the Muselmann. Here, “[m]essianic legend,” in the words of Jacqueline Rose, “drenches itself in uninhibited fantasies about the catastrophic aspects of redemption.”121 This messianism, as Rose has stressed, imbued
impotentiality, he argues, then this must be true even of impotentiality itself, which must maintain the potential to not not be (that is, impotentiality must retain the potential to come into actuality). Thus, he reinterprets actuality as what Daniel Heller-Roazen terms a “potential to the second degree,” and thereby complicates every attempt to rigidly distinguish potentiality from actuality.63 In Agamben's view, this complication is already present in Aristotle's text, and he insists (against
believes we are now faced with an empty law that can be played with “as children play with disused objects,”110 the “ruins” these thinkers suggest can be put to new uses are not confined to objects, but include a student union, and the Chartres Cathedral, which can be turned into “a funfair, into a labyrinth, into a shooting range—into a dream landscape.”111 If all of Western politics, as it has been understood since Aristotle, is entrapped and immobile, rendered senseless by nihilism, on this
highlighted, poor or oppressed people are not always each other's greatest allies. People in the favelas of Rio (also) shoot each other in drug wars, people in the crumbling buildings of Havana (also) crowd into boats desperate to reach the less crumbling walls of the United States, people in the swampy shantytowns of Jakarta (also) join Islamist groups dedicated to instituting extreme forms of Sharia law, like that instituted in the Province of Aceh, which dictates death by stoning for