Mathias Hein Jessen: The Administration of the Given. Governmentality, Government and Economy in Giorgio Agamben

The article investigates Giorgio Agamben’s turn to, and radicalization of, Foucault’s concept of governmentality, which Agamben argues constitutes a ’decisive point’ in the Homo sacer-series. The article shows that in the investigation of the Trinitarian oikonomia, Agamben finds the point of intersection between the ‘totalizing procedures’ of the state and ‘individualizing techniques’ of biopolitics thereby disclosing the ‘zone of indistinction’ between sovereignty and government and politics and economy, which constitutes power in the West. Furthermore, the article argues that Agamben shows how the economy is not something distinct from politics, encroaching on its logic, but rather how the governmental paradigm of the West constitutes the continual administration of the given, the continual and perpetual government of the economy and thereby of the existing economic and political power-relations.


Keywords: Agamben; Foucault; governmentality; administration; economy


Nicolai von Eggers: Democracy against Representation – Social Movements and the Theory of the ’imperative mandate’ in the French Revolution

This article investigates the theory of an imperative mandate as presented in the radical French revolutionary Jean-François Varlet’s text Project for a Special and Imperative Mandate from 1792. This text is taken as, and shown to be, representative for a widespread understanding of radical democracy during the French Revolution in which deputies were not understood as ‘representatives’ but as ‘mandataries’ who were legally bound to follow the instructions of their commettants. As an essential part of this radical conception of democracy, social movements were to be constantly mobilized and able to supervise the political system. This entails a shift in the balance of power from the state to the social movements, and as such it expresses a different conception of democracy than that of liberal democracy with its rule of law and state monopoly of violence.

Keywords: Radical democracy; Varlet; Imperative mandate; French Revolution; Direct democracy

Mikkel Flohr: Civil War from Athens to Auschwitz: An essay on the political (im-)possibilities of Agamben’s thought

The starting point of this article is the concept of civil war in Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer-series. In spite of its relative obscurity, Agamben insists that civil war is the fundamental political structure, which has characterized all of Western history since Ancient Greece. As such it constitutes a privileged vantage point from whence it is possible to discern the limitations of his political thought. These limitations originate in his deployment of Carl Schmitt’s state of exception, which serves to include civil war in the sovereign order – this entails that classical modes of political contestation and conflict e.g. revolution, are always already internal to the sovereign state, and can therefore only serve to reaffirm it. The state of exception thus produces an inherent incapacity to think or move beyond the sovereign state. Agamben subsequently attempts to challenge the state of exception albeit with varying degrees of success. This suggest the necessity of taking exception to the exception and explode the conceptual coupling of civil war and sovereign power, in order to create a space where it is possible to think political contestation within or beyond the works of Agamben.

Keywords: civil war; revolution; state of exception; sovereign power; exodus


Giorgio Agamben: Elements for a Theory of Destituent Power 

This essay by Giorgio Agamben is based on a lecture given in central France in the summer of 2013. Responding directly to recent occupations and insurrections – from Cairo and Istanbul to London and New York City – Agamben builds upon his existing work in order to develop and clarify his understanding of the political, and in particular, the notion of destituent power (potenza destituente). In contrast to attempts to affirm a constituent power independent of a relation to constituted power, which for Agamben both reproduce the governmental structure of the exception and represent the apex of metaphysics, destituent power outlines a force that, in its very elaboration, deactivates the governmental machine. For Agamben, it is in the sensible elaboration of the belonging together of life and form, being and action, beyond all relation, that the impasse of the present will be overcome. Ultimately, Agamben points not only towards what it means to be ungovernable, but the potential of staying so. 

Keywords: destituent power; constituent power; Homo Sacer; sovereignty; Walter Benjamin


Mikkel Bolt: The People as Remnant: Giorgio Agamben (with and against Marx) on Movements, Power and Resistance

The article brings together three short texts by Giorgio Agamben: “What is a people?” from Means without Ends from 1996, the third chapter from The Time that Remains from 2000 and the oral presentation “What is a movement?” from 2005. It analyzes Agamben’s idea of the people as internally divided. Through a juxtaposition with Marx’ notion of the proletariat, the article discusses Agamben’s attempt to develop a inoperative, but nonetheless revolutionary counter-paradigm to the biopolitical power paradigm of the West.

Keywords: Agamben; people; remnant; movement; Marx


Giorgio Agamben: Introductory Note to the Concept of Democracy

In this text, Giorgio Agamben argues that the concept of democracy attests to a political, ontological amphibology: on the one side, democracy describes a constitution of a political order (and in this sense it belongs to public law); on the other side, democracy is a certain form of administration (in which case it belongs to administrative practice). It is argued that this amphibology can be located in the political theories of Aristotle and Jean-Jacques Rousseau who have been instrumental in forming our present conception of politics. Consequently, we misunderstand the fundamental nature of politics, and any hopes of genuine political life must therefore break with this tradition of Western political philosophy.

Keywords: Agamben; democracy; Aristotle; Rousseau; political philosophy


Nicolai von Eggers: From Constituent to Destituent Power: A Critique of Agamben’s Conception of Power and Politics

The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s conception and critique of sovereignty has won him wide and well-deserved acclamation. In this article, however, it is argued that Agamben’s conception of sovereignty is somewhat misplaced, and, as a consequence, his positive political project of developing a ‘destituent power’ (as opposed to constituent power) is highly deficient in terms of construing a popular and viable political alternative. The critique of Agamben is developed through a close reading of Aristotle’s Politics and his notion of kurion. It is argued that Agamben’s flawed conception of sovereignty reemerges symptomatically in his extremely problematic reading of Aristotle’s Politics, and that a viable political alternative to both Agamben’s own project and the conception of politics that he criticizes can be developed through an alternative and closer reading of Aristotle.

Keywords: sovereignty; Agamben; Aristotle; constituent power; destituent power


Nicolai Krejberg Knudsen: Agamben’s Kairology: Experience and Messianic Time

This article argues that Giorgio Agamben's conceptions of kairos (the decisive moment) and messianic time are essentially to be understood in terms of experience. This becomes clear when we identify the methodological similarities between Agamben's reading of Paulus in The Time That Remains and Heidegger's lectures on Paulus from 1920-21: the doctrine of kairology is different from any eschatology, insofar as it involves an instantaneous modulation of our factical conditions, rather than a removal of them (always yet) to come. In this way, I argue that Agamben echoes Heidegger's conception of formal indication and enactment-sense. But whereas Heidegger understood this modulation as an anticipatory resoluteness, in which Dasein identifies itself with its calling, Agamben emphasizesthe very impossibility of such an identification. This is indeed a decisive difference between Agamben and Heidegger. I show, however, that Agamben phrases this difference in a language that recalls Heidegger's thought, thus implicitly suggesting that the emancipatory potential of his philosophy is to be understood as the experiential enactment of an impotentiality that undermines any factical condition and any social identity.

Keywords: Agamben; Heidegger; kairos; messianism; inoperativity


Jørn Erslev Andersen: Description Without Place: On Giorgio Agambens theory of the paradigm and the literary singular

The essay presents Giorgio Agamben’s theory of the paradigm in the first chapter of The Signature of All Things. On Method (2009) in order to better understand the well-known use of references to and qoutations from literature (poems and novels) in philosophical reasoning and theory. Agamben’s uncommented reference to two short stanzas from Wallace Stevens’ poem “Description without Place”, which he consider the best definition of a paradigmatic ontology, is briefly commented. A gathering of three ‘literary singularities’ from Friedrich Hölderlin/Sophocles, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett in a suggested paradigm on time is presented as an example of a solely literary way of philosophical thinking.  

Keywords: paradigm; singularity; exemplarity; time; narrativity

Billedet er redigeret fra originalen "Je profite de ce petit mot pour répondre à une question que l'on me pose éternellement : qu'est-ce qu'un artiste contemporain ? La réponse est magnifique, elle est de Giorgio Agamben: "Est contemporain celui qui prend en pleine face le faisceau obscur de son temps !" thierry ehrmann"