Giorgio Agamben (Routledge Critical Thinkers)

Giorgio Agamben (Routledge Critical Thinkers)

Alex Murray

Language: English

Pages: 164

ISBN: 0415451698

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Giorgio Agamben is one of the most important and controversial figures in contemporary continental philosophy and critical theory. His work covers a broad array of topics from biblical criticism to Guantanamo Bay and the ‘war on terror’.

Alex Murray explains Agamben’s key ideas, including:

  • an overview of his work from first publication to the present
  • clear analysis of Agamben’s philosophy of language and life
  • theories of ethics and ‘witnessing’
  • the relationship between Agamben’s political writing and his work on aesthetics and poetics.

Investigating the relationship between politics, language, literature, aesthetics and ethics, this guide is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the complex nature of modern political and cultural formations.













Kant can only map out the history of thought by thinking about the ends – i.e. an idea of ‘pure reason’ that is the goal of thought. So philosophy cannot reach back into the past and pinpoint an arche, a first principle from which the world develops, instead it can only grasp the history of thought by positing a structure of thought, conditions of possibility, from which it will explore the very nature of that thought. Agamben takes this paradox as the starting point, to some extent, for the

we will explore further in Chapter 6). Criticism’s goal is to provide a negation of itself by contributing to a realisation of language as communicating nothing more than itself. If you recall the model of philosophical archaeology outlined in the previous chapter, the goal of true criticism is to deactivate the moment of the split (between poetry and philosophy) on which it is based. So a critical work seeks to uncover the nature of that split in order to negate the very idea of criticism.

moment in Bergman’s film Monika when the movie star suddenly stares directly into the camera, that is, directly at us. Agamben points out that this technique is now perfectly banal as we have become so used to it from pornography and advertising. What pornography and the fashion model in advertising show us is that there are always more images behind each image, hence their emptiness, and Agamben returns to the image of the pornstar staring into the camera on a number of occasions as

appease the gods it is necessary that part of the internal organs of the victim would be reserved for the gods, the rest consumed by human beings. But if human beings touched those organs then they would be returned to the human sphere, contaminated by it. So sacrifice as a threshold activity becomes the point at which separation and exclusion can occur, but it always has the potential to be returned to the sphere of the profane. This should already strike us as a familiar Agambenian formula.

sphere of human kind. The new use that opens up in profaning capitalism is analogous to the ways in which an understanding of messianic time will illuminate the power of deactivation. In Agamben’s analysis of St Paul we saw the production of the remnant, that which was not of chronological time or eschatological time, as opening up the space in which the coming community can uncover the true homeland of humanity. AFTER AGAMBEN There is an obvious contradiction in having a chapter entitled

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