Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction

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Giorgio Agamben : a critical introduction

Add to Basket. Add to Wishlist. Key Features The first critical introduction to focus on Agamben's political thought Shows Agamben's political thought to be primarily affirmative rather than critical Reads Agamben's politics in the context of his first philosophical works on ontology and ethics Covers all of Agamben's published work, introducing the full variety of themes and concepts he addresses.

Speaking the Unspeakable: Inoperative Language 4. How to Play with the Law: Inoperative Statehood 5. The Time of the End: Inoperative History 6.

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He has published over 30 articles in major international journals. Having established this "fundamental attunement," Prozorov moves on to his second and, in my view, most valuable chapter, which explores the key Agambenian concept of inoperativity. Early in the chapter, he briefly sketches the concept as follows:. For Agamben, the way to bring things to the end consists not in the teleological fulfillment of a process of development the end as completion or accomplishment nor in the merely negative act of the destruction or elimination of an object the end as termination or cessation.


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Instead, it is the process of becoming or rendering something inoperative , deactivating its functioning in the apparatus and making it available for free use. Happy life is thus made possible by neutralizing the multiple apparatuses of power to which we are subjected, including our own identities formed within them.

Giorgio Agamben. Paul, Augustine, and the Will. 2011

Having laid out the basic structure of this elusive concept, Prozorov then proceeds to make his way through examples taken from all period's of Agamben's work and to clarify the methodological stakes of Agamben's commitment to inoperativity. Particularly useful here is his discussion of the relationship between inoperativity and glory.

At times, the two concepts can seem to be identical, but Prozorov clarifies that glory is a kind of sidelining of inoperativity into a separate realm where it cannot do its subversive work of rendering power structures unworkable.

Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction (Hardback)

The third chapter focuses on Agamben's early writings on language and ontology, most notably the crucial Language and Death. Prozorov had early on pointed out that "the main thesis of Homo Sacer is already contained in the conclusion to the book Language and Death " 5 , and in the present chapter he claims that Homo Sacer "can hardly be understood in isolation" from the earlier work.

What the writings of this period elaborate is the notion of a "negative foundation," a gesture in which every system most notably language founds itself by projecting some prior foundation that can only be conceived in terms of deprivation or lack in this case, a pure animal voice devoid of linguistic meaning, which Agamben calls "Voice".

While the negative foundation seems to preexist the system, it is actually produced by it -- not just once and for all, but continually. This negative foundation both legitimates the system and leads its subjects on the wild goose chase of "returning" to a false origin that the system itself produces. In order to get out of this vicious circle, Agamben recommends that we step back from the nostalgic quest for origins and instead meditate on the sheer fact that there is language, a gesture that makes room for a new and more liberated stance toward language and hence toward our very humanity.

In this way, humanity can reclaim its pure potentiality beyond its actual entrapment in the concrete apparatuses that order our lives.


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  8. With this basic structure in hand, Prozorov proceeds in the fourth chapter to examine the more properly political works of the Homo Sacer series, which he claims "only become fully intelligible on the basis of Agamben's critique of the logic of negative foundation and his program for the reappropriation of human potentiality. Like Voice, "bare life does not precede politics but is rather its product.

    Rather than being natural, bare life is in a sense always denatured as a result of its inclusion into the political order" Instead of attempting to overthrow the sovereign structure that produces bare life, therefore, we must reappropriate our potentiality in the sense of reappropriating "the sovereignty that characterizes our very being" The fourth chapter is the most properly political, and it also has the virtue of engaging closely with two of Agamben's most prominent critics: Derrida and Negri.

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    The fifth chapter, by contrast, reconstructs Agamben's tacit intervention into the debate over the "end of history" inaugurated by Francis Fukuyama. In Prozorov's reading, Agamben's messianic state would turn crucially on a reconfiguration of humanity's relationship to its animal nature, and thus the fifth chapter lays the groundwork for the sixth and final chapter on Agamben's brief and enigmatic work on humanity and animality, The Open. In what amounts to a detailed summary of the book and its primary sources, this chapter presents the "anthropological machine," which according to Agamben continually produces the difference between human and animal, as "strictly identical to that of the sovereign state of exception" and hence identical to the structure of the negative foundation.

    One of the primary virtues of Prozorov's book is its emphasis on Agamben's consistency and continuity. This is particularly true given that, in an introductory text, it is crucial to give the reader basic patterns to search out and recognize, a task that is especially urgent in the case of Agamben's sprawling body of work. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Prozorov overemphasizes the recurring patterns to the detriment of any account of Agamben's development. Indeed, there is a real danger of oversimplifying Agamben's approach so that it appears to be a mechanical application of the same schema over and over in radically heterogeneous areas of study.