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Giorgio Agamben investigates two founding moments in the formation of European power in its struggle with its most dangerous enemy: internecine civil strife.
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 (from which the political concept of stasis emerges) 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.
A first step toward a viable theory of the manifold internal conflicts that afflict the world's populations today, this book looks at how civil war was conceived of at two crucial moments in the history of Western thought, in ancient Athens (from which the political concept of "stasis" emerges) and later, in the work of Thomas Hobbes.
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.
This book argues that the extraordinary force of the image in contemporary life?the contemporary imaginary?can be traced back to the Byzantine iconoclastic controversy of the eighth and ninth centuries.
Pontius Pilate is one of the most enigmatic figures in Christian theology. The only non-Christian to be named in the Nicene Creed, he is presented as a cruel colonial overseer in secular accounts, as a conflicted judge convinced of Jesus's innocence in the Gospels, and as either a pious Christian or a virtual demon in later Christian writings. This book takes Pilate's role in the trial of Jesus as a starting point for investigating the function of legal judgment in Western society and the ways that such judgment requires us to adjudicate the competing claims of the eternal and the historical. Coming just as Agamben is bringing his decades-long Homo Sacer project to an end, Pilate and Jesus sheds considerable light on what is at stake in that series as a whole. At the same time, it stands on its own, perhaps more than any of the author's recent works. It thus serves as a perfect starting place for readers who are curious about Agamben's approach but do not know where to begin.
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.

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