Sunday, July 13, 2008

Agamben to Arendt

The Human Condition is a nice companion to the State of Exception. Giorgio Agamben’s short book maintains a tight argument. He primarily uses Carl Schmidt’s legal writings and Roman law to uphold the idea that a political and legal no man’s land, the state of exception, where the leader of a constitutional state uses the law to suspend the law has been, if not constant since World War I, the default control strategy. The oddity between how clear and obvious his thesis appears in the introduction and how arcane most of his arguments seem pose a tension between the acutely politically and socially relevant and the seemingly obscure.

The first section of Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition on the Realm of the Public and the Realm of Private act a model for the structure and use of early Western Philosophy as a basis for an argument. Where as Arendt’s arguments are broad and work within large categories, types labor, public and private, family and bureaucracy, her theories are supported by the very current, in relation to the publication of the book, or early thought. As she attempts to trace ideas from the past to the present, a logic emerges. The logic is debatable, but it is laid out. Agamben uses his examples as proofs and the writing style is more formal. At times, the two time frames, early law/politics and the current Patriot Act seem too distant. Arendt's more conversational tone seems to provide a model to fill the gap.

I look forward to the next conversation tonight at 8pm Chicago time.


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