The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government

The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government

The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government

The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

This study will inquire into the paths by which and the reasons why power in the West has assumed the form of an oikonomia, that is, a government of men. It locates itself in the wake of Michel Foucault’s investigations into the genealogy of governmentality, but, at the same time, it also aims to understand the internal reasons why they failed to be completed. Indeed, in this study, the shadow that the theoretical interrogation of the present casts onto the past reaches well beyond the chronological limits that Foucault assigned to his genealogy, to the early centuries of Christian theology, which witness the first, tentative elaboration of the Trinitarian doctrine in the form of an oikonomia. Locating government in its theological locus in the Trinitarian oikonomia does not mean to explain it by means of a hierarchy of causes, as if a more primordial genetic rank would necessarily pertain to theology. We show instead how the apparatus of the Trinitarian oikonomia may constitute a privileged laboratory for the observation of the working and articulation—both internal and external—of the governmental machine. For within this apparatus the elements—or the polarities—that articulate the machine appear, as it were, in their paradigmatic form.

In this way, the inquiry into the genealogy—or, as one used to say, the nature—of power in the West, which I began more than ten years ago with Homo Sacer, reaches a point that is in every sense decisive. The double structure of the governmental machine, which in State of Exception (2003) appeared in the correlation between auctoritas and potestas, here takes the form of the articulation between Kingdom and Government and, ultimately, interrogates the very relation—which initially was not considered— . . .

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