The Power of Life: Agamben and the Coming Politics (To Imagine a Form of Life, II)

The Power of Life: Agamben and the Coming Politics (To Imagine a Form of Life, II)

The Power of Life: Agamben and the Coming Politics (To Imagine a Form of Life, II)

The Power of Life: Agamben and the Coming Politics (To Imagine a Form of Life, II)

Synopsis

Giorgio Agamben's work develops a new philosophy of life. On its horizon lies the conviction that our form of life can become the guiding and unifying power of the politics to come. Informed by this promise, The Power of Life weaves decisive moments and neglected aspects of Agamben's writings over the past four decades together with the thought of those who influenced him most (including Kafka, Heidegger, Benjamin, Arendt, Deleuze, and Foucault). In addition, the book positions his work in relation to key figures from the history of philosophy (such as Plato, Spinoza, Vico, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Derrida). This approach enables Kishik to offer a vision that ventures beyond Agamben's warning against the power over (bare) life in order to articulate the power of (our form of) life and thus to rethink the biopolitical situation. Following Agamben's prediction that the concept of life will stand at the center of the coming philosophy, Kishik points to some of the most promising directions that this philosophy can take.

Excerpt

The Philosophical Subject

The year 1968 was a remarkable one in the life of Giorgio Agamben. It began with a trip to Athens, his first visit to the ruins of the birthplace of Western philosophy and politics—the main planes in between which his thought still oscillates. Then, in May, he left for Paris to take part in the final chain of events that turned the city on its head during that restless spring. From Paris he went to New York. After attending a performance of Hair on Broadway, he took the train up to Harvard, where he participated in the International Seminar, a gathering of young intellectuals from around the world, headed by Professor Henry Kissinger. The director, however, was rarely to be seen, so the days passed with the seminar’s host, a young philosophy professor named Stanley Cavell, usually showing the participants old Hollywood movies in between discussions about American culture. One day, Kissinger actually gave a short talk. At its end, Agamben, then twenty-six years old, raised his hand and frankly told the lecturer that he understood nothing about politics. Kissinger, according to Agamben, did not respond but only smirked. Not long after he returned home to Rome, Agamben packed his suitcase once again and checked into a small hotel in Provence, where he again participated in a seminar, this time with Martin Heidegger (another professor with a dubious political involvement). It was this event that initiated him into the world of philosophy for good. Agamben recollects: “At Le Thor, Heidegger held his seminar in a garden shaded by tall trees. At times, however, we left the village, walking in the direction of Thouzon or Rebanquet, and the seminar then took place in front of a small hut hidden away in the midst of an olive grove. One day, when the seminar neared its end and the students crowded round him . . .

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