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Catastrophe and Redemption

The Political Thought of Giorgio Agamben

Jessica Whyte

Publication Year: 2013

Offers a striking new reading of Agamben’s political thought and its implications for political action in the present.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: On Catastrophe and Redemption

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pp. 1-18

In March 2009, Giorgio Agamben gave an address inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. In the audience were a number of high-ranking Church officials, including the Bishop of Paris. Although his talk has been described as a homily, its content was far from edifying. “An evocation of final things, of ultimate things, has so completely disappeared from the statements of the...

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Chapter 1: The Politics of Life

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pp. 19-46

Less than a month after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, the United States began air strikes against Afghanistan. In the speech announcing the bombings, U.S. President George W. Bush invoked the humanitarian disaster then underway in that country. “As we strike military targets,” he said, “we will also drop food, medicine, and supplies...

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Chapter 2: Politics at the Limits of the Law: On the State of Exception

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pp. 47-72

In State of Exception, Agamben discusses a series of lawless feasts—the Saturnalia, the charivari, and the Carnival—during which lawfulness would give way to chaos, hierarchies would be overturned and social norms openly transgressed.1 He quotes a horrified observer who perfectly captures the anomic disorder that ensued in such periods: “One showed his ass to the...

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Chapter 3: If This Is a Man: Life after Auschwitz

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pp. 73-96

In Remnants of Auschwitz, Agamben recounts the story of Aldo Carpi, a professor of painting who survived the Nazi Lager because the SS became aware of his artistic talents and commissioned paintings from him. Amid the horror of the camp, Carpi painted family portraits of his captors from photographs, Italian landscapes, and Venetian nudes. The ability to reproduce...

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Chapter 4: “I Would Prefer Not To”: Bartleby, Messianism, and the Potentiality of the Law

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pp. 97-122

“I was thunderstruck. For an instant I stood like the man who, pipe in mouth, was killed one cloudless afternoon long ago in Virginia, by summer lightning; at his own warm open window he was killed, and remained leaning out there upon the dreamy afternoon, till someone touched him, when he fell.”1 With these words, the narrator of Herman Melville’s...

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Chapter 5: A New Use: On the Society of the Spectacle and the Coming Politics

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pp. 123-158

Among the voluminous speculations on the “world to come” that have accompanied messianic prophecies, one stands out, not for the extravagance of its predictions, but for the very banality of its account of redemption. In the Coming Community, Agamben recounts the following tale, as told...

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Conclusion: Unemployment and the Ungovernable

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pp. 159-166

If further evidence is needed that the present is indeed catastrophic, we need look no further than contemporary Greece to find it. In a context of intractable financial crisis, one of “the most drastic drops in living standards that post-war Europe has seen” has reduced large sections of the population...


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pp. 167-198


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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-215

Back Cover

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p. 225-225

E-ISBN-13: 9781438448541
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438448534

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013