Theory and Event Volume 13, Issue 1, 2010

‘A New Use of the Self’: Giorgio Agamben on the Coming Community. Heaven and Hell, however, hang together.
—ADORNO AND HORKHEIMER, Dialectic of Enlightenment.

Jessica Whyte

Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies
MONASH UNIVERSITY.

Amongst 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, Giorgio Agamben recounts the following tale, as told by Walter Benjamin to Ernst Bloch: “The Hassidim tell a story about the world to come that says everything there will be just as it is here. Just as our room is now, so it will be in the world to come; where our baby sleeps now, there too it will sleep in the other world. And the clothes we wear in this world, those too we will wear there. Everything will be as it is now, just a little different.’”1 There is no doubt something disappointing about such an image of redemption, particularly when placed alongside Christian promises of “a new heaven and a new earth” [Rev 21:1], in which “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying” [Rev 21:4]. Nonetheless, in offering a vision of the world to come that is intimately connected to our world, it seems to foreshadow the possibility of changing our world, even if, as it were, only a little. And yet, as this tale was passed down by tradition, and ultimately passed from Gershom Scholem to Benjamin to Bloch, the question of the nature of the change that would be required, and that of the agency that could accomplish it, received different, and often contradictory, emphases. In Bloch’s recounting of the tale—which introduces a slight, yet decisive, alteration into the version previously told by Benjamin—if the world to come will be just like this world, this does not mean that the little difference that would constitute it is easy to accomplish. All that is necessary to establish this new world, Bloch suggests, is the slight displacement of a stone, a cup or a brush. “But”, he writes, “this small displacement is so difficult to achieve and its measure is so difficult to find that, with regard to the world, humans are incapable of it and it is necessary that the Messiah come.”2

for us. custom and character “no longer hold any meaning”—as the precursors of a new form of life. Agamben offers a task that. and how would it be possible to achieve it? And what inflection would it give to the very idea of “redemption”? In the second thesis of his “On the Concept of History”. he points us in a startling direction: suggesting that planetary humanity now comprises a global “petty bourgeoisie”.”4 By deriving our vision of happiness from the world in which we find ourselves. resembles it more so than has any other point in history. we can discern that if the petty bourgeoisie is the cipher for Agamben’s hopes this is because its world—our world—somehow resembles his own version of the world to come. typified by the “transformation of politics and of all social life into a spectacular phantasmagoria. differences of language. and. women who could have given themselves to us. just a little different”? In what would this difference consist. it has often been greeted with perplexity.”5 And yet.A New Use of the Self 2 What would it mean. indeed. removing the thin diaphragm that separates bad mediatized advertising from the perfect exteriority that communicates only itself—this”. “exists only in the air we have breathed. I suggest that. in the Coming Community. “our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption.”7 From this enigmatic suggestion. however. echoes Benjamin’s version of the Hassidic tale: “Selecting in the new planetary humanity those characteristics that allow for its survival. whether for law or for language. a form of politics. indeed. terms the “society of the spectacle”—that we must find our vision of happiness. the normalisation of the state of exception and unceasing commodification? In what follows.” he writes. in Antonio Negri’s view that. Agamben suggests. all solid foundations. it is precisely from this world—amidst what Agamben. “The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us. it becomes possible to eschew a model of redemption premised on divine intervention and to imagine a form of immanent social transformation.6 In outlining the possibility of this new life. Benjamin makes clear that. following Guy Debord. vocation. to imagine a redeemed world in which everything “will be as it is now. and all the nations of the earth have been driven towards a single destiny. he writes. and with the suggestion that Agamben’s redemptive vision is simply a restatement of the predicament from which he wishes to free us. Benjamin offers a vision that seems to owe something to the Hassidic tale: in contrast to a utopia whose inspiration lies outside this world. This is clear in Slavoj !i"ek’s question: “[a]re we not encountering in our social reality what Agamben envisages as a utopian vision?”8. he suggests that our own times thoroughly color our image of happiness. at this point. “is the political task of our generation. he simultaneously offers this petty bourgeoisie—for whom authenticity. among people we could have talked to. When this resemblance has been noted by critics. have been hollowed out. in Agamben’s view. In spectacular society. In treating Agamben’s work. in its apparent modesty. in a less critical tone. each of us living out the “absurdity of individual existence”. today. the proper. “the . such an approach is complicated by his unrelentingly bleak diagnosis of this world. What would it mean to take our vision of happiness from a world whose paradigmatic instance is the concentration camp? What does it mean to suggest that the new form of life necessary to save us from catastrophe resembles nothing so much as the life we live today—a life typified by biopolitics.”3 Moreover.

such critiques remain limited to the extent that they do not examine the immanent dynamic in our own time that he sees as enabling such a life. it is conducted in the name of those possibilities that he believes are not only captured but also created by the domination of the commodity form. politics is reliant on sovereign power to grant rights and represent social classes. While Agamben’s account of the spectacle enables us to see possibilities for a transformative relation to our own time. juridicizing politics by making it a process of apportioning juridical rights and representing pre-given constituencies rather than a field of possibility and transformation in which we could hope to be other than we are. Debord coined the term “the spectacle” in the late 1960’s to define “the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life”. he thus believes it is necessary to contest both the fixity of personal identity and the substantivization of . Consequent to this fixing of identities. and no spaces. is guided by a concern to think a life of potentiality that could escape the hold of sovereign power. without identity must be attentive to the ways in which politicized forms of identity continue to function as markers of differential power. role in Agamben’s account of the new form of singularity without identity that he terms “whatever being” and in the potential community he terms the “coming community”. a politics premised on substantive or factual identities fixes its subjects. in which there is nothing ‘authentic’ or ‘natural’. which. this is because. Nonetheless. destined to be washed away by the nullifying power of capitalism. Capital.10 If Agamben sees this as the most adequate term to designate our own time. in Agamben’s view. a community of pure singularity without exclusion. nullifies substantive identities. or a community.11 Agamben’s critique of the spectacle is unrelenting. political or otherwise. not only undermines naturalistic foundations for identity but also creates new identities that are bound up with both reactionary and emancipatory political claims. in which the post-modern co-exists with a resurgence of social forms. identities and classes that. were believed to have been consigned to the past. and presupposes exclusionary forms of belonging and border-control to police the borders of identity and entitlement. Here I would like to examine only one of those possibilities. I suggest.A New Use of the Self 3 experience of redemption was presented as dystopia.12 This concern with a singularity that “makes use” of itself. that have not been thoroughly subjected to the logic of commodification. in the heady days of progress. rather than being bound within a naturalized and/or politicized identity. I outline that dynamic. In what follows. Therefore. he believes that we are living through a period in which everything has been expropriated and offered up for consumption. which Agamben frames as ‘a new use of the self. if largely unexamined. for the first time. In Agamben’s view.’ The idea of use plays an important. any attempt to formulate a politics. making possible.”9 Here I will suggest that while these thinkers are right to highlight the proximity of Agamben’s diagnosis of our time to his account of a new form of life. and to avoid nostalgic attempts to return to past certainties. I suggest it is inadequately attentive to the differential temporality of spectacular capitalism. and must resist the teleological temptation to see such politicized identities as archaisms. In order to escape such a politics. in which everything “that was directly lived has moved away into representation”. like Debord. I suggest.

that Agamben’s account of “whatever being” rests on the claim that the spectacle has produced a “classless society”. broadly speaking of the left. and I would like to focus on this. as Thomas Carl Wall writes. in his view. however. he does so through a discussion of love.”18 Unlike Marx’s. What the nihilism of the spectacle reveals. etc.” he writes. of human being. the inessential nature. albeit one which parodies the Marxian version.”20 When Agamben wishes to explain “whatever being”. Love. has ever placed such grand hopes in what Marx saw as a “transitional class”. Australians. “there are no longer social classes. enabling a struggle between “two great hostile camps”17. a remnant. this is because it is precisely in its vacuity. it would seem. the “petty-bourgeoisie has inherited the world and is the form in which humanity has survived nihilism. Thus.”16 In contrast to Marx’s belief that such “transitional classes’” would fade away. it is possible to discern that human being is inessential being. For the first time in history. nor particular. If it represents an opportunity. Agamben terms such a singularity—which is neither universal.A New Use of the Self 4 community as a community of (women. Agamben writes: the “petty bourgeoisie is probably the form in which humanity is moving toward its own destruction. “but just a single planetary petty bourgeoisie in which all the old social classes are dissolved. which would thus exist as a pure singularity.”19 The pettybourgeoisie is the inheritor of a process of nullification. Agamben’s petty bourgeoisie is a product. typified by “moral indignation. and thus able to claim sectional rights—“whatever being” and sees it as marking the possibility of a human community free of any essential condition of belonging. or better. brings into operation the mechanism of inclusive exclusion of what he terms the sovereign ban. as Nancy describes it. rather than a community of essence. which. and rendered stable subjectivities and naturalized vocations meaningless. and thus enshrined in the ‘rights of man’. common destiny or work. the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.13 It is noteworthy. But this also means that the petty bourgeoisie represents an opportunity unheard of in the history of humanity that it must at all costs not let slip away. or principle of inclusion and exclusion—a being-together of existences.”14 Outlining the extraordinary stakes in his engagement with this figure. “than advertising footage from which every trace of the advertised product has been wiped out. a new use of the self would entail the denaturalization and desacralization of the self. Agamben provides an evocative image of this expropriation: nothing “better resembles the condition of this new humanity.).” he writes. in its indifference to identity and to national dreams that Agamben locates the germinating seed of “whatever being”. which has torn down the divisions of identity. he suggests. he suggests.21 Yet while whatever beings have no unitary identity that would enable them to form a community . is precisely the insubstantiality. or. “being expropriated is human being. of the process of expropriation carried out by the spectacle.”15 It is doubtful that any thinker. rather than as an instance of a particular identity. can be understood neither through the particular properties of the loved one nor through a neglect of these properties. in Agamben’s view.

which is nullified by the messianic vocation. it is nonetheless worth asking how his coming community compares to Christian attempts to found a community in love. who preached love against the law. existing between good and evil in blissful vacuity. use it rather” (I Cor. Being-in-language is. neither are they marked by what Agamben terms the “incipit generality” of concepts like “universal love” (and presumably also universal human rights). it is in Paul. 7:17-22). it is one so far from being modelled on the Christian ‘community of love’ that its members have forgotten God’s very existence. but thereby frees it from its abandonment as the foundation of particular languages and peoples. time contracted itself.24 This means that a community of such “lovable” beings would itself be without presuppositions (and classes). that even those having wives may be as not [hos me] having. for Agamben. Art thou called being a slave? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free. that the possibility of such a community appears for the first time. Adam Thurschwell has suggested that “if “the coming community is a community of love. and . While this being may be modelled on love. it is in the society of the spectacle that he believes it is germinating. happier. This interpretation. he writes. nature”. “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”23 In an unusual twist.”25 It is within this process of nullification. he suggests. “the lover wants the loved one with all of its predicates. Agamben links this theory of love directly to his account of the potentiality of language: love. is simply “seeing something in its being-thus”—in its being-in-language. “contemporary politics”. Agamben argues that what is to be used is the condition of slavery itself. The lover desires the as only insofar as it is such—this is the lover’s particular fetishism. in which he finds what “may be his most rigorous definition of messianic life”:28 But this I say brethren. and those weeping as not weeping. While Agamben gives his own inflection to the relation between community and love. stripped of meaning while remaining factually unchanged.A New Use of the Self 5 premised on a logic of inclusion or exclusion. the “non-predicative property par excellence”. that we find the inspiration for the free use of the self that Agamben believes would lead humanity to its “second.”26 While it is true that the coming community is not striving for heaven but content in limbo. identities and communities. its being such as it is. and those rejoicing as not rejoicing.22 In contrast. which expropriates the very potentiality of language. While it would be possible to read the phrase “use it rather” to signify a use of freedom. which can only subsume singularity in universality. existing in a realm prior to those linguistic judgments that must divide into classes in order to signify. “is this devastating experimentum linguae that all over the planet unhinges and empties traditions and beliefs. we read. the rest is. Agamben believes. ideologies and religions.27 In I Corinthians. he writes. in which we can find an analogue for his account of the status of identity and class in the society of the spectacle (and here it is worth noting that Agamben has elsewhere referred to our own time as the messianic era) rests on a reading of the following Pauline passage.

these relations are there. but continues to inhabit the empty form of the old one. he writes. he suggests. man/woman)” through the as not. such as that which would attain to simply living out the station in life granted by a combination of biology and chance. suggesting that in the enactment of a Christian life. who devoted a significant component of his 1921 lecture course to Paul and the “Characteristics of Early Christian Life Experience. and his contention that the slave should remain a slave. Agamben suggests. “this is the definition Paul gives to messianic life in the form of the as not. yet radically changed.29 The Pauline “as not”. Agamben suggests. and cites the following important passage: These directions of meaning. however. Agamben briefly mentions Heidegger’s lecture course. the one who “uses” a factical condition does not establish a new condition.32 And yet. is premised on the expropriation of every juridical/factual identity “(circumcised /uncircumcised. but. toward one’s calling. to take up the old identity “as not”. found a new identity. slave/free. what is decisive for Paul is “not the anticipation of a future event”. Nevertheless. Agamben sees “the formula concerning messianic life” and the model for a nullification which revokes factical positions and identities in the same act as maintaining them. stressing that. “Use:” Agamben writes. Heidegger writes.”36 For Heidegger. For passing away is the figure of this world (I Cor. “Paul uses a peculiar expression that gave his interpreters much to ponder: chresai ‘make use’. or simple ‘use’ (‘use it rather!’)”34 Agamben derives the substance of this reading of the hos me from Heidegger. preparing its end. In this “as not” (hos me). referring not to a naturalized form of use. but a “complex of enactment”. The point of use is thus not to establish a new identity that could in turn be granted rights and legal status. they are maintained.”30 To live the messianic life is to use.37 For Paul. toward the surrounding world.”31 The messianic life. the factical-juridical condition of the slave is not negated in such a way that a new factical-juridical condition could be established in its place. Agamben makes this clear by returning to the example of the slave. he writes this “expropriation does not.A New Use of the Self 6 those buying as not possessing. in no way determine the facticity of the Christian. To depict this messianic urgency. in Paul’s exhortation to use. and toward that which one is. “the parousia depends on how I live. serves not to establish a new vocation or condition but to place each vocation in tension with itself. a way of being in a world that is unchanged.40 . but is subtracted from the law and remains as a place of pure praxis. and those using the world as not using it up. and thus first appropriated [zuggeeignet] in an authentic manner. but to a form premised on the hollowing of substantive vocations introduced by the messianic one. the ‘new creature’ is none other than the use and messianic vocation of the old”.39 In The Time That Remains. Agamben suggests. the Christian. does not “cling to this world” but instead divests all that is worldly of significance.33 Thus.”38 What Heidegger terms the “authentic complex of enactment” of the Christian is thus defined by the hos me (the as not).”35 Heidegger too reads I Corinthians to say that the slave should remain a slave. thus transposing it “to a zone that is neither factual nor juridical. 7:29-32). “something remains unchanged and yet is radically changed.

It is to be. demonstrated in that early book.”43 A full engagement with Heidegger’s account of authenticity is beyond the scope of this paper. a destiny).41 The Christian way of life. Agamben suggests. is that for him there is no possibility of either recovering or creating a form of authenticity or propriety. and to be open to the possibilities that flow from having nothing we have to be. this is because it is in the dreams of authenticity that he locates both the desire to fix and determine a human essence. of potentiality. If Agamben sees the spectacle as an unprecedented opportunity.46 To fall in love with the improper. it is worth noting that Heidegger’s account of inauthentic life is central to Agamben’s account of spectacular society: in a fragment from Idea of Prose. in Agamben’s terms. extermination) of all that is deemed inauthentic. It is not a fact but an embrace. despite his own (Heideggerian) suspicion of “use”. Agamben suggests. an essence. there is no great decision and no destiny. the latter writes “if we want to look for an image of our estrangement and social misery. (eigentlich and uneigentlich) in Being and Time. “Rather. “whatever. or improper. we should ask what inflection it is given by Agamben’s theorisation of use. relations are “appropriated in their very impropriety. is determined not by the content of worldly relations. however. and the messianic subject is not only not defined by propriety [authenticity].A New Use of the Self 7 Agamben devotes less than half a page to Heidegger’s lecture course. however. Thus.”45 Humans. but a new use. Agamben suggests in an essay on Heidegger. or authentic and inauthentic. “every affirmation of the authentic”. where morality would once again raise its barriers…every consolidation of the walls of paradise was matched by a deepening of the infernal abyss. but by the way in which these inauthentic. nullified identities revealed by the society of the spectacle. but he is also unable to seize hold of himself as a whole. for Heidegger. he offers a description of salvation that can help shed light on this: . he comes to formulate the need for. It is in his lectures on Paul. or improper. and the concomitant expulsion (or at worst. human beings are those who fall properly in love with the improper”. but what he does say is highly significant not only in understanding the extent of his own departure from the thinker to whom he dedicated his early work Stanzas. all that is possible is to make use of the inauthentic. not an appropriation. neither originally dwell in the proper (which would assume a form of authenticity. whether in the form of an authentic decision or in Being-towarddeath.” If we return to the Benjaminian account of salvation. but also for helping us to understand why. In the Coming Community. he writes. that Heidegger anticipates what will become the dialectic of the proper and improper. Agamben writes. is to learn not to treat existence as a property. nonetheless. “for Paul. it is still to the description of everyday life in Sein and Zeit”44 What is essential in Agamben’s substitution of use for appropriation. Nonetheless. What matters about this “dialectic” for our purposes is that the “authentic does not have any content other than the inauthentic” but is simply a modified way of seizing upon the inauthentic.”42 After briefly summarising Heidegger’s argument. or an experience. what is at stake is not appropriation but use. nor nihilistically inhabit the improper. “had the effect of pushing the inauthentic to another place.

however. but instead to return us to the “small displacement” of which Bloch doubted humans were capable. which reveals itself.52 To speak of redemption. for a form of praxis that would consist in enabling things to cross the threshold that divides the profane from the sacred in the opposite direction.54 In line with his earlier account of the homo sacer.”53 Here. who is excluded from both the realm of men and the realm of the gods. Agamben suggests in Profanations. there is salvation. in Agamben’s view. in this context. Agamben premises the possibility of a new use on a particular form of praxis he terms profanation. in the zone of indistinction in which such terms lose all meaning. the “ innermost character of salvation is that we are saved only at the point when we no longer want to be. he argues that what is essential in sacrifice is always the threshold that must be crossed from the profane to the sacred.48 Agamben would therefore agree with Paulo Virno’s observation that danger manifests.” that is. but not for us. as a form of refuge. to return to what he terms “free use”. he also subsists as a “remnant of profanity” in the realm of the sacred. at the point at which we are “unsavable”. however.”51 What remains. for the most part. like the “unnamed animal protagonist” [of Kafka’s “The Burrow”] who is “obsessively occupied with constructing an impregnable burrow. and placed in a separate sphere. sacred and profane represent the two poles of a system in which a floating signifier travels from one domain to the other without ceasing to refer to the same object. at the point at which the claim of the state to save us from the dangers of the state of nature is undone by the blurring of the border between norm and exception. Agamben writes in an essay on Heidegger.55 By virtue of the ban on his sacrifice. are. and indeed Agamben defines sacred or religious things as those that have been removed from the use of men. begins with collapse of the nation-states and their collective identities. to speak of the sacred. meaning that “in the machine of sacrifice. is a figure who has survived the rite through which he was separated from other men. and—as he continues to live amongst them despite being removed “from normal commerce with his kind”—is exposed to violent death. which claimed to offer ‘homes’ for ‘peoples’ but provided “only lethal traps. little by little. We are saved only at the point at which we abandon all dreams of destiny and substantial belonging. a life in which there is nothing left to save—the life of the global petty-bourgeoisie. to be instead a trap with no way out. in the wake of this process of nullification and expropriation is what he terms “the un-saveable that renders salvation possible.”47 Agamben’s profane salvation is thus found between good and evil. who. At this point. as “a horrifiying strategy of salvation. the irreparable that allows the coming of the redemption. In contrast to the view that only the Messiah can bring about the world to come. subject to a “special unavailability”. The homo sacer. or in the assertion of a particular form of identity or exclusionary belonging. he writes.”50 This means that salvation. he cites Trebatius who notes that “profane is the term for something that was once sacred or religious and is returned to the use or property of men.”56 While sacrifice is a bipolar machine that serves to divide use between men and Gods.”49 Those who seek salvation in the arms of the state. in Agamben’s view. we see the crucial relationship between use and the sacred. Calling on the authority of the Roman jurists. it also holds out the possibility. “knew perfectly well what it meant to profane”. is not. . he writes.A New Use of the Self 8 gesturing to Kafka.

gallbladder. and thus a non-utilitarian relation to the world is both made possible and separated in the sphere of consumption. In a similar vein.”58 In contrast to nostalgia for a more meaningful relation to the world. the “solitary and desperate consumption of the pornographic image replaces the promise of a new use. but. making possible such a new use. “use does not appear here as something natural: rather. this is because. creating something that. pornography is also an apparatus that attempts to capture pure means./Nothing has changed from how it was not. it opens the space for “a new collective use of sexuality”. profanation may take a form as simple and banal as touching the sacred object. this does not signify a return to an actually existing prior state but rather a return to what has never been. lungs)” are reserved for the Gods. become edible again.”59 Rather. however.61 Lest this be viewed (simply) as a celebration of pornography. “does not simply restore something like a natural use that existed before being separated into the religious. in denaturalizing and desacralizing sexuality.63 In the spectacle. as Agamben makes clear.”62 Pornography. with which he concludes the “final day” of Language and Death: “I returned there/ where I have never been. while the media detaches language from any relation to an end but simultaneously neutralizes this new relation to the word in endless vacuity. while simultaneously subjecting it to “the iron laws of massification and exchange value”.” then how would we go about profaning the unprofanable and freeing pure means from their spectacular capture?64 How could we create the little difference in which Benjamin located the possibility of redemption? In religious terms. pure means are both produced and captured. “There seems to be a peculiar relationship. can no longer be profaned.” he writes. we must note that in Agamben’s view. heart. Captured by the apparatus. This is starkest in his argument that it is advertising and pornography that “escort the commodity to the grave like hired mourners”60 If pornography appears as a “midwife” of the future society. perhaps the apotheosis of the spectacle. economic or juridical sphere.” he writes. one arrives at it only by means of profanation. through which things are given a new. Agamben rejects every attempt to return to an earlier use. which serves to block the new uses and new experiences the spectacle opens up. or exta: the liver. nonutilitarian. as in consecration rites in which parts of a victim “(the entrails. like that evoked in Caproni’s beautiful poem Ritorno.A New Use of the Self 9 What Agamben terms “profanation” is this praxis. and is interested in retrieving uses that were not able to be. advertising frees the body from ineffability. If. upon being touched.65 Agamben’s favorite profanatory praxis . use. profanation holds the potential for a new form of use that is neither natural nor utilitarian. or procedure. and the positive possibility he finds in the spectacle consists in its ability to denaturalize all that it touches.”57 While he frames the result of profanation as a return to use. uses that were prohibited by the rigid inscription of things in particular spheres and by compulsory relations between means and ends. “Profanation. in its very lack of sacredness. simultaneously frees sexuality from its naturalization or sacralization and separates it into a realm in which it can only be consumed but not used. between ‘using’ and ‘profaning’ that we must clarify.

however. in which each element is re-enacted time and again. is reliant of the nullifying power of the spectacle. I will confine this comparison to a single essay. who has also sought to formulate a new basis for community beyond identity. Agamben. is play. giving the examples of a cat playing with a ball of string as if it were a mouse. Agamben cites a passage in which Benveniste conceptualises play as the preservation of a pure form. but a new use that is born only after it. Tracing the origins of popular children’s games to religious rituals. it is this nullifying power of the spectacle that leaves us. Agamben argues. entitled Anger. Agamben suggests that play can profane things from the realms of economics. the repetition of the myth without the rite. or. “In Playland: Reflections on History and Play”. in which . law or war. But what has been forgotten or abolished is the myth. stripped of its previous meaning and relation to an end. and can thus be put to new uses as if they were toys. Thus. the meaningfully worded fabulation that endows the acts with their sense and purpose.66 In an early essay. The significance of this account of profanatory play as the free use of inauthenticity can be concretized if we compare Agamben’s position briefly with that of Alphonso Lingis.”68 The ability of play to decompress rite and myth and thus “distract humanity from the sphere of the sacred” does not just pertain to religious rites. however. and of “children who play with whatever old things come into their hands”. “deactivates the apparatuses of power and returns to common use the spaces that power had seized” by disrupting the grounding of power on a sacred model. What is found after the law is not a more proper and original use value that precedes the law.71 This praxis. Here. only the ritual survives and all that is preserved is the form of the sacred drama. Agamben comments— drawing on Collodi’s description of “Playland” in Pinocchio—that “Playland is a country whose inhabitants are busy celebrating rituals and manipulating objects and sacred words whose sense and purpose they have. forgotten. however. not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good. Defining the sacred as the conjunction of myth and ritual. only a small displacement away from the possibility of a profane world. in Agamben’s view. Benveniste writes: [I]n play.70 Profanatory play.69 This can help us to understand the enigmatic suggestion in State of Exception that: One day humanity will play with law just as children play with disused objects. in wordplay. nature. following Emile Benveniste.67 Suggesting that there is an “inverse relation between play and the sacred”. because what is available for play are those disused objects (or subjectivities) whose previous uses have been eroded.A New Use of the Self 10 however. sees play as a repetition of a rite divorced from the myth it once staged. returning them to a new use.

“discovers the character.” he writes. he argues. “In the favelas of Rio. usually returning home not with a greater sense of the meaning of life and the “distress and anger” addressed to us by those they encounter. those in the achipelago are alienated not merely from the products of their labor but from their world. the swampy shantytowns of Jakarta. and the pride of singular people”.A New Use of the Self 11 Lingis—in stark contrast to Agamben’s vision of a world “without classes”—sees the basis for community in a shared anger at the dramatic inequality of a world in which the consumer culture of what he terms the “technocratic commercial archipelago” is built on the massive exploitation of cheap labor in the “outer zone”. This anger. and the literal “Berlin walls” that are increasingly appearing to keep those from the “outer zone” out. which is consumed in advance. the singular passions of their loins. the slums of Jakarta. meanwhile in the archipelago: It is in the culture of spectacle and simulacra that individuals are called upon to devise the . the villages of Africa. while those in the outer zone are experiencing a “meaningfulness which is given in singular pulses of enjoyment”79. Lingis writes.”78 That Lingis leaves the tourism industry out of his indictment of spectacular society is curious. while those in the “outer zone” live lives of massive exploitation and poverty. but seems to be symptomatic of his broader desire to emphasize the gulf that separates the archipelago from the outer zone.74 Thus. those in the archipelago) “are present to one another alienated in technicizations and simulacra.72 Here I want to focus on the differing ways in which Lingis and Agamben conceptualize the possibility of community in a world in which both agree that at least a substantial section of us (in Lingis’s case.77 While this analysis recognizes that the “outer zone” is enmeshed in the circuits of consumption and production that sustain the spectacle.”73 For Lingis. in the favelas of Rio.”76 Thus. it is only in anger that we can oppose both the walls of simulacra that keep us apart. “men and women rejoice at the singular beauty of their faces.” Lingis writes. but with an array of digital photographs and a suitcase of cheap “authentic” shawls and necklaces. it nonetheless fails to account for the fact that millions of people each year do leave their television sets to “visit someone’s village”. arises only when we come into contact with those in the outer zone. the image he provides of the “outer zone” is in stark contrast to the vacuity and atomization that he sees in the archipelago. in the “significance of their singular and communal forms of life. the bravery. the crumbling buildings of Havana. which are valued all the more highly if those who produced them are not only poor but also “traditional. nonetheless. he argues that those in the archipelago who wish to discover the possibility of a more “meaningful” life must shake themselves from their consumption-induced stupors and travel to the “outer zone”. Thus.”75 While Lingis acknowledges that “much has been written about the illusions now dissipated of class consciousness and worker solidarity among the disinherited”. “Anyone who leaves the television set with its images of consumer euphoria and goes out to visit someone’s village in the Isaan.

but the teleological framework of “development” is belied by the continuation. sexual and otherwise. of supposed archaisms.80 It is undoubtedly true. images. even in a form mediated by consumption. to new forms of slavery. for Agamben. Thus. neither. but that arise only in existing. we should here turn our attention to the differential temporality of capitalism. calls on people to “devise the meaning and worth of their individual and collective identities” provides an important break with the belief that these identities are dictated by biology or by tradition. there are no spaces “outside” the spectacle—no “outer zone” in which people live more meaningful or authentic lives. who. the fact that the spectacle. that there are numerous people in the world. What Benjamin said of fascism in the last century is true of slavery and forced labor in our century: “The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. we must nonetheless ask what becomes of inequality. games”. however. images. In my view. While for Lingis. They are called upon to devise them out of forms. spectacles. which has seen not the creation of a single class but a proliferation of social forms that were thought to have been consigned to the past. even as Lingis describes it.83 If the petty-bourgeoisie is not the only of Marx’s “transitional classes” that has proved surprisingly resilient in the society of the spectacle. suggests that we no longer believe humanity has a content (or essence) and are free to play with forms of life. however. this may suggest that existence has no meaning. forms of character. opening identity to movement it had previously lacked. games. in which case we may give our existence meanings that are not imposed on it. from bonded labour. do poverty or exploitation necessarily lead to solidarity or to “singular pulses of enjoyment”. it is precisely within the spectacle. bravery and pride. And if “the meaning of existence is eclipsed”.”82 Not only are there still those who sell their labour power as a commodity and those who live off the profits created by exploiting such labour power. as Lingis highlights. this is a specific characteristic of the “outer zone”. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.A New Use of the Self 12 meaning and worth of their individual and collective identities. For him. exploitation and labor in his vision of a global petty-bourgeoisie? And what becomes of anger? Here. If Agamben’s account allows us to avoid romanticizing a space that supposedly exists outside the spectacle. that we are invited “to devise them out of forms. Agamben’s account of the spectacle enables us to avoid the romanticization of poverty that pervades Lingis’s account of the “outer zone”. if Kevin Bales is correct to suggest that there . that Agamben identifies the possibility of a new form of life. despite their poverty and the difficulty of their lives indeed “devise ways to get along with each other and support each other. exist amongst those whose lives are consumed by brutal exploitation. that is. the excess over the necessities of life. Not only is there nothing about poverty and exploitation that make life inherently meaningful. and creation. in and of themselves. and from which the meaning of existence is eclipsed before the instant gratification of the spectacle.”81 It is undoubtedly true that forms of solidarity and tenderness.

in contrast. living them “as not” turns our attention away from the ways in which they continue to mark differential power relations. not useless consumption but consumption to stay (barely) alive. points out that the Hindu fascist movement Shiv Senna. dismiss them as relics that will . is inattentive to the extent to which commodification. he provides a one-sided image of our world. that they remain in force without significance would seem to offer little consolation to those whose possibilities in life are thoroughly constrained within them. By basing his account of a new form of life only on the nullifying aspect of the spectacle. this gives a new. but also produces new identities. or spectacularization. Richard Pithouse. To the extent that he derives his image of happiness from within this world. the subsistence of the empty forms of previous political eras (such as those ‘Labour’ Parties that have thoroughly outlived their names) it is not clear that these strategies are adequate to contesting poverty or labor exploitation. encouraging us to seek ways to open up the world to a new use no longer inscribed in nature or tradition.86 The strength of Agamben’s theorization of the spectacle lies in his rejection of every attempt to return to a supposedly more meaningful period in which identities and social classes were naturalized and stable. weight to Agamben’s Pauline assertion that the slave should remain a slave. relations of social subordination and of exploitation that continue to be violently enforced by national and local “sovereigns”. whether in the form of politicized identity claims that seek to contest the differential distribution of power under capitalism.A New Use of the Self 13 “are more slaves alive today than all the people stolen from Africa in the time of the trans-Atlantic slave trade”. which is inattentive to the ways in which identities continue to be invested with meaning. While Agamben’s account of the spectacle provides possibilities for resisting certain aspects of spectacular capitalism—like consumer culture. or indeed to the concentration camp. on the one hand. we are not all a global petty-bourgeoisie. then the view that we should continue to inhabit these social identities. in focusing on forms of praxis premised on the spectacular nullification of identity and sense. which built its first base in Mumbai’s shantytowns. reactionary responses to the erosion of previous regimes of hierarchical power. “is one of the many instances of deeply reactionary responses to the need for social innovation” and warns that “there is no guarantee that the need to invent new social forms will result in progressive outcomes. non-metaphorical.”85 Agamben’s account. if the spectacle has not nullified all social classes and identities. he draws our attention to possibilities for praxis and areas of contestation where none seemed to exist. in his insightful analysis of “resistance in the shantytown”.84 If. Agamben’s analysis seems to preclude the possibility that forms of redemptive praxis could arise where capitalism has created not vacuous idleness but the drudgery of daily labor. This means that he turns our attention too far from the extent to which identities continue to be caught up in more or less reactionary or emancipatory political projects. the global media and entertainment business. Faced with the recognition that identity and labor exploitation are still firmly in place we could. living his factical condition “as not”. in fact. not only challenges identity by eroding its naturalistic ontological foundations. or niche markets generated by the production of new desires and identifications. To choose only one example. Nonetheless. Agamben’s suggestion that these identities are no longer meaningful.

122. See also Eric L. and politicized identities. have their houses cleaned by people with few other possibilities for survival and their shoes made in third world sweatshops. in the nation-state or the category of the human. is more helpful in understanding the topology of global capitalism than the geographical stratification implied by Lingis’s concept of the “outer zone”. and I believe it does not. Just as Agamben highlights that inclusion. Agamben’s own thought can help us here: in my view. dated July 9. forced labor. On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and Rosenzweig. but is just as good at waking the dead as it is at reducing life worlds to debris. presupposes (inclusive) exclusion and the category of the inhuman. If we are to do justice to such a world. we should attend to the ways in which the freedom to consume presupposes the labor camp. leading to a truly global “petty bourgeoisie. I thank Eric Santner for bringing to my attention the fact that this tale can in fact be attributed to the young Gershom Scholem. for instance. Chicago and London. 53. The Coming Community. can offer only a “deficient form of redemption”. any inaccuracy in the descriptive element of Agamben’s account of the spectacle could be dismissed as simply a sign that he is ahead of his times. If this is the case. and develop a political thought adequate to our time. Scholem writes: “And one question: Who is actually the source of all these stories? Does Ernst Bloch 1 . in a letter to Benjamin. “Halos”. if capitalism does not have such a teleological thrust.52.” In this case. n. of the way those included are simultaneously excluded and vice versa.88 Thus. Indeed. his account of what he calls inclusive-exclusion. just as Marx was in identifying the decisive role of the proletariat at a time when this class was still relatively insignificant numerically on a global scale. Just as he draws our attention to the ways in which liberal “freedoms” presuppose the concentration camp.A New Use of the Self 14 ultimately be expropriated and nullified by the spectacle. we need first to recognize that capitalism. to begin to formulate such a thought it will be necessary to drop the teleological fascination with capitalism that Marx and Engels shared and that Benjamin warned had corrupted the working class by leading it to believe “it was moving with the current” and begin to develop ways to contest it. Santner. what is necessary. is to begin to formulate a political thought situated within a society in which the spectacular consumption of useless commodities exists alongside subsistence living and in which a highly mobile and flexible class. unbound of the strictures of national identity and vocation. it is necessary to develop a political thought capable of taking into account the fact that capitalism does not have one telos. Perhaps then. in the words of the theologian Paul Fletcher. University of Chicago Press. and the free market presupposes the “free economic zones” in which labor laws are suspended and unionisation punishable through extra-judicial killing. we should remain attentive to the way spectacular consumption presupposes (unspectacular) production by people who work merely to stay alive.87 On the other hand. and worry about reports that their holiday destination is engulfed in a separatist struggle. 2001.89 Giorgio Agamben. it may well be that it continues to produce massive poverty. 1934.

20 Thomas Carl Wall. As I will suggest below. 2005). “Maneries”. The Coming Community.1991. “Shekinah” The Coming Community. 25 Giorgio Agamben. 389. (New York: SUNY Press. The Communist Manifesto. 13 Jean-Luc Nancy.cfm?abstract_id=969055. The Class Struggle in France. 64. New York. p64. 9 Antonio Negri.] (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. The Coming Community. (London: MacMillan. The Coming Community. 73. 1989. 3 Walter Benjamin. 8 Slavoj !i"ek. It is possible. 53. 24 Giorgio Agamben. 65. 1983). 10 Guy Debord. “Without Classes”. (Detroit: Black and Red. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 6 Giorgio Agamben “Without Classes”.] The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem: 1932-1940”. “Whatever”. “Specters of Nietzsche: Potential Futures of the Concept of the Political in Agamben and Derrida” Social Science Research Network. July 9. Coming Community. “Shekinah” The Coming Community. 29. 12 See Giorgio Agamben. 11 Guy Debord. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 7 Giorgio Agamben. 117.” Gershom Scholem. The Thought of Karl Marx. The Inoperative Community.ssrn. 1980). 156. 2. (trans. we would need to ask to what extent ascribing paradigmatic status to the petty-bourgeoisie makes a set of problems intelligible. 23 Giorgio Agamben. in Gershom Scholem [ed. 1934. 23. “Without Classes”. Radical Passivity”.4. . The Coming Community. Gary Smith and Anson Rabinach) Schocken Books. Matthew Calarco and Steven De Caroli [eds] Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty and Life. Agamben’s utilisation of this figure tends to obscure as much as it illuminates about contemporary class and about the temporality of capitalism. 83. “Specters of Nietzsche”33.A New Use of the Self 15 have them from you or you from him? The great rabbi with the profound dictum on the messianic kingdom who appears in Bloch is none other than I myself. “Scholem to Benjamin”.com/sol3/papers. “Whatever”. 27 Giorgio Agamben. (Cambridge: MIT Press. The Parallax View. 17 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. 16 Karl Marx. “Without Classes”. 4 Walter Benjamin. 15 Giorgio Agamben. 65. Agamben has suggested that. 42. Coming Community. The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans. p63. “On the Concept of History”. 18 Giorgio Agamben. 1. that Agamben means for his claim that all of humanity now comprises a global petty-bourgeoisie to be understood in paradigmatic rather than descriptive terms. Patricia Dailey] (Stanford: Stanford University Press. “Without Classes”. Selected Writings Vol. in David McLelland. The Coming Community. in his work. what a way to achieve fame!! It was one of my first ideas about the Kabbalah. 33. 79. This edition is not paginated. 26 Adam Thurschwell. Coming Community. 5 Giorgio Agamben. 21 Adam Thurschwell. numbers given here will refer to numbered fragments. though this is not stated. http://papers. 2006) 299. “Halos”. 2003). each fragment is numbered. Jennings [eds. “Homonyms”. The Society of the Spectacle. 2 In Giorgio Agamben. 2003) 38. Subsequently. 1999). 123. The Coming Community.188. Rather. 389.) 14 Giorgio Agamben. (Sydney: Resistance Books. 19 Giorgio Agamben. 28-9. 28 Giorgio Agamben. The Coming Community. 22 Giorgio Agamben. Coming Community. 2. the paradigm is used “to establish and make intelligible a wider set of problems” [What is a Paradigm?] If this were the case. Howard Eiland and Michael W. [trans. “On the Concept of History”. Society of the Spectacle. “The Discrete Taste of the Dialectic”. “Separation Perfected”.

The punishment of these infants—unable to reach heaven due to original sin.com/2008/04/tiqqun-de-lanoche. “The Passion of Facticity”. 2005. The Phenomenology of Religious Life. He is impotent in the face of their “neutrality with respect to salvation. Neri Pozza. 33 Giorgio Agamben. Agamben writes. 204. 60 Giorgio Agamben “Dim Stockings” The Coming Community. 35 Martin Heidegger.) 51 Giorgio Agamben. cited in Giorgio Agamben. 79. 59 Giorgio Agamben. “In Praise of Profanation”. 34. “In Praise of Profanation”. 85. The Time That Remains. Giorgio Agamben. 46 Giorgio Agamben. p328. 50. 41 Giorgio Agamben. The Time That Remains. Matthias Fritsch and Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei]. 73. 56 Giorgio Agamben. Language and Death. 49 Paulo Virno. ‘Heidegger e il nazismo’. Nicholas Heron. “In Praise of Profanation”. 91. their punishment must be solely privative: they will be forever deprived of a vision of God. “In Praise of Profanation”. Cascaito and Casson]. 74. 34 Giorgio Agamben. The Time That Remains. as “that would not be just.” The unsavable life is thus a purely profane life freed from the mythologeme of salvation. “Taking Place”. The Time That Remains. 47 Giorgio Agamben. 23. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. The Coming Community. turns out to be their greatest joy: as they have always already forgotten God.html 53 Giorgio Agamben. The Time That Remains. 75. “In Praise of Profanation”. 14. 38 Martin Heidegger. “In Praise of Profanation”. 43 Giorgio Agamben. 34. 39 Martin Heidegger. The Time That Remains. 54 Giorgio Agamben. 31 Giorgio Agamben. 58 Giorgio Caproni. p6. 52 Giorgio Agamben “Tiqqun de la Noche”. http://notesforthecomingcommunity. 36 Martin Heidegger. but otherwise faultless—cannot be an afflictive punishment. 78. “Ritorno”. 32 Giorgio Agamben. La potenza del pensiero. “In Praise of Profanation”. 26. The Coming Community. The Phenomenology of Religious Life.. The Time That Remains. [trans. 37 Martin Heidegger. ‘Heidegger e il nazismo’. The Phenomenology of Religious Life.A New Use of the Self 16 Giorgio Agamben. The Time That Remains. 2004). See Giorgio Agamben. 321– 331. 61 Giorgio Agamben. The Phenomenology of Religious Life. 30 29 . The Time That Remains. “In Praise of Profanation”. 44 Giorgio Agamben. his judgment cannot touch them. 48 Agamben’s paradigmatic example of such an unsavable life is the life of those infants who die prior to baptism and thus inhabit limbo for eternity. Postface to The Coming Community. 50 Giorgio Agamben. 2001. Los Angeles. 55 Giorgio Agamben. 26. 45 Giorgio Agamben. 34. The Coming Community. 89. 28. 27. 102. “The Irreparable”. 75. Bertoletti. 2004. Semiotext[e]. 26. 40 In Giorgio Agamben. 98. (trans. 85. The Time That Remains. The Grammar of the Multitude. “The Idea of Music” in Idea of Prose. 26. 70. Agamben suggests. 34. 62 Giorgio Agamben.blogspot.” Rather. The Phenomenology of Religious Life. online at Notes for the Coming Community. Vicenza. 73. And yet this ignorance of God. 57 Giorgio Agamben. 42 Giorgio Agamben. 91. Potentialities. [trans. “Limbo”.

“In Praise of Profanation”. 214. its model is the depiction of “Playland” in Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio in which a population of boys creates a world of playful “pandemonium”. to be preserved or restored. 69 Giorgio Agamben. in the case of native handicrafts. 80 Alphonso Lingis. 75 Alphonso Lingis.” he writes. “Anger”. 68 Giorgio Agamben. 73 Alphonso Lingis. 2003. And this happens continually…‘capital’ or the ‘world market’. in Alphonso Lingis. they just 64 63 . Sparks and Thomas (eds) The Sense of Philosophy: On Jean-Luc Nancy. 214. 82 Walter Benjamin.” (3) Bales’s account of slavery reveals a dark side of global capitalism. 213. Howard Eiland and Michael W. which results in the acceleration of time and. until further notice. The Coming Community. characterized not by the diminution of utilitarian relations but by absolutely instrumental relations to people. 392. “Slavery. “In Playland”. with his or her antique authenticity. 65 Giorgio Agamben.” Jean-Luc Nancy. the genealogy. 76 Alphonso Lingis. “Anger”. “Anger”. 77 Alphonso Lingis. brings about its “paralysis and destruction. Selected Writings Vol. 77. “Dialectical Utopias: On Santa Fe and Los Vegas”. 208. who writes: “‘Alienation’ has been represented as the dispossession of an original authenticity. “Anger”. which fixes the calendar. its body. it continues to exist throughout the world. and perhaps always of the space-time of its singularity. “Anger”. 200. its labor. Sheppard. 66 In Infancy and History. 78 On the economic valuation of “authenticity” see Dave Hickey. Kevin Bales examines the proliferation of new forms of slavery in contemporary capitalism. 70 Giorgio Agamben. 214.” he writes. The critique of this determination of an original property. London. Harvard Design Magazine. People get rich using slaves. 74. Cambridge. 74 On the problem of alienation. “is a booming business and the number of slaves is increasing. “is not a horror safely confined to the past. and when they’ve finished with their slaves. and highlighting the “new slavery” that is thriving today. 210/11. Lingis cites Jean-Luc Nancy. 2007).A New Use of the Self 17 Giorgio Agamben. in contrast to ritual. 71 Giorgio Agamben. an authentic plenitude and reserve contributed to a great extent to the extinction of the theme of alienation as the theme of a loss or theft of an original autoproduction of man…[Nonetheless] an existent can be expropriated of its conditions for existing: its force.4. its source and chaste appeal. its meanings. 67 Emile Benveniste.” (4. 76. 72 Alphonso Lingis. “Slavery. even in developed countries like France and the United States. “Anger”. 79. who are treated simply as means to the end of profit. Profanation. 58. (London: Verso. Winter/Spring 1998. 214.] Harvard University Press. 83 In Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. 78. Giorgio Agamben.) While Hickey is referring here to shopping in Santa Fe. 81 Alphonso Lingis. this concern for authenticity is as much an aspect of the “shopping experience” that accompanies mass tourism in what Lingis terms the “outer zone”. “In Praise of Profanation”. the buyer is even concerned with the blood. cited in “In Playland”. 64. Hickey writes. 1997).” Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience. “Anger”. 74. where the theme of play first appears. of shopping for “native handicrafts: “The potential buyer is concerned with the authenticity of the object. 76. State of Exception. are ensured and proper only in such a massive expropriation. (London and New York: Routledge. “Anger”. No. “Anger”. of the author.4. Jennings [eds. “In Praise of Profanation”. rejecting the view that it is an archaism. “On the Concept of History”. 79 Alphonso Lingis.

Bales suggests that in the new slavery. 9. Spectres of the Atlantic: Finance Capital. They point out that forms of unfree labor (in contrast to the “doubly free” labor of the proletariat. In a seminar in Paris. and to both him and Justin Clemens . 5. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. Agamben does note that our time is characterized by “increasingly powerful resistances of historical instances (of a national. religious or ethnic type)”. 84 Kevin Bales. that “planetary petty-bourgeoisie has taken over the aptitude of the proletariat to refuse any recognizable social identity”(163). In Means Without Ends. Ian Baucom. in the Coming Community. théorie de la singularité quelconque.” (4) Bales points out that. ” (6) Revealing the flip-side of Agamben’s belief in the power of the spectacle to create an indifference to identity. which was free to sell its labor power and free of any other means of subsistence) continue to exist. (Durham and London: Duke University Press. as slavery is no longer legal. by stating. in contrast to the old. but through the final authority of violence. 2004.asso. 2005) 333. Princeton. suggests that “what has been begun does not end but endures”. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. and Silvia Federici and Massimo DeAngelis. He makes clear that he is not using the term loosely. http://www. sold into the regions brothels and killed if they attempt to escape. then locked up and forced to work in the mines. in his terms. gullibility and deprivation. in a “specifically capitalist form. or even to refer to child labor. 86 My analysis here draws on Wendy Brown’s important theorisation of the fate of contemporary identity in States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity. but these are framed as throwbacks to a prior. is that capital not only expropriates identity but constitutes new identity formations. Slavery.) My thanks go to John Cleary for drawing this seminar to my attention. but about controlling them completely.A New Use of the Self 18 throw these people away. which he used in contrast to “formal subsumption” to signify the moment at which the labor relation is reorganized along specifically capitalist lines. historical. My claim. he also traces examples of slaves kept in houses in Paris.” In another sense.fr/Badiou/Agamben.” (11)Kevin Bales. even if these formations conceive themselves as returns to a (mythical) past. Ian Baucom. “Notes on Politics”. and of girls as young as eleven. 85 Richard Pithouse. 1995.” (5) He cites examples of men lured to the gold mining towns of the Amazon with promises of lucrative employment. People become disposable tools for making money.htm (translation on file. continuing to exist yet stripped of the meaning they once held. time. “if this book is republished. people are likely to become slaves “not through legal ownership. Lest it be thought this is a phenomenon confined to the most poverty stricken corners of the globe. who understand what Debord terms the “spectacle” in terms of Marx’s theorisation of “real subsumption”. however.entretemps. August 2006. I am going to remove this definition of the planetary petite bourgeoisie. 113. See also David Harvey. writing about the history of Atlantic slavery from a Benjaminian perspective. tribe or religion: they focus on weakness. Agamben responded to critique of his suggestion. the “criteria of enslavement today do not concern color. Berkley and Los Angeles. It’s not about owning people in the traditional sense of the old slavery. (transcription de François Duvert). to refer to bad working conditions and subsistence wages. that we have not yet overcome because of our inability to think the end of history alongside the end of the state. as the time of modernity “accumulates” on the foundation of the Atlantic slave trade. Mute Magazine. which focuses on big profits and cheap lives. Intervention dans le cadre du Collège international de philosophie sur le livre de Giorgio Agamben : la Communauté qui vient. See Giorgio Agamben. and twenty seven million people trapped in forms of slavery (including bonded labor) across the globe. in contrast. The Spaces of Neoliberalization. Such ‘resistances’ could. University of California Press. Princeton University Press. but is referring only to “the total control of one person by another for the purposes of economic exploitation. be understood as remaining “in force without significance”. “Thinking Resistance in the Shantytown”. and the Philosophy of the Atlantic.” See Alain Badiou. This is the new slavery. and beaten for minor ‘infractions.’ Bale estimates that there are currently approximately 3000 household slaves in Paris.

institutional and intellectual progress. which must realize itself by suppressing itself. is.) While this mirrors much of his earlier conceptualisation of the pettybourgeoisie. the ‘working class’. Harvey suggests. and ultimate replacement by a sociological class.” Such an interpretation.A New Use of the Self 19 for providing me with their translation. it may be that his consideration of the Marxian proletariat as a messianic subject. 87 David Harvey describes such an understanding of uneven geographic development under capitalism as the “historicist-diffusionist” interpretation. and places its faith in the expansion of capitalism to lift “backwards” economies to the level of “advanced” ones. who must die to the old world to be granted a new life. casts continuing poverty as “residual”. The Spaces of Neoliberalization. rather than the petty bourgeoisie. While Agamben does not elaborate. in The Time That Remains. political. bound up in the sovereign mechanism of inclusive-exclusion and representation. 89 Walter Benjamin. in part. 88 Paul Fletcher. signalling the loss of its revolutionary vocation (31. . Disciplining the Divine: Toward an (Im)political Theology. “On the Concept of History”. Surrey. but describes its decline. 55. like the “new creature”. cultures and places into paths of economic. is a self-negating subject. is a messianic subject today. In contrast to the working class as a sociological category. it suggests that the Marxian proletariat. a response to criticisms of this understanding of the petty-bourgeoisie. it seems to me that this does not suggest that the proletariat. 155. While The Time That Remains makes no claims about our own time. 2009. Ashgate. See David Harvey. which sees ‘advanced’ countries as the “engine of capitalism that entrains all other territories. Agamben sees the proletariat as a non-substantive subject whose transformation into a factical-juridical subject able to claim rights for itself is the “worst understanding of Marxian thought”. 393.

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