Sandra Buckley

Michael Hardt
Brian
T:HEOH"Y O"C'T OF
20 Means without End: Notes on Politics Giorgio
19 The Invention of Modern Science Isabelle Stcngcrs
18 Methodology of the Oppressed Chela Sandoval
117 Proust and Signs: The Cemplete Text Gilles Dcleuze
116 Deleuze: The Clamor of Being Alain Badiau
115 Insurgencies: Constituent Power and
the Modern State Antonio Negri
14 When Pain Siri kes Bill Burns, Cathy Bushy, and Kim Sawchuk, editors
.. :J Critical Environments: Post modern Theory and
the Pragmatics of the J'Outside" Cmy\Volfe
112 Metamorphoses of the Body Jose Gil
111 The New Spinaza Warren Montag and Ted Stolze, editors
11 (0 Power and Invention: Situating Science Isabelle Stcngers
9 Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity Ira
8 Camilla Griggers
7 A Potential Radical Thought in Italy
Paolo Virna and Michael Hardt, editors
6 Capital Times: Tales from the Conquest of Time f:ric Alliez
5 The Year of Passages Reda BcnsmaYa
4 Labor of Dionysus:
A. Critique of the State-Form Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
iJ Bad Aboriginal Art: Tradition,
Media, and Technological Horizons Eric
:2 The Cinematic Body Steven Shaviro
1 The Coming Community
Means without End
Notes on Politics
Giorgio Agarnben
Translated by Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino
Theory out of Bounds V';/umr 20

University of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis. London
Copyright 2000 by the Regents of the Vniversity of
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LIBRARY OF CONGRF,SS C.ATAJ.OGING-IN-PUBLlCATION DATA
Agamben, Giorgio, 1942-
[Me2zi senza fine. English]
Means without end: notes on politics / Giorgio Agamben ;
translated by Vinccnzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino.
p. em. [Theory out of bounds ; v. 20]
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-8166-3035-6 (he, ,1k. paper) -- ISBN 0-8166-3036-4 (pb,
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Contents
Preface i x
PART I
1I'0rm-of-l.ife 3
Beyond lltalman Rights 15
What Is a People? 29
What Is a Camp'!' 37
PART II
Notes on Gesture 49
I.anguages and Peoples 63
Marginal Notes on Commentluies on the Society of
fhe fipedade 73
The Face 91
PART III
Sovereign Police 103
Notes 01'1 Politics 109
11'1 This llixile (italian Diary. 1992-94) 121
Translators' Notes 143
Index 147
Preface
EACH OF the texts included in this volume attempts in
its own way to think specific political problems. If poli-
tics today seems to be going through a protracted eclipse
and appears in a subaltern position with respect to reli-
gion, economics, and even the law, that is so because, to
the extent to which it has been losing sight of its own
ontological status, it has failed to confront the transfor-
mations that gradually have emptied out its categories
and concepts. Thus, in the following pages, genuinely
political paradigms are sought in experiences and phe-
nomena that usually are not considered political or that
are considered only marginally so: the natural life of hu-
man beings (that zoe that was once excluded from prop-
erly political spheres and that, according to Foucault's
analysis of biopolitics, has now been restored to the
center of the polis); tbe state of exception (that tempo-
rary suspension of the rule of law that is revealed in-
stead to constitute the fundamental structure of the le-
gal system itself); the concentration camp (a zone of in-
difference between public and private as well as the
hidden matrix of thc political space in which we live);
the refugee, formerly regarded as a marginal figure,
who has become now the decisive factor of the modern
nation-state by breaking the nexus between human being
and citizen; language, whose hypertrophy and expropri-
ation define the politics of the spectaeular-democratie
societies in whieh we live; and the sphere of gestures or
pure means (that is, the sphere of those means that eman-
cipate themselves from their relation to an end while still
remaining means) posited as the proper sphere of politics.
All these texts refer, in various ways and ac-
cording to the cireumstances in which they were born,
to investigations that are still open. At times they antic-
ipate the original nuelei of those investigations and at
others they present fragments and shards. (The first pro-
duet of such investigations is the book titled Homo Sam:)
As such, these texts are destined to find their true sense
only within the perspeetive of the completed work, that
is, only within a rethinking of all the categories of our
political tradition in light of the relation between sov-
ereign power and naked life.
1
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ ~
III':
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~
Form-of ... Life
THE ANCIENT Greeks did not have only one term to ex-
press what we mean by the word life. They used two se-
mantically and morphologically distinct terms: zoe, which
expressed the simple fact of living common to all living
beings (animals, humans, or gods), and bios, which signi-
fied the form or manner ofliving peculiar to a single in-
dividual or group. In modern languages this opposition
has gradually disappeared from the lexicon (and where
it is retained, as in biology and zoology, it no longer in-
dicates any substantial difference); one term only-the
opacity of which increases in proportion to the sacral-
ization of its referent-designates that naked presup-
posed common element that it is always possible to iso-
late in each of the numerous forms of life.
By the term form-oflife, on the other hand, I
mean a life that can never be separated from its form, a
Ill!
life in which it is never possihle to isolate something such
as naked life.
A life that cannot be separated from its form is a life for
which what is at stake in its way of living is living itself.
What does this formulation mean? It defines a life-hu-
man life-in which the single ways, acts, and processes
of living are never simply facts but always and above all
possibilities of life, always and above all power.
1
Each be-
havior and each form of human living is never prescribed
by a specific biological vocation, nor is it assigned by
whatever necessity; instead, no matter how customary,
repeated, and socially compulsory, it always retains the
character of a possibility; that is, it always puts at stake
living itself. That is why human beings-as beings of
power who can do or not do, succeed or fail, lose them-
selves or find themselves - are the only beings for whom
happiness is always at stake in their living, the only beings
whose life is irremediahly and painfully assigned to hap-
piness. But this immediately constitutes the form-of-life
as political life. "Civitatem ... communitatem esse insti-
tutam propter vivere et bene vivere hominum in ea" rfhe
state is a community instituted for the sake of the living
and the well living of men in itV
Political power as we know it, on the other hand, always
founds itself-in the last instance-on the separation
of a sphere of naked life from the context of the forms
of life. In Roman law, vita [life] is not a juridical concept,
but rather indicates the simple fact of living or a partic-
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ular way of life. There is only one case in which the term
life acquires a juridical meaning that transforms it into
a veritahle te7"77zinus technicus, and that is in the expres-
sion vitae necisque potestas, which designates the pater's
power of life and death over the male son. Yan Thomas
has shown that, in this formula, que does not have disjunc-
tive function and vita is nothing but a corollary of nex,
the power to kill.
3
Thus, life originally appears in law only as the
counterpart of a power that threatens death. But what is
valid for the pater's right of life and death is even more
valid for sovereign power (imperium), of which the for-
mer constitutes the originary cell. Thus, in the Hobbes-
ian foundation of sovereignty, life in the state of nature
is defined only by its being unconditionally exposed to a
death threat (the limitless right of everybody over every-
thing) and political life - that is, the life that unfolds un-
der the protection of the Leviathan-is nothing but tllis
very same life always exposed to a threat that now rests
exclusively in the hands of the sovereign. The puissance
absolue et perpetuelle, which defines state power, is not
founded-in the last instance on a political will but
rather on naked life, which is kept safe and protected only
to the degree to which it submits itself to the sovereign's
(or the law's) right of life and death. (This is precisely
the originary meaning of the adjective sacer [sacred] when
used to refer to human life.) The state of exception, which
is what the sovereign each and every time decides, takes
place precisely when naked life-which normally appears
rejoined to the multifarious forms of social life ]s ex-
Form-of-Life
:>
,
plicitly put into question and revoked as the ultimate
foundation of political power. The ultimate subject that
needs to be at once turned into the exception and in-
cluded in the city is always naked life.
"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state
of emergency' in which we live is not the exception but
the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that
is in keeping with this insight."4 Waltcr Benjamin's di-
agnosis, which by now is more than fifty years old, has
lost none of its relevance. And that is so not really or
not only because power no longer has today any form of
legitimization other than emergency, and because power
everywhere and contiuuously refers and appeals to emer-
gency as well as laboring secretly to produce it. (How
could we not think that a system that can no longer func-
tion at all except on the basis of emergency would not
also be interested in preserving such an emergency at any
price?) This is the case also and above all because naked
life, which was the hidden foundation of sovereignty,
has meanwhile become the dominant form of life every-
where. Life-in its state of exception that has now be-
come the norm-is the naked life that in every context
separates the forms of life from their cohering into a
form-of-·life. The Marxian scission between man and cit-
izen is thus superseded by the division between naked
life (ultimate and opaque bearer of sovereignty) and the
multifarious forms of life abstractly recodified as social-
juridical identities (the voter, the worker, the journalist,
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the student, but also the HlV-positive, the transvestite,
the porno star, the elderly, the parent, the woman) that
all rest on naked life. (To have mistaken such a naked life
separate from its form, in its abjection, for a superior
principle sovereignty or the sacred-is the limit of
Bataille's thought, which makes it useless to us.)
Foucault's thesis according to which "what is at stake
today is life" and hence politics has become biopoli-
tics is, in this sense, substantially correct. What is de-
cisive, however, is the way in which one understands the
sense of this transformation. What is left unquestioned
in the contemporary debates on bioethics and biopoli-
tics, in fact, is precisely what would deserve to be ques-
tioned before anything else, that is, the very biological
concept of life. Paul Rabinow conceives of two models
of life as symmetrical opposites: on the one hand, the ex-
perimentallife
5
of the scientist who is ill with leukemia
and who turns his very life into a laboratory for unlim-
ited research and experimentation, and, on the other
hand, the one who, in the name of life's sacredness, ex-
asperates the antinomy between individual ethics and
technoscience. Both models, however, participate without
being aware of it in the same concept of naked life. This
concept-which today presents itself under the guise of
a scientific notion-is actually a secularized political con-
cept. (From a strictly scientific point of view, the con-
cept oflife makes no sense. Peter and Jean Medawar tell
us that, in biology, discussions about the real meaning
Form-of-Life
of the words life and death are an index of a low level of
conversation. Such words havc no intrinsic meaning and
such a meaning, therefore, cannot be clarified by deeper
and more careful studies.)6
Such is the provenance of the (often unper-
ceived and yct decisive) function of medical-scientific
ideology within the system of power and the increasing
use of pseudoscientific concepts for ends of political con-
trol. That same drawing of naked life that, in certain cir-
cumstances, the sovereign used to be able to exact from
the forms of life is now massively and daily exacted by
the pseudoscientific representations of the body, illness,
and health, and by the "medicalization" of ever-widen-
ing spheres of life and of individual imagination.
7
Bio-
logical life, which is the secularized form of naked life
and which shares its unutterability and impenetrability,
thus constitutes the real forms of life literally as forms
of survival: biological life remains inviolate in such forms
as that obscure threat that can suddenly actualize itself
in violence, in extraneousness, in illnesses, in accidents.
It is the invisible sovereign that stares at us behind the
dull-witted masks of the powerful who, whether or not
they realize it, govern us in its name.
A political life, that is, a life directed toward the idea of
happiness and cohesive with a form-of-life, is thinkable
only starting from the emancipation from such a divi-
sion, with the irrevocable exodus from any sovereignty.
The question about the possibility of a nonstatist poli-
if>
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tics necessarily takes this form: Is today something like
a form-of-life, a life for which living itself would be at
stake in its own living, possible? Is today a life of P071,W
available?
I call thought the nexus that constitutes the
forms of life in an inseparable context as form-of-life. I
do uot mean by this the individual exercise of an organ
or of a psychic faculty, but rather an experience, an ex-
pcrimentum that has as its object the potential character
of life and of human intelligence. 'To think does not mean
merely to be affected by this or that thing, by this or that
content of enacted thought, but rather at once to be af-
fected by one's own receptiveness and experience in each
and every thing that is thought a pure power of think-
ing. ("When thought has become each thing in the way
in which a man who actually knows is said to do so ...
its condition is still one of potentiality ... and thought is
then able to think of itself.")8
Only ifI am not always already and solely en-
acted, but rather delivered to a possibility and a power,
only if living and intending and apprehending themselves
are at stake each time in what I live and intend and ap-
prehend-only if, in other words, there is thought-
only then can a form of life become, in its own factuess
and thingness, form-of-life, in which it is never possible
to isolate something like naked life.
The experience of thought that is here in question is al-
ways experience of a common power. Community and
Form-of-Life
power identify one with the other without residues be-
cause the inherence of a communitarian principle to any
power is a function of the necessarily potential character
of any community. Among beings who would always al-
ready be enacted, who would always already be this or
that thing, this or that identity, and who would have en-
tirely exhausted their power in these things and identi-
ties-among such beings there could not be any com-
munity but only coincidences and factual partitions. We
can communicate with others only through what in us-
as much as in others-has remained potential, and any
communication (as Benjamin perceives for language) is
first of all communication not of something in common
but of communicability itself. After all, if there existed
one and only one being, it would be absolutely impo-
tent. (That is why theologians affirm that God created
the world ex nihilo, in other words, absolutely without
power.) And there where I am capable, we are always al-
ready many (just as when, if there is a language, that is,
a power of speech, there cannot then be one and only
one being who speaks it.)
That is why modern political philosophy does
not begin with classical thought, which had made of con-
templation, of the bios theo1'eticos, a separate and solitary
activity ("exile of the alone to the alone"), but rather only
with Averroism, that is, with the thought of the one and
only possible intellect common to all human beings, and,
crucially, with Dante's affirmation-in De MOl1archia
of the inherence of a multitude to the very power of
thought:
._--- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~
10,1
It is clear that man's basic capacity is to have a poten-
tiality or power for being intellectual. And since this
power cannot be completely actualized in a single
man or in any of the particular communities of men
above mentioned, there must be a multitude in man-
kind through whom this whole power can be actual-
ized .... [T]he proper work of mankind taken as a
whole is to exercise continually its entire capacity for
intellectual growth, first, in theoretical matters, and,
secondarily, as an extension of theory, in practice.
9
The diffuse intellectuality I am talking about and the
Marxian notion of a "general intellect"lO acquire their
meaning only within the perspective of this experience.
They name the multitudo that inheres to the power of
thought as such. Intellectuality and thought are not a
form of life among others in which life and social pro-
duction articulate themsclves, but they are rather the
unitary power that constitutes the multiple forms of life as
form-oflife. In the face of state sovereignty, which can
affirm itself only by separating in every context naked
life from its form, they are the power that incessantly
reunites life to its form or prevents it from being disso-
ciated from its form. The act of distinguishing between
the mere, massive inscription of social knowledge into
the productive processes (an inscription that character-
izes the contemporary phase of capitalism, the society
of the spectacle) and intellectuality as antagonistic power
and form-of-life such an act passes through the expe-
rience of this cohesion and this inseparability. Thought
is form-of-life, life that cannot be segregated from its
Form-of-Life
form; and anywhere the intimacy of this inseparable life
appears, in the materiality of corporeal processes and of
habitual ways of life no less than in theory, there and only
there is there thought. And it is this thought, this form-
of-life, that, abandoning naked life to "Man" and to the
"Citizen," who clothe it temporarily and represent it with
their "rights," must become the guiding concept and the
unitary center of the coming politics.
(1993)
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Beyond HUlman Rights
IN 1943, Hannah Arendt published an article titled "We
Refugees" in a small English-language Jewish publica-
tion, the Menorah Journal. At the end of this brief but
significant piece of writing, after having polemically
sketched the portrait of Mr. Cohn, thc assimilated Jew
who, after having been 150 percent German, 150 percent
Viennese, 150 percent French, must bitterly realize in
the end that "on ne parvient pas deux fois," she turns
the condition of countryless refugee-a condition she
herself was living-upside down in order to present it
as the paradigm of a new historical consciousness. The
refugees who have lost all rights and who, however, no
longer want to be assimilated at all costs in a new national
identity, but want instead to contemplate lucidly their
condition, receive in exchange for assured unpopularity
a priceless advantage: "History is no longer a closed book
0/
to them and politics is no longer the privilege of Gen-
tiles. They know that the outlawing of the Jewish people
of Europe has been followed closely by the outlawing
of most European nations. Refugees driven from coun-
try to country represent the vanguard of their peoples."l
One ought to reflect on the meaning of this
analysis, which after fifty years has lost none of its rele-
vance. It is not only the case that the problem presents
itself inside and outside of Europe with just as much ur-
gency as then. It is also the case tllat, given the by now
unstoppable decline of the nation-state and the general
corrosion of traditional political-juridical categories, the
refugee is perhaps the only thinkable figure for the peo-
ple of our time and the only category in which one may
see today-at least until the process of dissolution of the
nation-state and of its sovereignty has achieved full com-
pletion-the forms and limits of a coming political com-
munity. It is even possible that, if we want to be equal
to the absolutely new tasks ahead, we will have to aban-
don decidedly, without reservation, the fundamental con-
cepts through which we have so far represented the sub-
jects of the political (Man, the Citizen and its rights, but
also the sovereign people, the worker, and so forth) and
build our political philosophy anew starting from the
one and only figure of the refugee.
The first appearance of refugees as a mass phenomenon
took place at the end of World War I, when the fall of
the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires,
along with the new order created by the peace treaties,
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upset profoundly the demographic and territorial con-
stituti.on of Central Eastern Europe. In a short period,
1.5 million White Russians, seven hundred thousand Ar-
menians, five hundred thousand Bulgarians, a million
Greeks, and hundreds of thousands of Germans, Hun-
garians, and Romanians left thcir countries. To these
moving masses, one needs to add the cxplosive situation
determined by the fact that about 30 percent of the pop-
ulation in the new states created by the peace treaties on
the model of the nation-state (Yugoslavia and Czecho-
slovakia, for example), was constituted by minorities
that had to be safeguarded by a series of intcrnational
treaties-the so-called Minority Treaties-which very
often were not enforced. A few years later, the racial laws
in Germany and the civil war in Spain dispersed through-
out Europe a new and important contingent of refugees.
We are used to distinguishing between ref-
ugees and stateless people, but this distinction was not
then as simple as it may seem at first glance, nor is it
even today. From the beginning, many rcfugees, who
were not technically stateless, preferred to become such
rather tllan return to their country. (This was the case
with the Polish and Romanian Jews who were in France
or Germany at the end of the war, and today it is the case
with those who are politically persecuted or for whom
returning to their countries would mean putting their
own snrvival at risk.) On the other hand, Russian, Ar-
menian, and Hungarian refugees were promptly dena-
tionalized by the new Turkish and Soviet governments.
It is important to note how, starting with World War I,
Beyond Human Rights
many European states began to pass laws allowing the
denaturalization and denationalization of their own cit-
izens: France was first, in 1915, with regard to natural-
ized citizens of "enemy origin"; in 1922, Belgium fol-
lowed this example by revoking the naturalization of
those citizens who had committed "antinational" acts
during the war; in 1926, the Italian Fascist regime
passed an analogous law with regard to citizens who had
shown themselves "undeserving of Italian citizenship";
in 1933, it was Austria's turn; and so on, until in 1935 the
Nuremberg Laws divided German citizens into citizens
with full rights and citizens without political rights. Such
laws-and the mass statelessness resulting from them-
mark a decisive turn in the life of the modern nation-
state as well as its definitive emancipation from naive
notions of the citizen and a people.
This is not the place to retrace the history of
the various international organizations through which
single states, the League of Nations, and later, the United
Nations have tried to face the refugee problem, from the
Nansen Bureau for the Russian and Armenian refugees
(1921) to the High Commission for Refugees from Ger-
many (1936) to the Intergovernmental Committee for
Refugees (1938) to the UN's International Refugee Or-
ganization (1946) to the present Office of the High
Commissioner for Refugees (1951), whose activity, ac-
cording to its statute, does not have a political character
but rather only a "social and humanitarian" one. What
is essential is that each and every time refugees no longer
represent individual cases but rather a mass phenome-
18.9
non (as was the case between the two world wars and is
now once again), these organizations as well as the sin-
gle states-all the solemn evocations of the inalienable
rights of human beings notwithstanding-have proved
to be absolutely incapable not only of solving the prob-
lem but also of facing it in an adequate manner. The
whole question, therefore, was handed over to humani-
tarian organizations and to the police.
The reasons for such impotence lie not only in the self-
ishness and blindness of bureaucratic apparatuses, but
also in the very ambiguity of the fundamental notions
regulating the inscription of the native (that is, of life)
in the juridical order of the nation-state. Hannah Arendt
titled the chapter of her book Imperialism that concerns
the refugee problem "The Decline of the Nation-State
and the End of the Rights of Man."2 One should try to
take seriously this formulation, which indissolubly links
the fate of the Rights of Man with the fate of the modern
nation-state in such a way that the waning of the latter
necessarily implies the obsolescence of the former. Here
the paradox is that precisely the figure that should have
embodied human rights more than any other-namely,
the refugee - marked instead the radical crisis of the
concept. The conception of human rights based on the
supposed existence of a human being as such, Arendt tells
us, proves to be untenable as soon as those who profess
it find themselves confronted for the first time with peo-
ple who have really lost every quality and every specific
relation except for the pure fact of being human.
3
In the
Beyond Human Rights
system of the nation-state, so-called sacred and inalien-
able human rights are revealed to be without any protec-
tion precisely when it is no longer possible to conceive
of them as rights of the citizens of a state. This is implicit,
after all, in the ambiguity of the very title of the 1789
Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, in which it
is unclear whether the two terms are to name two dis-
tinct realities or whether they are to form, instead, a hen-
diadys in which the first term is actually always already
contained in the second.
That there is no autonomous space in the
political order of the nation-state for something like the
pure human in itself is evident at the very least from the
fact that, even in the best of cases, the status of refugee
has always been considered a temporary condition that
ought to lead either to naturalization or to repatriation.
A stable statute for the human in itsclf is inconceivable
in the law of the nation-state.
It is time to cease to look at all the declarations of rights
from 1789 to the present day as proclamations of eter-
nal metajuridical values aimed at binding the legislator
to the respect of such values; it is time, rather, to under-
stand them according to their real function in the modern
state. Human rights, in fact, represent first of all the orig-
inary figure for the inscription of natural naked life in
the political-juridical order of the nation-state. Naked
life (the human being), which in antiquity belonged to
God and in the classical world was clearly distinct (as
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zoe) from political life (bios), comes to tlle forefront in
the management of the state and becomes, so to speak,
its earthly foundation. Nation-state means a state that
makes nativity or birth [nascital (that is, naked human
life) the foundation of its own sovereignty. This is the
meaning (and it is not even a hidden one) of the first
three articles of the 1789 Declaration: it is only because
this declaration inscribed (in articles 1 and 2) the native
element in the heart of any political organization that it
can firmly bind (in article 3) the principle of sovereignty
to the nation (in conformity with its etymon, native [natio 1
originally meant simply "birth" [nascita]). The fiction that
is implicit here is that birth [nascital comes into being im-
mediately as nation, so that there may not be any differ-
ence between the two moments. Rights, in other words,
are attributed to the human being only to the degree to
which he or she is the immediately vanishing presuppo-
sition (and, in fact, the presupposition that must never
come to light as such) of the citizen.
If the refugee represents such a disquieting element in
the order of tlle nation-state, this is so primarily because,
by breaking the identity between the human and the cit-
izen and that between nativity and nationality, it brings
the originary fiction of sovereignty to crisis. Single ex-
ceptions to such a principle, of course, have always ex-
isted. What is new in our time is tllat growing sections
of humankind are no longer representable inside the
nation-state-and this novelty threatens the very foun-
Beyond Human Rights
dations of the latter. Inasmuch as the refugee, an appar-
ently marginal figure, unhinges the old trinity of state-
nation-territory, it deserves instead to be regarded as the
central figure of our political history. We should not for-
get that the first camps were built in Europe as spaces for
controlling refugees, and that the succession of intern-
ment camps-concentrati.on camps-extermination camps
represents a perfectly real filiation. One of the few rnles
the Nazis constantly obeyed throughout the course of
the "final solution" was that Jews and Gypsies could be
sent to extermination camps only after having been fully
denationalized (that is, after they had been stripped of
even that second-class citizenship to which they had been
relegated after the Nuremberg Laws). When their rights
are no longer the rights of the citizen, that is when hu-
man beings are truly sacred, in the sense that this term
used to have in the Roman law of the archaic period:
doomed to death.
The concept of refugee must be resolutely separated
from the concept of the "human rights," and the right
of asylum (which in any case is by now in the process of
being drastically restricted in the legislation of the Euro-
pean states) must no longer be considered as the concep-
tual category in which to inscribe the phenomenon of
refugees. (One needs only to look at Agnes Heller's re-
cent Theses on the Right of Asylum to realize that this can-
not but lead today to awkward confusions.) The refugee
should be considered for what it is, namely, nothing less
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22.3
than a limit-concept that at once brings a radical crisis
to the principles of the nation-state and clears the way
for a renewal of categories that can no longer be delayed.
Meanwhile, in fact, the phenomenon of so-
called illegal immigration into the countries of the Euro-
pean Union has reached (and shall increasingly reach in
the coming years, given the estimated twenty million im-
migrants from Central European countries) characteris-
tics and proportions such that this reversal of perspec-
tive is fully justified. What industrialized countries face
today is a permanently resident mass of noncitizens who
do not want to be and cannot be either natnralized or
repatriated. These noncitizens often have nationalities
of origin, but, inasmuch as they prefer not to benefit
from their own states' protection, they find themselves,
as refugees, in a condition of de facto statelessness. Tomas
Hammar has created the neologism of "denizens" for
these noncitizen residents, a neologism that has the merit
of showing how the concept of "citizen" is no longer ad-
equate for describing the social-political reality of mod-
ern states.
4
On the other hand, the citizens of advanced
industrial states (in the United States as well as Europe)
demonstrate, through an increasing desertion of the cod-
ified instances of political participation, an evident pro-
pensity to tnrn into denizens, into noncitizen perma-
nent residents, so that citizens and denizens at least
in certain social strata-are entering an area of poten-
tial indistinction. In a parallel way, xenophobic reactions
and defensive mobilizations are on the rise, in conform-
Beyond Human Rights
ity with the well-known principle according to which
substantial assimilation in the presence of formal differ-
ences exacerbates hatred and intolerance.
Before extermination camps are reopened in Europe
(something that is already starting to happen), it is nec-
essary that the nation-states find the courage to question
the very principle of the inscription of nativity as well
as the trinity of state-nation-territory that is founded
on that principle. It is not easy to indicate right now the
ways in which all this may concretely happen. One of
the options taken into consideration for solving the prob-
lem of Jerusalem is that it become-simultaneously and
without any territorial partition-the capital of two dif-
ferent states. The paradoxical condition of reeiprocal ex-
traterritoriality (or, better yet, aterritoriality) that would
thus be implied could be generalized as a model of new
international relations. Instead of two national states sep-
arated by uncertain and threatening boundaries, it might
be possible to imagine two political communities insist-
ing on the same region and in a condition of exodus from
eaeh other-communities that would artieulate each
other via a series of reciprocal extraterritorialities in
which the guiding concept would no longer be the ius
(right) of the citizen but rather the refugium (refuge) of
the singular. In an analogous way, we could conceive of
Europe not as an impossible "Europe of the nations,"
whose catastrophe one can already foresee in the short
run, but rather as an aterritorial or extraterritorial space
in which all the (citizen and noncitizen) residents of the
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24,5
European states would be in a position of exodus or
refuge; the status of European would then mean the be-
ing-in-exodus of the citizen (a condition that obviously
could also be one of immobility). European space would
thus mark an irreducible difference between birth [nascita]
and nation in which the old concept of people (which,
as is well known, is always a minority) could again find
a political meaning, thus decidedly opposing itself to
the concept of nation (which has so far unduly usurped it).
This space would coincide neither with any
of the homogeneous national territories nor with their
topographical sum, but would rather act on them by ar-
tieulating and perforating them topologically as in the
Klein bottle or in the Mobius strip, where exterior and
interior in-determine each other. In this new space, Eu-
ropean cities would rediscover their ancient vocation of
cities of the world by entering into a relation of recip-
rocal extraterritoriality.
As I write this essay, 425 Palestinians expelled
by the state of Israel find themselves in a sort of no-
man's-land. These men certainly constitute, according
to Hannah Arendt's suggestion, "the vanguard of their
people." But that is so not necessarily or not merely in
the sense that they might form the originary nueleus of
a future national state, or in the sense that they might
solve the Palestinian question in a way just as insufficient
as the way in which Israel has solved the Jewish question.
Rather, the no-man's-land in which they are refugees
has already started from this very moment to act back
onto the territo.ry of the state of Israel by perforating it
Beyond Human Rights
and altering it in such a way that the image of that snowy
mountain has become more internal to it than any other
region of Eretz Israel. Only in a world in which the
spaces of states have been thus perforated and topologi-
cally deformed and in which the citizen has been able
to recognize the refugee that he or she is only in such
a world is the political survival of humankind today
thinkable.
(1993)
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What Is a People?
ANY INTERPRETATION of the political meaning of the
term people ought to start from the peculiar fact that in
modern European languages this term always indicates
also the poor, the underprivileged, and the excluded. The
same term names the constitutive political subject as well
as the class that is excluded-de facto, if not de jure-
hom politics.
The Italian term popolo, the French term peu-
pie, and the Spanish term pueblo - along with the corre-
sponding adjectives popolare, populaire, popular- and the
late-Latin terms populus and popularis from which they
all derive, designate in common parlance and in the po-
liticallexicon alike the whole of the citizenry as a unitary
body politic (as in "the Italian people" or in "giudice popo-
lare" [juryman]) as well as those who belong to inferior
classes (as in b0771me du peuple [man of the people], rione
popolare [working-class neighborhood], front populaire
[popular front]). Even the English people-whose sense
is more undifferentiated-does retain the meaning of
ordinary people as opposed to the rich and the aristoc-
racy. In the American Constitution one thus reads with-
out any sort of distinction: "We, the people of the United
States ... "; but when Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address
invokes a "government of the people, by the people, for
the people," the repetition implicitly sets another people
against the first. The extent to which such an ambiguity
was essential even during the French Revolution (that is,
at the very moment in which people's sovereignty was
claimed as a principle) is witnessed by the decisive role
played in it by a sense of compassion for the people in-
tended as the excluded class. Hannah Arendt reminds us
that:
The very definition of the word was born ont of com-
passion, and the term became the equivalent for mis-
fortune and unhappiness-Ie peuple, les malbeureux
m'applaudissent, as Robespierre was wont to say; Ie
peuple toujollrs malbellreux, as even Sieyes, one of the
least sentimental and most sober figures of the Rev-
olution, would put it."
But this is already a double concept for Jean Bodin-al-
beit in a different sense-in the chapter of Les Six Livres
de la Republique in which he defines Democracy or Btat
Populaire: while the menu peuple is that which it is wise
30,1
to exclude from political power, the peuple en corps is in-
tended as entitled to sovereignty.
Such a widespread and constant semantic ambiguity can-
not be accidental: it surely reflects an ambiguity inher-
ent in the nature and function of the concept of people
in Western politics. It is as if, in other words, what we call
people was actually not a unitary subject but rather a di-
alectical oscillation between two opposite poles: on the
one hand, the People as a whole and as an integral body
politic and, on the other hand, the people as a subset and
as fragmentary multiplicity of needy and excluded bod-
ies; on the one hand, an inclusive concept that pretends
to be without remainder while, on the other hand, an
exclusive concept known to afford no hope; at one pole,
the total state of the sovereign and integrated citizens
and, at the other pole, the banishment-either court of
miracles or camp - of the wretched, the oppressed, and
the vanquished. There exists no single and compact ref-
erent for the term people anywhere: like many fundamen-
tal political concepts (which, in this respect, are similar
to Abel and Frend's Urworte or to Dumont's hierarchi-
cal relations), people is a polar concept that indicates a
double movement and a complex relation between two
extremes. This also means, however, that the constitu-
tion of the human species into a body politic comes into
being through a fundamental split and that in the con-
cept of people we can easily recognize the conceptual pair
identified earlier as the defining category of the original
What Is a People?
political structure: naked life (people) and political exis-
tence (People), exclusion and inclusion, zoe and bios. The
concept of people always already contai11s within itself the ftm-
damental biopolitical fracture. It is what cannot be included
in the whole of which it is a part as well as what cannot be-
long to the whole in which it is fll71lflys already included.
Hence the contradictions and aporias that
such a concept creates every time that it is invoked and
brought into play on the political stage. It is what always
already is, as well as what has yet to be realized; it is the
pure source of identity and yet it has to redefine and pu-
rify itself continuously according to exclusion, language,
blood, and territory. It is what has in its opposite pole
the very essence that it itself lacks; its realization there-
fore coincides with its own abolition; it must negate it-
self through its opposite in order to be. (Hence the spe-
cific aporias of the workers' movement that turns toward
the people and at the same time aims at its abolition.)
The concept of people-brandished each and every time
as the bloody flag of reaction and as the faltering ban-
ner of revolutions and popular fronts - always contains
a more original split than the one between enemy and
friend, an incessant civil war that at once divides this
concept more radically than any conflict and keeps it
united and constitutes it more firmly than any identity.
As a matter of fact, what Marx calls class struggle-which
occupies such a central place in his thought, even though
he never defines it substantially-is nothing other than
this internecine war that divides every people and that
shall come to an end only when People and people coin-
32,3
cide, in the classless society or in the messianic king-
dom, and only when there shall no longer be, properly
speaking, any people.
If this is the case-if the concept of people necessarily
contains within itself the fundamental biopolitical frac-
ture -it is possible to read anew some decisive pages of
the history of our century. If the struggle between the
two peoples has always been in process, in fact, it has
undergone in our time one last and paroxysmal acceler-
ation. In ancient Rome, the split internal to the people
was juridically sanctioned by the clear distinction be-
tween populus and plebs- each with its own institutions
and magistrates-just as in the Middle Ages the division
between artisans [popolo minuto 1 and merchants [popolo
grasso 1 used to correspond to a precise articulation of dif-
ferent arts and crafts. But when, starting with the French
Revolution, sovereignty is entrnsted solely to the people,
the people become an embarrassing presence, and poverty
and exclusion appear for the first time as an intolerable
scandal in every sense. In the modern age, poverty and
exclusion are not only economic and social concepts but
also eminently political categories. (The economism and
"socialism" that seem to dominate modern politics ac-
tually have a political, or, rather, a biopoliticfll, meaning.)
From this perspective, our time is nothing
other than the methodical and implacable attempt to
fill the split that divides the people by radically eliminat-
ing the people of the excluded. Such an attempt brings
together, according to different modalities and horizons,
What Is a People? ~ ~ . ~ c _ . _ ..... ~ ' __ ~ ~ ____________________ .,... _____________________________ ,
both the right and the left, both capitalist countries and
socialist countries, which have all been united in the plan
to produce one single and undivided people an ulti-
mately futile plan that, however, has been partially real-
ized in all industrialized countries. The obsession with
development is so effective in our time because it coin-
cides with the biopolitical plan to produce a people with-
out fracture.
When seen in this light, the extermination of
the Jews in Nazi Germany acquires a radically new mean-
ing. As a people that refuses integration in the national
body politic (it is assumed, in fact, that its assimilation
is actually only a feigned one), the Jews are the repre-
sentatives par excellence and almost the living symbol of
the people, of that naked life that modernity necessarily
creates within itself but whose presence it is no longer
able to tolerate in any way. We ought to understand the
lucid fury with which the German Volk - representative
par excellence of the people as integral body politic-
tried to eliminate the Jews forever as precisely the ter-
minal phase of the internecine struggle that divides Peo-
ple and people. With the final solution-which included
Gypsies and other unassimilable elements for a reason-
Nazism tried obscurely and in vain to free the Western
political stage from this intolerable shadow so as to pro-
duce finally the German Volk as the people that has been
able to heal the original biopolitical fracture. (And that
is why the Nazi chiefs repeated so obstinately that by
eliminating Jews and Gypsies they were actually work-
ing also for the other European peoples.)
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Paraphrasing the Freudian postulate on the
relation between Es and feh, one might say that modern
biopolitics is supported by the principle according to
which "where there is naked life, there has to be a Peo-
pIe," as long as one adds immediately that this principle
is valid also in its inverse formulation, which prescribes
that "where there is a People, there shall be naked life."
The fracture that was believed to have been healed by
eliminating the people namely, the Jews, who are its
symbol-reproduced itself anew, thereby turning the
whole German people into sacred life that is doomed to
death and into a biological body that has to be infinitely
purified (by eliminating the mentally ill and the carriers
of hereditary diseases). And today, in a different and yet
analogous way, the capitalistic-democratic plan to elim-
inate the poor not only reproduces inside itself the peo-
ple of the excluded but also turns all the populations of
the Third World into naked life. Only a politics that has
been able to come to terms with the fundamental biopo-
litical split of the West will be able to arrest this oscilla-
tion and put an end to the civil war that divides the peo-
ples and the cities of the Earth.
(1995)
What Is a People?
What Is a Camp?
WHAT HAPPENED in the camps exceeds the juridical con-
cept of crime to such an extent that the specific political-
juridical structure within which those events took place
has often beeu left simply unexamined. The camp is the
place in which the most absolute conditio inlJUmantl ever
to appear on Earth was realized: this is ultimately all that
counts for the victims as well as for posterity. Here I will
deliberately set out in the opposite direction. Rather than
deducing the definition of camp from the events that
took place there, I will ask instead: What is a camp? What
is its political-juridical structure? How could such events have
taken place there? This will lead us to look at the camp
not as a historical fact and an anomaly that-though ad-
mittedly still with us belongs nonetheless to the past,
but rather in some sense as the hidden matrix and nomos
of the political space in which we still live.
Historians debate whether the first appear-
ance of camps ought to be identified with the campos de
concentraciones that were created in 1896 by the Spaniards
in Cuba in order to repress the insurrection of that col-
ony's population, or rather with the concentration camps
into which the English herded the Boers at the begin-
ning of the twentieth century. What matters here is that
in both cases one is dealing with the extension to an en-
tire civilian population of a state of exception linked to
a colonial war. The camps, in other words, were not born
out of ordinary law, and even less were they the prod-
uct-as one might have believed-of a transformation
and a development of prison law; rather, they were born
out of the state of exception and martial law. This is even
more evident in the case of the Nazi Lager, whose ori-
gin and juridical regime is well documented. It is well
known that the juridical foundation of internment was
not ordinary law but rather the SchutzhaJt (literally, pro-
tective custody), which was a juridical institution of Prus-
sian derivation that Nazi jurists sometimes considered a
measure of preventive policing inasmuch as it enabled
the "taking into custody" of individuals regardless of any
relevant criminal behavior and exclusively in order to
avoid threats to the security of the state. The origin of
the SchutzhaJt, however, resides in the Prussian law on
the state of siege that was passed on June 4, 1851, and
that was extended to the whole of Germany (with the
exception of Bavaria) in 1871, as well as in the earlier
Prussian law on the "protection of personal freedom"
38,9
(Schutz der persiinlichen Freiheit) that was passed on Feb-
ruary 12, 1850. Both these laws were applied widely dur-
ing World War I.
One cannot overestimate the importance of
this constitutive nexus between state of exception and
concentration camp for a correct understanding of the
nature of the camp. Ironically, the "protection" of free-
dom that is in question in the Schutzhaft is a protection
against the suspension of the law that characterizes the
state of emergency. What is new here is that this insti-
tution is dissolved by the state of exception on which it
was founded and is allowed to continue to be in force
under normal circumstances. The camp is the space that
opens up when the state of exception starts to become the rule.
In it, the state of exception, which was essentially a tem-
poral suspension of the state of law, acquires a perma-
nent spatial arrangement that, as such, remains constantly
outside the normal state of law. When Himmler decided,
in March 1933, on the occasion of the celebrations of
Hitler's election to the chancellorship of the Reich, to
create a "concentration camp for political prisoners" at
Dachau, this camp was immediately entrusted to the SS
and, thanks to the SchutzhaJt, was placed outside the
jurisdiction of criminal law as well as prison law, with
which it neither then nor later ever had anything to
do. Dachau, as well as the other camps that were soon
added to it (Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Lichtenberg),
remained virtually always operative: the number of in-
mates varied and during eertain periods (in particular, be-
What Is a Camp?
tween 1935 and 1937, before the deportation of the Jews
began) it decrcased to 7,500 people; the camp as such,
however, had become a permanent reality in Germany.
One ought to reflect on the paradoxical status of the
camp as space of exception: the camp is a piece of terri-
tory that is placed outside the normal juridical order; for
all that, however, it is not simply an external space. Ac-
cording to the etymological meaning of the term excep-
tion (ex-capere), what is being excluded in the camp is
captured outside, that is, it is included by virtue of its very
exclusion. Thus, what is being captured under the rule
of law is first of all the very state of exception. In other
words, if sovereign power is founded on the ability to
decide on the state of exception, the camp is the struc-
ture in whieh the state of exception is permanently real-
ized. Hannah Arendt observed once that what comes to
light in the camps is the principle that supports totali-
tarian domination and that common sense stubbornly
refuses to admit to, namely, the principle according to
which anything is possible. It is only because the camps
constitute a space of exception-a space in which tlle
law is completely suspended-that everything is truly
possible in them. If one does not understand this par-
ticular political-juridical structure of the camps, whose
vocation is precisely to realize permanently the exception,
the incredible events that took place in them remain en-
tirely unintelligible. The people who entered the camp
moved about in a zone of indistinction between the out-
side and the inside, the exception and the rule, the licit
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40,1
and the illicit, in which every juridical protection had dis-
appeared; moreover, if they were Jews, they had already
been deprived of citizenship rights by the Nuremberg
Laws and were later completely denationalized at the
moment of the "final solution." Inasmuch as its inhabiti117ts
bave been stripped of every political status and ndllced com-
pletely to naked life, the camp is also tbe most absolute biopo-
litical space tbat bas ever been realized·-a space in which
power confronts nothing otber tban pure biological life with-
out any mediation. The camp is the paradigm itself of po-
litical spacc at the point in which politics becomes bio-
politics and the homo sacer bccomes indistinguishable
from the eitizen. The eorrect question regarding the hor-
rors committed in the camps, therefore, is not the ques-
tion that asks hypocritically how it could have been
possible to commit such atrocious horrors against other
human beings; it would be more honest, and above all
more useful, to investigate carefully how- that is, thanks
to what juridical procedures and political devices-hu-
man beings could have been so completely deprived of
their rights and prerogatives to the point that commit-
ting any act toward them would no longer appear as a
crime (at this point, in fact, truly anything had become
possible).
If this is tlle case, if the essence of the camp
consists in the materialization of the state of exception
and in the consequent creation of a space for naked life
as such, we will then have to admit to be facing a camp
virtually every time that such a structure is created, re-
gardless of the nature of the crimes committed in it and
What Is a Camp?
regardless of the denomination and specific topography
it might have. The soccer stadium in Bari in which the
Italian police temporarily herded Albanian illegal immi-
grants in 1991 before sending them back to their coun-
try, the cycle-racing track in which the Vichy authorities
rounded up the Jews before handing them over to the
Germans, the refugee camp near the Spanish border
where Antonio Machado died in 1939, as well as the zones
d'attente in French international airports in which for-
eigners requesting refugee status are detained will all
have to be considered camps. In all these cases, an ap-
parently anodyne place (such as the Hotel Arcade near
the Paris airport) delimits instead a space in which, for
all intents and purposes, the normal rule of law is sus-
pended and in which the fact that atrocities mayor may
not be committed does not depend on the law but rather
on the civility and ethical sense of the police that act tem-
porarily as sovereign. This is the ease, for example, dur-
ing the four days foreigners may be kept in the zone
d'attente before the intervention of French judicial au-
thorities. In this sense, even certain outskirts of the great
postindustrial cities as well as the gated communities of
the United States are beginning today to look like camps,
in which naked life and political life, at least in determi-
nate moments, enter a zone of absolute indeterminacy.
From this perspective, the birth of the camp in our time
appears to be an event that marks in a decisive way the
political space itself of modernity. This birth takes place
when the political system of the modern nation-state-
42,3
founded on the functional nexus between a determinate
localization (tcrritory) and a deternlinate order (the state),
which was mediated by automatic regulations for the in-
scription of life (birth or nation) - enters a period of
permanent crisis and the state decides to undertake the
management of the biological life of the nation directly
as its own task. In other words, if the structure of the
nation-state is defined by three elements - territory, order,
and birth-the rupture of the old nomos does not take
place in the two aspects that, according to Carl Schmitt,
used to constitute it (that is, localization, Ortung, and
order, Ordnung), but rather at the site in which naked
life is inscribed in them (that is, there where inscription
turns birth into nation). There is something that no
longer functions in the traditional mechanisms that used
to regulate this inscription, and the camp is the new hid-
den regulator of the inscription of life in the order-
or, rather, it is the sign of the system's inability to func-
tion without transforming itself into a lethal machine.
It is important to note that the camps appeared at the
same time that the new laws on citizenship and on the
denationalization of citizens were issued (not only the
Nuremberg Laws on citizenship in the Reich but also
the laws on the denationalization of citizens that were is-
sued by almost all the European states, including France,
between 1915 and 1933). The state of exception, which
used to be essentially a temporary suspension of the
order, becomes now a new and stable spatial arrange-
ment inhabited by that naked life that increasingly can-
not be inscribed into the order. The increasingly widen-
What Is a Camp?
ing gap bet"lL'cClZ birth (naked life) and nation-state is the new
fact of the politics of our time and what we are calling "camp"
is this dispfJrity. To an order without localization (that is,
the state of exception during which the law is suspended)
corresponds now a localization without order (that is, the
camp as permanent space of exception). The political sys-
tem no longer orders forms of life and juridical norms
in a determinate space; rather, it contains within itself a
dislocating localization that exceeds it and in which virtu-
ally every form of life and every norm can be captured.
The camp intended as a dislocating localization is the
hidden matrix of the politics in which we still live, and
we must learn to recognize it in all of its metamorphoses,
The camp is the fourth and inseparable element that has
been added to and has broken up the old trinity of na-
tion (birth), state, and territOlY,
It is from this perspective that we need to see
the reappearance of camps in a form that is, in a certain
sense, even more extreme in the territories of the former
Yugoslavia. What is happening there is not at all, as some
interested observers rushed to declare, a redefinition of
the old political system according to new ethnic and ter-
ritorial arrangements, that is, a simple repetition of the
processes that culminated in the constitution of the Eu-
ropean nation-states, Rather, we note there an irrepara-
ble rupture of the old nomos as well as a dislocation of
populations and human lives according to entirely new
lines of flight. That is why the camps of ethnic rape are
so crucially important. If the Nazis never thought of car-
rying out the "final solution" by impregnating Jewish
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44.5
women, that is because the principle of birth, which en-
sured the inscription of life in the order of the nation-
state, was in some way still functioning, even though it
was profoundly transformed. This principle is now adrift:
it has entered a process of dislocation in which its func-
tioning is becoming patently impossible and in which we
can expect not only new camps but also always new and
more delirious normative definitions of the inscription
of life in the city. The camp, which is now firmly settled
inside it, is the new biopolitical nomos of the planet.
(1994)
What Is a Camp?
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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ =

Notes on Gesture
1. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Western bourgeoisie
had definitely lost its gestures.
IN 1886, Gilles de la Tourette, "ancien interne des H6pi-
taux de Paris et de la Salpetriere," published with Dela-
haye et Lecrosnicr the i;tudes cliniques et physiologiques sur
la marche [Clinical and physiological studies on the gait].
It was the first time that one of the most common human
gestures was analyzed with strictly scientific methods.
Fifty-three years earlier, when the bourgeoisie's good
conscience was still intact, the plan of a general path-
ology of social life announced by Balzac had produced
nothing more than the fifty rather disappointing pages
of the Thiorie de la demarche [Theory of bearing]. Noth-
ing is more revealing of the distance (not only a temporal
one) separating the two attempts than the description
Gilles de la Tourette gives of a human step. Whereas
Balzac saw only the expression of moral character, de la
Tourette employed a gaze that is already a prophecy of
what cinematography would latcr become:
While the left leg acts as the fulcrum, the right foot
is raised from the ground with a coiling motion that
starts at the heel and reaches the tip of the toes, which
leave the ground last; the whole leg is now brought
forward and the foot touches the ground with the
heel. At this very instant, the left foot-having ended
its revolution and leaning only on the tip of the toes-
leaves the ground; the left leg is brought forward, gets
closer to and then passes the right leg, and the left foot
touches the ground with the heel, while the right foot
ends its own revolntion.
1
Only an eye gifted with such a vision could
have perfected that footprint method of which Gilles de
la Tourette was, with good reason, so proud. An approx-
imately seven- or eight-meter-Iong and fifty-centimeter-
wide roll of white wallpaper was nailed to the ground
and then divided in half lengthwise by a pencil-drawn
line. The soles of the experiment's subject were then
smeared with iron sesquioxide powder, which stained
them with a nice red rust color. The footprints that the
patient left while walking along the dividing line allowed
a perfect measurement of the gait according to various
parameters (length of the step, lateral swerve, angle of
inclination, etc.).
If we observe the footprint reproductions
published by Gilles de la Tourette, it is impossible not
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to think about the series of snapshots that Muybridge
was producing in those same years at the University of
Pennsylvania using a battery of twenty-four photographic
lenses. "Man walking at normal speed," "running man
with shotgun," "walking woman picking up a jug," "walk-
ing woman sending a kiss": these are the happy and vis-
ible twins of the unknown and suffering creatures that
had left those traces.
The Etude sur une affection nerveuse caracterisee
par de l'incoordination motrice accompagnee d'echolalie et de
coprolalie [Study on a nervous condition characterized by
lack of motor coordination accompanied by echolalia and
coprolalia 1 was published a year before the studies on the
gait came out. This book defined the clinical profile of
what later would be called Gilles de la Tourette syn-
drome. On this occasion, the same distancing that the
footprint method had enabled in the case of a most com-
mon gesture was applied to the description of an amaz-
ing proliferation of tics, spasmodic jerks, and manner-
isms - a proliferation that cannot be defined in any way
other than as a generalized catastrophe of the sphere of
gestures. Patients can neither start nor complete the sim-
plest of gestures. If they are able to start a movement,
this is interrupted and broken up by shocks lacking any
coordination and by tremors that give the impression that
the whole musculature is engaged in a dance (chorea) that
is completely independent of any ambulatory end. The
equivalent of this disorder in the sphere of the gait is ex-
emplarily described by Jean-Martin Charcot in his fa-
mous Lefons du mardi:
Notes on Gesture
He sets off-with his body bent forward and with his
lower limbs rigidly and entirely adhering one to the
other - by leaning on the tip of his toes. His feet then
begin to slide on the ground somehow, and he pro-
ceeds through some sort of swift tremor .... When the
patient hurls himself forward in such a way, it seems
as if he might fall forward any minute; in any case, it
is practically impossible for him to stop all by him-
self and often he needs to throw himself on an ob-
ject nearby. I-Ie looks like an automaton that is being
propelled by a spring: there is nothing in these rigid,
jerky, and convnlsive movements that resembles the
nimbleness of the gait .... Finally, after several at-
tempts, he sets off and-in conformity to the afore-
mentioned mechanism-slides over the ground rather
than walking: his legs are rigid, or, at least, they bend
ever so slightly, while his steps are somehow substi-
tuted for as many abrupt tremors.
2
What is most extraordinary is that these dis-
orders, after having heen observed in thousands of cases
since 1885, practically cease to he recorded in the first
years of the twentieth century, until the day when Oliver
Sacks, in the winter of 1971, thought that he noticed
three cases of Tourettism in the span of a few minutes
while walking along the streets of New York City. One
of the hypotheses that could be put forth in order to ex-
plain this disappearance is that in thc meantime ataxia,
tics, and dystonia had become the norm and that at some
point everybody had lost control of their gestures and
was walking and gesticulating frantically. This is the im-
52.3
pression, at any rate, that one has when watching the
films that Marey and Lumiere began to shoot exactly in
those years.
2. In the cinema, a society that has lost its gestures tries at once to
reclaim what it has lost and to record its loss.
An age that has lost its gestures is, for this reason, ob-
sessed by them. For human beings who have lost every
sense of naturalness, each single gesture becomes a des-
tiny. And the more gestures lose their ease under the
action of invisible powers, the more life becomes inde-
cipherable. In this phase the bourgeoisie, which just a
few decades earlier was still firmly in possession of its
symbols, succumbs to interiority and gives itself up to
psychology.
Nietzsche represents the specific moment in
European culture when this polar tension between the
obliteration and loss of gestures and their transfiguration
into fate reaches its climax. The thought of the eternal
return, in fact, is intelligible only as a gesture in which
power and act, naturalness and manner, contingency and
necessity become indiscernible (ultimately, in other words,
only as theater). Thus Spake Zarathustra is the ballet of a
humankind that has lost its gestures. And when the age
realized this, it then began (but it was too late!) the pre-
cipitous attempt to recover the lost gestures in extremis.
The dance of Isadora Duncan and Sergei Diaghilev, the
novel of Proust, the great Jugendstil poetry from Pascoli
to Rilke, and, finally and most exemplarily, the silent
Notes on Gesture
movie trace the magic circle in which humanity tried
for the last time to evoke what was slipping through its
fingers forever.
During the same years, Aby Warburg began
those investigations that only the myopia of a psycholo-
gizing history of art could have defined as a "science of
the image." The main focus of those investigations was,
rather, the gesture intended as a crystal of historical mem-
ory, the process by which it stiffened and turned into a
destiny, as well as the strenuous attempt of artists and
philosophers (an attempt that, according to Warburg,
was on the verge of insanity) to redeem the gesture from
its destiny through a dynamic polarization. Because of the
fact that this research was conducted through the medium
of images, it was believed that the image was also its ob-
ject. Warburg instead transformed the image into a de-
cisively historical and dynamic element. (Likewise, the
image will provide for Jung the model of the archetypes'
metahistorical sphere.) In this sense, the atlas Mnenzosyne
that he left incomplete and that consists of almost a
thousand photographs is not an immovable repertoire
of images but rather a representation in virtual movement
of Western humanity's gestures from classical Greece to
Fascism (in other words, something that is closer to De
Jorio than Panofsky). Inside each section, the single im-
ages should be considered more as film stills than as au-
tonomous realities (at least in the same way in which
Benjamin once compared the dialectical image to those
little books, forerunners of cinematography, that gave the
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impression of movement when the pages were turned
over rapidly).
3. The element of cinema is gesture and not image.
Gilles Deleuze has argued that cinema erases the falla-
cious psychological distinction between image as psy-
chic reality and movement as physical reality. Cinema to-
graphie images are neither poses eternelles (sueh as tl1e
forms of the classical age) nor coupes immobiles of move-
ment, but rather coupes mobiles, images themselves in
movement, that Deleuze calls movement-images.
3
It is necessary to extend Deleuze's argument
and show how it relates to the status of the image in gen-
eral within modernity. This implies, however, that the
mythical rigidity of the image has been broken and that
here, properly speaking, there are no images but only
gestures. Every image, in fact, is animated by an antino-
mic polarity: on the one hand, images are the reification
and obliteration of a gesture (it is the imago as death
mask or as symbol); on the other hand, they preserve the
dynamis intact (as in Muybridge's snapshots or in any
sports photograph). The former corresponds to the rec-
ollection seized by voluntary memory, while the latter
corresponds to the image flashing in the epiphany of in-
voluntary memOly. And while the former lives in magi-
cal isolation, the latter always refers beyond itself to a
whole of which it is a part. Even the Mona Lisa, even Las
Meninas could be seen not as immovable and eternal
forms, but as fragments of a gesture or as stills of a lost
Notes on Gesture
film wherein only they would regain their true meaning.
And that is so because a certain kind of litigatio, a para-
lyzing power whose spell we need to break, is continu-
ously at work in every image; it is as if a silent invoca-
tion calling for the liberation of the image into gesture
arose from the entire history of art. This is what in an-
cient Greece was expressed by the legends in which stat-
ues break the ties holding them and begin to move. But
this is also the intention that philosophy entrusts to the
idea, which is not at all an immobile archetype as com-
mon interpretations would have it, but rather a constella-
tion in which phenomena arrange themselves in a gesture.
Cinema leads images back to the homeland
of gesture. According to the beautiful definition implicit
in Beckett's Traum und Nacht, it is tbe dream of a ges-
ture. The duty of the director is to introduce into this
dream the element of awakening.
4. Because cinema has its center in the gesture and not in the
image, it belongs essentially to the realm of ethics and politics .
(and not simply to that of aesthetics).
What is a gesture? A remark of Varra contains a valuable
indication. He inscribes the gesture into the sphere of
action, but he clearly sets it apart from acting (agere) and
from making (jacere):
The third stage of action is, they say, that in which
they faciunt "make" something: in this, on account of
the likeness among age7'e "to act" and gerere "to carry
or carry on," a certain error is committed by those
who think that it is only one thing. For a person can
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facere something and not agere it, as a poet facit
"makes" a play and does not act it, and on the other
hand the actor agit "acts" it and does not make it, and
so a play fit "is made" by the poet, not acted, and ag-
itur "is acted" by the actor, not made. On the other
hand, the general [imperator], in that he is said to
gerere "carry on" affairs, in this neither facit "makes"
nor agit "acts," but gerit "carries on," that is, supports,
a meaning transferred from those who gcrunt "carry"
burdens, because they support them. (VI VIII 77)4
What characterizes gesture is that in it noth-
ing is being produced or acted, but rather something
is being endured and supported. The gesture, in other
words, opens the sphere of ethos as the more proper
sphere of that which is human. But in what way is an ac-
tion endured and supported? In what way does a res be-
come a res gesta, that is, in what way does a simple fact be-
come an event? The Varronian distinction between facere
and agere is derived, in the end, from Aristotle. In a fa-
mous passage of the Nicomachean Ethics, he opposes the
two terms as follows: "For production [poiesis] has an end
other than itself, but action [praxis] does not: good ac-
tion is itself an end" (VI 1140b).5 What is new in Varra
is the identification of a third type of action alongside
the other two: if producing is a means in view of an end
and praxis is an end without means, the gesture then
breaks with the false alternative between ends and means
that paralyzes morality and presents instead means that,
as such, evade the orbit of mediality without becoming,
for this reason, ends.
Notes on Gesture
Nothing is more misleading for an under-
standing of gesture, therefore, than representing, on the
one hand, a sphere of means as addressing a goal (for
example, marching seen as a means of moving the body
from point A to point B) and, on the other hand, a sep-
arate and superior sphere of gesture as a movement that
has its end in itself (for example, dance seen as an aes-
thetic dimension). Finality without means is just as alien-
ating as mediality that has meaning only with respect to
an end, If dance is gesture, it is so, rather, because it is
nothing more than the endurance and the exhibition of
the media character of corporal movements. The gesture
is the exhibition of a mediality: it is the process of making a
means visible as sucb. It allows the emergence of the be-
ing-in-a-medium of human beings and thus it opens dle
ethical dimension for them. But, just as in a pornographic
film, people caught in the act of performing a gesture
that is simply a means addressed to the end of giving
pleasure to others (or to themselves) are kept suspended
in and by their own mediality-for the only reason of
being shot and exhibited in their mediality-and can be-
come the medium of a new pleasure for the audience (a
pleasure that would otherwise be incomprehensible); or,
just as in the case of the mime, when gestures addressed
to the most familiar ends are exhibited as such and are
dms kept suspended "entre Ie desir et l'accomplissement,
la perpetration et son souvenir" [between desire and ful-
fillment, perpetration and its recollection]-in what Mal-
larme calls a milieu pur, so what is relayed to human be-
58,9
ings in gestures is not the sphere of an end in itself but
rather the sphere of a pure and endless mediality.
It is only in this way that the obscure Kant-
ian expression "purposiveness without purpose" acquires
a concrete meaning. Such a finality in the realm of means
is that power of the gesture that interrupts the gesture
in its very being-means and only in this way can exhibit
it, thereby transforming a res into a res gesta, In the same
way, if we understand the "word" as the means of com-
munication, then to show a word does not mean to have
at one's disposal a higher level (a metalanguage, itself in-
communicable within the first level), starting from which
we could make that word an object of communication;
it means, rather, to expose the word in its own medial-
ity, in its own being a means, without any transcendence.
The gesture is, in this sense, communication of a com-
municability. It has precisely nothing to say because what
it shows is the being-in-language of human beings as
pure mediality. However, because being-in-language is
not something that could be said in sentences, the ges-
ture is essentially always a gesture of not being able to
figure something out in language; it is always a gag in
the proper meaning of the term, indicating first of all
something that could be put in your mouth to hinder
speech, as well as in the sense of the actor's improvisa-
tion meant to compensate a loss of memory or an inabil-
ity to speak. From this point derives not only the prox-
imity between gesture and philosophy, but also the one
between philosophy and cinema. Cinema's essential "si-
Notes on Gesture
lence" (which has nothing to do with the presence or ab-
sence of a sound track) is, just like the silence of philoso-
phy, exposure of the being-in-Ianguage of human beings:
pure gesturality. The Wittgensteinian definition of the
mystic as the appearing of what cannot be said is liter-
ally a definition of the gag. And every great philosophical
text is the gag exhibiting language itself, being-in-lan-
guage itself as a gigantic loss of memory, as an incur-
able speech defect.
5. Politics is the sphere of pure means, that is, of the absolute and
complete gesturality of human beings.
(1992)
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Languages and Peoples
BANDS OF Gypsies made their appearance in France
during the first decades of the fifteenth century-a pe-
riod characterized hy wars and disorders. They said they
came from Egypt and were led by individuals who called
themselves dukes in Egypto parvo or counts in Egypto
mznorl:
The first groups of Gypsies were sighted on the ter-
ritory of present-day France in 1419 .... On August
22, 1419, they appear in the town of Chatillon-en-
Dombe; the following day, the group reaches Saint
Laurent de Mikon-six leagues away-led by a cer-
tain Andrea, duke of Minor Egypt .... In July 1422, an
even larger band goes down to Italy .... In August
1427, Gypsies appear for the first time at the doors
of Paris, after having traveled through a war-torn
France .... The capital is invaded by the English and
the entire lle-de-France is infested with bandits. Some
groups of Gypsies, led by dukes or counts in Egypto
parvo or in Egypto 771i7101"i, cross the Pyrenees and go
as far as Barcelona."
Historians date the birth of argot, the secret
language of the coquillards and other gangs of evildoers,
roughly to this same period. These gangs prospered in
the tormented years that marked the shift from medieval
society to the modern state: "It is true, as he says, that
the above mentioned coquillards use among themselves
a secret language [langage exquis] that others cannot
comprehend if it is not taught to them. Furthermore,
through this language they can reeognize the members
of the so-called Coquille" (deposition by Perrenet at the
trial of the coquillards).
By simply putting the sources related to these
two events side by side, Aliee Beeker-Ho has been able
to realize the Benjaminian project of writing an original
work composed mostly of quotations.
2
The book's the-
sis is apparently anodyne: as the subtitle indicates-A
neglected factor at the origins of the argot of the dangerous
classes-the question consists in demonstrating tlle der-
ivation of part of the argot lexicon from Rom, the lan-
guage of Gypsies. A brief but essential glossary at the end
of the volume lists tlIose argotic terms that have "an ev-
ident echo, not to say a sure origin, in the Gypsy dialects
of Europe."3
Although this thesis does not exceed tlle
boundaries of sociolinguistics, it implies nonetheless an-
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other and more significant argument: as much as argot
is not properly a language but a jargon, so the Gypsies
are not a people but the last descendants of a class of
outlaws dating from another era:
Gypsies are our Middle Ages preserved; dangerous
classes of an earlier epoch. The Gypsy terms that
made it into the different argots are much like the
Gypsies themselves: since their first apparence, in
fact, Gypsies adopted the patronymics of the coun-
tries through which they traveled-gadjesko nav-
thereby losing somehow their identity on paper in the
eyes of all those who believe they can read.
4
This explains why scholars were never suc-
cessful in interpreting the Gypsies' origins and in getting
to lmow well their language and customs: the ethno-
graphic investigation, in this case, becomes impossible
because the informers are systematieally lying.
Why is this most original hypothesis-which
refers, after all, to marginal linguistic realities and to mar-
ginal populations so important? Benjamin once wrote
that, at crucial moments of history, the final blow must
be struck with the left hand, intervening on the hidden
nuts and bolts of the machine of social knowledge. Al-
though Alice Becker-Ho maintains herself within the
limits of her thesis, it is probable tlut she is perfectly
aware of having laid a mine -which is ready to explode
at any given time-at the very focal point of our politi-
cal theory. We do not have, in fact, the slighest idea of
what either a people or a language is. (It is well known
Languages and Peoples
that linguists can construct a grammar-that is, a uni-
tary system with describable characteristics that could
be called language-only by taking the factum loquendi
for granted, that is, only by taking for granted the sim-
ple fact that human beings speak and understand each
other, a fact that is still inaccessible to science.) N ever-
theless, all of our political culture is based on the relation
between these two notions. Romantic ideology-which
consciously created this connection, thereby influenc-
ing extensively modern linguistic theory as well as the
political theory that is still dominant nowadays-tried
to clarify something that was already obscure (the con-
cept of people) with the help of something even more
obscure (the concept of language). Thanks to the sym-
biotic correspondence thus instituted, two contingent
and indefinite cultural entities transform themselves into
almost natural organisms endowed with their own nec-
essary laws and characteristics. Political theory, in fact,
must presuppose, without the ability to explain it, the
factum pluralitatis-a term etymologically related to pop-
ulus, with which I would like to indicate the simple fact
that human beings form a community-whereas linguis-
tics must presuppose, without questioning it, the factum
loquendi. The simple correspondence between these two
facts defines modern political discourse.
The relation between Gypsies and argot puts
this correspondence radically into question in the very
instant in which it parodically reenacts it. Gypsies are
to a people what argot is to language. And although this
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66.7
analogy can last but for a brief moment, it nonetheless
sheds light on that truth which the correspondence be-
tween language and people was secretly intended to con-
ceal: all peoples are gangs and coquilles, all languages are
jargons and argot.
What is at stake here is not to evaluate the
scientific accuracy of this thesis but rather not to let its
liberating power slip out of our hands. Once our gaze is
focused on this matter, the perverse and tenacious ma-
chines that govern our political imaginary suddenly lose
their power. It should be evident to everybody, after all,
that we are talking about an imaginary, especially nowa-
days when the idea of a people has long lost any sub-
stantial reality. Even if we admit that this idea never had
any real content other than the insipid catalog of char-
acteristics listed by the old philosophical anthropolo-
gies, it was already made meaningless, in any case, by
the same modern state that presented itself as its keeper
and its expression. All well-meaning chatter notwith-
standing, the idea of a people today is nothing other
than the empty support of state identity and is recog-
nized only as such. For those who might still nurture
some doubt on the matter, it would be instructive to
take a look at what is happening around us from this
point of view: on the one hand, the world powers take
up arms to defend a state without a people (Kuwait) and,
on the other hand, the peoples without a state (Kurds, Ar-
menians, Palestinians, Basques, Jews of the Diaspora)
can be oppressed and exterminated with impunity, so as
Languages and Peoples
to make clear that the destiny of a people can only he a
state identity and that the concept of people makes sense
only if recodified within the concept of citizenship. In
this regard, it is also important to note the peculiar sta-
tus of those languages that have no state dignity (Cata-
lan, Basque, Gaelic, etc.), which linguists treat naturally
as languages, hut which practically operate rather as jar-
gons or dialects and almost always assume an immedi-
ately political significance. The vicious entwining of lan-
guage, people, and the state appears particularly evident
in the case of Zionism. A movement that wanted to con-
stitute the people par excellence (Israel) as a state took
it upon itself, for this very reason, to reactualize a purely
cult language (Hebrew) that had been replaced in daily
use by other languages and dialects (Ladino, Yiddish).
In the eyes of the keepers of tradition, however, pre-
cisely this reactualization of the sacred language appeared
to be a grotesque profanity, upon which language would
have taken revenge one day. (On December 26, 1926,
Gershom Scholem writes to Franz Rosenzweig' from
Jerusalem: "We live in our language like blind men walk-
ing on the edge of an abyss .... This language is laden
with future catastrophes .... The day will come when it
will turn against those who speak it.")5
The thesis according to which all peoples are
Gypsies and all languages are jargons untangles this knot
and enables us to look in a new way at those linguistic
experiences that have periodically emerged within our
culture only to be misunderstood and led back to domi-
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nant conceptions. What else can Dante mean, in fact,
when he says-while narrating the myth of Babel in De
vulgari eloquentia-that every kind of tower-builder re-
ceived its own language, which was incomprehensible to
the others, and that the languages spoken in his time de-
rived from these Babelic languages? He is presenting all
the languages of the Earth as jargons (the language of a
trade, in fact, is the figure of jargon par excellence). And
against this intimate aptitude for jargon that every lan-
guage possesses, he does not suggest the remedy of a
national language and grammar (as a long-standing fal-
sification of his thought would have it); he suggests,
rather, a transformation of the very way of experiencing
words, which he called volgare illustre. Such a transfor-
mation was to be something like a deliverance of the
jargons themselves that would direct them toward the
factum loquendi-and hence not a grammatical deliver-
ance, but a poetical and a political one.
The trobar clus of the Provenc;al troubadours
is itself, in a certain way, the transformation of the lan-
guage d'oc into a secret jargon (in a way not so different
from that of Villon when he wrote some of his ballads
in the argot of the coquillards). But what this jargon speaks
of is nothing more than another figure of language,
marked as the place and the object of a love experience.
From this point of view, it is not snrprising that, in more
recent debates, the experience of the pure existence of
language (that is, the experience of the factum loquendi)
could coincide, according to Wittgenstein, with ethics;
Languages and Peoples
nor is it surprising that Benjamin could entrust the fig-
ure of redeemed humanity to a "pure language" that
was irreducible to a grammar or to a particular language.
Languages are the jargons that hide the pure
experience of language just as peoples are the more or
less successful masks of the factum pluralitatis. This is why
our task cannot possibly be either the construction of
these jargons into grammars or the recodification of
peoples into state identities. On the contrary, it is only
by breaking at any point the nexus between the existence
of language, grammar, people, and state that thought and
praxis will be equal to the tasks at hand. The forms of
this interruption - during which the factum of language
and the factum of community come to light for an in-
stant- are manifold and change according to times and
circumstances: reactivation of a jargon, trobar elus, pure
language, minoritarian practice of a grammatical lan-
guage, and so on. In any case, it is clear that what is at
stake here is not something simply linguistic or literary
but, above all, political and philosophical.
(1995)

Marginal Notes on
Commentaries on the
Society of the Spectacle
Strategist
GUY DEB 0 RD' s books constitute the clearest and most
severe analysis of the miseries and slavery of a society
that by now has extended its dominion over the whole
planet-that is to say, the society of the spectacle in
which we live. As such, these books do not need clarifi-
cations, praises, or, least of all, prefaces. At most it might
be possible to suggest here a few glosses in the margins,
much like those signs that the medieval copyists traced
alongside of the most noteworthy passages. Following a
rigorous anchoritic intention, they are in fact separated
from the text and they find their own place not in an im-
probable elsewhere, but solely in the precise cartographic
delimitation of what they describe.
It would be of no use to praise these books'
independence of judgment and prophetic clairvoyance, or
the classic perspicuity of their style. There are no authors
today who could console themselves by thinking that
their work will be read in a centnry (by what kind of hu-
man beings?), and there are no readers who could flatter
themselves (with respect to what?) with the knowledge
of belonging to that small number of people who under-
stood that work before others did. They should be used
rather as manuals, as instruments of resistance or exo-
dus-much like those improper weapons that the fugi-
tive picks up and inserts hastily under the belt (according
to a beautiful image of Deleuze). Or, rather, they should
be used as the work of a peculiar strategist (the title Com-
mentaries, in fact, harks back to a tradition of this kind)-.
a strategist whose field of action is not so much a battle
in which to marshal troops but the pure power of the
intellect. A sentence by Karl von Clausewitz, cited in the
fourth Italian edition of The Society of the Spectacle, ex-
presses perfectly this character:
In strategic critiques, the esseutial fact is to position
yourself exactly in the actors' point of view. It is true
that this is often very difficult. Most strategic critiques
would disappear completely or would be reduced to
minor differences of understanding if the writers
would or could position themselves in all the circum-
stances in which the actors had found themselves.
1
In this sense, not only Machiavelli's The Prince but also
Spinoza's Ethics are treatises on strategy: operations de
potentia intellectus, sive de libertate.
Phantasmagoria
Marx was in London when tbe first Universal Exposition
was inaugurated with enormous clamor in Hyde Park
74,5
in 1851. Among the various projects submitted, the or-
ganizers had chosen the one by Paxton, which called for
an immense building made entirely of crystal. In the
Exposition's catalog, Merrifield wrote that the Crystal
Palace "is perhaps the only building in the world in which
the atmosphere is perceivable ... by a spectator sitnated
either at the west or east extremity of the gallery ... where
the most distant parts of the building appear wrapped
in a light blue halo."2 The first great triumph of the com-
modity thus takes place under the sign of both trans-
parenc.y and phantasmagoria. Furthermore, the guide to
the Paris Universal Exposition of 1867 reinstates this
contradictory spectacular character: "II faut au [public 1
une conception grandiose qui frappe son imagination ...
il veut contempler un coup d' oeil feerique et non pas des
produits similaires et uniformement groupes" [The pub-
lic needs a grandiose conception that strikes its imagi-
nation ... it wants to behold a wondrous prospect rather
than similar and uniformly arranged products l.
It is probable that Marx had in mind the im-
pression felt in the Crystal Palace when he wrote the
chapter of Capital on commodity fetishism. It is certainly
not a coincidence that this chapter occupies a liminal po-
sition. The disclosure of the commodity's "secret" was
the key that revealed capital's enchanted realm to our
thought-a secret that capital always tried to hide by
exposing it in full view.
Without the identification of this immate-
rial center-in which "the products oflabor" split them-
selves into a use value and an exchange value and "be-
come commodities, sensuous things which are at the same
Marginal Notes
time supraseusible or social"3- all the following criti-
cal investigations undertaken in Capital probably would
not have been possible.
In the 1960s, however, the Marxian analysis of
the fetish character of the commodity was, in the Marx-
ist milieu, foolishly abandoned. In 1969, in the preface
to a popular reprint of Capital, Louis Althusser could still
invite readers to skip the first section, with the reason
that the theory of fetishism was a "flagrant" and "ex-
tremely harmful" trace of Hegelian philosophy.
4
It is for this reason that Debord's gesture ap-
pears all the more remarkable, as he bases his analysis
of the society of the spectacle-that is, of a capitalism
that has reached its extreme figure-precisely on that
"flagrant trace." The "becoming-image" of capital is
nothing more than the commodity's last metamorpho-
sis, in which exchange value has completely eclipsed use
value and can now achieve the status of absolute and ir-
responsible sovereignty over life in its entirety, after hav-
ing falsified the entire social production. In this sense,
the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, where the commodity
unveiled and exhibited its mystery for the first time, is a
prophecy of the spectacle, or, rather, the nightmare, in
which the nineteenth century dreamed the twentieth.
The first duty the Situ.ationists assigned themselves was
to wake up from this nightmare.
Walpurgi5 Night
If there is in our century a writer with whom Debord
might agree to be compared, this writer would be Karl
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Kraus. Nobody has been able to bring to light the hid-
den laws of the spectacle as Kraus did in his obstinate
struggle against journalists - "in these loud times which
boom with the horrible symphony of actions which pro-
duce reports and of reports which cause actions."5 And
if someone were to imagine something analogous to the
voiee-over that in Debord's films runs alongside the ex-
posure of that desert of rubble which is the spectacle,
nothing would be more appropriate than Kraus's voice.
A voice that-in those public lectures whose charm Elias
Canetti has described-finds and lays bare the intimate
and ferocious anarchy of triumphant capitalism in Of-
fenbach's operetta.
The punch line with which Kraus, in the
posthumous Third Walpurgis Night, justified his silence
in the face of the rise of Nazism is well known: "On
Hitler, nothing comes to my mind." This ferocious VVitz,
where Kraus confesses without indulgence his own lim-
itation, marks also the impotence of satire when faced
by the becoming-reality of the indescribable. As a satir-
ical poet, he is truly "only one of the last epigones in-
habiting the ancient home of language." Certainly also
in Debord, as much as in Kraus, language presents itself
as the image and the place of justice. Nevertheless, the
analogy stops there. Debord's discourse begins precisely
where satire becomes speechless. The ancient home of
language (as well as the literary tradition on which satire
is based) has been, by now, falsified and manipulated from
top to bottom. Kraus reacts to this situation by turning
language into the place ofUniversalJudgment. Debord
Marginal Notes
begins to speak instead when the Universal Judgment has
already taken place and after the true has been recog-
nized in it only as a moment of the false. The Universal
Judgment in language and the Walpurgis Night in the
spectacle coincide perfectly. This paradoxical coinci-
dence is the place from which perennially resounds his
VOIce-over.
!Situation
What is a constructed situation? A definition contained
in the first issue of the Internationale Situatiomziste states
that this is a moment in life, concretely and deliberately
constructed through the collective organization of a uni-
fied milieu and through a play of events. Nothing
would be more misleading, however, than to tbink the
situation as a privileged or exceptional moment in the
sense of aestheticism. The situation is neither the be-
coming-art of life nor the becoming-life of art. We can
comprehend its true nature only if we locate it histori-
cally in its proper place: that is, after the end and self-
destruction of art, and after the passage of life through
the trial of nihilism. The "Northwest passage of the
geography of the true life" is a point of indifference be-
tween life and art, where both undergo a decisive meta-
morphosis simultaneously. This point of indifference con-
stitutes a politics that is finally adequate to its tasks. The
Situationists counteract capitalism-which "concretely
and deliberately" organizes environments and events in
order to depotentiate life-with a concrete, although op-
posite, project. Their utopia is, once again, perfectly top-
78,9
ical because it locates itsclf in the taking-place of what
it wants to overthrow. Nothing could give a better idea
of a constructed situation, perhaps, than the bare scenog-
raphy in which Nietzsche, in The Gay Science, develops
his thought's experi711entzl7lz crucis. A constructed situa-
tion is the room with the spider and the moonlight be-
tween the branches exactly in the moment when-in an-
swer to the demon's question: "Do you desire this once
more and innumerable times more?" it is said: "Yes, I
do."6 What is decisive here is the messianic shift that
integrally changes the world, leaving it, at the same time,
almost intact: everything here, in fact, stayed the same,
but lost its identity.
In the commedia dell'arte there were cadres
instructions meant for the actors, so tl1at they would
bring into being situations in which a human gesture,
subtracted from the powers of myth and destiny, could
finally take place. It is impossible to tmderstand the comic
mask if we simply interpret it as an undetermined or de-
potentiated character. Harlequin and the Doctor are not
characters in the same way in which Hamlet and Oedi-
pus are: the masks are not characters, but rather gestures
figured as a type, constellations of gestures. In this situ-
ation, the destruction of the role's identity goes hand in
hand with the destruction of the actor's identity. It is
precisely this relationship between text and execution,
between power and act, that is put into question once
again here. This happens becanse the mask insinuates it-
self between the text and the execution, creating an in-
distinguishable mixture of power and act. And what takes
Marginal Notes
place here-both onstage and within the constructed sit-
uation-is not the actuation of a power but the libera-
tion of an ulterior power. Gesture is the name of this in-
tersection between life and art, act and power, general
and particular, text and execution. It is a moment of life
subtracted from the context of individual biography as
well as a moment of art subtracted from the neutrality
of aesthetics: it is pure praxis. The gesture is neither use
value nor exchange value, neither biographic experience
nor impersonal event: it is the other side of the commod-
ity that lets the "crystals of this common social sub-
stance" sink into the situation.
Ausc:hwitz/Ti misoara
Probably the most disquieting aspect of Debord's books
is the fact that history seems to have committed itself to
relentlessly confirm their analyses. Twenty years after The
Society of the Spectacle, the Commentaries (1988) registered
the precision of the diagnosis and expectations of that
previous book in every aspect. Meanwhile, the course of
history has accelerated uniformly in the same direction:
only two years after this book's publication, in fact, we
could say that world politics is nothing more than a
hasty and parodic mise-en-scene of the script contained
in that book. The substantial unification of the concen-
trated spectacle (the Eastern people's democracies) and
of the diffused spectacle (the Western democracies) into
an integrated spectacle is, by now, trivial evidence. This
unification, which constituted one of the central theses
of the Commentaries, appeared paradoxical to many peo-
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pIe at the time. The immovable walls and the iron cur-
tains that divided the two worlds were wiped out in a
few days. The Eastern governments allowed the Lenin-
ist party to fall so that the integrated spectacle could be
completely realized in their countries. In the same way,
the West had already renounced a while ago the balance
of powers as well as real freedom of thought and commu-
nication in the name of the electoral machine of majority
vote and of media control over public opinion-both
of which had developed within the totalitarian modern
states.
Timisoara, Romania, represents the extreme
point of this process, and deserves to give its name to
the new turn in world politics. Because there the secret
police had conspired against itself in order to overthrow
the old spectacle-concentrated regime while television
showed, nakedly and without false modesty, the real po-
litical function of the media. Both television and secret
police, therefore, succeeded in doing something that
Nazism had not even dared to imagine: to bring Ausch-
witz and the Reichstag fire together in one monstrous
event. For the first time in the history of humankind,
corpses that had just been buried or lined up on the
morgue's tables were hastily exhumed and tortured in
order to simulate, in front of the video cameras, the
genocide that legitimized the new regime. What the en-
tire world was watching live on television, tl1inking it was
the real truth, was in reality the absolute nontruth; and,
although the falsification appeared to be sometimes quite
obvious, it was nevertheless legitimized as true by the
Marginal Notes
media's world system, so that it would be clear that the
true was, by now, nothing more than a moment within
the necessary movemcnt of the false. In this way, truth
and falsity became indistinguishable from each other
and the spectacle legitimized itself solely through the
spectacle.
Timisoara is, in this sense, the Auschwitz of
the age of the spectacle: and in the same way in which it
has been said that after Auschwitz it is impossible to write
and think as before, after Timisoara it will be no longer
possible to watch television in the same way.
Shekinah
How can thought collect Debord's inheritance today, in
the age of the complete triumph of the spectacle? It is
evident, after all, that the spectacle is language, the very
communicativity and linguistic being of humans. This
means that an integrated Marxian analysis should take
into consideration the fact that capitalism (or whatever
other name we might want to give to the process domi-
nating world history today) not only aimed at the expro-
priation of prodnctive activity, but also, and above all, at
the alienation of language itself, of the linguistic and
communicative nature of human beings, of that logos in
which Heraclitus identifies the Common. The extreme
form of the expropriation of the Common is the specta-
cle, in other words, the politics in which we live. Bnt
this also means that what we encounter in the spectacle
is our very linguistic nature inverted. For this reason
(precisely because what is being expropriated is the pos-
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sibility itself of a common good), the spectacle's violence
is so destructive; but, for the same reason, the spectacle
still contains something like a positive possibility-and
it is our task to use this possibility against it.
Nothing resembles this condition more than
the sin that cabalists call "isolation of the Shekinah"
and that they attribute to Aher-one of the four rabbis
who, according to a famous Haggadah of the Talmud, en-
tered the Pardes (that is, supreme knowledge). "Four rab-
bis," the story goes, "entered Heaven: Ben Azzai, Ben
Zoma, Aher and Rabbi Akiba .... Ben Azzai cast a glance
and died .... Ben Zoma looked and went crazy .... Aher
cut the branches. Rabbi Akiba came out uninjured."
The Shekinah is the last of the ten Sefirot or
attributes of the divinity, the one that expresses divine
presence itself, its manifestation or habitation on Earth:
its "word." Aher's "cutting of the branches" is identified
by cabalists with the sin of Adam, who, instead of con-
templating the Sefirot in their totality, preferred to
contemplate only the last one, isolating it from the oth-
ers-thereby separating the tree of science from the
tree of life. Like Adam, Aher represents humanity inso-
far as, making knowledge his own destiny and his own
specific power, he isolates knowledge and the word,
which are nothing other than the most complete form
of the manifestation of God (the Shekinah), from the
other Sefirot in which he reveals himself. The risk here is
that the word-that is, the nonlatency and the revelation of
something-might become separate from what it reveals and
might end up acquiring an autonomous consistency. The re-
Marginal Notes
,;;;j
vealed and manifested-and hence, common and share-
able-being becomes separate from the thing revealed
and comes in between the latter and human beings. In
this condition of exile, the Shekinah loses its positive
power and becomes harmful (the cabalists say that it
"sucks the mille of evil").
The isolation of the Shekinah thus expresses
our epochal condition. Whereas under the old regime the
estrangement of the communicative essence of human
beings substantiated itself as a presupposition that served
as the common foundation, in the society of the specta-
cle it is this very communicativity, this generic essence
itself (that is, language as Gattungswesen), that is being
separated in an autonomous sphere. What prevents com-
munication is communicability itself; human beings are
kept separate by what unites them. Journalists and the
media establishment (as well as psychoanalysts in the pri-
vate sphere) constitute the new clergy of such an alien-
ation of the linguistic nature of human beings.
In thc society of the spectacle, in fact, the iso-
lation of the Shekinah reaches its final phase, in which
language not only constitutes itself as an autonomous
sphere, but also no longer reveals anything at all-or,
better yet, it reveals the nothingness of all things. In lan-
guage there is nothing of God, of the world, of the re-
vealed: but, in this extreme nullifying unveiling, language
(the linguistic nature of human beings) remains once
again hidden and separated. Language thus acquires, for
the last time, the unspoken power to claim a historical
age and a state for itself: the age of the spectacle, or the
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state of fully realized nihilism. This is why today power
founded on a presupposed foundation is vacillating all
around the planet: the kingdoms of the Earth are setting
out, one after the other, for the spectacular-democratic
regime that constitutes the completion of the state-form.
Even more than economic necessities and technological
development, what drives the nations of the Earth to-
ward a single common destiny is the alienation of lin-
guistic being, the uprooting of all peoples from their vi-
tal dwelling in language. But exactly for this reason, the
age in which we live is also that in which for the first
time it becomes possible for human beings to experience
their own linguistic essence-to experience, that is, not
some language content or some true proposition, but
language itself, as well as the very fact of speaking. Con-
temporary politics is precisely this devastating experi-
mentum linguae that disarticulates and empties, all over
the planet, traditions and beliefs, ideologies and religions,
identities and communities.
Only those who will be able to carry it to
completion-without allowing that which reveals to be
veiled in the nothingness it reveals, but bringing lan-
guage itself to language-will become the first citizens
of a community with neither presuppositions nor a state.
In this community, the nullifying and determining power
of what is common will be pacified and the Shekinah will
no longer suck the evil milk of its own separateness. Like
Rabbi Akiba in the Haggadah of the Talmud, the citizens
of this community will enter the paradise of language
and will come out of it uninjured.
Marginal Notes
1'i£t1l £til mel'l
What does the scenario that world politics is setting up
before us look like under the twilight of the Commen-
taries? The state of the integrated spectacle (or, spectacu-
lar-democratic state) is the final stage in the evolution of
the state-form-the ruinous stage toward which monar-
chies and republics, tyrannies and democracies, racist
regimes and progressive regimes are all rushing. Al-
though it seems to bring national identities back to life,
this global movement actually embodies a tendency to-
ward the constitution of a kind of supranational police
state, in which the norms of international law are tacitly
abrogated one after the other. Not only has no war offi-
cially been declared in many years (confirming Carl
Schmitt's prophecy, according to which every war in
our time has become a civil war), but even the outright
invasion of a sovereign state can now be presented as an
act of internal jurisdiction. Under these circumstances,
the secret services-which had always been used to act
ignoring the boundaries of national sovereignties-be-
come the model itself of real political organization and
of real political action. For the first time in the history
of our century, the two most important world powers are
headed by two direct emanations of the secret services:
Bush (former CIA head) and Gorbachev (Andropov's
man); and the more they concentrate all the power in
their own hands, the more all of this is hailed, in the
new course of the spectacle, as a triumph of democracy.
All appearances notwithstanding, the spectacular-dem-
ocratic world organization that is thus emerging actu-
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ally runs the risk of being the worst tyranny that ever
materialized in the history of humanity, against which
resistance and dissent will be practically more and more
difficult-and all the more so in that it is increasingly
clear that such an organization will have the task of man-
aging the survival of humanity in an uninhahitable world.
One cannot be sure, however, that the spectacle's at-
tempt to maintain control over the process it contributed
to putting in motion in the first place will actually suc-
ceed. The state of the spectacle, after all, is still a state
that bases itself (as Badiou has shown every state to base
itself) not on social bonds, of which it purportedly is
the expression, but rather on their dissolution, which it
forbids. In 'the final analysis, the state can recognize any
claim for identity-even that of a state identity within
itself (and in our time, the history of the relations be-
tween the state and terrorism is an eloquent confirma-
tion of this fact). But what the state cannot tolerate in
any way is that singularities form a community without
claiming an identity, that human beings co-belong with-
out a representable condition of belonging (being Italian,
working-class, Catholic, terrorist, etc.). And yet, the state
of the spectacle inasmuch as it empties and nullifies
every real identity,' and substitutes the public and public
opinion for the people and the general will-is precisely
what produces massively from within itself singularities
that are no longer characterized either by any social iden-
tity or by any real condition of belonging: singularities
that are truly 7vhatever singularities. It is clear that the
society of the spectacle is also one in which all social
Marginal Notes
identities have dissolved and in which everything that
for centnries represented the splendor and misery of the
generations sncceeding themselves on Earth has by now
lost all its significance. The different identities that have
marked the tragicomedy of universal history are ex-
posed and gathered with a phantasmagorical vacuity in
the global petite bourgeoisie-a petite bourgeoisie that
constitntes the form in which the spectacle has realized
parodistically the Marxian project of a classless society.
For this reason-to risk advancing a pro-
phecy here-the coming politics will no longer be a
struggle to conquer or to control the state on the part
of either new or old social subjects, but rather a strug-
gle between the state and the nonstate (humanity), that
is, an irresolvable disjunction between whatever singu-
larities and the state organization.
This has nothing to do with the mere de-
mands of society against the state, which was for a long
time the shared concern of the protest movements of our
age. Whatever singularities cannot form a societas within
a society of the spectacle because they do not possess
any identity to vindicate or any social bond whereby to
seek recognition. The struggle against the state, there-
fore, is all the more implacable, because this is a state
that nullifies all real contents but that-all empty dec-
larations about the sacredness of life and about human
rights aside-would also declare any being radically lack-
ing a representable identity to be simply nonexistent.
This is the lesson that could have been learned
from Tiananmen, if real attention had been paid to the
88,9
facts of that event. What was most striking about the
demonstrations of the Chinese May, in fact, was the
relative absence of specific contents in their demands.
(The notions of democracy and freedom are too generic
to constitnte a real goal of struggle, and the only con-
crete demand, the rehabilitation of Bu Yaobang, was
promptly granted.) It is for this reason that the violence
of the state's reaction seems all the more inexplicable. It
is likely, however, that t11is disproportion was only ap-
parent and that the Chinese leaders acted, from their
point of view, with perfect lucidity. In Tiananmen the
state found itself facing something that could not and
did not want to be represented, but that presented itself
nonetheless as a community and as a common life (and
this regardless of whether those who were in that square
were actnally aware of it). The threat the state is not
willing to come to terms with is precisely the fact that
the unrepresentable should exist and form a community
without either presuppositions or conditions of belong-
ing Gust like Cantor's inconsistent multiplicity). The
whatever singularity-this singularity that wants to take
possession of belonging itself as well as of its own be-
ing-into-Ianguage, and that thus declines any identity
and any condition of belonging-is the new, nonsub-
jective, and socially inconsistent protagonist of the com-
ing politics. Wherever these singularities peacefully
manifest their being-in-common, there will be another
Tiananmen and, sooner or later, the tanks will appear
agam.
(1990)
Marginal Notes
The Face
AL.L LIVING beings are in the open: they manifest them-
selves and shine in their appearance. But only human
beings want to take possession of this opening, to seize
hold of their own appearance and of their own being-
manifest. Language is this appropriation, which trans-
forms nature into face. This is why appearance becomes
a problem for human beings: it becomes the location of
a struggle for truth.
The face is at once the irreparable being-exposed of hu-
mans and the very opening in which they hide and stay
hidden. The face is the only location of community, the
only possible city. And that is because that which in sin-
gle individuals opens up to the political is the tragicom-
edy of truth, in which they always already fall and out
of which they have to find a way.
What the face exposes and reveals is not something that
could be formulated as a signifying proposition of sorts,
nor is it a secret doomed to remain forever incommuni-
cable. The face's revelation is revelation of language it-
self. Such a revelation, therefore, does not have any real
content and does not tell the truth about this or that state
of being, about this or that aspect of human beings and
of the world: it is only opening, only communicability.
To walk in the light of the face means to be this open-
ing-and to suffer it, and to endure it.
Thus, the faee is, above all, the passion of revelation, the
passion of language. Nature acquires a face precisely in
the moment it feels that it is being revealed by language.
And nature's being exposed and betrayed by the word,
its veiling itself behind the impossibility of having a se-
cret, appears on its face as either chastity or perturba-
tion, as either shamelessness or modesty.
The face does not coincide with the visage. There is a
face wherever something reaches the level of exposition
and tries to grasp its own being exposed, wherever a be-
ing that appears sinks in that appearance and has to find
a way out of it. (Thus, art can give a face even to an inan-
imate object, to a still nature; and that is why the witches,
when accused by the inquisitors of kissing Satan's anus
during the Sabbath, argued that even there there was a
face. An.d it may be that nowadays the entire Earth, which
has been transformed into a desert by humankind's blind
will, might become one single face.)
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I look someone in the eyes: either these eyes are cast
down and this is modesty, that is, modesty for the
emptiness lurking behind the gaze-or they look back
at me. And they can look at me shamelessly, thereby ex-
hibiting their own emptiness as if there was another
abyssal eye behind it that knows this emptiness and uses
it as an impenetrable hiding place. Or, they can look at
me with a chaste impudence and without reserve, thereby
letting love and the word happen in the emptiness of
our gazes.
Exposition is the location of politics. If there is no ani-
mal politics, that is perhaps beeause animals are always
already in the open and do not try to take possession of
their own exposition; they simply live in it without car-
ing about it. That is why they are not interested in mir-
rors, in the image as image. Human beings, on the other
hand, separate images from things and give them a name
precisely because they want to recognize themselves, that
is, they want to take possession of their own very ap-
pearance. Human beings thus transform the open into a
world, that is, into the battlefield of a political struggle
without quarter. This struggle, whose object is truth,
goes by the name of History.
It is happening more and more often that in porno-
graphic photographs the portrayed subjects, by a calcu-
lated stratagem, look into the camera, thereby exhibiting
the awareness of being exposed to the gaze. This unex-
peeted gesture violently belies the fiction that is implicit
The Face
in the consumption of snch images, according to which
the one who looks surprises the actors while remaining
unseen by them: the latter, rather, knowingly challenge
the voyeur's gaze and force him to look them in the eyes.
In that precise moment, the insubstantial nature of the
human face suddenly comes to light. The fact that the
actors look into the camera means that they show that
they are .,i7liuZating; nevertheless, they paradoxically ap-'
pear more real precisely to the extent to which they ex-
hibit this falsification. The same procedure is used to-
day in advertising: the image appears more convincing
if it shows openly its own artifice. In both cases, the one
who looks is confronted with something that concerns
unequivocally the essence of the face, the very structure
of truth.
We may call tragicomedy of appearance the fact that the
face uncovers only and precisely inasmuch as it hides,
and hides to the extent to which it uncovers. In this way,
the appearance that ought to have manifested human be-
ings becomes for them instead a resemblance that be-
trays them and in which they can no longcr recognize
themselves. Precisely because the face is solely the loca-
tion of truth, it is also and immediately the location of
simulation and of an irreducible impropriety. This does
not mean, however, that appearance dissimulates what
it uncovers by making it look like what in reality it is
not: rather, what human beings truly are is nothing other
than this dissimulation and this disquietude within the
appearance. Because human beings neither are nor have
to be any essence, any nature, or any specific destiny,
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their condition is the most empty and tbe most insub-
stantial of all: it is the truth. What remains hidden from
them is not something behind appearance, but rather
appearing itself, that is, their being nothing other than
a face. The task of politics is to return appearance itself
to appearance, to cause appearance itself to appear.
The face, truth, and exposition are today the objects of
a global civil war, whose battlefield is social life in its en-
tirety, whose storm troopers are the media, whose victims
are all the peoples of the Earth. Politicians, the media
establishment, and the advertising industry have under-
stood the insubstantial character of the face and of the
community it opens up, and thus they transform it into
a miserable secret that they must make snre to control
at all costs. State power today is no longer founded on
the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence-a mo-
nopoly that states share increasingly willingly with other
nonsovereign organizations such as the United Nations
and terrorist organizations; rather, it is founded above
all on the control of appearance (of doxrt). The fact that
politics constitutes itself as an autonomous sphere goes
hand in hand witll the separation of the face in tlle world
of speetacle-a world in which human communication
is being separated from itself. Exposition thns transforms
itself into a value that is accumulated in images and in tlle
media, while a new class of bureaucrats jealously watches
over its management.
If what human beings had to communicate to each other
were always and only something, there would never be
The Face
politics properly speaking, but only exchange and con-
flict, signals and answers. But because what human be-
ings have to communicate to each other is above all a
pure communicability (that is, language), politics then
arises as the communicative emptiness in which the hu-
man face emerges as such. It is precisely this empty space
that politicians and the media establishment are trying
to be sure to control, by keeping it separate in a sphere
that guarantees its unseizability and by preventing com-
municativity itself from coming to light. This means that
an integrated Marxian analysis should take into consid-
eration the fact that capitalism (or whatever other name
we might want to give to the process dominating world
history today) not only was directed to the expropria-
tion of productive activity, but was also and above all
directed to the alienation of language itself, of the com-
municative nature of human beings.
Inasmuch as it is nothing but pure communicability,
every human face, even the most noble and beautiful, is
always suspended on the edge of an abyss. This is pre-
cisely why the most delicate and graceful faces some-
times look as if they might suddenly decompose, thus
letting the shapeless and bottomless background that
threatens them emerge. But this amorphous background
is nothing else than the opening itself and communica-
bility itself inasmuch as they are constituted as their own
presuppositions as if they were a thing. The only face to
remain uninjured is the one capable of taking the abyss
of its own communicability upon itself and of exposing
it without fear or complacency.
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This is why the face contracts into an expression, stiff-
ens into a character, and thus sinks further and further
into itself. As soon as the face realizes that communica-
bility is all that it is and hence that it has nothing to ex-
press thus withdrawing silently behind itself, inside
its own mute identity-it turns into a grimace, which is
what one calls character. Character is the constitutive ret-
icence that human beings retain in the word; but what
one has to take possession of here is only a nonlatency,
a pure visibility: simply a visage. The face is not some-
thing that transcends the visage: it is the exposition of
the visage in all its nudity, it is a victory over charac-
ter-it is word.
Everything for human beings is divided between proper
and improper, true and false, possible and real: this is be-
cause they are or have to be only a face. Every appear-
ance that manifests human beings thus becomes for them
improper and factitious, and makes them confront the
task of turning truth into their own proper truth. But truth
itself is not something of which we can take possession,
nor does it have any object other than appearance and
the improper: it is simply their comprehension, their ex-
position. The totalitarian politics of the modern, rather,
is the will to total self-possession: here either the im-
proper extends its own rule everywhere, thanks to an
unrestrainable will to falsification and consumption (as
happens in advanced industrialized democracies), or the
proper demands the exclusion of any impropriety (as
happens in the so-called totalitarian states). In botll these
grotesque counterfeits of the face, the only truly human
The Face
. & q, J, §
NV.l____ Will,M ,
possibility is lost: that is, the possihility of taking posses-
sion of impropriety as snch, of exposing in the face sim-
ply your own proper impropriety, of walking in the shadow
of its light.
The human face reproduces the duality that constitutes
it within its own structure, that is, the duality of proper
and improper, of communication and communicability,
of potentiality and act. The face is formed hy a passive
background on which the active expressive traits emerge:
Just as the Star mirrors its elements and the combi-
nation of the elements into one route in its two su-
perimposed triangles, so too the organs of the coun-
tenance divide into two levels. For the life-points of
the countenance are, after all, those points where the
countenance comes into contact with the world above,
be it passive or active contact. The basic level is or-
dered according to the receptive organs; they are the
face, the mask, namely forehead and cheeks, to which
belong respectively nose and ears. Nose and ears are
the organs of pure receptivity .... This first triangle
is thus formed by the midpoint of the forehead, as
the dominant point of the entire face, and the mid-
point of the cheeks. Over it is now imposed a second
triangle, composed of the organs whose activity quick-
ens the rigid mask of the first: eyes and mouth."
In advertising and pornography (consumer
society), the eyes and the mouth come to the foreground;
in totalitarian states (bureaucracy), the passive back-
ground is dominant (the inexpressive images of tyrants
98,9
in their offices). But only the reciprocal game between
these two levels constitutes the life of the face.
There are two words in Latin that derive from the Indo-
European root meaning "one": similis, which expresses
resemblance, and simul, which means "at the same time."
Thus, next to similitudo (resemblance) there is simultas,
that is, the fact of being together (which implies also ri-
valry, enmity); and next to similare (to be like) there is
simulare (to copy, to imitate, which implies also to feign,
to simulate).
The face is not a simulacrum, in the sense that it is some-
thing dissimulating or hiding the truth: the face is the
simultas, the being-together of the manifold visages con-
stituting it, in which none of the visages is truer than
any of the others. To grasp the face's truth means to grasp
not the resemblance but rather the simultaneity of the vis-
ages, that is, the restless power that keeps them together
and constitutes their being-in-common. The face of God,
thus, is the simultas of human faces: it is "our effigy"
that Dante saw in the "living light" of paradise.
My face is my outside: a point of indifference with respect
to all of my properties, with respect to what is properly
one's own and what is common, to what is internal and
what is external. In the face, I exist with all of my prop-
erties (my being brown, tall, pale, proud, emotional ... );
but this happens without any of these properties essen-
tially identifying me or belonging to me. The face is
The Face
the threshold of de-propriation and of de-identification
of all manners and of all qualities-a threshold in which
only the latter become purely communicable. And only
where I find a face do I encounter an exteriority and does
an outside happen to me.
Be only your face. Go to the threshold. Do not remain
the subjects of your properties or faculties, do not stay
beneath them: rather, go with them, in them, beyond
them.
(1995)
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1\1
I
Sovereign Police
ONE OF the least ambiguous lessons learned from the
Gulf War is that the concept of sovereignty has been fi-
nally introduced into the figure of the police. The non-
chalance with which the exercise of a particularly devas-
tating ius belli was disguised here as a mere "police
operation" cannot be considered to be a cynical mystifi-
cation (as it was indeed considered by some rightly in-
dignant critics). The most spectacular characteristic of
this war, perhaps, was that the reasons presented to jus-
tify it cannot be put aside as ideological superstructures
used to conceal a hidden plan. On the contrary, ideol-
ogy has in the meantime penetrated so deeply into real-
ity that the declared reasons have to be taken in a rigor-
ously literal sense-particularly those concerning the
idea of a new world order. This does not mean, however,
that tl1e Gulf War constituted a healthy limitation of
state sovereignties because they were forced to serve as
policemen for a supranational organism (which is what
apologists and extemporaneous jurists tried, in bad
fai th, to prove).
The point is that the police-contrary to
public opinion-are not merely an administrative func-
tion of law enforcement; rather, the police are perhaps
the place where the proximity and the almost constitu-
tive exchange between violence and right that character-
izes the figure of the sovereign is shown more nakedly
and clearly than anywhere else. According to the an-
cient Roman custom, nobody could for any reason come
between the consul, who was endowed with imperium,
and the lictor closest to him, who carried the sacrificial
ax (which was used to perform capital punishment). This
contiguity is not coincidental. If the sovereign, in fact,
is the one who marks the point of indistinction between
violence and right by proclaiming the state of exception
and suspending the validity of the law, the police are al-
ways operating within a similar state of exception. The
rationales of "public order" and "security" on which the
police have to decide on a case-by-case basis define an
area of indistinetion between violence and right that is
exactly symmetrical to that of sovereignty. Benjamin
rightly noted that:
The assertion that the ends of police violence are al-
ways identical or even connectd to those of general
law is entirely untrue. Rather, the "law" of the police
really marks the point at which the state, whether
from impotence or because of the immanent con-
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104.5
nections within any legal system, can no longer guar-
antee through the legal system the empirical ends that
it desires at any price to attain."
Hence the display of weapons that charac-
terizes the police in all eras. What is important here is
not so much the threat to those who infringe on the
right, but rather the display of that sovereign violence
to which the bodily proximity between consul and lictor
was witness. The display, in fact, happens in the most
peaceful of public places and, in particular, during official
ceremonies.
This embarrassing contiguity between sover-
eignty and police function is expressed in the intangible
sacredness that, according to the ancient codes, the fig-
ure of the sovereign and the figure of the executioner
have in common. This contiguity has never been so self-
evident as it was on the occasion of a fortuitous encoun-
ter that took place on July 14,1418: as we are told by a
chronicler, the Duke of Burgundy had just entered Paris
as a conqueror at the head of his troops when, on the
street, he came across the executioner Coqueluche, who
had been working very hard for him during those days.
According to the story, the executioner, who was covered
in blood, approached the sovereign and, while reaching
for his hand, shouted: "Mon beau frere!"
The entrance of the concept of sovereignty
in the figure of the police, therefore, is not at all reas-
suring. This is proven by a fact that still surprises histo-
rians of the Third Reich, namcly, that the extermination
Sovereign Police
of the Jews was conceived from the beginning to the end
exclusively as a police operation. It is well known that
not a single document has ever been found that recog-
nizes the genocide as a decision made by a sovereign
organ: the only document we have, in this regard, is the
record of a conference that was held on January 20, 1942,
at the Grosser Wannsee, and that gathered middle-level
and lower-level police officers. Among them, only the
name of Adolf Eichmann-head of division B-4 of the
Fourth Section of the Gestapo-is noticeable. The exter-
mination of the Jews could be so methodical and deadly
only because it was conceived and carried out as a po-
lice operation; but, conversely, it is precisely because the
genocide was a "police operation" that today it appears,
in the eyes of civilized humanity, all the more barbaric
and ignominious.
Furthermore, the investiture of the sovereign
as policeman has another corollary: it makes it neces-
sary to criminalize the adversary. Schmitt has shown how,
according to European public law, the principle par in
parmI non habet iurisdictioncZZl eliminated the possibility
that sovereigns of enemy states could be judged as crim-
inals. The declaration of war did not use to imply the
suspension of either this principle or the conventions that
guaranteed that a war against an enemy who was granted
equal dignity would take place according to precise reg-
ulations (one of which was the sharp distinction between
the army and the civilian population). What we have wit-
nessed with our own eyes from the end of World War I
onward is instead a process by which the enemy is first
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of all excluded from civil humanity and branded as a
criminal; only in a second moment does it become pos-
sible and licit to eliminate the enemy by a "police opera-
tion." Such an operation is not obliged to respect any
juridical rule and can thus make no distinctions between
the civilian population and soldiers, as well as between
the people and their criminal sovereign, thereby return-
ing to the most archaic conditions of belligerence. Sov-
ereignty's gradual slide toward the darkest areas of police
law, however, has at least one positive aspect that is wor-
thy of mention here. What the heads of state, who rushed
to criminalize the enemy with such zeal, have not yet
realized is that this criminalization can at any moment
be turned against them. There is no head of state on Earth
today who, in this sense, is not virtually a cI'iminal. loday,
those who should happen to wear the sad redingote of
sovereignty know that they may be treated as criminals
one day by their colleagues. And certainly we will not
be the ones to pity them. The sovereigns who willingly
agreed to present themselves as cops or executioners, in
fact, now show in the end their original proximity to
the criminal.
(1991)
Sovereign Police
Notes on Politics
THE FALL of the Soviet Communist Party and the uncon-
cealed rule of the capitalist-democratic state on a plane-
tary scale have cleared the field of the two main ideo-
logical obstacles hindering the resumption of a political
philosophy worthy of our time: Stalinism on one side,
and progressivism and the constitutional state on the
other. Thought thus finds itself, for the first time, fac-
ing its own task without any illusion and without any pos-
sible alibi. The "great transformation" constituting the fi-
nal stage of the state-form is thus taking place before
our very eyes: this is a transformation that is driving the
kingdoms of the Earth (republics and monarchies, tyran-
nies and democracies, federations and national states)
one after the other toward the state of the integrated
spectacle (Guy Debord) and toward "capitalist parliamen-
tarianism" (Alain Badiou). In the same way in which the
great transformation of the first industrial revolution
destroyed the social and political structures as well as
the legal categories of the ancien regime, terms such as
sovereignty, right, nation, people, democracy, and general will
by now refer to a reality that no longer has anything to
do with what these concepts used to designate and
those who continue to use these concepts uncritically
literally do not know what they are talking about. Con-
sensus and public opinion have no more to do with the
general will than the "international police" that today
fight wars have to do with the sovereignty of the jus pub-
licum Europaeum. Contemporary politics is this devas-
tating experiment that dis articulates and empties insti-
tutions and beliefs, ideologies and religions, identities
and communities all throughout the planet, so as then to
rehash and reinstate their definitively nullified form.
The coming thought will have thus to try and take seri-
ously the Hegelo-Kojevian (and Marxian) theme of the
end of history as well as the Heideggerian theme of the
entrance into Ereignis as the end of the history of being.
With respect to this problem, the battlefield is divided
today in the following way: on one side, there are those
who think the end of history without the end of the state
(that is, the post-Kojevian or postmodern theorists of
the fulfillment of the historical process of humanity in a
homogeneous universal state); on the other side, there
are those who think the end of the state without the end
of history (that is, progressivists of all sorts). Neither po-
sition is equal to its task because to think the extinction
110,1
of the state without the fulfillment of the historical te-
los is as impossible as to think a fulfillment of history in
which the empty form of state sovereignty would con-
tinue to exist. Just as the first thesis proves itself to be
completely impotent against the tenacious survival of the
state-form going through an infinite transition, the sec-
ond thesis clashes against the increasingly powerful re-
sistance of historical instances (of a national, religious,
or ethnic type). The two positions, after all, can coexist
perfectly well thanks to the proliferation of traditional
instances of the state (that is, instances of a historical
type) under the aegis of a technical-juridical organism
with a posthistorical vocation.
Only a thought capable of thinking the end
of the state and the end of history at one and the same
time, and of mobilizing one against the other, is equal
to this task. This is what the late Heidegger tried to ad-
dress-albeit in an entirely unsatisfactory way-with
the idea of an Ereignis, of an ultimate event in which what
is seized and delivered from historical destiny is the be-
ing-hidden itself of the historical principle, that is, his-
toricity itself. Simply because history designates the ex-
propriation itself of human nature through a series of
epochs and historical destinies, it does not follow that the
fulfillment and the appropriation of the historical telos
in question indicate that the historical process of human-
ity has now cohered in a definitive order (whose man-
agement can be handed over to a homogeneous universal
state). It indicates, rather, that the anarchic historicity
itself that-having been posited as a presupposition
Notes on Politics
destined living human beings to various epochs and his-
torical cultures must now come to thought as such. It
indicates, in other words, that now human beings take
possession of their own historical being, that is, of their
own impropriety. The becoming-proper (nature) of the
improper (language) cannot be either formalized or rec-
ognized according to the dialectic of Anerkemzung be-
cause it is, at the same time, a becoming-improper (lan-
guage) of the proper (nature).
The appropriation of historicity, therefore,
cannot still take a state-form, given that the state is noth-
ing other than the presupposition and the representa-
tion of the being-hidden of the historical arche. This ap-
propriation, rather, must open the field to a nonstatal and
nonjuridical politics and human life-a politics and a
life that are yet to be entirely thought.
The concepts of sovereignty and of constituent power, which
are at the core of our political tradition, have to be aban-
doned or, at least, to be thought all over again. They
mark, in fact, the point of indifference between right
and violence, nature and logos, proper and improper, and
as such they do not designate an attribute or an organ
of the juridical system or of the state; they designate,
rather, their own original structure. Sovereignty is the
idea of an undecidable nexus between violence and right,
between the living and language-a nexus that neces-
sarily takes the paradoxical form of a decision regarding
the state of exception (Schmitt) or ban (Nancy) in which
the law (language) relates to the living by withdrawing
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from it, by a-bandoning it to its own violence and its own
irrelatedness. Sacred life the life that is presupposed
and abandoned by the law in the state of exception-is
the mute carrier of sovereignty, the real sovereign subject.
Sovereignty, therefore, is the guardian who
prevents the undecidable threshold between violence and
right, nature and language, from coming to light. We
have to fix our gaze, instead, precisely on what the statue
ofJustice (which, as Montesquieu reminds us, was to be
veiled at the very moment of the proclamation of the
state of exception) was not supposed to see, namely, what
nowadays is apparent to everybody: that the state of ex-
ception is the rule, that naked life is immediately the car-
rier of the sovereigu nexus, and that, as such, it is today
abandoned to a kind of violence that is all the more ef-
fective for being anonymous and quotidian.
If there is today a social power [potenza], it
must see its own impotence [impotenzaJ through to the
end, it must decline any will to either posit or preserve
right, it must break everywhere the nexus between vio-
lence and right, between the living and language that
constitutes sovereignty.
While the state in decline lets its empty shell survive
everywhere as a pure structure of sovereignty and dom-
ination, society as a whole is instead irrevocably deliv-
ered to the form of consumer society, that is, a society
in which the sole goal of production is comfortable living.
The theorists of political sovereignty, such as Schmitt,
see in all this the surest sign of the end of politics, And
Notes on Politics
the planetary masses of consumers, in fact, do not seem
to foreshadow any new figure of the polis (even when
they do not simply relapse into the old ethnic and reli-
gious ideals).
However, the problem that the new politics
is facing is precisely this: is it possible to have a political
community that is ordered exclusively for the full en-
joyment of wordly life? But, if we look closer, isn't this
precisely the goal of philosophy? And when modern po-
litical thought was born with Marsilius of Padua, wasn't
it defined precisely by the recovery to political ends of
the Averroist concepts of "sufficient life" and "well-liv-
ing"? Once again Walter Benjamin, in the "Theologico-
Political Fragment," leaves no doubts regarding the fact
that "The order of the profane should be erected on the
idea of happiness."l The definition of the concept of
"happy life" remains one of the essential tasks of the
coming thought (and this should be achieved in such a
way that this concept is not kept separate from ontol-
ogy, because: "being: we have no experience of it other
than living itself").
The "happy life" on which political philoso-
phy should be founded thus cannot be either the naked
life that sovereignty posits as a presupposition so as to
turn it into its own subject or the impenetrable extrane-
ity of science and of modern biopolitics that everybody
today tries in vain to sacralize. This "happy life" should
be, rather, an absolutely profane "sufficient life" that has
reached the perfection of its own power and of its own
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communicability-a life over which sovereignty and
right no longer have any hold.
The plane of immanence on which the new political ex-
perience is constituted is the terminal expropriation of
language carried out by the spectacular state. Whereas
in the old regime, in fact, the estrangement of the com-
municative essence of human beings was substantiated
as a presupposition that had the function of common
ground (nation, language, religion, etc.), in the contem-
porary state it is precisely this same communicativity,
this same generic essence (language), that is constituted
as an autonomous sphere to the extent to which it be-
comes the essential factor of the production cycle. What
hinders communication, therefore, is communicability
itself: human beings are being separated by what unites
them.
This also means, however, that in this way
we encounter our own linguistic nature inverted. For this
reason (precisely because what is being expropriated here
is the possibility itself of the Common), the spectacle's
violence is so destructive; but, for the same reason, the
spectacle still contains something like a positive possi-
bility-and it is our task to use this possibility against
it. The age in which we are living, in fact, is also the age
in which, for the first time, it becomes possible for hu-
man beings to experience their own linguistic essence-
to experience, that is, not some language content or
some true proposition, but the fact itself of speaking.
Notes on Politics
The experience in qnestion here does not have any ob-
jective content and cannot be formulated as a proposi-
tion referring to a state of things or to a historical situa-
tion. It does not concern a state but an event of language;
it does not pertain to this or that grammar but-so to
speak-to the factum loquendi as such. Therefore, this
experience must be constructed as an experiment con-
cerning the matter itself of thought, that is, the power
of thought (in Spino zan terms: an experiment de poten-
tia intellectus, sive de libertate).
What is at stake in this experiment is not at
all communication intended as destiny and specifie goal
of human beings or as the logical-transcendental condi-
tion of politics (as it is the case in the pseudophiloso-
phies of communication); what is really at stake, rather,
is the only possible material experience of being-generic
(that is, experience of "compearance"-as Jean-Luc
Nancy suggests-or, in Marxian terms, experience of
the General Intellect). That is why the first consequence
deriving from this experiment is the subverting of the
false alternative between ends and means that paralyzes
any ethics and any politics. A finality without means (the
good and the beautiful as ends unto themselves), in fact,
is just as alienating as a mediality that makes sense only
with respect to an end. What is in question in political
experience is not a higher end but being-in to-language
itself as pure mediality, being-into-a-mean as an irre-
ducible condition of human beings. Politics is the exhibi-
tion of a mediality: it is the act of making a means visible as
116,7
such. Politics is the sphere neither of an end in itself nor
of means subordinated to an end; rather, it is the sphere
of a pure mediality without end intended as the field of
human action and of human thought.
The second consequence of the experimentu71Z linguae is
that, above and beyond the concepts of appropriation and
expropriation, we need to think, rather, the possibility
and the modalities of a free u ~ e . Praxis and political re-
flection are operating today exclusively within the dialec-
tic of proper and improper a dialectic in which either
the improper extends its own rule everywhere, thanks
to an unrestrainable will to falsification and consump-
tion (as it happens in industrialized democracies), or the
proper demands the exclusion of any impropriety (as it
happens in integralist and totalitarian states). If instead
we define the common (or, as oth.ers suggest, the same) as
a point of indifference between the proper and the im-
proper-that is, as something that can never be grasped
in terms of either expropriation or appropriation but
that can be grasped, rather, only as use-the essential
political problem then becomes: "How does one use a
common?" (Heidegger probably had something like this
in mind when he formulated his supreme concept as
neither appropriation nor expropriation, but as appro-
priation of an expropriation.)
The new categories of political thought-
inoperative community, compearance, equality, loyalty,
mass intellectuality, the coming people, whatever sin-
Notes on Politics
gularity, or however else they might be called-will be
able to express the political matter that is facing us only
if they are able to articulate the location, the manners,
and the meaning of this experience of the event of lan-
guage intended as free use of the common and as sphere
of pure means.
(1992)
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In This Exile
(Italian Diary, 1992 ... 94)
WE ARE told that the survivors who came back-and
who continue to come back-from the camps had no
stories to tell, and that, to the extent to which they had
been authentic witnesses, they did not try to communi-
cate what they had lived through, as if they themselves
were the first to be seized by doubts regarding the real-
ity of what had befallen them, as if they had somehow
mistaken a nightmare for a real event. They knew-and
still know-that in Auschwitz or in Omarska they had
not become "wiser, better, more profound, more human,
or more well disposed toward human beings"; rather,
they had come out of the camps stripped naked, hol-
lowed out, and disoriented. And they had no wish to
talk about it. All due differences notwithstanding, we
too are affected by this sense of suspicion regarding our
own witnessing. It seems as if nothing of what we have
lived through during these years authorizes us to speak.
Suspicion regarding one's own words arises every time
that the distinction between public and private loses its
meaning. What exactly did the inhabitants of the camps,
in fact, live through? Was it a political-historical event
(such as, say, in the case of a soldier who participated in
the battle of Waterloo), or was it a strictly private expe-
rience? Neither one nor the other. If one was a Jew in
Auschwitz or a Bosnian woman in Omarska, one entered
the camp as a result not of a political choice but rather
of what was most private and incommunicable in oneself,
that is, one's blood, one's biological body. But precisely
the latter functions now as a decisive political criterion.
In this sense, the camp truly is the inaugural site of mod-
ernity: it is the first space in which public and private
events, political life and biological life, become rigor-
ously indistinguishable. Inasmuch as the inhabitant of the
camp has been severed from the political community
and has been reduced to naked life (and, moreover, to a
life "that does not deserve to be lived"), he or she is an
absolutely private person. And yet there is not one single
instant in which he or she might be able to find shelter
in the realm of the private, and it is precisely this indis-
cernibility that constitutes the specific anguish of the
camp.
Kafka was the first to describe with precision
this particular type of site, with which since then we have
become perfectly familiar. What makes Joseph K.'s vicis-
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situdes at once so disquieting and comic is the fact that
a public event par excellence-a trial-is presented in-
stead as an absolutely private occurrence in which the
courtroom borders on the bedroom. This is precisely
what makes The Trial a prophetic book. And not really-
or, not only- as far as the camps are concerned. What
did we live through in the 1980s? A delirious and soli-
tary private occurrence? Or, rather, a moment bursting
with events and a decisive moment in Italian history as
well as in the history of the planet? It is as if all that we
have experienced during these years has fallen into an
opaque zone of indifference, in which everything becomes
confused and unintelligible. Are the events of Tangentopoli
["Bribeville"], Italy's protracted corruption scandal, for
example, public events or private ones? I confess that it
is not clear to me. And if terrorism really was an impor-
tant moment of our recent political history, how is it pos-
sible that it rises now to the surface of conscience only
thanks to the interior vicissitudes of some individuals and
in the form of repentance, guilt, and conversion? To this
slippage of the public into the private corresponds also
the spectacular publicization of the private: are the diva's
breast cancer or Senna's death public vicissitudes or pri-
vate ones?l And how can one touch the porn star's body,
since there is not an inch on it that is not public? And
yet it is from such a zone of indifference-in which the
actions of human experience are being put on sale-that
we ought to start today. And if we are calling this opaque
zone of indiscernibility "camp," it is, then, still from the
camp that we must begin again.
In This Exile
One hears something being continuously repeated in dif-
ferent quarters: that the simation has reached a limit, that
things by now have become intolerable, and that change
is necessary. Those who repeat this more than anybody
else, however, are the politicians and the press that want
to guide change in such a way that in the end nothing
really changes. As far as the majority ofItalians are con-
cerned, they seem to be watching the intolerable in si-
lence, as if they were spying on it while motionless in
front of a large television screen. But what exactly is un-
bearable today in Italy? It is precisely this silence-that
is, the fact that a whole people finds itself speechless be-
fore its own destiny-that is above all unbearable. Re-
member that, whenever you try to speak, you will not be
able to resort to any tradition and you will not be able
to avail yourself of any of the words that sound so good:
freedom, progress, democracy, human rights, constim-
tional state. You will not even be able to show your cre-
dentials of representative of Italian culmre or of the Eu-
ropean spirit and have them connt for anything. You will
have to try and describe the intolerable without having
anything with which to pull yourself out of it. You will
have to remain faithful to that inexplicable silence. You
will be able to reply to the unbearableness of that silence
only by means immanent to it.
Never has an age been so inclined to put up with any-
thing while finding everything intolerable. The very peo-
ple who gulp down the unswallowable on a daily basis
have this word-intolerttble-ready-made on their lips
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124,5
every time they have to express their own opinion on
whatever problem. Only that when someone acmally risks
giving a definition, one realizes that what is intolerable
in the end is only that human bodies be tormred and
hacked to pieces, and hence that, apart from that, one
can put up with just about anything.
One of the reasons why Italians are silent today is cer-
tainly the noise of the media. As soon as the ancien
regime began to crumble, the press and television unan-
imously revolted against it, even though up to that day
they had been the main organizers of consent to the
regime. Thus, they literally silenced people, thereby im-
peding that facts would follow the words that had been
recovered slowly and with much effort.
One of the not-so-secret laws of the spectac-
ular-democratic society in which we live wills it that,
whenever power is seriously in crisis, the media estab-
lishment apparently dissociates itself from the regime of
which it is an integral part so as to govern and direct the
general discontent lest it mrn itself into revolution. It is
not always necessary to simulate an event, as happened
in Timisoara; it suffices to anticipate not only facts (by
declaring, for example, as many newspapers have been
doing for months, that the revolution has already hap-
pened), but also citizens' sentiments by giving them ex-
pression on the front page of newspapers before they mrn
into gesmre and discourse, and hence circnlate and grow
throngh daily conversations and exchanges of opinion. I
still remember the paralyzing impression that the word
In This Exile
SHAME as a banner headline on the front page of one of
the regime's major dailies made on me the day after the
authorization to proceed legally against Bettino Craxi was
not granted.
2
To find in the morning the right word to
say ready-made on the front page of a newspaper pro-
duces a singular effect, a feeling at once of reassurance
and of frustration. And a reassuring frustration, that is,
the feeling of those who have been dispossessed of their
own expressive faculties, is today the dominant affect in
Italy.
We Italians live today in a state of absolute absence of
legitimacy. The legitimation of nation-states, of course,
had been in crisis everywhere for some timc, and the
most evident symptom of such a crisis was precisely the
obsessive attempt to make up in terms oflegality, through
an unprecedented proliferation of norms and regulations,
for what was being lost in terms of legitimacy. But no-
where has decline reached the extreme limit at which
we are getting used to living. There is no power or pub-
lic authority right now that does not nakedly show its
own emptiness and its own abjection. The judicial pow-
ers have been spared such ruination only because, much
like the Erinyes of Greek tragedy that have ended up in
a comedy by mistake, they act solely as an instance of
punishment and revenge.
This means, however, that Italy is becoming
once again the privileged political laboratory that it had
been during the 1970s. Just as the governments and serv-
ices of the entire world had observed then with attentive
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126,7
participation (and that is the least one can say, for they
actively collaborated in the experiment) the way that a
well-aimed politics of terrorism could possibly function
as the mechanism of relegitimation of a discredited sys-
tem, now the very same eyes watch with curiosity how a
constituted power might govern the passage to a new con-
stitution without passing through a constitutive power.
Naturally, one is dealing here with a delicate experiment
during which it is possible that the patient may not sur-
vive (and that would not necessarily be the worst out-
come).
In the 1980s, those who spoke of conspira-
cies were accnsed of Oldthink. Nowadays, it is the pres-
ident of the republic himself who publicly denounces
the state secret services before the whole country as hav-
ing conspired, and as continuing to conspire, against the
constitution and public order. This accusation is impre-
cise only with regard to one detail: as someone already
has punctually pointed out, all conspiracies in our time
are actually in favor of the constituted order. And the
enormity of such a denunciation is matched only by the
brazenness with which the supreme organ of the state
admits that its own secret services have made attempts
on the life of the citizens, while forgetting to add that
this was done for the good of the country and for the
security of its public institutions.
The statement released by the head of a large
democratic party, according to whom the judges who were
indicting him were actually conspiring against them-
selves, is more impenetrable and yet unwittingly pro-
In This Exile
phetie. During the terminal phase of the evolution of the
state-form, each state organ and service is engaged in a
ruthless as well as uncontrollable conspiraey against it-
self and against every other organ and service.
Nowadays one often hears journalists and politicians (and
in partieular the president of the republic) warning citi-
zens regarding a presumed crisis of the "sense of the
state." One used to speak rather of "reason of state"-
which Botero had defined without hypocrisy: "State is a
stable rule over a people and Reason of State is the
knowledge of the means by which such a dominion may
be founded, preserved and extended."3 What is hidden
behind this slippage from reason to sense, from the ra-
tional to the irrational? Because it would be simply in-
decent to speak of "reason of state" today, power looks
for one last possibility of well-being in a "sense" that
nobody quite understands where it resides and that re-
minds one of tbe sense of honor in the ancien regime.
But a state tbat has lost its reason and become insane
has also lost its senses and become unconscious. It is
now blind and deaf, and it gropes its way toward its own
end, heedless of the ruination into which it drags its
subjects along.
Of what are Italians repenting?4 The first to repent were
mafiosi and members of the Red Brigades, and since then
we have been witnessing an interminable procession of
faces that have been grim in their resolve and determined
in their very wavering. In the case of the mafiosi, the
128,9
face would appear in shadow so as to make sure that it
would not be recognized, and-as if from the burning
bush-we would hear "only a voice." This is the dire
voice with which the conscience calls from the shadows
nowadays, as if our time did not know any other ethical
experience outside of repentance. But this is precisely the
point at which our time betrays its inconsistency. Re-
pentance, in fact, is the most treacherous of moral cate-
gories-and it is not even clear that it can be counted
at all among genuine ethical concepts. It is well known
how peremptorily Spinoza bars repentance from any right
of citizenship in his Ethics. The one who repents-he
writes-is twice disgraceful: the first time beeause he
eommitted an act of which he has had to repent, and
the second time beeause he has repented of it. But re-
pentance presented itself right away as a problem already
when it began powerfully to permeate Catholic doctrine
and morality in the twelfth century. How does one, in
fact, prove the authenticity of repentance? Camps were
soon formed with Peter Abelard on one side, whose only
requirement was the contrition of the heart, and the
"penitentials" on the other side, for whom the unfath-
omable interior disposition of the one who repents was
not important when compared instead to the unequivo-
cal accomplishment of external acts. The whole question
thus turned upon itself right away like a vicious circle,
in which external acts had to attest to the authenticity of
repentance and internal eontrition had to guarantee the
sincerity of the works. Today's trials function according
to the same logic, which decrees that to accuse one's own
In This Exile
comrades is a guarantee of the truthfulness of repentance
and that innermost repentance ratifies the authenticity
of the accusation.
It is not a coincidence, after all, that repen-
tance has ended up in the courtroom. The truth is that
repentance presents itself from the start as an equivocal
compromise between morality and the law. With the help
of repentance, a religion that had ambiguously come to
terms with worldly power attempts to justify such a com-
promise by instituting an equivalence between penance
and the punishment of the law as well as between crime
and sin. But there is no surer index of the irreparable
ruination of any ethical experience than the confusion
between ethical-religious categories and juridical con-
cepts. Wherever morality is being discussed today, peo-
ple immediately havc legal categories on their lips, and
wherever laws are being made and trials are being con-
ducted, it is ethical concepts instead that are being bran-
dished like the lictor's ax.
The mock seriousness with which secular poli-
ticians rushed to welcome the entrance of repentance
into codes and laws as an unquestionable act of con-
science is therefore all the more irresponsible. If it is
the case, in fact, that the ones who are forced by an in-
authentic belief to gamble their whole inner experience
on a false concept are truly wretched, it is also the case
that for them there is perhaps still some hope. But for
the media establishment elite acting as moralists and
for the televisual manns it penser, who have erected their
130,1
conceited victories on the misfortunes of the former, for
these, no, there truly is no hope.
The icons of the souls of purgatory in the streets of
Naples. The large one I saw yesterday near the court-
house had almost all the statuettes of the purgatorial
souls with their arms broken off. They were lying on
the ground; they were no longer raised high in gestures
of invocation-useless emblems of a torture more ter-
rible than fire.
Of what are Italians ashamed? It is striking how fre-
quently in public debates, as well as in the streets or in
cafes, as soon as the discussion gets heated up, the ex-
pression "Shame on you!" readily comes in handy, al-
most as if it held the decisive argument every time.
Shame, of course, is the prelude to repentance, and re-
pentance in Italy today is the winning card. But none of
those who throw shame in other people's faces trulyex-
pect them suddenly to blush and declare that they have
repented. On the contrary, it is taken for granted that
they will not do that. It seems, however, that, in this
strange game that everybody here is busy playing, the
first ones who succeed in using that formula will have
truth on their side. If repentance informs the relation-
ship that Italians have with the good, shame dominates
their relation to truth. And if repentance is their only
ethical experience, they likewise have no other relation
to the true outside of shame. But one is dealing here
In This Exile
with a shame that survived those who should have felt it
and that has become as objective and impersonal as a
juridical truth. In a trial in which repentance has been
given the decisive role, shame is the only truth on which
judgment might be passed.
Marx still used to put some trust in shame. When Arnold
Ruge would object that no revolution has ever come out
of shame, Marx would reply that shame already is a rev-
olution, and he defined it as "a sort of anger that turns
on itself."5 But what he was referring to was the "na-
tional shame" that concerns specific peoples each with
respect to other peoples, the Germans with respect to
the French. Primo Levi has shown, however, that there
is today a "shame of being human," a shame that in some
way or other has tainted every human being. This was-
and still is-the shame of the camps, the shame of the
fact that what should not have happened did happen.
And it is a shame of this type, as it has been rightly
pointed out, that we feel today when faced by too great
a vulgarity of thought, when watching certain TV shows,
when confronted with the faces of their hosts and with
the self-assured smiles of those "experts" who jovially
lend their qualifications to the political game of the me-
dia. Those who have felt this silent shame of being hu-
man have also severed within themselves any link with
the political power in which they live. Such a shame
feeds their thoughts and constitutes the beginning of a
revolution and of an exodus of which it is barely able to
discern the end.
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(At the moment when the executioners' knives are about
to penetrate his flesh, Joseph K. with one last leap suc-
ceeds in getting hold of the shame that will survive him.)
Nothing is more nauseating than the impudence with
which those who have turned money into their only rai-
son d'etre periodically wave around the scarecrow of
economic crisis: the rich nowadays wear plain rags so as
to warn the poor that sacrifices will be necessary for
everybody. And the docility is just as astonishing; those
who have made themselves stolidly complicitous with
the imbalance of the public debt, by handing all their
savings over to the state in exchange for bonds, now re-
ceive the warning blow without batting an eyelash and
ready themselves to tighten their belts. And yet those
who have any lucidity left in them know that the crisis
is always in process and that it constitutes the internal
motor of capitalism in its present phase, much as the
state of exception is today the normal structure of polit-
ical power. And just as the state of exception requires
that there be increasingly numerous sections of resi-
dents deprived of political rights and that in faet at the
outer limit all citizens be reduced to naked life, in such
a way crisis, having now become permanent, demands
not only that the people of the Third World become
increasingly poor, but also that a growing percentage of
the citizens of the industrialized societies be marginal-
ized and without a job. And there is no so-called demo-
cratic state today that is not compromised and up to its
neck in such a massive production of human misery.
In This Exile
The punishment for those who go away from love is to
be handed over to the power of judgment: they will have
to judge one another,
Such is the sense of the rule of the law over
human life in our time: all other religious and ethical
powers have lost their strength and survive only as in-
dult or suspension of punishment and under no circum-
stances as interruption or refusal of judgment, Nothing
is more dismal, therefore, than this unconditional being-
in-force of juridical categories in a world in which they
no longer mirror any comprehensible ethical content:
their being-in-force is truly meaningless, much as the
countenance of the guardian of the law in Kafka's para-
ble is inscrutable. This loss of sense, which transforms
the clearest of sentences into a non liquet, explodes and
comes into full view with Craxi's confessions and with
the confessions of all those who were in power and gov-
erned us up until yesterday, precisely when they have to
abdicate to others who are probably no better than they
were. That is because here to plead guilty is immedi-
ately a universal call upon everyone as an accomplice of
everyhody else, and where everybody is guilty judgment
is technically impossible. (Even the Lord on the Last Day
would refrain from pronouncing his sentence if every-
body had to be damned.) The law here retreats back to
its original injunction that-according to the intention
of the Apostle Paul expresses its inner contradiction:
be guilty.
Nothing manifests the definitive end of the
Christian ethics of love intended as a power that unites
134,5
human heings better than this supremacy of the law. But
what betrays itself here is also the church of Christ's un-
conditional renunciation of any messianic intention. That
is because the Messiah is the figure in which religion
confronts the problem of the law, in which religion and
the law come to the decisive day of reckoning. In the
Jewish as much as in the Christian and Shiite contexts,
in fact, the messianic event marks first of all a crisis and
a radical transformation of the properly legal order of
religious tradition. The old law (the Torah of creation)
that had been valid up to that moment now ceases to be
valid; but obviously, it is not simply a question of sub-
stituting for it a new law that would include command-
ments and prohibitions that would be different from
and yet structurally homogeneous with the previous ones.
Hence the paradoxes of messianism, which Sabbatai Zevi
expressed by saying: "The fulfillment of the Torah is its
transgression" and which Christ expressed (more soberly
than Paul) in the formula: "I did not come to destroy
the law, but to fulfill it."
Having struck with the law a lasting compro-
mise, the church has frozen the messianic event, thereby
handing the world over to the power of judgment-a
power, however, that the church cunningly manages in
the form of the indult and of the penitential remission
of sins. (The Messiah has no need for such a remission:
the "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us" is nothing other than the anticipa-
tion of the messianic fulfillment of the law.) The task that
messianism had assigned to modern politics-to think
In This Exile
a human community that would not have (only) the fig-
ure of the law-still awaits the minds that might un-
dertake it.
Today, the political parties that define themselves as "pro-
gressive" and the so-called leftist coalitions have won in
the large cities where there have been elections. One is
struck by the victors' excessive preoccupation with pre-
senting themselves as the establishment and with reas-
suring at all costs the old economic, political, and reli-
gious powers. When Napoleon defeated the Mamluks in
Egypt, the first thing he did was to summon the notables
who constituted the old regime's backbone and to inform
them that under the new sovereign their privileges and
functions would remain untouched. Since here one is not
dealing with the military conquest of a foreign country,
the zeal with which the head of a party-that up until
not too long ago used to call itself Communist-saw fit
to reassure bankers and capitalists by pointing out how
well the lira and thc stock exchange had reeeived the
blow is, to say the least, inappropriate. This much is cer-
tain: these politicians will end up being defeated by their
very will to win at all eosts. The desire to be the establish-
ment will ruin them just as it ruined their predecessors.
6
It is important to be able to distinguish between defeat
and dishonor. The victory of the right in the 1994 po-
litical elections was a defeat for the left, which does not
imply that because of this it was also a dishonor. If, as is
certainly the case, this defeat also involved dishonor, that
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136.7
is because it marked the conclusive moment of a process
of involution that had already bcgun many years ago.
There was dishonor because the defeat did not conclude
a struggle over opposite positions, but rather decided
only whose turn it was to put into practice the same ide-
ology of the spectacle, of the market, and of enterprise.
One might see in this nothing other than a necessary
consequence of a betrayal that had already begun in the
ycars of Stalinism. Perhaps so. What concerns us here,
however, is only the evolution that has taken place be-
ginning with the end of the 1970s. It is since then, in
fact, that the complete corruption of minds has taken
that hypocritical form and that voice of reason and
common sense that today goes under the name of pro-
gresslvlsm.
In a recent book, Jean-Claude Milner has
clearly identified and defined as "progressivism" thc prin-
ciple in whose name the following process has taken placc:
compromising. The revolution used to have to compro-
mise with capital and with power, just as the church had
to come to terms with the modern world. Thus, the motto
that has guided the strategy of progressivism during the
march toward its coming to power slowly took shape: one
has to yicld on everything, one has to reconcile every-
thing with its opposite, intelligence with television and
advertisement, the working class with capital, freedom
of specch with the state of the spectacle, the environment
with industrial development, science with opinion, dem-
ocracy with the electoral machine, bad conscience and
abjuration with memory and loyalty.
In This Exile
Today one can see what such a strategy has
led to. The left has actively collaborated in setting up in
every field the instruments and terms of agreement that
the right, once in power, will just need to apply and de-
velop so as to achieve its own goals without difficulty.
It was exactly in the same way that the work-
ing class was spiritually and physically disarmed by Ger-
man social democracy before being handed over to Na-
zism. And while the citizens of goodwill are being called
on to keep watch and to wait for phantasmatic frontal
attacks, the right has already crossed the lines through
the breach that the left itself had opened up.
Classical politics used to distinguish clearly betwcen zoe
and bios, between natural life and political life, between
human beings as simply living beings, whose place was
in the home, and human beings as political subjects,
whose place was in the polis. Well, we no longer have
any idea of any of this. We can no longer distinguish be-
tween zoe and bios, between our biological life as living
beings and our political existence, between what is in-
communicable and speechless and what is speakable and
communicable. As Foucault once wrote, we are animals
in whose politics our very life as living beings is at stake.
Living in the state of exception that has now become
the rule has meant also this: our private biological body
has become indistinguishable from our body politic, ex-
periences that once used to be called political suddenly
were confined to our biological body, and private expe-
riences present themselves all of a sudden outside us as
138,9
body politic. We have had to grow used to thinking and
writing in such a confusion of bodies and places, of out-
side and inside, of what is speechless and what has words
with which to speak, of what is enslaved and what is free,
of what is need and what is desire. This has meant-why
not admit it? - experiencing absolute impotence, bump-
ing against solitude and speechlessness over and over
again precisely tllere where we were expecting company
and words. We have endured such an impotence as best
we could while being surrounded on every side by the
din of the media, which were defining the new plane-
tary political space in whim exception had become the
rule. But it is by starting from this uncertain terrain and
from this opaque zone of indistinction that today we
must once again find the path of another politics, of an-
other body, of another word. I would not feel up to for-
going this indistinction of public and private, of biolog-
ical body and body politic, of zoe and bios, for any reason
whatsoever. It is here that I must find my space once
again-here or nowhere else. Only a politics that starts
from such an awareness can interest me.
I remember that in 1966, while attending the seminar
on Heraclitus at Le Thor, I asked Heidegger whether
he had read Kafka. He answered that, of the little he had
read, it was above all the short story "Der Bau" (The
burrow) that had made an impression on him. The name-
less animal that is the protagonist of the story-mole,
fox, or human being-is obsessively engaged in build-
ing an inexpugnable burrow that instead slowly reveals
In This Exile
itself to be a trap with no way out. But isn't this pre-
cisely what has happened in the political space of West-
ern nation-states? The homes-the "fatherlands" that
these states endeavored to build revealed themselves in
the end to be only lethal traps for the very "peoples"
that were supposed to inhabit them.
Beginning with the end of World War I, in
fact, it is evident that the European nation-states no
longer have any assignable historical tasks. To see the
great totalitarian experiments of the twentieth century
only as the continuation and execution of the last tasks
of nineteenth-century nation-states that is, of nation-
alism and imperialism-is to misunderstand completely
the nature of such experiments. There are other, more
extreme stakes here, because it was a question of turn-
ing into and undertaking as a task the factitious exis-
tence of peoples pure and simple-that is, in the last in-
stance, their naked life. In this sense, the totalitarianisms
of our century truly constitute the other side of the
Hegelo-Kojevian idea of an end of history: humankind
has by now reached its historical telos and all that is left
to accomplish is to depoliticize human societies either
by unfolding unconditionally the reign of oikonomia or
by undertaking biological life itself as supreme political
task. But as soon as the home becomes the political
paradigm-as is the case in both instances-then the
proper, what is most one's own, and the innermost fac-
titiousness of existence run the risk of turning into a fa-
tal trap. And this is the trap we live in today.
140,1
In a crucial passage of the Nicomachean Ethics,
Aristotle wonders whether there is such a thing as an
ergon, a being-in-the-act, a being-operative, and a work
proper to man, or whether man as such might perhaps
be essentially argos, that is, without a work, workless
[inoperoso] :
For just as the goodness and performance of a flute
player, a sculptor, or any kind of expert, and gener-
ally of anyone who fulfills some function or performs
some action, are thought to reside in his proper func-
tion [ergon l, so the goodness and performance of
man would seem to reside in whatever is his proper
function. Is it then possible that while a carpenter
and a shoemaker have their own proper function
and spheres of action, man as man has none, but was
left by nature a good-for-nothing without a function
[argos]??
Politics is that which corresponds to the essen-
tial inoperability [inoperosita] of humankind, to the radi-
cal being-without-work of human communities. There
is politics because human beings are argos-beings that
cannot be defined by any proper operation-that is,
beings of pure potentiality that no identity or vocation
can possibly exhaust. (This is the true political meaning
of Averroism, which links the political vocation of man
to the potentiality of the intellect.) Over and beyond
the planetary rule of the oikonomia of naked life, the
issue of the coming politics is the way in which this
argla, this essential potentiality and inoperability, might
In This Exile
be undertaken witbout becoming a historical task, or, in
other words, the way in which politics might be noth-
ing other than the exposition of humankind's absence of
work as well as the exposition of humankind's creative
semi-indifference to any task, and might only in this
sense remain integrally assigned to happiness.
E. M. Forster relates how during one of his conversa-
tions with C. P. Cavafy in Alexandria, the poet told him:
"You English cannot understand us: we Greeks went
bankrupt a long time ago." I believe that one of the few
things tbat can be declared with certainty is that, since
then, all the peoples of Europe (and, perhaps, all the peo-
ples of the Earth) have gone bankrupt. We live after the
failure of peoples, just as Apollinaire would say of himself:
"I lived in the time when the kings would die." Every
people has had its particular way of going bankrupt, and
certainly it does make a difference that for the Germans
it meant Hitler and Auschwitz, for the Spanish it meant
a civil war, for the French it meant Vichy, for other peo-
ple, instead, it meant the quiet and atrocious 1950s, and
for the Serbs it meant the rapes of Omarska; in the end,
what is crucial for us is only the new task that such a
failure has bequeathed us. Perhaps it is not even accu-
rate to define it as a task, because there is no longer a
people to undertake it. As the Alexandrian poet might
say today with a smile: "Now, at last, we can understand
one another, because you too have gone bankrupt."
(1995)
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Translators' Notes
Preface
11. The term llaked life translates the Italian
nuda vita. This term appears also in the
subtitle of Giorgio Agamben's BOl1ZO Saeer:
it poten SO<YflnO elf! mf{lf! ,(,'ita) as well as
throughout that work. We have decided
not to follow Daniel Heller-Roazcn's
translation of nuda vita as "bare life" -see
Homo Sacer: Sovereign P07vcr and Bare Life
(Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press,
1998), trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen-and
to retain the earlier translation of nuda vita
as "naked life" to be found in Cesare
easarino's translation of Agamben's essay
"Forma-di-vita" (see "Form-of-Life" in
the collection edited by Paolo Virno and
Michael Hardt, A Pot(,ntial Politic.\'.' Rf.ldiral
Thought in Italy [M-inne(lpolis: University
ofMinnesot, Press, 1996], pp. 151-56).
.. ~ The English term power corrcsponrls to
nvo distinct terms in Italian, potmza (lnd
potere (which roughly correspond to the
French prdm717cc rind pmlT'oir, the German
Macht and VC17J1iig("f7, and the Latin pntcrttia
and potestas) respectively). Potenza can often
resonate \vith implications of potentiality
as well as with decentralized or mass
conceptions of force and strength. Potert,
on the other hand, refers to the might or
authority of an already structured and
centraliz;ed capacity, often an institutional
apparatus such as the state.
2. _Marsilius of Padua, The Dcfensor of
Peace, trans. Alan Gewirth (New York:
Harper and Row, 1956), p. 15; translation
mooified.
l'I. See Yan Thomas, "Vita n('risquc pntc.,t!/.):
Le pere, la cite, la mort,') in DlI chfltiment
dans la cite: Supplices corporels et peine de J110rt
dans Ie J11077dc antique (Rome: L'Ecole
franc;aise de Rome. 1984).
4. Walter Benjamin) "Theses on the
Philosophy of History," in J!/717JJin{!tio1l.'>,
trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken
Books, 1989), p. 257. In the Italian
translation of Benjamin's passage, "state of
emergency" is translated as "state of
exception," which is the phrase Agamben
llses in the preceding section of this essay
and which will be a crucial refrain in
several of the other essays included in this
volume.
5. "Experimental life" is in English in the
original.
6. See, for example, Peter .A1ed::nvar (Inc!
Jean J\.1edawar, to Znns (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1983), Pl'. 66-67.
7. The terminology in the original is the
same as that used for bank transactions
(and thus "naked life" becomes here the
cash reserve contained in accounts such as
the "forms of life").
8. Aristotle, On the Soul, in The Complete
Works of Aristotle, vol. 1, ed. Jonathan
Barnes (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1984), pp. 682-83.
9. Dante Alighieri, On World-Government
j
trans. Herbert W, Schneider (Indi(lnapolis:
Liberal Arts, 1957), pp, 6-7; translation
modified.
10. In English in the original. This term
is taken from a single reference by Marx, in
which he uses the English tenn, See Karl
Marx, Grrmdris.,c: FOlllldfltiollS of the Critique
of Political E(()llomy, trans. Martin Nicolaus
(New York Random House, 1973), p. 706.
Beyond Human Rights
1. Hannah Arendt, "We Refugees,"
Jlrnomb Journal, no. 1 (1943): 77.
2. Hannah Arendt, Imperifllism, Part II of
The Origin, (New York:
Harcourt, Brace, 1951), pp. 266-98,
3. Ibid., Pl'. 290-95.
4. Tomas Hammar, DC1J!ocmcy flnd the
Nation State: Aliens, Dcniztns, lind Citizens
in a World of IntCI7l(!tiOl1tl! .Higmtiol1
(Brookfield, Vt.: Gower, 1990).
What Is a People?
11. Hannah Arendt, On RCi.'oll1tio71 (New
York: Viking Press, 1963), p. 70.
Notes on Gesture
1. Gilles de la Tourette, Etudes di17iquCJ' et
pby.fifJlogiq71cS mr la 71um:bc (Paris: Bureaux
de progres, 1886).
Jean-Martin Charcot, ChaTCot, the
Clinicifln: The Tuesday Lessons (New York:
Raven Press, 1987).
3. See Gilles Deleuze, Cincmfl 1: The
.. trans. Hugh Tomlinson
and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1986).
4. Varro, On the Latin Language, trans.
Roland G. Kent (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1977), p. 245.
5. Aristotle, J.,Ticomachean Ethics) trans.
Martin Ostwald (Indianapolis: Bobbs-
Merrill Educational Pllblishing, 1983),
p. 153.
Languages and Peoples
1. De Vaux de Foletier, Les
Tsigal1es dlllls ttlllcicllJlC Fmncej cited in
Alice Beckel'-Ho, Les prince., du jargon: Un
facteur neglige flUX origines de l'argot de,r
classes dtlllgcrellscsj Edition (!If[Jmcntce (Paris:
Gallimard, 1993), Pl'. 22-23.
2:. The reference is to Alice Becker-Ho,
Les princes du jmgoJl: Un facteur ncglige (Ju:r
origincs de l'argot des riffS.W' dangerclL':(,s
(Paris: Gerard Lebovici, 1990).
3. Becker-Ho, Les princcs tin jargon; Edition
(fl1[JI7!C!ltic) p. 51.
4. Ibid., p. 50.
Gershom Scholem, "Une lettre incdite
de Gershom Scholem a Franz Rosen7'i.\"cig:
A propos de notre langue, Une confession,"
trans. from German into French by Stefan
Moses, Arc/1iI'cs Sciences Sociffles rips
RtligiollS et ArrbiZ'c.' de Sociologic dc" Religif)J1s
60: 1 (Paris, 1985): 83-84.
Marginal Notes on Commentaries on the
Sociefy 01 the Specta.cle
1. Karl von Cla-use,yitz, cited in Guy
Debord, it la q7li1tric7Jlc fditir!1l
itfl!iClll7C de "La Societe du Spectacle" (Paris:
Editions Champ Libre, 1979), pp. 15-16.
2. We have translated this passage from
the Italian as we could not find the original
reference,
Karl Marx, Capital) vol. 1, trans. Ben
Fowkes (New York: Vintage Books, 1977),
p. 165.
Louis Althusser, "Preface to Capital
Volume One," in Lenin and Philomphy,
trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly
Review Press, 1971), p. 95; but see the
whole essay, and espcci:llly pp. 81 and 88.
5. Karl Kraus, "In These Great Times," in
In These Great Times, trans. Harty Zohn
(Montreal: Engendra Press, 1976), p. 70.
6. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science,
trans, Walter Kallfmrmn (New York:
Vintage Books, 1974), Pl'. 273·-74.
The Face
11. Franz Roscn7\veig, The Star ofRede'lnp-
tion, trans, William W. Hallo (New York:
144,5
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970), pp.
422-23.
Sovereign Police
11. W-alter Benj:lmin) "Critique ofVio-
!cnce," in Rejltrtiom, trans, Edmund Jephcott
(New York: Schocken Books, 1986), p. 287.
Notes on Politics
11M Walter Benjamin) "Theologico-
Political Fragment," in Reflcrtim7.,) trans.
Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schocken
Books, 1986), p. 312.
In This Exile (Italian Diary, 1992-94)
Ayrtan Senna--Brazilian race-car
driver and charismatic public icon-died
in Italy during the San Marino Grand Prix
at the age of thirty-four. His death was a
highly publicized media evcnt,
Bettino Craxi was head of the PSI
(Italian Socialist Party) from 1976 to 1987,
as well as Italian prime minister from 1983
to 1986. In the early 1990s, he was at the
center of the Tlfl7gc71topnli sc;mn:ll) was
accused of corruption, and fled Italy for
Tunisia, where he died in early 2000.
3. Giovanni Botero, The Reason of State)
trans. P.]. and D. P. Waley (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1956), p. 3.
4. Here Agamben is referring to the
controversial phenomenon of pclltitis7Jlo)
which ignited public opinion in Italy
throughout the I 990s. Pentiti-"turncoats,"
or, literally, "the ones who have repented"-
are fonner memhers of organized crimc
or of left-wing or right-wing political
org;miz(ltions who decide to disavow their
beliefs publicly and to name other mem-
bers oftheir org<1nizations during police
Translators' Notes
investigations or tdals in exch:mge for
immunity or reduced prison terms.
5. Karl Marx
l
The Letters of Karl Marx,
trans. Saul K. Padover (Englewood Cliffs,
N.J., Prentice Hall, 1979), p. 24.
G. The term c.fta/;lis/;1J1cJJt is in English
in the original.
.,. Aristotle, Niromoc/;ul1l Ethics, book 1,
trans. Martin Ostwald (IndLmapolis:
Liberal Arts Press, 1962), p. 16.
Index
Abel, Karl, 31
Abelard, Peter, 129
act/activity, 79, 80, 98
Adam, 83
advertising, 94, 98, 137
alienation, 82, 85, 96
Althusscr, Louis, 76, 145n
ancien regime, 110, 125, 128
Al1dropov, Yuri, 86
Ancrkcnmmg (recognition), 112
animals, 3, 93
Apollinairc, Guillaume, 142
appear;mce, 91, 95; tragicomedy of, 94
appropriation, 91, 117
arche, 112
Arendt, Hannah, IS, 19) 25, 40, 144n
argia, argos, 141
argot, 64-67,69
Aristotle, 57,141, 144n, 1460
Armenians) 67
art, 80, 92
ataxia, 52
Auschwitz, 80, 82,121, 122l 142
Averroism, 10, 114l 141
awakening, 56
Babel,69
bad conscience, 137
Badiou, Alain, 87, 109
Balzac, Honore de, 49, 50
ban, 112, 113
hankruptcy, 142
Basques, 67, 68
Bataille, Georges, 7
Becker-Ho, Alice, 64-65, 144n, 145n
Beckett, Samuel, 56
Benjamin, Walter, 6, 10, 54, 64, 65, 70,
104,114, 143-44n, 145n
bioethics, 7
biology, 3, 7
biopolitics, ix, 7, 32.-35, 41, 45, 114
bios, 3,20,43, 138, 139; bios theoreticos, 10.
See also life; naked life; zoe
birth, 21, 24-25, 43-45
Bodin,]ean,30
body, biological, 122, 138
body politic, 138
Botero, Giovanni, 128, 145n
bourgeoisie, 49, 53, 87
bureaucracy, 95, 98
Burgundy, Duke of, 105
Bush, George Herbert, 86
cab;l!ists
j
83, 84
camera, 93, 94
camps, 22, 24, 31, 37-45, 121-23, 132; as
in<lugural sitc of modernity, 122
Canetti, Elias, 77
Cantor, Georg, 89
Capitl", 75, 76
capit:dism) 11, 33, 78, 82, 96, 109, 133,
136, 13 7
capital pnnishment, 104
Catalan language, 68
Catholic Church, 129, 135
Cavafy, C. P., 142
character, 79, 97
Charcot,]ean-Martin, 51, 144n
Christ, 135
Christianity/Christians, 134, 135
C.I.A., 86
cinema, 53, 55-56, 58, 59; silent, 53-54
citizen, x, 6, 12, 16, 18,21-24,26,31,41,
68,125, 127-29, 133
city, 6, 45, 91
civil war, 35, 86; global, 95; Spanish, 17, 142
class struggle, 32
Clauscwir.l, Karl von, 74, 145n
Cohn, ,Mr., 15
commedia dell'arte, 79
C07J1ment/fries all tbe Society of the Spectade,
74, 80, 86
commodity, 75-76
Common, the, 82, 84, 115, 117-18;
common life, 89
communicability, 10, 59, 82, 84, 92, 96-98,
115
commllnication, 10, 59, 95,115,116,
121; essence of, 84
commnnity, 4, 9,10,11,16,24,85,89,
91,95,114,136,141; inoperative,
117
compcanncc, 116, 117
confes<;ion, 134
conspiracy, 128
consul, Roman, 104, 105
consumption, 117
constellation, 56
constituent power, 112
contrition, 129
Coqucluchc, 105
(f)fjllillard.r, 64, 67, 69
Craxi, Bettina, 126, 134, 145n
crime/criminals, 37, 41,107
crisis, 43; economic, 133
Crystal Palace, 75-76
Dachau,39
Dante Alighieri, 10,69,99, 144n
death, 5, 8
Debord, Guy, 73, 76, 77, 80, 82, 109,
145n
Derlamtio17 des droits de I'ho7Jl1J!c et d71
citoyen, 20, 21
dc-identification, 100
Deleuze, Gilles, 55, 74, 144n
democracy, 30, 80, 86, 97, 110, 124, 133
denaturalizatiol1/denationaliz<1tion, 18,43
denizens, 23
de-propriation, 100
desire, 139
destiny, 94
De Vaux, Frant;ois de Foletier, 144n
Diaghilev, Sergei Pavlovich, 53
dialect, 68
dialectic, 117
dialectical image, 54
DeJorio,54
discourse, 125
dissent, 87
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o
z
=>
o
CD
~
o
dissimulation, 94
domination, 113
doxa, 95
Dumont, 31
Duncan, Isadora, 53
Earth, 3S, 85, 92, 95, 107, 109, 142
economics, ix; economism) 33
Egypt, 136
Eichmann) Adolf, 106
emptiness, 93, 96
ends, 57, 116-17
enemy, 32, 106
environment, 137
equality, 117
Ereigni,r;, 110, 111
ergon, 141
Erinyes, 126
ethics, 69, 116, 134
ethos, 57
Europe, 16, 17, 18,22,24,25,64, 142;
spirit of, 124
European Union, 23
eyes, 93, 94
executioner, 79, 105, 107
exile, 121
exodus, 24, 25, 74, 132
experience! experirncntwl!, 9, 70, 115-17,
118; ethical, 129-30
expcrimcntum linguac, 85, 1.17
exposition, 91-93, 95--97,142
expression, 97
expropriation, 82,111,115,117
extermination, 105
face, the, 91-92, 94-100, 129
fartIl'tJl !oqurndi, 66, 69,116
false, thelfalsification, 81, 82, 94, 97
Fascism, 54
fatherland, 140
"final solution," 22, 41, 44
form-of-life, 3, 8-9, 11,44
Forster, Edward Morgan, 142
Foucault, M,ichel, ix, 7, 138
France/French, 132, 142
free use, 117) 118
freedom, 124; of speech, 137
French Revolution, 30, 33
Freud, Sigmund, 31, 35
Gaelic language, 68
gag, 59,60
gait, 50
gaze, 93-94
general will, 87, 110
genocide, 81, 106
148,9
Germany/Germans, 17, 34, 40, 42,132,
138
gesrure, x, 49, 51-53, 55, 57-60, 76, 79,80,
93,125
God/gods, 3, 10, 83, 84, 99,134
Gorbachev, Mikhail, 86
grammar, 66, 69, 70, 116
Greece, ancient, 54, 56
guilt, 123, 134
GnlfWar, 103
Gypsies, 22, 34, 63-66, 68
Haggadah, 83, 85
Hammar, Tomas, 23, 14411
happiness, 4, 8,114,142
heads of state, 107
Hebrew lDnf,l'uage, 68
Hegel, Georg Whilhelm Friedrich, 76,
110, 140
Hcidcgger, Martin, 110, Ill, 117, 139
Heller, Agnes, 22
Heraclirus, 82, 139
Himmler, Heinrich, 39
historicity, 111, 112
history, 93,112,123; end of, 111, 140
Hitler, Adolf, 39, 77, 142
Hobbes, Thomas, 5
home, the, 13 8, 140
honzo sacer, x, 41
Hn Yaobang, 89
Index
human/human beings/humankind, 3, 4,19,
58,59,83,84,88,92,93,94,95,97,
115,116,121,135,141,142; intelligence,
9,10; life, 112; linguistic nature of, 84;
shame of being, l32
human rights, R8, 124. See aha right!
rights
hypocrisy, 137
idea, the, .16
ideology, 103
identity, 1.1,79,87
image, .15, 56, 76, 93, 94, 95
i'flMgO, .1.1
immanence, p1:111(, of, 115
immigration/immigrants) 23, 42
impotence, 113, 139
improper, 94, 97, 98, 112, 117
impudence, 93
incomllllmicahle, 122
indistinction, zone of, 139
indult, 134, 135
inc1llStrial revolution, 110
inoperativelinoperahility, 117, 141
intellect!intcllcctu:llity, 11,
interiority, .13, 130
intolerable, the, 124
iron curtain, 81
Israel, 25, 26, 6S
Italian Communist Party (P.C.!), ] 36
Italy/Ito lians, 42, 121-42
ius belli, 103
jargon, 65, 67-70
Jcrus:llcm,24
Jews, 16, 17,25,35,41,42,44,67,122,
135; extermination of, 34, 106
journalists, 77, 84
judgment, 134
]ugcnd.,til) .13
Jung, Carl Gustav, .14
Justice, 1!3
Kafka, Franz, 133, 134, 139
Kant, ImmanlleC 59
Klein bottle, 25
knowledge, 83
Kojeve, Alc'{;'mdre, 110, 140
Kraus, Karl, 76-77, 145n
Kurds, 67
Kuwait, 67
labor, 75
Ladino Llnguagc, 68
language, 10, 59, 60, 63, 6.1-66, 68-70, 77,
82,84,85,92,112,113,11.1; alienation
of, 96; apprnpri;<tion of, 91; being of,
85; dwelling in, 85; state and event of,
116,118
Las ,A"icniJ7({s, 5 5
law, the, ix, 104, 112, llO, 135, 136;
European, 106, 110; international, 86;
Nuremherg la\VS, 18,22,41,43; police,
1.07; prison, 38; racial, 17; Roman, 4, 22;
rule of, 42, 134; system of, 1.05
left, the, 136, 138
legitimacy, 126
Leninism, 81
Levi, Primo, 132
lictor, 104, 105, llO
life, ix, 7, 8,11,43, SO, 88,112,113; happy,
114; natural, 138; political, 122, 138;
social, 95. See also bios; naked life; zoe
Lincoln, Abraham, 30
linguistics, 64, 66, 68
litigatio, 56
logos, 82, 112
love, 93, 134
loyalty, 117
Lumiere, Louis, .13
j\1achado, Antonio, 42
.Machiavelli) Niccoio, 74
mafiosi, 128
A1allannc, St6phlme, 58
Mamluks, 136
man, 6, 11, 12, 16
Marey, Etienne Jules, 53
market, thej 13 7
IVTarsilins ofP"dun, 114, 143n
Marx, Karl, 6,11,32,74,75,76,82,88,96,
110,116,132, 144n, 145n, 146n
mask, 79, 98
mcans/mediality, x, .17, 58, 59, 60,116-18
l\1cda\yaT,Jean, 7, 144n
i\1cd,nnr, Peter, 7, 11411
media, 81, 82, 84, 95, 96, 125, 130, 139
}''/bJCmo.l),llc) 54
messianism) 33, 135
metal"ngnnge, 59
Milner, Jean-Claude, 13 7
mime, 58
misery, human, 133
modernity/modern, 33,42,97
modesty, 93
Mobius strip, 25
Mona Lisa, 55
monarchy, 86
A1ontcsquien, Charles de Secondat, Baron
de, 113
morality, 130
Moses, Stefan, 145n
multitude, 1.0, 11
'\fuybridge, EedwerdJ., 51, 55
naked life, x, 3-9, 11,20,32,34,35,41--44,
122,132,140-41, 143n, 144n. See also
bios; life; zoe
Nancy, Jean-Luc, 112, 116
Napoleon, 136
nation, 110
nation-state, x, 4, 5, 16, 18-21,23-25,
42-45, 64, 67, 70, 87, 125, 140. See also
state
native, 19, 21
nature, 94, 112, III
NazislNazism, 22, 34, 38, 44, 77, 81, 138
150,1
need, 139
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 53, 79, 145n
nihilism, 78, 85
JlO7110S) 37,43-45
nothingness) 84, 8.1
oikollomill, 140, 141
Omarska, 121, 122, 142
open, the, 91
outside, the, 99, 1.00
order, 43; public, 127
Palestinians, 25, 67
Panofsk'Y, Erwin, 54
paradise, 85
Pardes, 83
parody, 80
Pascali, Giovanni, 53
passion, 92
pnssivity, 98
Paxton, Sir Joseph, 75
penitance,135
people, 16, 18,25,29,30-35,63,65-68,
70,87,110; coming, 117
person, private, 122
phenomcn;1) 56
philosophy, 56, 59, 67,114; political, 10,
16,114
photography, 93
planetaIy, 85,139,141
pleasure, 58
poetry, 60
poiesis, 57. See ({/so practice; pr;1xis
police, 19, 104, lOS; international 110;
police operation, 103, 106, 107; secret,
81,86; sovereign, 103; state, 86
polis, ix, 114, 138
politics, ix, 12, 16,42,60,65,66,69,82,
85,93,95,96, 109, 112, 114,
117, 13S, 142; end of, 113; modern, 135;
nonstatist, political will, .1;
totaJitarinn, 97; world, 80, 81
Index
pornography, 7,58, 9l, 98, 123
postmodern theorists, 110
potentiality/possihility, 4, 9,10,11,97,
98,113,141; defined, 14311. Seefl/so
power
poverty, 33
power, 6,10,79,80; common, 9; defined,
143n; life of, 9; of speech, 10; political,
4; sovereign, x, 5; to kill, 5
practice, 11, See also poiesis
praxis, 57, 80, 117
private, 122, 123
progress, 124; progressivism, 109, 137
proper, 97,112,117,140
Proust, Marcel, 53
psychoanalysts, 84
public, 122
public opinion, 87, 104, 110
punishment, 134
purgatory, 131
rabbis, 8l; Rabbi Akiba, 8l, 85
Rabinow, Paul, 7
racism, 86
rape, 44, 122, 142
real/realiry, 94, 97,103
Red Brigades, 128
refllgees, x, 15-17, 19,21-22,24;
international organizations for, 18
Reichstag, 81
religion, ix
repentance (pcntiti, /Jentitis71lo), 123,
128-31, 145n
republic, 86
res gesta, 57, 59
rcsemhhmce (similiwdo), 99
resistance, 87
revelation, 83, 92
revolution, 125, 132, 137
right, the, 136, 138
right/rights, 12, 16, 19,22,104,110,112,
113, See also human rights
Rilke, Rainer Maria, 53
Robespicrrc, ,MaximiJicn Marie Isidore de,
30
Rom language, 64
Romania, 81
Rome, ancient, 33, 104
Rosenz\ycig, Franz, 68, 145n
Ruge, Arnold, Il2
rule, 40, 139
Sahbath, 92
Sacks, Oliver, 52
sacred, l, 5, 7, 22, 88, 105, III
sacrifice, 104
Saint Paul, 134, 135
same, the, 117
Satan, 92
satire, 77
Schmitt, Carl, 43, 86, 106, 112, III
Scholem, Gershom, 68, ] 45n
Schutzhflft, 38,39
Senna, Ayrtan, 123, 145n
secret, 92, 95
secret services, 127
Sefirot, 83
sentence, 134
Serbs, 142
shame, 93,126,131,132
Shekinah, 82-85
Shijte, 135
shock, 51
Sieyes, 30
silence, 124, 125
.fi71l1!i({crl!7Jl, 99
simulation, 94, 99
simlllt:meity (.li7JllI/trlJ), 99
sincerity, 129
situation, 78
Situationists, 76, 78
socia) bonds, 87
socialism, 33-34
society, 53, 88; classless, 88; consurncr, 113
Society of the Spertacle, 80
solitude, 139
soundtrack, 60
sovereignty,S, 6, 8,11,16,21,31,33,42,
86,103-7,110-15, 136
Soviet Communist Party, 109
spcctade,x, 11,73,78,80-87,95,103,
115, 125, 137
speechlessness, 139
Spinoza, Baruch, 74, 116, 129
Stalinism, 109, 137
state, 88, 89, 104, 111, 112, 113; capitalist-
democratic, 109; constitutional, -109,
124; democratic, 133; end of the, 110;
nonstate, 88; reason of, 128; sense of,
128; spectacular, 115, 137; state-form,
85,86, 109, 128; state power, 95;
totalitarian, 97, 98; lmiversal, 110. See
also nation-state
state of emergency/state of exception, ix,S,
6,38-41,43,44,104,133,138,139,
144n; as rule, 113
subject, 113
survivallsllrvivors, 8, 121
suspicion, 122
Talmlld, 83, 85
Trlllgcntopoli, 123, 145n
tcchnosciencc, 7
television, 81, 124, Il2, 137
territory, 24, 25, 43, 44
terrorism, 87, 95, 123, 127
theory, 11
things, 93
Third Reich, 105
Third World, 35, 133
thought/thinkjng, 9,11,139
threshold, 100, III
Tian<lnmcn, 86, 88, 89
tics, 51
Timisoara, 80, 81, 82, 125
topos/topological,25
Torah, 135
torture, 81, 125
totalitarianism, 97, 98, 140
152,3
Tourette, Gilles de la, 49-52, 144n
trace, 76
tnmsccndcncc, 59
trap, 140
treaties, 16; ,Minority Treaties, 17
trials, 13 0, 13 2
troubadors, 69, 70
truth, the, 81, 82, 91, 94, 95, 97,131
tyranny, 86, 98
United Nations, 95
United States, 23, 42; Constitution of the,
30
Universal Exposition: London (1851), 74;
Paris (1867), 75
Universal Judgment, 77-78
use, 117
utopia, 78
value (cxch:mge and llse), 75, 76
Varro, Marcus Terentius, 56, 57, 144n
Vichy, 42, 142
victim, 37
Villon, 69
violence, 95, 104, 112, 113, 115; sovereign,
lOS
visage, 92, 97
voice, 129
Volk,34
Walpurgis Night, 76, 77, 78
Wannsee Confcrence, 106
war, 106. See also civil war
Warburg, Aby, 54
Waterloo, 122
weapons, 105
West, the, 81
wbtcvcr singtllarity, 87, 88, 89,117-18
witness, 121, 122
Wittgensteil1, Ludwig, 60, 69
word,the, 83, 93, 97
working class, 137
World War J, 16, 17,39,106
Index
writing
l
13 9
xenophobia, 23
Van Thomas, .5, 143n
Yiddish language, 68
Yugoslavia, former territories of, 44
Zevi, Sabbatai) 135
Zionism, 68
zoe, ix, 3, 20, 32, 138, 139. See also bios·,
life; naked life
zones d'attcntc) 42
zoology, 3
Giorgio Agamben is professor of philosophy at the University of Verona.
Many of his works have been translated into English, including
Language aud Death (1991), Stanzas (1992), and
The Coming Cmmmmity (1993),
all published by the University of Minnesota Press.
Vincenzo Binetti is assistant professor of Romance languages and
literatures at the University of Michigan.
Cesare Casarino is assistant professor of cultural studies and
comparative literatllre at the University of Minnesota.

Guy Debord

itt lIfCnlOrif7771
Copyright 2000 by the Regents of the Vniversity of ?\1inn('S()t~ OriginalJy published ill Jt~Jy as

Mezzi senza fine
copyright 1996 Bollati Boringhicri editorc s.d.
All rights reserved. No part of this ]J11hlic,tion may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or trammitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the pl1blishcr,
Publi~hcd

by the University of Minnesot<l Pre!!s 111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290 Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520 http;//www.upress.l1mn.edu

Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper
LIBRARY OF CONGRF,SS C.ATAJ.OGING-IN-PUBLlCATION DATA

Agamben, Giorgio, 1942[Me2zi senza fine. English] Means without end: notes on politics / Giorgio Agamben ; translated by Vinccnzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino. p. em. -~ [Theory out of bounds ; v. 20] Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-8166-3035-6 (he, ,1k. paper) -- ISBN 0-8166-3036-4 (pb, alk. paper) 1. Political science--Philosophy. r. Title. IL Series. JA7LJ372000 32D'.01-·del1 00-008712 The University of ,\tfinnesota is an eqml-opportnnity educator and employer.

11 1009080706010403 02 01 00

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents

Preface
PART I

ix

1I'0rm-of-l.ife

3

Beyond lltalman Rights

15

What Is a People? What Is a Camp'!'
PART II

29
37

Notes on Gesture

49 63

I.anguages and Peoples

Marginal Notes on Commentluies on the Society of fhe fipedade The Face
PART III

73

91

Sovereign Police
Notes 01'1 Politics

103 109 121

11'1 This llixile (italian Diary. 1992-94)

Translators' Notes Index 147

143

Preface

the texts included in this volume attempts in its own way to think specific political problems. If politics today seems to be going through a protracted eclipse and appears in a subaltern position with respect to religion, economics, and even the law, that is so because, to the extent to which it has been losing sight of its own ontological status, it has failed to confront the transformations that gradually have emptied out its categories and concepts. Thus, in the following pages, genuinely political paradigms are sought in experiences and phenomena that usually are not considered political or that are considered only marginally so: the natural life of human beings (that zoe that was once excluded from properly political spheres and that, according to Foucault's analysis of biopolitics, has now been restored to the center of the polis); tbe state of exception (that tempoEACH OF

rary suspension of the rule of law that is revealed instead to constitute the fundamental structure of the legal system itself). and the sphere of gestures or pure means (that is. the concentration camp (a zone of indifference between public and private as well as the hidden matrix of thc political space in which we live). these texts are destined to find their true sense only within the perspeetive of the completed work. that is. the refugee. who has become now the decisive factor of the modern nation-state by breaking the nexus between human being and citizen. language. formerly regarded as a marginal figure. (The first produet of such investigations is the book titled Homo Sam:) As such. 1 ----------------------------------------~~ III': --------------------------------------~ . only within a rethinking of all the categories of our political tradition in light of the relation between sovereign power and naked life. At times they anticipate the original nuelei of those investigations and at others they present fragments and shards. the sphere of those means that emancipate themselves from their relation to an end while still remaining means) posited as the proper sphere of politics. to investigations that are still open. in various ways and according to the cireumstances in which they were born. All these texts refer. whose hypertrophy and expropriation define the politics of the spectaeular-democratie societies in whieh we live.

Form-of . or gods). In modern languages this opposition has gradually disappeared from the lexicon (and where it is retained. They used two semantically and morphologically distinct terms: zoe. it no longer indicates any substantial difference).. Life THE ANCIENT Greeks did not have only one term to express what we mean by the word life. a Ill! .. which expressed the simple fact of living common to all living beings (animals. as in biology and zoology. and bios. which signified the form or manner ofliving peculiar to a single individual or group. humans. one term only-the opacity of which increases in proportion to the sacralization of its referent-designates that naked presupposed common element that it is always possible to isolate in each of the numerous forms of life. I mean a life that can never be separated from its form. on the other hand. By the term form-oflife.

succeed or fail. In Roman law. "Civitatem . lose themselves or find themselves . Form-of-Life . but rather indicates the simple fact of living or a partic- ular way of life. A life that cannot be separated from its form is a life for which what is at stake in its way of living is living itself. life originally appears in law only as the counterpart of a power that threatens death.that is. takes place precisely when naked life-which normally appears rejoined to the multifarious forms of social life ]s ex- :>. of which the former constitutes the originary cell. it always retains the character of a possibility. (This is precisely the originary meaning of the adjective sacer [sacred] when used to refer to human life. repeated. The puissance absolue et perpetuelle. communitatem esse institutam propter vivere et bene vivere hominum in ea" rfhe state is a community instituted for the sake of the living and the well living of men in itV Political power as we know it. and socially compulsory. the only beings whose life is irremediahly and painfully assigned to happiness. Yan Thomas has shown that. which designates the pater's power of life and death over the male son. que does not have disjunctive function and vita is nothing but a corollary of nex. and processes of living are never simply facts but always and above all possibilities of life. which defines state power. always and above all power.are the only beings for whom happiness is always at stake in their living. always founds itself-in the last instance-on the separation of a sphere of naked life from the context of the forms of life. on the other hand. instead. which is kept safe and protected only to the degree to which it submits itself to the sovereign's (or the law's) right of life and death.>=0 0 >- '" 0 W 4. life in the state of nature is defined only by its being unconditionally exposed to a death threat (the limitless right of everybody over everything) and political life . 3 Thus. which is what the sovereign each and every time decides. That is why human beings-as beings of power who can do or not do. it always puts at stake living itself. Thus.. is not founded-in the last instance on a political will but rather on naked life. acts. But what is valid for the pater's right of life and death is even more valid for sovereign power (imperium). What does this formulation mean? It defines a life-human life-in which the single ways. that is. the power to kill. no matter how customary. the life that unfolds under the protection of the Leviathan-is nothing but tllis very same life always exposed to a threat that now rests exclusively in the hands of the sovereign. and that is in the expression vitae necisque potestas. There is only one case in which the term life acquires a juridical meaning that transforms it into a veritahle te7"77zinus technicus..5 I >- life in which it is never possihle to isolate something such as naked life. nor is it assigned by whatever necessity. 1 Each behavior and each form of human living is never prescribed by a specific biological vocation. But this immediately constitutes the form-of-life as political life.) The state of exception. in this formula. vita [life] is not a juridical concept. in the Hobbesian foundation of sovereignty.

~

o

6,7

plicitly put into question and revoked as the ultimate foundation of political power. The ultimate subject that needs to be at once turned into the exception and included in the city is always naked life. "The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state of emergency' in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight."4 Waltcr Benjamin's diagnosis, which by now is more than fifty years old, has lost none of its relevance. And that is so not really or not only because power no longer has today any form of legitimization other than emergency, and because power everywhere and contiuuously refers and appeals to emergency as well as laboring secretly to produce it. (How could we not think that a system that can no longer function at all except on the basis of emergency would not also be interested in preserving such an emergency at any price?) This is the case also and above all because naked life, which was the hidden foundation of sovereignty, has meanwhile become the dominant form of life everywhere. Life-in its state of exception that has now become the norm-is the naked life that in every context separates the forms of life from their cohering into a form-of-·life. The Marxian scission between man and citizen is thus superseded by the division between naked life (ultimate and opaque bearer of sovereignty) and the multifarious forms of life abstractly recodified as socialjuridical identities (the voter, the worker, the journalist,

the student, but also the HlV-positive, the transvestite, the porno star, the elderly, the parent, the woman) that all rest on naked life. (To have mistaken such a naked life separate from its form, in its abjection, for a superior principle sovereignty or the sacred-is the limit of Bataille's thought, which makes it useless to us.) Foucault's thesis according to which "what is at stake today is life" and hence politics has become biopolitics is, in this sense, substantially correct. What is decisive, however, is the way in which one understands the sense of this transformation. What is left unquestioned in the contemporary debates on bioethics and biopolitics, in fact, is precisely what would deserve to be questioned before anything else, that is, the very biological concept of life. Paul Rabinow conceives of two models of life as symmetrical opposites: on the one hand, the experimentallife 5 of the scientist who is ill with leukemia and who turns his very life into a laboratory for unlimited research and experimentation, and, on the other hand, the one who, in the name of life's sacredness, exasperates the antinomy between individual ethics and technoscience. Both models, however, participate without being aware of it in the same concept of naked life. This concept-which today presents itself under the guise of a scientific notion-is actually a secularized political concept. (From a strictly scientific point of view, the concept oflife makes no sense. Peter and Jean Medawar tell us that, in biology, discussions about the real meaning

Form-of-Life

if>
Q

Z

" o
o

8.9

co

>-

" o
of the words life and death are an index of a low level of conversation. Such words havc no intrinsic meaning and such a meaning, therefore, cannot be clarified by deeper and more careful studies.)6 Such is the provenance of the (often unperceived and yct decisive) function of medical-scientific ideology within the system of power and the increasing use of pseudoscientific concepts for ends of political control. That same drawing of naked life that, in certain circumstances, the sovereign used to be able to exact from the forms of life is now massively and daily exacted by the pseudoscientific representations of the body, illness, and health, and by the "medicalization" of ever-widening spheres of life and of individual imagination. 7 Biological life, which is the secularized form of naked life and which shares its unutterability and impenetrability, thus constitutes the real forms of life literally as forms of survival: biological life remains inviolate in such forms as that obscure threat that can suddenly actualize itself in violence, in extraneousness, in illnesses, in accidents. It is the invisible sovereign that stares at us behind the dull-witted masks of the powerful who, whether or not they realize it, govern us in its name. A political life, that is, a life directed toward the idea of happiness and cohesive with a form-of-life, is thinkable only starting from the emancipation from such a division, with the irrevocable exodus from any sovereignty. The question about the possibility of a nonstatist poli>-

'" o
W

I

>-

tics necessarily takes this form: Is today something like a form-of-life, a life for which living itself would be at stake in its own living, possible? Is today a life of P071,W available? I call thought the nexus that constitutes the forms of life in an inseparable context as form-of-life. I do uot mean by this the individual exercise of an organ or of a psychic faculty, but rather an experience, an expcrimentum that has as its object the potential character of life and of human intelligence. 'To think does not mean merely to be affected by this or that thing, by this or that content of enacted thought, but rather at once to be affected by one's own receptiveness and experience in each and every thing that is thought a pure power of thinking. ("When thought has become each thing in the way in which a man who actually knows is said to do so ... its condition is still one of potentiality ... and thought is then able to think of itself.")8 Only ifI am not always already and solely enacted, but rather delivered to a possibility and a power, only if living and intending and apprehending themselves are at stake each time in what I live and intend and apprehend-only if, in other words, there is thoughtonly then can a form of life become, in its own factuess and thingness, form-of-life, in which it is never possible to isolate something like naked life. The experience of thought that is here in question is always experience of a common power. Community and

Form-of-Life

._---

---------------------------~

10,1

power identify one with the other without residues because the inherence of a communitarian principle to any power is a function of the necessarily potential character of any community. Among beings who would always already be enacted, who would always already be this or that thing, this or that identity, and who would have entirely exhausted their power in these things and identities-among such beings there could not be any community but only coincidences and factual partitions. We can communicate with others only through what in usas much as in others-has remained potential, and any communication (as Benjamin perceives for language) is first of all communication not of something in common but of communicability itself. After all, if there existed one and only one being, it would be absolutely impotent. (That is why theologians affirm that God created the world ex nihilo, in other words, absolutely without power.) And there where I am capable, we are always already many (just as when, if there is a language, that is, a power of speech, there cannot then be one and only one being who speaks it.) That is why modern political philosophy does not begin with classical thought, which had made of contemplation, of the bios theo1'eticos, a separate and solitary activity ("exile of the alone to the alone"), but rather only with Averroism, that is, with the thought of the one and only possible intellect common to all human beings, and, crucially, with Dante's affirmation-in De MOl1archia of the inherence of a multitude to the very power of thought:

It is clear that man's basic capacity is to have a potentiality or power for being intellectual. And since this power cannot be completely actualized in a single man or in any of the particular communities of men above mentioned, there must be a multitude in mankind through whom this whole power can be actualized .... [T]he proper work of mankind taken as a whole is to exercise continually its entire capacity for intellectual growth, first, in theoretical matters, and, secondarily, as an extension of theory, in practice. 9 The diffuse intellectuality I am talking about and the Marxian notion of a "general intellect"lO acquire their meaning only within the perspective of this experience. They name the multitudo that inheres to the power of thought as such. Intellectuality and thought are not a form of life among others in which life and social production articulate themsclves, but they are rather the
unitary power that constitutes the multiple forms of life as form-oflife. In the face of state sovereignty, which can

affirm itself only by separating in every context naked life from its form, they are the power that incessantly reunites life to its form or prevents it from being dissociated from its form. The act of distinguishing between the mere, massive inscription of social knowledge into the productive processes (an inscription that characterizes the contemporary phase of capitalism, the society of the spectacle) and intellectuality as antagonistic power and form-of-life such an act passes through the experience of this cohesion and this inseparability. Thought is form-of-life, life that cannot be segregated from its

Form-of-Life

>-

or
W

o
I

>-

form; and anywhere the intimacy of this inseparable life appears, in the materiality of corporeal processes and of habitual ways of life no less than in theory, there and only there is there thought. And it is this thought, this formof-life, that, abandoning naked life to "Man" and to the "Citizen," who clothe it temporarily and represent it with their "rights," must become the guiding concept and the unitary center of the coming politics. (1993)

thc assimilated Jew who. however. The refugees who have lost all rights and who. after having polemically sketched the portrait of Mr.Beyond HUlman Rights w IN 1943. Hannah Arendt published an article titled "We Refugees" in a small English-language Jewish publication." she turns the condition of countryless refugee-a condition she herself was living-upside down in order to present it as the paradigm of a new historical consciousness. receive in exchange for assured unpopularity a priceless advantage: "History is no longer a closed book . but want instead to contemplate lucidly their condition. 150 percent French. At the end of this brief but significant piece of writing. Cohn. no longer want to be assimilated at all costs in a new national identity. after having been 150 percent German. 150 percent Viennese. the Menorah Journal. must bitterly realize in the end that "on ne parvient pas deux fois.

It is even possible that.7 0 e- co 0 to them and politics is no longer the privilege of Gentiles."l One ought to reflect on the meaning of this analysis. nor is it even today. 1. the worker. Russian.0/ "' 0 z CO 0 00 ~ 16. seven hundred thousand Armenians. many rcfugees. A few years later. without reservation. upset profoundly the demographic and territorial constituti. Armenian. a million Greeks. and today it is the case with those who are politically persecuted or for whom returning to their countries would mean putting their own snrvival at risk. starting with World War I. which after fifty years has lost none of its relevance. one needs to add the cxplosive situation determined by the fact that about 30 percent of the population in the new states created by the peace treaties on the model of the nation-state (Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. and hundreds of thousands of Germans. To these moving masses. Austro-Hungarian. the refugee is perhaps the only thinkable figure for the people of our time and the only category in which one may see today-at least until the process of dissolution of the nation-state and of its sovereignty has achieved full completion-the forms and limits of a coming political community. but also the sovereign people.) On the other hand. In a short period. given the by now unstoppable decline of the nation-state and the general corrosion of traditional political-juridical categories. (This was the case with the Polish and Romanian Jews who were in France or Germany at the end of the war. We are used to distinguishing between refugees and stateless people. and so forth) and build our political philosophy anew starting from the one and only figure of the refugee. Refugees driven from country to country represent the vanguard of their peoples. we will have to abandon decidedly. From the beginning. who were not technically stateless. It is important to note how. and Ottoman empires. The first appearance of refugees as a mass phenomenon took place at the end of World War I. the racial laws in Germany and the civil war in Spain dispersed throughout Europe a new and important contingent of refugees.5 million White Russians. and Romanians left thcir countries. Beyond Human Rights . was constituted by minorities that had to be safeguarded by a series of intcrnational treaties-the so-called Minority Treaties-which very often were not enforced. but this distinction was not then as simple as it may seem at first glance. along with the new order created by the peace treaties. if we want to be equal to the absolutely new tasks ahead. when the fall of the Russian. and Hungarian refugees were promptly denationalized by the new Turkish and Soviet governments. five hundred thousand Bulgarians. the Citizen and its rights. the fundamental concepts through which we have so far represented the subjects of the political (Man. It is also the case tllat.on of Central Eastern Europe. They know that the outlawing of the Jewish people of Europe has been followed closely by the outlawing of most European nations. Hungarians. for example). preferred to become such rather tllan return to their country. It is not only the case that the problem presents itself inside and outside of Europe with just as much urgency as then.

Here the paradox is that precisely the figure that should have embodied human rights more than any other-namely. Belgium followed this example by revoking the naturalization of those citizens who had committed "antinational" acts during the war. Arendt tells us. which indissolubly links the fate of the Rights of Man with the fate of the modern nation-state in such a way that the waning of the latter necessarily implies the obsolescence of the former.18. was handed over to humanitarian organizations and to the police. with regard to naturalized citizens of "enemy origin". and so on. but also in the very ambiguity of the fundamental notions regulating the inscription of the native (that is. in 1915. whose activity. the Italian Fascist regime passed an analogous law with regard to citizens who had shown themselves "undeserving of Italian citizenship".9 many European states began to pass laws allowing the denaturalization and denationalization of their own citizens: France was first. Hannah Arendt titled the chapter of her book Imperialism that concerns the refugee problem "The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man. these organizations as well as the single states-all the solemn evocations of the inalienable rights of human beings notwithstanding-have proved to be absolutely incapable not only of solving the problem but also of facing it in an adequate manner. and later. The reasons for such impotence lie not only in the selfishness and blindness of bureaucratic apparatuses. in 1922. from the Nansen Bureau for the Russian and Armenian refugees (1921) to the High Commission for Refugees from Germany (1936) to the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees (1938) to the UN's International Refugee Organization (1946) to the present Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (1951). in 1933.marked instead the radical crisis of the concept. What is essential is that each and every time refugees no longer represent individual cases but rather a mass phenome- non (as was the case between the two world wars and is now once again). The conception of human rights based on the supposed existence of a human being as such. therefore. the United Nations have tried to face the refugee problem. in 1926. it was Austria's turn. does not have a political character but rather only a "social and humanitarian" one. of life) in the juridical order of the nation-state. the refugee . the League of Nations. according to its statute. proves to be untenable as soon as those who profess it find themselves confronted for the first time with people who have really lost every quality and every specific relation except for the pure fact of being human. 3 In the Beyond Human Rights . The whole question. Such laws-and the mass statelessness resulting from themmark a decisive turn in the life of the modern nationstate as well as its definitive emancipation from naive notions of the citizen and a people. until in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws divided German citizens into citizens with full rights and citizens without political rights."2 One should try to take seriously this formulation. This is not the place to retrace the history of the various international organizations through which single states.

even in the best of cases. the presupposition that must never come to light as such) of the citizen. instead. its earthly foundation. after all. That there is no autonomous space in the political order of the nation-state for something like the pure human in itself is evident at the very least from the fact that. in fact. rather. have always existed. so to speak. in other words. it brings the originary fiction of sovereignty to crisis. It is time to cease to look at all the declarations of rights from 1789 to the present day as proclamations of eternal metajuridical values aimed at binding the legislator to the respect of such values. are attributed to the human being only to the degree to which he or she is the immediately vanishing presupposition (and. Human rights. Single exceptions to such a principle. so that there may not be any difference between the two moments. of course. it is time. in the ambiguity of the very title of the 1789 Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen. Rights. in fact. represent first of all the originary figure for the inscription of natural naked life in the political-juridical order of the nation-state. native [natio1 originally meant simply "birth" [nascita]). which in antiquity belonged to God and in the classical world was clearly distinct (as zoe) from political life (bios). a hendiadys in which the first term is actually always already contained in the second. The fiction that is implicit here is that birth [nascital comes into being immediately as nation. in which it is unclear whether the two terms are to name two distinct realities or whether they are to form. so-called sacred and inalienable human rights are revealed to be without any protection precisely when it is no longer possible to conceive of them as rights of the citizens of a state. Nation-state means a state that makes nativity or birth [nascital (that is. this is so primarily because. to understand them according to their real function in the modern state. the status of refugee has always been considered a temporary condition that ought to lead either to naturalization or to repatriation. A stable statute for the human in itsclf is inconceivable in the law of the nation-state. What is new in our time is tllat growing sections of humankind are no longer representable inside the nation-state-and this novelty threatens the very foun- Beyond Human Rights .C>- " o W I 20. comes to tlle forefront in the management of the state and becomes. naked human life) the foundation of its own sovereignty. This is the meaning (and it is not even a hidden one) of the first three articles of the 1789 Declaration: it is only because this declaration inscribed (in articles 1 and 2) the native element in the heart of any political organization that it can firmly bind (in article 3) the principle of sovereignty to the nation (in conformity with its etymon.1 e- system of the nation-state. This is implicit. If the refugee represents such a disquieting element in the order of tlle nation-state. by breaking the identity between the human and the citizen and that between nativity and nationality. Naked life (the human being).

One of the few rnles the Nazis constantly obeyed throughout the course of the "final solution" was that Jews and Gypsies could be sent to extermination camps only after having been fully denationalized (that is. We should not forget that the first camps were built in Europe as spaces for controlling refugees. Tomas Hammar has created the neologism of "denizens" for these noncitizen residents. 4 On the other hand. an apparently marginal figure. in the sense that this term used to have in the Roman law of the archaic period: doomed to death. xenophobic reactions and defensive mobilizations are on the rise. into noncitizen permanent residents. These noncitizens often have nationalities of origin. an evident propensity to tnrn into denizens. and that the succession of internment camps-concentrati. nothing less than a limit-concept that at once brings a radical crisis to the principles of the nation-state and clears the way for a renewal of categories that can no longer be delayed. as refugees. it deserves instead to be regarded as the central figure of our political history. after they had been stripped of even that second-class citizenship to which they had been relegated after the Nuremberg Laws).>co 0 >- " 0 W 22. What industrialized countries face today is a permanently resident mass of noncitizens who do not want to be and cannot be either natnralized or repatriated. Meanwhile. they find themselves. in conform- Beyond Human Rights . unhinges the old trinity of statenation-territory. in a condition of de facto statelessness. (One needs only to look at Agnes Heller's recent Theses on the Right ofAsylum to realize that this cannot but lead today to awkward confusions. through an increasing desertion of the codified instances of political participation. namely. given the estimated twenty million immigrants from Central European countries) characteristics and proportions such that this reversal of perspective is fully justified.on camps-extermination camps represents a perfectly real filiation. inasmuch as they prefer not to benefit from their own states' protection. so that citizens and denizens at least in certain social strata-are entering an area of potential indistinction. the citizens of advanced industrial states (in the United States as well as Europe) demonstrate. in fact. the phenomenon of socalled illegal immigration into the countries of the European Union has reached (and shall increasingly reach in the coming years.) The refugee should be considered for what it is. that is when human beings are truly sacred. Inasmuch as the refugee. a neologism that has the merit of showing how the concept of "citizen" is no longer adequate for describing the social-political reality of modern states. The concept of refugee must be resolutely separated from the concept of the "human rights.3 I >- dations of the latter. but. In a parallel way." and the right of asylum (which in any case is by now in the process of being drastically restricted in the legislation of the European states) must no longer be considered as the conceptual category in which to inscribe the phenomenon of refugees. When their rights are no longer the rights of the citizen.

where exterior and interior in-determine each other. Before extermination camps are reopened in Europe (something that is already starting to happen). One of the options taken into consideration for solving the problem of Jerusalem is that it become-simultaneously and without any territorial partition-the capital of two different states. the no-man's-land in which they are refugees has already started from this very moment to act back onto the territo. according to Hannah Arendt's suggestion. Instead of two national states separated by uncertain and threatening boundaries. thus decidedly opposing itself to the concept of nation (which has so far unduly usurped it). The paradoxical condition of reeiprocal extraterritoriality (or. as is well known. European cities would rediscover their ancient vocation of cities of the world by entering into a relation of reciprocal extraterritoriality. It is not easy to indicate right now the ways in which all this may concretely happen. In an analogous way. Rather. These men certainly constitute.5 0 W I c- ity with the well-known principle according to which substantial assimilation in the presence of formal differences exacerbates hatred and intolerance." But that is so not necessarily or not merely in the sense that they might form the originary nueleus of a future national state. In this new space." whose catastrophe one can already foresee in the short run. but rather as an aterritorial or extraterritorial space in which all the (citizen and noncitizen) residents of the European states would be in a position of exodus or refuge. better yet. 425 Palestinians expelled by the state of Israel find themselves in a sort of noman's-land. As I write this essay. it is necessary that the nation-states find the courage to question the very principle of the inscription of nativity as well as the trinity of state-nation-territory that is founded on that principle. the status of European would then mean the being-in-exodus of the citizen (a condition that obviously could also be one of immobility). it might be possible to imagine two political communities insisting on the same region and in a condition of exodus from eaeh other-communities that would artieulate each other via a series of reciprocal extraterritorialities in which the guiding concept would no longer be the ius (right) of the citizen but rather the refugium (refuge) of the singular. we could conceive of Europe not as an impossible "Europe of the nations. European space would thus mark an irreducible difference between birth [nascita] and nation in which the old concept of people (which. is always a minority) could again find a political meaning. or in the sense that they might solve the Palestinian question in a way just as insufficient as the way in which Israel has solved the Jewish question. This space would coincide neither with any of the homogeneous national territories nor with their topographical sum.~ 0 c- " 0 >~ 24.ry of the state of Israel by perforating it Beyond Human Rights . aterritoriality) that would thus be implied could be generalized as a model of new international relations. but would rather act on them by artieulating and perforating them topologically as in the Klein bottle or in the Mobius strip. "the vanguard of their people.

Only in a world in which the spaces of states have been thus perforated and topologically deformed and in which the citizen has been able to recognize the refugee that he or she is only in such a world is the political survival of humankind today thinkable. (1993) >- '" o W I e- .<Il Q Z o => '" o e=> and altering it in such a way that the image of that snowy mountain has become more internal to it than any other region of Eretz Israel.

The Italian term popolo. the underprivileged. The same term names the constitutive political subject as well as the class that is excluded-de facto.and the late-Latin terms populus and popularis from which they all derive. the French term peupie. if not de jurehom politics.along with the corresponding adjectives popolare. popular. populaire. designate in common parlance and in the politicallexicon alike the whole of the citizenry as a unitary body politic (as in "the Italian people" or in "giudice popolare" [juryman]) as well as those who belong to inferior . and the Spanish term pueblo . and the excluded.What Is a People? ANY INTERPRETATION of the political meaning of the term people ought to start from the peculiar fact that in modern European languages this term always indicates also the poor.

at the very moment in which people's sovereignty was claimed as a principle) is witnessed by the decisive role played in it by a sense of compassion for the people intended as the excluded class. but when Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address invokes a "government of the people. by the people. the peuple en corps is intended as entitled to sovereignty. on the other hand. as even Sieyes." to exclude from political power. in other words. This also means. Even the English people-whose sense is more undifferentiated-does retain the meaning of ordinary people as opposed to the rich and the aristocracy. It is as if. The extent to which such an ambiguity was essential even during the French Revolution (that is. an exclusive concept known to afford no hope. front populaire [popular front]). the people as a subset and as fragmentary multiplicity of needy and excluded bodies. Hannah Arendt reminds us that: The very definition of the word was born ont of compassion. the oppressed.. rione popolare [working-class neighborhood]. people is a polar concept that indicates a double movement and a complex relation between two extremes. that the constitution of the human species into a body politic comes into being through a fundamental split and that in the concept of people we can easily recognize the conceptual pair identified earlier as the defining category of the original But this is already a double concept for Jean Bodin-albeit in a different sense-in the chapter of Les Six Livres de la Republique in which he defines Democracy or Btat Populaire: while the menu peuple is that which it is wise What Is a People? . would put it.30. on the one hand. the total state of the sovereign and integrated citizens and. one of the least sentimental and most sober figures of the Revolution. on the other hand.1 classes (as in b0771me du peuple [man of the people]. Such a widespread and constant semantic ambiguity cannot be accidental: it surely reflects an ambiguity inherent in the nature and function of the concept of people in Western politics. Ie peuple toujollrs malbellreux. in this respect. as Robespierre was wont to say. and the vanquished. In the American Constitution one thus reads without any sort of distinction: "We. are similar to Abel and Frend's Urworte or to Dumont's hierarchical relations). for the people. ". however. and the term became the equivalent for misfortune and unhappiness-Ie peuple." the repetition implicitly sets another people against the first. at the other pole.of the wretched. the banishment-either court of miracles or camp .. what we call people was actually not a unitary subject but rather a dialectical oscillation between two opposite poles: on the one hand. the people of the United States . There exists no single and compact referent for the term people anywhere: like many fundamental political concepts (which. an inclusive concept that pretends to be without remainder while. les malbeureux m'applaudissent. the People as a whole and as an integral body politic and. at one pole.

3 political structure: naked life (people) and political existence (People). zoe and bios. and poverty and exclusion appear for the first time as an intolerable scandal in every sense. exclusion and inclusion. If this is the case-if the concept of people necessarily contains within itself the fundamental biopolitical fracture -it is possible to read anew some decisive pages of the history of our century.) The concept of people-brandished each and every time as the bloody flag of reaction and as the faltering banner of revolutions and popular fronts . It is what always already is. meaning. (Hence the specific aporias of the workers' movement that turns toward the people and at the same time aims at its abolition. the people become an embarrassing presence. Hence the contradictions and aporias that such a concept creates every time that it is invoked and brought into play on the political stage. It is what cannot be included in the whole of which it is a part as well as what cannot belong to the whole in which it is fll71lflys already included. the split internal to the people was juridically sanctioned by the clear distinction between populus and plebs. and only when there shall no longer be. it must negate itself through its opposite in order to be. its realization therefore coincides with its own abolition. rather. a biopoliticfll.32. an incessant civil war that at once divides this concept more radically than any conflict and keeps it united and constitutes it more firmly than any identity. If the struggle between the two peoples has always been in process.each with its own institutions and magistrates-just as in the Middle Ages the division between artisans [popolo minuto1 and merchants [popolo grasso1used to correspond to a precise articulation of different arts and crafts. In the modern age. It is what has in its opposite pole the very essence that it itself lacks. But when. or. In ancient Rome. Such an attempt brings together. starting with the French Revolution. (The economism and "socialism" that seem to dominate modern politics actually have a political. What Is a People? .) From this perspective. as well as what has yet to be realized. properly speaking. even though he never defines it substantially-is nothing other than this internecine war that divides every people and that shall come to an end only when People and people coin- cide. As a matter of fact. language. it is the pure source of identity and yet it has to redefine and purify itself continuously according to exclusion. what Marx calls class struggle-which occupies such a central place in his thought. poverty and exclusion are not only economic and social concepts but also eminently political categories. and territory. sovereignty is entrnsted solely to the people. The concept ofpeople always already contai11s within itself the ftmdamental biopolitical fracture. according to different modalities and horizons. in the classless society or in the messianic kingdom. our time is nothing other than the methodical and implacable attempt to fill the split that divides the people by radically eliminating the people of the excluded. blood. in fact.always contains a more original split than the one between enemy and friend. it has undergone in our time one last and paroxysmal acceleration. any people.

if> Cl Z o o => 34. the Jews. that its assimilation is actually only a feigned one). of that naked life that modernity necessarily creates within itself but whose presence it is no longer able to tolerate in any way. has been partially realized in all industrialized countries. With the final solution-which included Gypsies and other unassimilable elements for a reasonNazism tried obscurely and in vain to free the Western political stage from this intolerable shadow so as to produce finally the German Volk as the people that has been able to heal the original biopolitical fracture." as long as one adds immediately that this principle is valid also in its inverse formulation. the extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany acquires a radically new meaning. Only a politics that has been able to come to terms with the fundamental biopolitical split of the West will be able to arrest this oscillation and put an end to the civil war that divides the peoples and the cities of the Earth. We ought to understand the lucid fury with which the German Volk . one might say that modern biopolitics is supported by the principle according to which "where there is naked life. which prescribes that "where there is a People. (1995) What Is a People? .) Paraphrasing the Freudian postulate on the relation between Es and feh. the capitalistic-democratic plan to eliminate the poor not only reproduces inside itself the people of the excluded but also turns all the populations of the Third World into naked life.representative par excellence of the people as integral body politictried to eliminate the Jews forever as precisely the terminal phase of the internecine struggle that divides People and people. As a people that refuses integration in the national body politic (it is assumed. (And that is why the Nazi chiefs repeated so obstinately that by eliminating Jews and Gypsies they were actually working also for the other European peoples. both capitalist countries and socialist countries. there shall be naked life. thereby turning the whole German people into sacred life that is doomed to death and into a biological body that has to be infinitely purified (by eliminating the mentally ill and the carriers of hereditary diseases). which have all been united in the plan to produce one single and undivided people an ultimately futile plan that. The obsession with development is so effective in our time because it coincides with the biopolitical plan to produce a people without fracture. in fact. however. When seen in this light. And today. there has to be a PeopIe.5 '" ~ both the right and the left. who are its symbol-reproduced itself anew. the Jews are the representatives par excellence and almost the living symbol of the people." The fracture that was believed to have been healed by eliminating the people namely. in a different and yet analogous way.

What Is a Camp? WHAT HAPPENED in the camps exceeds the juridical concept of crime to such an extent that the specific politicaljuridical structure within which those events took place has often beeu left simply unexamined. but rather in some sense as the hidden matrix and nomos of the political space in which we still live. Rather than deducing the definition of camp from the events that took place there. The camp is the place in which the most absolute conditio inlJUmantl ever to appear on Earth was realized: this is ultimately all that counts for the victims as well as for posterity. I will ask instead: What is a camp? What is its political-juridical structure? How could such events have taken place there? This will lead us to look at the camp not as a historical fact and an anomaly that-though admittedly still with us belongs nonetheless to the past. Here I will deliberately set out in the opposite direction. .

One cannot overestimate the importance of this constitutive nexus between state of exception and concentration camp for a correct understanding of the nature of the camp. in March 1933. remained virtually always operative: the number of inmates varied and during eertain periods (in particular. Ironically. In it. and even less were they the product-as one might have believed-of a transformation and a development of prison law. whose origin and juridical regime is well documented. be- What Is a Camp? . or rather with the concentration camps into which the English herded the Boers at the beginning of the twentieth century. thanks to the SchutzhaJt. to create a "concentration camp for political prisoners" at Dachau. resides in the Prussian law on the state of siege that was passed on June 4. as well as in the earlier Prussian law on the "protection of personal freedom" (Schutz der persiinlichen Freiheit) that was passed on February 12. in other words. with which it neither then nor later ever had anything to do.38. 1850. the state of exception. the "protection" of freedom that is in question in the Schutzhaft is a protection against the suspension of the law that characterizes the state of emergency. The camp is the space that opens up when the state of exception starts to become the rule. When Himmler decided. The origin of the SchutzhaJt. protective custody). What is new here is that this institution is dissolved by the state of exception on which it was founded and is allowed to continue to be in force under normal circumstances. Lichtenberg).9 Historians debate whether the first appearance of camps ought to be identified with the campos de concentraciones that were created in 1896 by the Spaniards in Cuba in order to repress the insurrection of that colony's population. this camp was immediately entrusted to the SS and. was placed outside the jurisdiction of criminal law as well as prison law. however. as such. which was a juridical institution of Prussian derivation that Nazi jurists sometimes considered a measure of preventive policing inasmuch as it enabled the "taking into custody" of individuals regardless of any relevant criminal behavior and exclusively in order to avoid threats to the security of the state. Both these laws were applied widely during World War I. were not born out of ordinary law. remains constantly outside the normal state of law. as well as the other camps that were soon added to it (Sachsenhausen. rather. It is well known that the juridical foundation of internment was not ordinary law but rather the SchutzhaJt (literally. What matters here is that in both cases one is dealing with the extension to an entire civilian population of a state of exception linked to a colonial war. This is even more evident in the case of the Nazi Lager. The camps. 1851. and that was extended to the whole of Germany (with the exception of Bavaria) in 1871. Dachau. they were born out of the state of exception and martial law. on the occasion of the celebrations of Hitler's election to the chancellorship of the Reich. which was essentially a temporal suspension of the state of law. acquires a permanent spatial arrangement that. Buchenwald.

the incredible events that took place in them remain entirely unintelligible. what is being excluded in the camp is captured outside. whose vocation is precisely to realize permanently the exception. The eorrect question regarding the horrors committed in the camps. before the deportation of the Jews began) it decrcased to 7. It is only because the camps constitute a space of exception-a space in which tlle law is completely suspended-that everything is truly possible in them.>- '" o r c- w 40. In other words. namely. they had already been deprived of citizenship rights by the Nuremberg Laws and were later completely denationalized at the moment of the "final solution. the exception and the rule. One ought to reflect on the paradoxical status of the camp as space of exception: the camp is a piece of territory that is placed outside the normal juridical order." Inasmuch as its inhabiti117ts bave been stripped of every political status and ndllced completely to naked life. therefore. if sovereign power is founded on the ability to decide on the state of exception. The camp is the paradigm itself of po- litical spacc at the point in which politics becomes biopolitics and the homo sacer bccomes indistinguishable from the eitizen. however. The people who entered the camp moved about in a zone of indistinction between the outside and the inside. it would be more honest. If one does not understand this particular political-juridical structure of the camps. According to the etymological meaning of the term exception (ex-capere).that is. in fact. regardless of the nature of the crimes committed in it and What Is a Camp? . we will then have to admit to be facing a camp virtually every time that such a structure is created. if the essence of the camp consists in the materialization of the state of exception and in the consequent creation of a space for naked life as such. Hannah Arendt observed once that what comes to light in the camps is the principle that supports totalitarian domination and that common sense stubbornly refuses to admit to. If this is tlle case. that is. and above all more useful. is not the question that asks hypocritically how it could have been possible to commit such atrocious horrors against other human beings. Thus. the principle according to which anything is possible. thanks to what juridical procedures and political devices-human beings could have been so completely deprived of their rights and prerogatives to the point that committing any act toward them would no longer appear as a crime (at this point.1 tween 1935 and 1937. the camp is the structure in whieh the state of exception is permanently realized. if they were Jews. it is not simply an external space. however. the licit and the illicit. the camp is also tbe most absolute biopolitical space tbat bas ever been realized·-a space in which power confronts nothing otber tban pure biological life without any mediation. it is included by virtue of its very exclusion.500 people. to investigate carefully how. had become a permanent reality in Germany. for all that. the camp as such. truly anything had become possible). moreover. in which every juridical protection had disappeared. what is being captured under the rule of law is first of all the very state of exception.

during the four days foreigners may be kept in the zone d'attente before the intervention of French judicial authorities. for all intents and purposes. the normal rule of law is suspended and in which the fact that atrocities mayor may not be committed does not depend on the law but rather on the civility and ethical sense of the police that act temporarily as sovereign. order. In other words. which used to be essentially a temporary suspension of the order. according to Carl Schmitt. as well as the zones d'attente in French international airports in which foreigners requesting refugee status are detained will all have to be considered camps. Ordnung).3 regardless of the denomination and specific topography it might have. used to constitute it (that is. it is the sign of the system's inability to function without transforming itself into a lethal machine. and order. for example. the cycle-racing track in which the Vichy authorities rounded up the Jews before handing them over to the Germans. The increasingly widen- What Is a Camp? . enter a zone of absolute indeterminacy. in which naked life and political life. even certain outskirts of the great postindustrial cities as well as the gated communities of the United States are beginning today to look like camps. the birth of the camp in our time appears to be an event that marks in a decisive way the political space itself of modernity. and the camp is the new hidden regulator of the inscription of life in the orderor. From this perspective. rather. Ortung. between 1915 and 1933).enters a period of permanent crisis and the state decides to undertake the management of the biological life of the nation directly as its own task. The soccer stadium in Bari in which the Italian police temporarily herded Albanian illegal immigrants in 1991 before sending them back to their country. but rather at the site in which naked life is inscribed in them (that is. becomes now a new and stable spatial arrangement inhabited by that naked life that increasingly cannot be inscribed into the order. at least in determinate moments. there where inscription turns birth into nation). the refugee camp near the Spanish border where Antonio Machado died in 1939. There is something that no longer functions in the traditional mechanisms that used to regulate this inscription. In this sense.42. which was mediated by automatic regulations for the inscription of life (birth or nation) . It is important to note that the camps appeared at the same time that the new laws on citizenship and on the denationalization of citizens were issued (not only the Nuremberg Laws on citizenship in the Reich but also the laws on the denationalization of citizens that were issued by almost all the European states. including France. In all these cases. The state of exception. and birth-the rupture of the old nomos does not take place in the two aspects that. This is the ease. an apparently anodyne place (such as the Hotel Arcade near the Paris airport) delimits instead a space in which. localization.territory. This birth takes place when the political system of the modern nation-state- founded on the functional nexus between a determinate localization (tcrritory) and a deternlinate order (the state). if the structure of the nation-state is defined by three elements .

~ 0 .. which ensured the inscription of life in the order of the nationstate. a redefinition of the old political system according to new ethnic and territorial arrangements. The camp is the fourth and inseparable element that has been added to and has broken up the old trinity of nation (birth).5 >- '" 0 W ing gap bet"lL'cClZ birth (naked life) and nation-state is the new fact of the politics of our time and what we are calling "camp" is this dispfJrity. The political system no longer orders forms of life and juridical norms in a determinate space. is the new biopolitical nomos of the planet. even more extreme in the territories of the former Yugoslavia. that is because the principle of birth. rather. Rather. This principle is now adrift: it has entered a process of dislocation in which its functioning is becoming patently impossible and in which we can expect not only new camps but also always new and more delirious normative definitions of the inscription of life in the city. 0> 0 44. in a certain sense. The camp. as some interested observers rushed to declare. What is happening there is not at all. the state of exception during which the law is suspended) corresponds now a localization without order (that is. The camp intended as a dislocating localization is the hidden matrix of the politics in which we still live. That is why the camps of ethnic rape are so crucially important.. and we must learn to recognize it in all of its metamorphoses. it contains within itself a dislocating localization that exceeds it and in which virtually every form of life and every norm can be captured. (1994) What Is a Camp? .. To an order without localization (that is. It is from this perspective that we need to see the reappearance of camps in a form that is. the camp as permanent space of exception). a simple repetition of the processes that culminated in the constitution of the European nation-states. that is. was in some way still functioning. which is now firmly settled inside it. we note there an irreparable rupture of the old nomos as well as a dislocation of populations and human lives according to entirely new lines of flight.. and territOlY. If the Nazis never thought of carrying out the "final solution" by impregnating Jewish . state. even though it was profoundly transformed. I women.

.. ....1 1 ------~flI: I --------------------~= .I I I I..

the plan of a general pathology of social life announced by Balzac had produced nothing more than the fifty rather disappointing pages of the Thiorie de la demarche [Theory of bearing]. the Western bourgeoisie had definitely lost its gestures. By the end of the nineteenth century.Notes on Gesture • 1. "ancien interne des H6pitaux de Paris et de la Salpetriere. Fifty-three years earlier." published with Delahaye et Lecrosnicr the i. 1886.tudes cliniques et physiologiques sur la marche [Clinical and physiological studies on the gait]. Gilles de la Tourette. Nothing is more revealing of the distance (not only a temporal one) separating the two attempts than the description IN . when the bourgeoisie's good conscience was still intact. It was the first time that one of the most common human gestures was analyzed with strictly scientific methods.

the same distancing that the footprint method had enabled in the case of a most common gesture was applied to the description of an amazing proliferation of tics. gets closer to and then passes the right leg. the right foot is raised from the ground with a coiling motion that starts at the heel and reaches the tip of the toes.or eight-meter-Iong and fifty-centimeterwide roll of white wallpaper was nailed to the ground and then divided in half lengthwise by a pencil-drawn line. the left foot-having ended its revolution and leaning only on the tip of the toesleaves the ground. it is impossible not to think about the series of snapshots that Muybridge was producing in those same years at the University of Pennsylvania using a battery of twenty-four photographic lenses. which leave the ground last.)." "running man with shotgun." "walking woman sending a kiss": these are the happy and visible twins of the unknown and suffering creatures that had left those traces. The soles of the experiment's subject were then smeared with iron sesquioxide powder. On this occasion. The Etude sur une affection nerveuse caracterisee par de l'incoordination motrice accompagnee d'echolalie et de coprolalie [Study on a nervous condition characterized by lack of motor coordination accompanied by echolalia and coprolalia1was published a year before the studies on the gait came out. and the left foot touches the ground with the heel. The footprints that the patient left while walking along the dividing line allowed a perfect measurement of the gait according to various parameters (length of the step. so proud. The equivalent of this disorder in the sphere of the gait is exemplarily described by Jean-Martin Charcot in his famous Lefons du mardi: Notes on Gesture . with good reason. 1 Only an eye gifted with such a vision could have perfected that footprint method of which Gilles de la Tourette was. and mannerisms . Patients can neither start nor complete the simplest of gestures. "Man walking at normal speed." "walking woman picking up a jug. lateral swerve. This book defined the clinical profile of what later would be called Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. which stained them with a nice red rust color. If they are able to start a movement.a proliferation that cannot be defined in any way other than as a generalized catastrophe of the sphere of gestures. the left leg is brought forward. while the right foot ends its own revolntion. the whole leg is now brought forward and the foot touches the ground with the heel. spasmodic jerks. this is interrupted and broken up by shocks lacking any coordination and by tremors that give the impression that the whole musculature is engaged in a dance (chorea) that is completely independent of any ambulatory end. If we observe the footprint reproductions published by Gilles de la Tourette. angle of inclination.=> '" z " o 50. At this very instant. etc. de la Tourette employed a gaze that is already a prophecy of what cinematography would latcr become: While the left leg acts as the fulcrum. An approximately seven. Whereas Balzac saw only the expression of moral character.1 "' Gilles de la Tourette gives of a human step.

And when the age realized this.3 He sets off-with his body bent forward and with his lower limbs rigidly and entirely adhering one to the other . it is practically impossible for him to stop all by himself and often he needs to throw himself on an object nearby. The thought of the eternal return. he sets off and-in conformity to the aforementioned mechanism-slides over the ground rather than walking: his legs are rigid. naturalness and manner. after having heen observed in thousands of cases since 1885. a society that has lost its gestures tries at once to reclaim what it has lost and to record its loss. at least. each single gesture becomes a destiny. it seems as if he might fall forward any minute. obsessed by them. In the cinema... it then began (but it was too late!) the precipitous attempt to recover the lost gestures in extremis. they bend ever so slightly..52. and. His feet then begin to slide on the ground somehow. thought that he noticed three cases of Tourettism in the span of a few minutes while walking along the streets of New York City. or. 2 pression. I-Ie looks like an automaton that is being propelled by a spring: there is nothing in these rigid. the silent Notes on Gesture . only as theater). finally and most exemplarily. Finally. for this reason. the great Jugendstil poetry from Pascoli to Rilke.by leaning on the tip of his toes. in the winter of 1971. Nietzsche represents the specific moment in European culture when this polar tension between the obliteration and loss of gestures and their transfiguration into fate reaches its climax. is intelligible only as a gesture in which power and act. and he proceeds through some sort of swift tremor. at any rate. One of the hypotheses that could be put forth in order to explain this disappearance is that in thc meantime ataxia. in any case.. until the day when Oliver Sacks. What is most extraordinary is that these disorders. practically cease to he recorded in the first years of the twentieth century. while his steps are somehow substituted for as many abrupt tremors. and dystonia had become the norm and that at some point everybody had lost control of their gestures and was walking and gesticulating frantically. For human beings who have lost every sense of naturalness. in fact. This is the im- An age that has lost its gestures is. In this phase the bourgeoisie.. Thus Spake Zarathustra is the ballet of a humankind that has lost its gestures. succumbs to interiority and gives itself up to psychology. in other words.. contingency and necessity become indiscernible (ultimately. The dance of Isadora Duncan and Sergei Diaghilev. 2. tics. after several attempts. and convnlsive movements that resembles the nimbleness of the gait. the novel of Proust. When the patient hurls himself forward in such a way. which just a few decades earlier was still firmly in possession of its symbols. And the more gestures lose their ease under the action of invisible powers. that one has when watching the films that Marey and Lumiere began to shoot exactly in those years. the more life becomes indecipherable. jerky.

Even the Mona Lisa. the image will provide for Jung the model of the archetypes' metahistorical sphere. that the mythical rigidity of the image has been broken and that here. Inside each section. (Likewise. it was believed that the image was also its object. forerunners of cinematography. they preserve the dynamis intact (as in Muybridge's snapshots or in any sports photograph). while the latter corresponds to the image flashing in the epiphany of involuntary memOly. The element of cinema is gesture and not image. 3. is animated by an antinomic polarity: on the one hand. something that is closer to De Jorio than Panofsky). but rather coupes mobiles.5 movie trace the magic circle in which humanity tried for the last time to evoke what was slipping through its fingers forever." The main focus of those investigations was. During the same years. Cinema tographie images are neither poses eternelles (sueh as tl1e forms of the classical age) nor coupes immobiles of movement. rather. but as fragments of a gesture or as stills of a lost Notes on Gesture . that gave the impression of movement when the pages were turned over rapidly). Aby Warburg began those investigations that only the myopia of a psychologizing history of art could have defined as a "science of the image. Every image. according to Warburg.) In this sense.>- '" o W I >- 54. on the other hand. in fact. Because of the fact that this research was conducted through the medium of images. The former corresponds to the recollection seized by voluntary memory. the gesture intended as a crystal of historical memory. 3 It is necessary to extend Deleuze's argument and show how it relates to the status of the image in general within modernity. properly speaking. the single images should be considered more as film stills than as autonomous realities (at least in the same way in which Benjamin once compared the dialectical image to those little books. images themselves in movement. the atlas Mnenzosyne that he left incomplete and that consists of almost a thousand photographs is not an immovable repertoire of images but rather a representation in virtual movement of Western humanity's gestures from classical Greece to Fascism (in other words. the latter always refers beyond itself to a whole of which it is a part. as well as the strenuous attempt of artists and philosophers (an attempt that. This implies. however. Gilles Deleuze has argued that cinema erases the fallacious psychological distinction between image as psychic reality and movement as physical reality. even Las Meninas could be seen not as immovable and eternal forms. was on the verge of insanity) to redeem the gesture from its destiny through a dynamic polarization. that Deleuze calls movement-images. Warburg instead transformed the image into a decisively historical and dynamic element. there are no images but only gestures. And while the former lives in magical isolation. images are the reification and obliteration of a gesture (it is the imago as death mask or as symbol). the process by which it stiffened and turned into a destiny.

in other words. it is tbe dream of a gesture. This is what in ancient Greece was expressed by the legends in which statues break the ties holding them and begin to move. that in which they faciunt "make" something: in this.5 What is new in Varra is the identification of a third type of action alongside the other two: if producing is a means in view of an end and praxis is an end without means." but gerit "carries on. because they support them. a meaning transferred from those who gcrunt "carry" burdens. ends. but he clearly sets it apart from acting (agere) and from making (jacere): The third stage of action is." a certain error is committed by those who think that it is only one thing. facere something and not agere it. a paralyzing power whose spell we need to break. evade the orbit of mediality without becoming. that is.7 0 >- " 0 film wherein only they would regain their true meaning. as such. The gesture. Cinema leads images back to the homeland of gesture. it belongs essentially to the realm of ethics and politics . in this neither facit "makes" nor agit "acts. it is as if a silent invocation calling for the liberation of the image into gesture arose from the entire history of art. which is not at all an immobile archetype as common interpretations would have it. For a person can What characterizes gesture is that in it nothing is being produced or acted. In a famous passage of the Nicomachean Ethics. According to the beautiful definition implicit in Beckett's Traum und Nacht. in that he is said to gerere "carry on" affairs. they say. not made. the general [imperator]. Notes on Gesture . (and not simply to that of aesthetics). and on the other hand the actor agit "acts" it and does not make it. But this is also the intention that philosophy entrusts to the idea. and so a play fit "is made" by the poet. is continuously at work in every image. but rather a constellation in which phenomena arrange themselves in a gesture. (VI VIII 77)4 4. on account of the likeness among age7'e "to act" and gerere "to carry or carry on. in the end. the gesture then breaks with the false alternative between ends and means that paralyzes morality and presents instead means that. for this reason." that is.if> Cl Z " 0 "' ~ 56. not acted. from Aristotle. The duty of the director is to introduce into this dream the element of awakening. Because cinema has its center in the gesture and not in the image. And that is so because a certain kind of litigatio. but action [praxis] does not: good action is itself an end" (VI 1140b). supports. as a poet facit "makes" a play and does not act it. and agitur "is acted" by the actor. but rather something is being endured and supported. He inscribes the gesture into the sphere of action. in what way does a simple fact become an event? The Varronian distinction between facere and agere is derived. opens the sphere of ethos as the more proper sphere of that which is human. But in what way is an action endured and supported? In what way does a res become a res gesta. What is a gesture? A remark of Varra contains a valuable indication. he opposes the two terms as follows: "For production [poiesis] has an end other than itself. On the other hand.

so what is relayed to human be- ings in gestures is not the sphere of an end in itself but rather the sphere of a pure and endless mediality. a sphere of means as addressing a goal (for example. in this sense. The gesture is the exhibition of a mediality: it is the process of making a means visible as sucb. just as in the case of the mime. people caught in the act of performing a gesture that is simply a means addressed to the end of giving pleasure to others (or to themselves) are kept suspended in and by their own mediality-for the only reason of being shot and exhibited in their mediality-and can become the medium of a new pleasure for the audience (a pleasure that would otherwise be incomprehensible). rather. as well as in the sense of the actor's improvisation meant to compensate a loss of memory or an inability to speak. just as in a pornographic film. a separate and superior sphere of gesture as a movement that has its end in itself (for example.58. Such a finality in the realm of means is that power of the gesture that interrupts the gesture in its very being-means and only in this way can exhibit it. It has precisely nothing to say because what it shows is the being-in-language of human beings as pure mediality. starting from which we could make that word an object of communication. indicating first of all something that could be put in your mouth to hinder speech. it is always a gag in the proper meaning of the term. it is so. thereby transforming a res into a res gesta. itself incommunicable within the first level). In the same way. Cinema's essential "si- Notes on Gesture . rather. perpetration and its recollection]-in what Mallarme calls a milieu pur. But. on the one hand. therefore. marching seen as a means of moving the body from point A to point B) and. because being-in-language is not something that could be said in sentences. communication of a communicability. it means. If dance is gesture. From this point derives not only the proximity between gesture and philosophy. the gesture is essentially always a gesture of not being able to figure something out in language. or. It allows the emergence of the be- ing-in-a-medium of human beings and thus it opens dle ethical dimension for them. Finality without means is just as alienating as mediality that has meaning only with respect to an end. on the other hand. than representing. dance seen as an aesthetic dimension). because it is nothing more than the endurance and the exhibition of the media character of corporal movements. when gestures addressed to the most familiar ends are exhibited as such and are dms kept suspended "entre Ie desir et l'accomplissement. The gesture is. to expose the word in its own mediality. without any transcendence. but also the one between philosophy and cinema.9 Nothing is more misleading for an understanding of gesture. if we understand the "word" as the means of communication. then to show a word does not mean to have at one's disposal a higher level (a metalanguage. la perpetration et son souvenir" [between desire and fulfillment. However. in its own being a means. It is only in this way that the obscure Kantian expression "purposiveness without purpose" acquires a concrete meaning.

And every great philosophical text is the gag exhibiting language itself. 5. that is. The Wittgensteinian definition of the mystic as the appearing of what cannot be said is literally a definition of the gag. (1992) . exposure of the being-in-Ianguage of human beings: pure gesturality. just like the silence of philosophy. being-in-language itself as a gigantic loss of memory. of the absolute and complete gesturality of human beings. Politics is the sphere ofpure means.>- '" o W :I: >-- • lence" (which has nothing to do with the presence or absence of a sound track) is. as an incurable speech defect.

. after having traveled through a war-torn France . In July 1422. On August 22.. they appear in the town of Chatillon-enDombe. duke of Minor Egypt... the following day.... 1419. Gypsies appear for the first time at the doors of Paris... The capital is invaded by the English and . the group reaches Saint Laurent de Mikon-six leagues away-led by a certain Andrea.. In August 1427.. They said they came from Egypt and were led by individuals who called themselves dukes in Egypto parvo or counts in Egypto mznorl: BANDS OF The first groups of Gypsies were sighted on the territory of present-day France in 1419 .Languages and Peoples Gypsies made their appearance in France during the first decades of the fifteenth century-a period characterized hy wars and disorders.. an even larger band goes down to Italy.

as he says. in fact. 4 Historians date the birth of argot. roughly to this same period. Furthermore. Why is this most original hypothesis-which refers. We do not have. (It is well known Languages and Peoples . the final blow must be struck with the left hand. after all. in fact. the secret language of the coquillards and other gangs of evildoers. the slighest idea of what either a people or a language is. at crucial moments of history. not to say a sure origin. to marginal linguistic realities and to marginal populations so important? Benjamin once wrote that. Although Alice Becker-Ho maintains herself within the limits of her thesis.5 o W I c- the entire lle-de-France is infested with bandits." other and more significant argument: as much as argot is not properly a language but a jargon. in the Gypsy dialects of Europe. the language of Gypsies. so the Gypsies are not a people but the last descendants of a class of outlaws dating from another era: Gypsies are our Middle Ages preserved. Aliee Beeker-Ho has been able to realize the Benjaminian project of writing an original work composed mostly of quotations. it is probable tlut she is perfectly aware of having laid a mine -which is ready to explode at any given time-at the very focal point of our political theory."3 Although this thesis does not exceed tlle boundaries of sociolinguistics. 2 The book's thesis is apparently anodyne: as the subtitle indicates-A neglected factor at the origins of the argot of the dangerous classes-the question consists in demonstrating tlle derivation of part of the argot lexicon from Rom. led by dukes or counts in Egypto parvo or in Egypto 771i7101"i. Some groups of Gypsies. that the above mentioned coquillards use among themselves a secret language [langage exquis] that others cannot comprehend if it is not taught to them. intervening on the hidden nuts and bolts of the machine of social knowledge. dangerous classes of an earlier epoch. By simply putting the sources related to these two events side by side. A brief but essential glossary at the end of the volume lists tlIose argotic terms that have "an evident echo. becomes impossible because the informers are systematieally lying.c- " o >ox 64. These gangs prospered in the tormented years that marked the shift from medieval society to the modern state: "It is true. The Gypsy terms that made it into the different argots are much like the Gypsies themselves: since their first apparence. Gypsies adopted the patronymics of the countries through which they traveled-gadjesko navthereby losing somehow their identity on paper in the eyes of all those who believe they can read. cross the Pyrenees and go as far as Barcelona. in this case. through this language they can reeognize the members of the so-called Coquille" (deposition by Perrenet at the trial of the coquillards). it implies nonetheless an- This explains why scholars were never successful in interpreting the Gypsies' origins and in getting to lmow well their language and customs: the ethnographic investigation.

thereby influencing extensively modern linguistic theory as well as the political theory that is still dominant nowadays-tried to clarify something that was already obscure (the concept of people) with the help of something even more obscure (the concept of language). it nonetheless sheds light on that truth which the correspondence between language and people was secretly intended to conceal: all peoples are gangs and coquilles. What is at stake here is not to evaluate the scientific accuracy of this thesis but rather not to let its liberating power slip out of our hands.. Palestinians. that we are talking about an imaginary.. the perverse and tenacious machines that govern our political imaginary suddenly lose their power. the factum loquendi. after all. The relation between Gypsies and argot puts this correspondence radically into question in the very instant in which it parodically reenacts it. without the ability to explain it. Even if we admit that this idea never had any real content other than the insipid catalog of characteristics listed by the old philosophical anthropologies. in fact. a fact that is still inaccessible to science. Basques... it was already made meaningless. a unitary system with describable characteristics that could be called language-only by taking the factum loquendi for granted. Political theory. without questioning it. the peoples without a state (Kurds. Once our gaze is focused on this matter. And although this analogy can last but for a brief moment. so as Languages and Peoples .~ 0 . Romantic ideology-which consciously created this connection. especially nowadays when the idea of a people has long lost any substantial reality. the factum pluralitatis-a term etymologically related to populus. It should be evident to everybody. 66. all languages are jargons and argot. with which I would like to indicate the simple fact that human beings form a community-whereas linguistics must presuppose. by the same modern state that presented itself as its keeper and its expression. two contingent and indefinite cultural entities transform themselves into almost natural organisms endowed with their own necessary laws and characteristics. on the other hand. All well-meaning chatter notwithstanding. the idea of a people today is nothing other than the empty support of state identity and is recognized only as such. that is. Thanks to the symbiotic correspondence thus instituted. in any case. only by taking for granted the simple fact that human beings speak and understand each other.7 >- CO> 0 '" 0 '" . Armenians. The simple correspondence between these two facts defines modern political discourse. Gypsies are to a people what argot is to language. For those who might still nurture some doubt on the matter.) N evertheless. Jews of the Diaspora) can be oppressed and exterminated with impunity. " that linguists can construct a grammar-that is. must presuppose. the world powers take up arms to defend a state without a people (Kuwait) and. it would be instructive to take a look at what is happening around us from this point of view: on the one hand. all of our political culture is based on the relation between these two notions.

Languages and Peoples . which linguists treat naturally as languages. Yiddish). In this regard. the experience of the pure existence of language (that is. he suggests. In the eyes of the keepers of tradition. and the state appears particularly evident in the case of Zionism. 1926. The vicious entwining of language.")5 The thesis according to which all peoples are Gypsies and all languages are jargons untangles this knot and enables us to look in a new way at those linguistic experiences that have periodically emerged within our culture only to be misunderstood and led back to domi- >- "' o W I 0- nant conceptions. precisely this reactualization of the sacred language appeared to be a grotesque profanity. Such a transformation was to be something like a deliverance of the jargons themselves that would direct them toward the factum loquendi-and hence not a grammatical deliverance. in fact. Basque. the transformation of the language d'oc into a secret jargon (in a way not so different from that of Villon when he wrote some of his ballads in the argot of the coquillards). it is not snrprising that. which he called volgare illustre. rather.9 to make clear that the destiny of a people can only he a state identity and that the concept of people makes sense only if recodified within the concept of citizenship.. but a poetical and a political one. The day will come when it will turn against those who speak it.if> o z ro o " o ~ 68. however. Gershom Scholem writes to Franz Rosenzweig' from Jerusalem: "We live in our language like blind men walking on the edge of an abyss . This language is laden with future catastrophes . in more recent debates. to reactualize a purely cult language (Hebrew) that had been replaced in daily use by other languages and dialects (Ladino. in a certain way. But what this jargon speaks of is nothing more than another figure of language. he does not suggest the remedy of a national language and grammar (as a long-standing falsification of his thought would have it). From this point of view. which was incomprehensible to the others. The trobar clus of the Provenc...al troubadours is itself. a transformation of the very way of experiencing words. in fact.). for this very reason. Gaelic. and that the languages spoken in his time derived from these Babelic languages? He is presenting all the languages of the Earth as jargons (the language of a trade. (On December 26. it is also important to note the peculiar status of those languages that have no state dignity (Catalan. And against this intimate aptitude for jargon that every language possesses. according to Wittgenstein. when he says-while narrating the myth of Babel in De vulgari eloquentia-that every kind of tower-builder received its own language. upon which language would have taken revenge one day.. What else can Dante mean... with ethics. marked as the place and the object of a love experience. the experience of the factum loquendi) could coincide. A movement that wanted to constitute the people par excellence (Israel) as a state took it upon itself. people. etc. hut which practically operate rather as jargons or dialects and almost always assume an immediately political significance. is the figure of jargon par excellence).

minoritarian practice of a grammatical language. it is only by breaking at any point the nexus between the existence of language. and so on. above all. pure language.nor is it surprising that Benjamin could entrust the figure of redeemed humanity to a "pure language" that was irreducible to a grammar or to a particular language. and state that thought and praxis will be equal to the tasks at hand. The forms of this interruption . trobar elus. In any case.are manifold and change according to times and circumstances: reactivation of a jargon. (1995) • . grammar. This is why our task cannot possibly be either the construction of these jargons into grammars or the recodification of peoples into state identities. On the contrary. people.during which the factum of language and the factum of community come to light for an instant. political and philosophical. it is clear that what is at stake here is not something simply linguistic or literary but. Languages are the jargons that hide the pure experience of language just as peoples are the more or less successful masks of the factum pluralitatis.

much like those signs that the medieval copyists traced alongside of the most noteworthy passages. It would be of no use to praise these books' independence of judgment and prophetic clairvoyance. praises.Marginal Notes on Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle Strategist s books constitute the clearest and most severe analysis of the miseries and slavery of a society that by now has extended its dominion over the whole planet-that is to say. There are no authors GUY DEB 0 RD' . prefaces. they are in fact separated from the text and they find their own place not in an improbable elsewhere. or. but solely in the precise cartographic delimitation of what they describe. least of all. or the classic perspicuity of their style. As such. the society of the spectacle in which we live. At most it might be possible to suggest here a few glosses in the margins. Following a rigorous anchoritic intention. these books do not need clarifications.

y and phantasmagoria. where the most distant parts of the building appear wrapped in a light blue halo... In the Exposition's catalog. sensuous things which are at the same Marginal Notes . and there are no readers who could flatter themselves (with respect to what?) with the knowledge of belonging to that small number of people who understood that work before others did. They should be used rather as manuals. il veut contempler un coup d' oeil feerique et non pas des produits similaires et uniformement groupes" [The public needs a grandiose conception that strikes its imagination . it wants to behold a wondrous prospect rather than similar and uniformly arranged products l.. It is certainly not a coincidence that this chapter occupies a liminal position. Furthermore. cited in the fourth Italian edition of The Society of the Spectacle.. the esseutial fact is to position yourself exactly in the actors' point of view. Phantasmagoria Marx was in London when tbe first Universal Exposition was inaugurated with enormous clamor in Hyde Park in 1851. not only Machiavelli's The Prince but also Spinoza's Ethics are treatises on strategy: operations de potentia intellectus. rather. It is probable that Marx had in mind the impression felt in the Crystal Palace when he wrote the chapter of Capital on commodity fetishism. Merrifield wrote that the Crystal Palace "is perhaps the only building in the world in which the atmosphere is perceivable ."2 The first great triumph of the commodity thus takes place under the sign of both transparenc. as instruments of resistance or exodus-much like those improper weapons that the fugitive picks up and inserts hastily under the belt (according to a beautiful image of Deleuze).74. A sentence by Karl von Clausewitz. Without the identification of this immaterial center-in which "the products oflabor" split themselves into a use value and an exchange value and "become commodities.5 today who could console themselves by thinking that their work will be read in a centnry (by what kind of human beings?). expresses perfectly this character: In strategic critiques... It is true that this is often very difficult. Among the various projects submitted. the organizers had chosen the one by Paxton.. they should be used as the work of a peculiar strategist (the title Commentaries. the guide to the Paris Universal Exposition of 1867 reinstates this contradictory spectacular character: "II faut au [public1 une conception grandiose qui frappe son imagination . 1 In this sense. by a spectator sitnated either at the west or east extremity of the gallery . a strategist whose field of action is not so much a battle in which to marshal troops but the pure power of the intellect. The disclosure of the commodity's "secret" was the key that revealed capital's enchanted realm to our thought-a secret that capital always tried to hide by exposing it in full view. Or. Most strategic critiques would disappear completely or would be reduced to minor differences of understanding if the writers would or could position themselves in all the circumstances in which the actors had found themselves. sive de libertate. harks back to a tradition of this kind)-. which called for an immense building made entirely of crystal.. in fact.

falsified and manipulated from top to bottom. in the posthumous Third Walpurgis Night. nothing comes to my mind.all the following critical investigations undertaken in Capital probably would not have been possible. this writer would be Karl Marginal Notes . nothing would be more appropriate than Kraus's voice. the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. As a satirical poet.7 ~ 0 c- eo 0 time supraseusible or social"3. in the Marxist milieu. the analogy stops there. where Kraus confesses without indulgence his own limitation. Debord's discourse begins precisely where satire becomes speechless. is a prophecy of the spectacle. as much as in Kraus. The first duty the Situ. Louis Althusser could still invite readers to skip the first section. Nobody has been able to bring to light the hidden laws of the spectacle as Kraus did in his obstinate struggle against journalists . or. The ancient home of language (as well as the literary tradition on which satire is based) has been.ationists assigned themselves was to wake up from this nightmare. The punch line with which Kraus. marks also the impotence of satire when faced by the becoming-reality of the indescribable." The "becoming-image" of capital is nothing more than the commodity's last metamorphosis. after having falsified the entire social production. language presents itself as the image and the place of justice. Walpurgi5 Night Kraus. Debord If there is in our century a writer with whom Debord might agree to be compared. in which exchange value has completely eclipsed use value and can now achieve the status of absolute and irresponsible sovereignty over life in its entirety. in which the nineteenth century dreamed the twentieth. Kraus reacts to this situation by turning language into the place ofUniversalJudgment. where the commodity unveiled and exhibited its mystery for the first time. foolishly abandoned. In 1969. by now." This ferocious VVitz. A voice that-in those public lectures whose charm Elias Canetti has described-finds and lays bare the intimate and ferocious anarchy of triumphant capitalism in Offenbach's operetta." Certainly also in Debord. Nevertheless. however. of a capitalism that has reached its extreme figure-precisely on that "flagrant trace. 4 It is for this reason that Debord's gesture appears all the more remarkable. justified his silence in the face of the rise of Nazism is well known: "On Hitler. rather. In the 1960s. In this sense. the Marxian analysis of the fetish character of the commodity was. he is truly "only one of the last epigones inhabiting the ancient home of language. as he bases his analysis of the society of the spectacle-that is. in the preface to a popular reprint of Capital."in these loud times which boom with the horrible symphony of actions which produce reports and of reports which cause actions.0 z 0 "' en eo 76. with the reason that the theory of fetishism was a "flagrant" and "extremely harmful" trace of Hegelian philosophy. the nightmare."5 And if someone were to imagine something analogous to the voiee-over that in Debord's films runs alongside the exposure of that desert of rubble which is the spectacle.

This happens becanse the mask insinuates itself between the text and the execution. perfectly top- ical because it locates itsclf in the taking-place of what it wants to overthrow. subtracted from the powers of myth and destiny. although opposite. than the bare scenography in which Nietzsche. A constructed situation is the room with the spider and the moonlight between the branches exactly in the moment when-in answer to the demon's question: "Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?" it is said: "Yes. Nothing could give a better idea of a constructed situation. In the commedia dell'arte there were cadres instructions meant for the actors. almost intact: everything here. This paradoxical coincidence is the place from which perennially resounds his VOIce-over. and after the passage of life through the trial of nihilism. leaving it. perhaps. but rather gestures figured as a type. constellations of gestures. Nothing would be more misleading. This point of indifference constitutes a politics that is finally adequate to its tasks. that is put into question once again here. And what takes Marginal Notes . so tl1at they would bring into being situations in which a human gesture. between power and act. concretely and deliberately constructed through the collective organization of a unified milieu and through a play of events. after the end and selfdestruction of art. !Situation What is a constructed situation? A definition contained in the first issue of the Internationale Situatiomziste states that this is a moment in life.78. in The Gay Science. The "Northwest passage of the geography of the true life" is a point of indifference between life and art. The Universal Judgment in language and the Walpurgis Night in the spectacle coincide perfectly. where both undergo a decisive metamorphosis simultaneously. the destruction of the role's identity goes hand in hand with the destruction of the actor's identity. project. We can comprehend its true nature only if we locate it historically in its proper place: that is. creating an indistinguishable mixture of power and act. stayed the same. but lost its identity.9 begins to speak instead when the Universal Judgment has already taken place and after the true has been recognized in it only as a moment of the false. The situation is neither the becoming-art of life nor the becoming-life of art. in fact. than to tbink the situation as a privileged or exceptional moment in the sense of aestheticism. could finally take place. It is precisely this relationship between text and execution. Harlequin and the Doctor are not characters in the same way in which Hamlet and Oedipus are: the masks are not characters. develops his thought's experi711entzl7lz crucis. I do. It is impossible to tmderstand the comic mask if we simply interpret it as an undetermined or depotentiated character. once again. Their utopia is. however. at the same time."6 What is decisive here is the messianic shift that integrally changes the world. In this situation. The Situationists counteract capitalism-which "concretely and deliberately" organizes environments and events in order to depotentiate life-with a concrete.

neither biographic experience nor impersonal event: it is the other side of the commodity that lets the "crystals of this common social substance" sink into the situation. which constituted one of the central theses of the Commentaries. we could say that world politics is nothing more than a hasty and parodic mise-en-scene of the script contained in that book. tl1inking it was the real truth. and. appeared paradoxical to many peo- pIe at the time. represents the extreme point of this process. therefore. corpses that had just been buried or lined up on the morgue's tables were hastily exhumed and tortured in order to simulate. For the first time in the history of humankind. The immovable walls and the iron curtains that divided the two worlds were wiped out in a few days. it was nevertheless legitimized as true by the Marginal Notes . the real political function of the media. In the same way. the West had already renounced a while ago the balance of powers as well as real freedom of thought and communication in the name of the electoral machine of majority vote and of media control over public opinion-both of which had developed within the totalitarian modern states. although the falsification appeared to be sometimes quite obvious. The substantial unification of the concentrated spectacle (the Eastern people's democracies) and of the diffused spectacle (the Western democracies) into an integrated spectacle is. trivial evidence. succeeded in doing something that Nazism had not even dared to imagine: to bring Auschwitz and the Reichstag fire together in one monstrous event. Both television and secret police. What the entire world was watching live on television.>- '" 0 W I ~ 80. Romania. Because there the secret police had conspired against itself in order to overthrow the old spectacle-concentrated regime while television showed. by now. Timisoara. act and power. It is a moment of life subtracted from the context of individual biography as well as a moment of art subtracted from the neutrality of aesthetics: it is pure praxis. in front of the video cameras. the Commentaries (1988) registered the precision of the diagnosis and expectations of that previous book in every aspect. The gesture is neither use value nor exchange value. The Eastern governments allowed the Leninist party to fall so that the integrated spectacle could be completely realized in their countries. in fact. Ausc:hwitz/Ti misoara Probably the most disquieting aspect of Debord's books is the fact that history seems to have committed itself to relentlessly confirm their analyses. This unification. and deserves to give its name to the new turn in world politics. the genocide that legitimized the new regime. text and execution. Twenty years after The Society of the Spectacle. was in reality the absolute nontruth. general and particular. the course of history has accelerated uniformly in the same direction: only two years after this book's publication. Meanwhile.1 place here-both onstage and within the constructed situation-is not the actuation of a power but the liberation of an ulterior power. nakedly and without false modesty. Gesture is the name of this intersection between life and art.

Shekinah How can thought collect Debord's inheritance today. that the spectacle is language. of the linguistic and communicative nature of human beings.. Like Adam. of that logos in which Heraclitus identifies the Common. by now. the spectacle still contains something like a positive possibility-and it is our task to use this possibility against it. Aher cut the branches. preferred to contemplate only the last one. its manifestation or habitation on Earth: its "word. he isolates knowledge and the word. Ben Zoma looked and went crazy. "entered Heaven: Ben Azzai. for the same reason. Ben Azzai cast a glance and died .. so that it would be clear that the true was. This means that an integrated Marxian analysis should take into consideration the fact that capitalism (or whatever other name we might want to give to the process dominating world history today) not only aimed at the expropriation of prodnctive activity. Ben Zoma. the Auschwitz of the age of the spectacle: and in the same way in which it has been said that after Auschwitz it is impossible to write and think as before. from the other Sefirot in which he reveals himself.3 "' '" f- media's world system. entered the Pardes (that is. The re- Marginal Notes .. The risk here is that the word-that is.. Rabbi Akiba came out uninjured. truth and falsity became indistinguishable from each other and the spectacle legitimized itself solely through the spectacle.. in other words. in the age of the complete triumph of the spectacle? It is evident. supreme knowledge). Aher represents humanity insofar as. Bnt this also means that what we encounter in the spectacle is our very linguistic nature inverted. making knowledge his own destiny and his own specific power. instead of contemplating the Sefirot in their totality." the story goes. the very communicativity and linguistic being of humans.. but. "Four rabbis. at the alienation of language itself.. Aher and Rabbi Akiba . Nothing resembles this condition more than the sin that cabalists call "isolation of the Shekinah" and that they attribute to Aher-one of the four rabbis who. the spectacle's violence is so destructive.. which are nothing other than the most complete form of the manifestation of God (the Shekinah). the nonlatency and the revelation of something-might become separate from what it reveals and might end up acquiring an autonomous consistency. according to a famous Haggadah of the Talmud. after Timisoara it will be no longer possible to watch television in the same way..f- " 0 >- '" 0 82. but also.j .. In this way. nothing more than a moment within the necessary movemcnt of the false." Aher's "cutting of the branches" is identified by cabalists with the sin of Adam. after all.. in this sense. isolating it from the others-thereby separating the tree of science from the tree of life. who. the one that expresses divine presence itself. Timisoara is.. the politics in which we live. For this reason (precisely because what is being expropriated is the pos- sibility itself of a common good). and above all. The extreme form of the expropriation of the Common is the spectacle." The Shekinah is the last of the ten Sefirot or attributes of the divinity.

it reveals the nothingness of all things. this generic essence itself (that is. but also no longer reveals anything at all-or. for the spectacular-democratic regime that constitutes the completion of the state-form. better yet. in this extreme nullifying unveiling. the nullifying and determining power of what is common will be pacified and the Shekinah will no longer suck the evil milk of its own separateness. Contemporary politics is precisely this devastating experimentum linguae that disarticulates and empties. of the revealed: but. This is why today power founded on a presupposed foundation is vacillating all around the planet: the kingdoms of the Earth are setting out. In this condition of exile. common and shareable-being becomes separate from the thing revealed and comes in between the latter and human beings. the Shekinah loses its positive power and becomes harmful (the cabalists say that it "sucks the mille of evil"). In this community. language as Gattungswesen). all over the planet. Even more than economic necessities and technological development. that is. in fact. human beings are kept separate by what unites them. the isolation of the Shekinah reaches its final phase. In language there is nothing of God. Marginal Notes . of the world.5 '" 0 W I e- vealed and manifested-and hence. What prevents communication is communicability itself. that is being separated in an autonomous sphere. or the state of fully realized nihilism. as well as the very fact of speaking. Like Rabbi Akiba in the Haggadah of the Talmud. Language thus acquires. one after the other. the uprooting of all peoples from their vital dwelling in language.~ 0 e0 " >- 84. In thc society of the spectacle. ideologies and religions. Journalists and the media establishment (as well as psychoanalysts in the private sphere) constitute the new clergy of such an alienation of the linguistic nature of human beings. traditions and beliefs. Whereas under the old regime the estrangement of the communicative essence of human beings substantiated itself as a presupposition that served as the common foundation. language (the linguistic nature of human beings) remains once again hidden and separated. The isolation of the Shekinah thus expresses our epochal condition. the age in which we live is also that in which for the first time it becomes possible for human beings to experience their own linguistic essence-to experience. But exactly for this reason. Only those who will be able to carry it to completion-without allowing that which reveals to be veiled in the nothingness it reveals. the unspoken power to claim a historical age and a state for itself: the age of the spectacle. in the society of the spectacle it is this very communicativity. the citizens of this community will enter the paradise of language and will come out of it uninjured. but bringing language itself to language-will become the first citizens of a community with neither presuppositions nor a state. for the last time. identities and communities. not some language content or some true proposition. in which language not only constitutes itself as an autonomous sphere. but language itself. what drives the nations of the Earth toward a single common destiny is the alienation of linguistic being.

and the more they concentrate all the power in their own hands. working-class. which it forbids. but rather on their dissolution. that the spectacle's attempt to maintain control over the process it contributed to putting in motion in the first place will actually succeed. against which resistance and dissent will be practically more and more difficult-and all the more so in that it is increasingly clear that such an organization will have the task of managing the survival of humanity in an uninhahitable world. racist regimes and progressive regimes are all rushing. Not only has no war officially been declared in many years (confirming Carl Schmitt's prophecy.if> o z o => 86. according to which every war in our time has become a civil war).' and substitutes the public and public opinion for the people and the general will-is precisely what produces massively from within itself singularities that are no longer characterized either by any social identity or by any real condition of belonging: singularities that are truly 7vhatever singularities. Catholic. the state of the spectacle inasmuch as it empties and nullifies every real identity. the more all of this is hailed. Under these circumstances. that human beings co-belong without a representable condition of belonging (being Italian. spectacular-democratic state) is the final stage in the evolution of the state-form-the ruinous stage toward which monarchies and republics. the two most important world powers are headed by two direct emanations of the secret services: Bush (former CIA head) and Gorbachev (Andropov's man).7 ro 1'i£t1l £til mel'l What does the scenario that world politics is setting up before us look like under the twilight of the Commentaries? The state of the integrated spectacle (or. And yet. etc. For the first time in the history of our century. The state of the spectacle. but even the outright invasion of a sovereign state can now be presented as an act of internal jurisdiction. this global movement actually embodies a tendency toward the constitution of a kind of supranational police state. But what the state cannot tolerate in any way is that singularities form a community without claiming an identity. after all. in which the norms of international law are tacitly abrogated one after the other. the state can recognize any claim for identity-even that of a state identity within itself (and in our time. tyrannies and democracies. is still a state that bases itself (as Badiou has shown every state to base itself) not on social bonds. of which it purportedly is the expression. All appearances notwithstanding. the history of the relations between the state and terrorism is an eloquent confirmation of this fact). the secret services-which had always been used to act ignoring the boundaries of national sovereignties-become the model itself of real political organization and of real political action. In 'the final analysis. the spectacular-democratic world organization that is thus emerging actu- ally runs the risk of being the worst tyranny that ever materialized in the history of humanity. Although it seems to bring national identities back to life. It is clear that the society of the spectacle is also one in which all social Marginal Notes . terrorist. as a triumph of democracy. in the new course of the spectacle.). One cannot be sure. however.

but rather a struggle between the state and the nonstate (humanity). the rehabilitation of Bu Yaobang. but that presented itself nonetheless as a community and as a common life (and this regardless of whether those who were in that square were actnally aware of it). This has nothing to do with the mere demands of society against the state. is all the more implacable. What was most striking about the demonstrations of the Chinese May. Wherever these singularities peacefully manifest their being-in-common. (1990) Marginal Notes . with perfect lucidity.9 identities have dissolved and in which everything that for centnries represented the splendor and misery of the generations sncceeding themselves on Earth has by now lost all its significance. sooner or later. which was for a long time the shared concern of the protest movements of our age.) It is for this reason that the violence of the state's reaction seems all the more inexplicable. the tanks will appear agam. nonsubjective. The threat the state is not willing to come to terms with is precisely the fact that the unrepresentable should exist and form a community without either presuppositions or conditions of belonging Gust like Cantor's inconsistent multiplicity). from their point of view. For this reason-to risk advancing a prophecy here-the coming politics will no longer be a struggle to conquer or to control the state on the part of either new or old social subjects. there will be another Tiananmen and. in fact. that t11is disproportion was only apparent and that the Chinese leaders acted. In Tiananmen the state found itself facing something that could not and did not want to be represented. The whatever singularity-this singularity that wants to take possession of belonging itself as well as of its own being-into-Ianguage. that is. Whatever singularities cannot form a societas within a society of the spectacle because they do not possess any identity to vindicate or any social bond whereby to seek recognition. and that thus declines any identity and any condition of belonging-is the new. was the relative absence of specific contents in their demands. The struggle against the state. therefore. because this is a state that nullifies all real contents but that-all empty declarations about the sacredness of life and about human rights aside-would also declare any being radically lacking a representable identity to be simply nonexistent. and the only concrete demand. an irresolvable disjunction between whatever singularities and the state organization. The different identities that have marked the tragicomedy of universal history are exposed and gathered with a phantasmagorical vacuity in the global petite bourgeoisie-a petite bourgeoisie that constitntes the form in which the spectacle has realized parodistically the Marxian project of a classless society. however. (The notions of democracy and freedom are too generic to constitnte a real goal of struggle.88. This is the lesson that could have been learned from Tiananmen. if real attention had been paid to the facts of that event. It is likely. was promptly granted. and socially inconsistent protagonist of the coming politics.

Language is this appropriation. . But only human beings want to take possession of this opening. the only possible city. The face is the only location of community. to seize hold of their own appearance and of their own beingmanifest. And that is because that which in single individuals opens up to the political is the tragicomedy of truth.L LIVING beings are in the open: they manifest themselves and shine in their appearance. The face is at once the irreparable being-exposed of humans and the very opening in which they hide and stay hidden. This is why appearance becomes a problem for human beings: it becomes the location of a struggle for truth.The Face AL. in which they always already fall and out of which they have to find a way. which transforms nature into face.

the passion of revelation. when accused by the inquisitors of kissing Satan's anus during the Sabbath. on the other hand. The face's revelation is revelation of language itself. appears on its face as either chastity or perturbation. Nature acquires a face precisely in the moment it feels that it is being revealed by language. only communicability. as either shamelessness or modesty. and to endure it. thereby letting love and the word happen in the emptiness of our gazes. And nature's being exposed and betrayed by the word. thereby exhibiting the awareness of being exposed to the gaze. This struggle. Exposition is the location of politics. that is. that is perhaps beeause animals are always already in the open and do not try to take possession of their own exposition. To walk in the light of the face means to be this opening-and to suffer it. If there is no animal politics. and that is why the witches. that is. in the image as image. nor is it a secret doomed to remain forever incommunicable. to a still nature. by a calculated stratagem. does not have any real content and does not tell the truth about this or that state of being. An. they want to take possession of their own very appearance. the passion of language. There is a face wherever something reaches the level of exposition and tries to grasp its own being exposed. Human beings. This unexpeeted gesture violently belies the fiction that is implicit The Face . And they can look at me shamelessly. Human beings thus transform the open into a world. That is why they are not interested in mirrors. therefore. wherever a being that appears sinks in that appearance and has to find a way out of it. goes by the name of History.d it may be that nowadays the entire Earth. about this or that aspect of human beings and of the world: it is only opening. Such a revelation. its veiling itself behind the impossibility of having a secret.) I look someone in the eyes: either these eyes are cast down and this is modesty. above all. It is happening more and more often that in pornographic photographs the portrayed subjects. Or. thereby exhibiting their own emptiness as if there was another abyssal eye behind it that knows this emptiness and uses it as an impenetrable hiding place. argued that even there there was a face. modesty for the emptiness lurking behind the gaze-or they look back at me. whose object is truth. look into the camera. into the battlefield of a political struggle without quarter.3 What the face exposes and reveals is not something that could be formulated as a signifying proposition of sorts.>- '" o W I >- 92. (Thus. separate images from things and give them a name precisely because they want to recognize themselves. they simply live in it without caring about it. The face does not coincide with the visage. the faee is. might become one single face. that is. which has been transformed into a desert by humankind's blind will. art can give a face even to an inanimate object. Thus. they can look at me with a chaste impudence and without reserve.

Politicians. however. The fact that politics constitutes itself as an autonomous sphere goes hand in hand witll the separation of the face in tlle world of speetacle-a world in which human communication is being separated from itself. rather. nevertheless.'" " 0 0 " z co ~ 94. their condition is the most empty and tbe most insubstantial of all: it is the truth. If what human beings had to communicate to each other were always and only something. rather. and exposition are today the objects of a global civil war. to cause appearance itself to appear. whose battlefield is social life in its entirety. This does not mean. and hides to the extent to which it uncovers. In this way. the appearance that ought to have manifested human beings becomes for them instead a resemblance that betrays them and in which they can no longcr recognize themselves. the one who looks is confronted with something that concerns unequivocally the essence of the face. What remains hidden from them is not something behind appearance. the very structure of truth. The same procedure is used today in advertising: the image appears more convincing if it shows openly its own artifice. any nature. knowingly challenge the voyeur's gaze and force him to look them in the eyes. or any specific destiny. that is. The face. Precisely because the face is solely the location of truth. Exposition thns transforms itself into a value that is accumulated in images and in tlle media. what human beings truly are is nothing other than this dissimulation and this disquietude within the appearance. it is founded above all on the control of appearance (of doxrt). the media establishment. truth. they paradoxically ap-' pear more real precisely to the extent to which they exhibit this falsification. The fact that the actors look into the camera means that they show that they are .i7liuZating. We may call tragicomedy of appearance the fact that the face uncovers only and precisely inasmuch as it hides. In both cases. the insubstantial nature of the human face suddenly comes to light. and thus they transform it into a miserable secret that they must make snre to control at all costs. their being nothing other than a face. and the advertising industry have understood the insubstantial character of the face and of the community it opens up. there would never be The Face . whose storm troopers are the media. that appearance dissimulates what it uncovers by making it look like what in reality it is not: rather. according to which the one who looks surprises the actors while remaining unseen by them: the latter. it is also and immediately the location of simulation and of an irreducible impropriety. State power today is no longer founded on the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence-a monopoly that states share increasingly willingly with other nonsovereign organizations such as the United Nations and terrorist organizations. In that precise moment.. whose victims are all the peoples of the Earth. while a new class of bureaucrats jealously watches over its management.5 c- " 0 in the consumption of snch images. Because human beings neither are nor have to be any essence. The task of politics is to return appearance itself to appearance. but rather appearing itself.

This means that an integrated Marxian analysis should take into consideration the fact that capitalism (or whatever other name we might want to give to the process dominating world history today) not only was directed to the expropriation of productive activity. But truth itself is not something of which we can take possession. stiffens into a character.& q.~I I . and thus sinks further and further into itself. is the will to total self-possession: here either the improper extends its own rule everywhere. nor does it have any object other than appearance and the improper: it is simply their comprehension. their exposition. In botll these grotesque counterfeits of the face. . by keeping it separate in a sphere that guarantees its unseizability and by preventing communicativity itself from coming to light. every human face. This is why the face contracts into an expression. rather. politics then arises as the communicative emptiness in which the human face emerges as such. thanks to an unrestrainable will to falsification and consumption (as happens in advanced industrialized democracies). The only face to remain uninjured is the one capable of taking the abyss of its own communicability upon itself and of exposing it without fear or complacency. J I I 96. The totalitarian politics of the modern. it is a victory over character-it is word. but what one has to take possession of here is only a nonlatency. Every appearance that manifests human beings thus becomes for them improper and factitious. a pure visibility: simply a visage. It is precisely this empty space that politicians and the media establishment are trying to be sure to control. and makes them confront the task of turning truth into their own proper truth. but only exchange and conflict. even the most noble and beautiful. signals and answers. Inasmuch as it is nothing but pure communicability. or the proper demands the exclusion of any impropriety (as happens in the so-called totalitarian states).7 politics properly speaking. language). true and false. but was also and above all directed to the alienation of language itself. thus letting the shapeless and bottomless background that threatens them emerge. The face is not something that transcends the visage: it is the exposition of the visage in all its nudity. NV. which is what one calls character. possible and real: this is because they are or have to be only a face. Character is the constitutive reticence that human beings retain in the word. the only truly human The Face . This is precisely why the most delicate and graceful faces sometimes look as if they might suddenly decompose.l_ _ _ _Will.M § . J. of the communicative nature of human beings. As soon as the face realizes that communicability is all that it is and hence that it has nothing to express thus withdrawing silently behind itself. is always suspended on the edge of an abyss. But this amorphous background is nothing else than the opening itself and communicability itself inasmuch as they are constituted as their own presuppositions as if they were a thing. inside its own mute identity-it turns into a grimace. But because what human beings have to communicate to each other is above all a pure communicability (that is. Everything for human beings is divided between proper and improper.

be it passive or active contact. the restless power that keeps them together and constitutes their being-in-common. which expresses resemblance.. There are two words in Latin that derive from the IndoEuropean root meaning "one": similis. next to similitudo (resemblance) there is simultas. which implies also to feign. with respect to what is properly one's own and what is common. But only the reciprocal game between these two levels constitutes the life of the face. the duality of proper and improper. I exist with all of my properties (my being brown.. to simulate). of exposing in the face simply your own proper impropriety. enmity). the mask. The face is In advertising and pornography (consumer society). The basic level is ordered according to the receptive organs. in the sense that it is something dissimulating or hiding the truth: the face is the simultas. of communication and communicability. The face is not a simulacrum. proud.. The face of God. the passive background is dominant (the inexpressive images of tyrants The Face .. thus.9 possibility is lost: that is. to imitate. the possihility of taking possession of impropriety as snch. but this happens without any of these properties essentially identifying me or belonging to me. pale. and next to similare (to be like) there is simulare (to copy.. The face is formed hy a passive background on which the active expressive traits emerge: Just as the Star mirrors its elements and the combination of the elements into one route in its two superimposed triangles. tall. that is. emotional . and the midpoint of the cheeks. and simul. This first triangle is thus formed by the midpoint of the forehead. My face is my outside: a point of indifference with respect to all of my properties. they are the face. composed of the organs whose activity quickens the rigid mask of the first: eyes and mouth. to which belong respectively nose and ears.98. in which none of the visages is truer than any of the others. of walking in the shadow of its light. the fact of being together (which implies also rivalry. to what is internal and what is external. the being-together of the manifold visages constituting it. in totalitarian states (bureaucracy). The human face reproduces the duality that constitutes it within its own structure. In the face. namely forehead and cheeks. which means "at the same time. those points where the countenance comes into contact with the world above. Nose and ears are the organs of pure receptivity. that is. that is." in their offices). so too the organs of the countenance divide into two levels. Over it is now imposed a second triangle. as the dominant point of the entire face. To grasp the face's truth means to grasp not the resemblance but rather the simultaneity of the visages." Thus. the eyes and the mouth come to the foreground. is the simultas of human faces: it is "our effigy" that Dante saw in the "living light" of paradise. of potentiality and act. after all. For the life-points of the countenance are.).

And only where I find a face do I encounter an exteriority and does an outside happen to me. in them. Be only your face. Do not remain the subjects of your properties or faculties. (1995) ------------------------------------~p III: ------------------------------------c . Go to the threshold. beyond them.e- " o >- '" o W I e- the threshold of de-propriation and of de-identification of all manners and of all qualities-a threshold in which only the latter become purely communicable. do not stay beneath them: rather. go with them.

On the contrary. This does not mean. The nonchalance with which the exercise of a particularly devastating ius belli was disguised here as a mere "police operation" cannot be considered to be a cynical mystification (as it was indeed considered by some rightly indignant critics). perhaps. was that the reasons presented to justify it cannot be put aside as ideological superstructures used to conceal a hidden plan. however. ideology has in the meantime penetrated so deeply into reality that the declared reasons have to be taken in a rigorously literal sense-particularly those concerning the idea of a new world order. that tl1e Gulf War constituted a healthy limitation of ONE OF .Sovereign Police 1\1 I the least ambiguous lessons learned from the Gulf War is that the concept of sovereignty has been finally introduced into the figure of the police. The most spectacular characteristic of this war.

namcly. This embarrassing contiguity between sovereignty and police function is expressed in the intangible sacredness that. who was covered in blood. the figure of the sovereign and the figure of the executioner have in common. is the one who marks the point of indistinction between violence and right by proclaiming the state of exception and suspending the validity of the law. who was endowed with imperium. According to the story. According to the ancient Roman custom. while reaching for his hand. shouted: "Mon beau frere!" The entrance of the concept of sovereignty in the figure of the police. the Duke of Burgundy had just entered Paris as a conqueror at the head of his troops when. nobody could for any reason come between the consul. to prove). who had been working very hard for him during those days. This contiguity has never been so selfevident as it was on the occasion of a fortuitous encounter that took place on July 14. is not at all reassuring. The rationales of "public order" and "security" on which the police have to decide on a case-by-case basis define an area of indistinetion between violence and right that is exactly symmetrical to that of sovereignty. on the street.1418: as we are told by a chronicler. that the extermination Sovereign Police . therefore.~ o 104." I I I Hence the display of weapons that characterizes the police in all eras. in fact.5 state sovereignties because they were forced to serve as policemen for a supranational organism (which is what apologists and extemporaneous jurists tried. the "law" of the police really marks the point at which the state. who carried the sacrificial ax (which was used to perform capital punishment). Benjamin rightly noted that: The assertion that the ends of police violence are always identical or even connectd to those of general law is entirely untrue. What is important here is not so much the threat to those who infringe on the right. can no longer guarantee through the legal system the empirical ends that it desires at any price to attain. rather. This contiguity is not coincidental. Rather. in particular. in fact. the police are always operating within a similar state of exception. but rather the display of that sovereign violence to which the bodily proximity between consul and lictor was witness. the police are perhaps the place where the proximity and the almost constitutive exchange between violence and right that characterizes the figure of the sovereign is shown more nakedly and clearly than anywhere else. whether from impotence or because of the immanent con- nections within any legal system. he came across the executioner Coqueluche. The display. happens in the most peaceful of public places and. during official ceremonies. If the sovereign. the executioner. according to the ancient codes. and the lictor closest to him. approached the sovereign and. This is proven by a fact that still surprises historians of the Third Reich. in bad fai th. The point is that the police-contrary to public opinion-are not merely an administrative function of law enforcement.

has at least one positive aspect that is worthy of mention here. the principle par in parmI non habet iurisdictioncZZl eliminated the possibility that sovereigns of enemy states could be judged as criminals. who rushed to criminalize the enemy with such zeal. 1942. according to European public law. Among them. at the Grosser Wannsee. loday." Such an operation is not obliged to respect any juridical rule and can thus make no distinctions between the civilian population and soldiers. What we have witnessed with our own eyes from the end of World War I onward is instead a process by which the enemy is first >no o w :c >- of all excluded from civil humanity and branded as a criminal.7 "' ~ o >- " o of the Jews was conceived from the beginning to the end exclusively as a police operation. (1991) Sovereign Police . The declaration of war did not use to imply the suspension of either this principle or the conventions that guaranteed that a war against an enemy who was granted equal dignity would take place according to precise regulations (one of which was the sharp distinction between the army and the civilian population). and that gathered middle-level and lower-level police officers. Furthermore. The extermination of the Jews could be so methodical and deadly only because it was conceived and carried out as a police operation. only the name of Adolf Eichmann-head of division B-4 of the Fourth Section of the Gestapo-is noticeable. but. the investiture of the sovereign as policeman has another corollary: it makes it necessary to criminalize the adversary. in the eyes of civilized humanity. however. in this regard. What the heads of state."' co z " o 106. it is precisely because the genocide was a "police operation" that today it appears. all the more barbaric and ignominious. is not virtually a cI'iminal. only in a second moment does it become possible and licit to eliminate the enemy by a "police operation. is the record of a conference that was held on January 20. And certainly we will not be the ones to pity them. in this sense. as well as between the people and their criminal sovereign. those who should happen to wear the sad redingote of sovereignty know that they may be treated as criminals one day by their colleagues. The sovereigns who willingly agreed to present themselves as cops or executioners. thereby returning to the most archaic conditions of belligerence. now show in the end their original proximity to the criminal. conversely. There is no head of state on Earth today who. in fact. have not yet realized is that this criminalization can at any moment be turned against them. Sovereignty's gradual slide toward the darkest areas of police law. It is well known that not a single document has ever been found that recognizes the genocide as a decision made by a sovereign organ: the only document we have. Schmitt has shown how.

The "great transformation" constituting the final stage of the state-form is thus taking place before our very eyes: this is a transformation that is driving the kingdoms of the Earth (republics and monarchies. In the same way in which the THE FALL . Thought thus finds itself.Notes on Politics of the Soviet Communist Party and the unconcealed rule of the capitalist-democratic state on a planetary scale have cleared the field of the two main ideological obstacles hindering the resumption of a political philosophy worthy of our time: Stalinism on one side. facing its own task without any illusion and without any possible alibi. federations and national states) one after the other toward the state of the integrated spectacle (Guy Debord) and toward "capitalist parliamentarianism" (Alain Badiou). for the first time. tyrannies and democracies. and progressivism and the constitutional state on the other.

Simply because history designates the expropriation itself of human nature through a series of epochs and historical destinies. Consensus and public opinion have no more to do with the general will than the "international police" that today fight wars have to do with the sovereignty of the jus publicum Europaeum. ideologies and religions. or ethnic type). is equal to this task. the post-Kojevian or postmodern theorists of the fulfillment of the historical process of humanity in a homogeneous universal state). it does not follow that the fulfillment and the appropriation of the historical telos in question indicate that the historical process of humanity has now cohered in a definitive order (whose management can be handed over to a homogeneous universal state). instances of a historical type) under the aegis of a technical-juridical organism with a posthistorical vocation. after all. This is what the late Heidegger tried to address-albeit in an entirely unsatisfactory way-with the idea of an Ereignis. Just as the first thesis proves itself to be completely impotent against the tenacious survival of the state-form going through an infinite transition. religious. historicity itself.1 great transformation of the first industrial revolution destroyed the social and political structures as well as the legal categories of the ancien regime. Contemporary politics is this devastating experiment that dis articulates and empties institutions and beliefs. It indicates. there are those who think the end of history without the end of the state (that is. so as then to rehash and reinstate their definitively nullified form. on the other side. democracy. can coexist perfectly well thanks to the proliferation of traditional instances of the state (that is. and of mobilizing one against the other. terms such as sovereignty. there are those who think the end of the state without the end of history (that is. rather. nation. right. With respect to this problem. that is. the second thesis clashes against the increasingly powerful resistance of historical instances (of a national. that the anarchic historicity itself that-having been posited as a presupposition Notes on Politics . and general will by now refer to a reality that no longer has anything to do with what these concepts used to designate and those who continue to use these concepts uncritically literally do not know what they are talking about. of an ultimate event in which what is seized and delivered from historical destiny is the being-hidden itself of the historical principle. The two positions. identities and communities all throughout the planet. the battlefield is divided today in the following way: on one side. Only a thought capable of thinking the end of the state and the end of history at one and the same time. progressivists of all sorts). Neither position is equal to its task because to think the extinction of the state without the fulfillment of the historical telos is as impossible as to think a fulfillment of history in which the empty form of state sovereignty would continue to exist. people. The coming thought will have thus to try and take seriously the Hegelo-Kojevian (and Marxian) theme of the end of history as well as the Heideggerian theme of the entrance into Ereignis as the end of the history of being.110.

cannot still take a state-form. at least. given that the state is nothing other than the presupposition and the representation of the being-hidden of the historical arche. that is. that now human beings take possession of their own historical being. and that. of their own impropriety. in fact. from coming to light. rather. The becoming-proper (nature) of the improper (language) cannot be either formalized or recognized according to the dialectic of Anerkemzung because it is. the point of indifference between right and violence. precisely on what the statue ofJustice (which. such as Schmitt. is the guardian who prevents the undecidable threshold between violence and right. that is. which are at the core of our political tradition. at the same time. have to be abandoned or. And Notes on Politics . between the living and language-a nexus that necessarily takes the paradoxical form of a decision regarding the state of exception (Schmitt) or ban (Nancy) in which the law (language) relates to the living by withdrawing from it. Sovereignty. proper and improper. society as a whole is instead irrevocably delivered to the form of consumer society. as such. rather. If there is today a social power [potenza]. This appropriation. While the state in decline lets its empty shell survive everywhere as a pure structure of sovereignty and domination. was to be veiled at the very moment of the proclamation of the state of exception) was not supposed to see. therefore. their own original structure. as Montesquieu reminds us. Sovereignty is the idea of an undecidable nexus between violence and right. must open the field to a nonstatal and nonjuridical politics and human life-a politics and a life that are yet to be entirely thought. it must break everywhere the nexus between violence and right. They mark. nature and logos. instead. see in all this the surest sign of the end of politics.>- '" o W I e- 112. they designate. Sacred life the life that is presupposed and abandoned by the law in the state of exception-is the mute carrier of sovereignty. a becoming-improper (language) of the proper (nature). it must decline any will to either posit or preserve right. by a-bandoning it to its own violence and its own irrelatedness. nature and language. in other words. namely. a society in which the sole goal of production is comfortable living. that naked life is immediately the carrier of the sovereigu nexus. between the living and language that constitutes sovereignty. the real sovereign subject. It indicates. it must see its own impotence [impotenzaJ through to the end. The concepts of sovereignty and of constituent power. to be thought all over again. The theorists of political sovereignty. what nowadays is apparent to everybody: that the state of exception is the rule. The appropriation of historicity. it is today abandoned to a kind of violence that is all the more effective for being anonymous and quotidian. and as such they do not designate an attribute or an organ of the juridical system or of the state. We have to fix our gaze.3 destined living human beings to various epochs and historical cultures must now come to thought as such. therefore.

Notes on Politics . This "happy life" should be. if we look closer. rather."l The definition of the concept of "happy life" remains one of the essential tasks of the coming thought (and this should be achieved in such a way that this concept is not kept separate from ontology. however. This also means. wasn't it defined precisely by the recovery to political ends of the Averroist concepts of "sufficient life" and "well-living"? Once again Walter Benjamin. that in this way we encounter our own linguistic nature inverted. in the contemporary state it is precisely this same communicativity. in fact. because: "being: we have no experience of it other than living itself"). The age in which we are living. the estrangement of the communicative essence of human beings was substantiated as a presupposition that had the function of common ground (nation.). this same generic essence (language). an absolutely profane "sufficient life" that has reached the perfection of its own power and of its own communicability-a life over which sovereignty and right no longer have any hold. The "happy life" on which political philosophy should be founded thus cannot be either the naked life that sovereignty posits as a presupposition so as to turn it into its own subject or the impenetrable extraneity of science and of modern biopolitics that everybody today tries in vain to sacralize. However. it becomes possible for human beings to experience their own linguistic essenceto experience. is also the age in which. but the fact itself of speaking. in fact.if> z " oo 0 <Xl ~ 114. for the same reason.5 0 c- oo 0 the planetary masses of consumers. What hinders communication. the spectacle still contains something like a positive possibility-and it is our task to use this possibility against it. in fact. For this reason (precisely because what is being expropriated here is the possibility itself of the Common). the spectacle's violence is so destructive. language. religion. in the "TheologicoPolitical Fragment. that is. for the first time. is communicability itself: human beings are being separated by what unites them. Whereas in the old regime. not some language content or some true proposition. The plane of immanence on which the new political experience is constituted is the terminal expropriation of language carried out by the spectacular state. the problem that the new politics is facing is precisely this: is it possible to have a political community that is ordered exclusively for the full enjoyment of wordly life? But. but. that is constituted as an autonomous sphere to the extent to which it becomes the essential factor of the production cycle. therefore. do not seem to foreshadow any new figure of the polis (even when they do not simply relapse into the old ethnic and religious ideals)." leaves no doubts regarding the fact that "The order of the profane should be erected on the idea of happiness. etc. isn't this precisely the goal of philosophy? And when modern political thought was born with Marsilius of Padua.

this experience must be constructed as an experiment concerning the matter itself of thought. the coming people. What is in question in political experience is not a higher end but being-in to-language itself as pure mediality. in fact. as oth. but as appropriation of an expropriation.7 The experience in qnestion here does not have any objective content and cannot be formulated as a proposition referring to a state of things or to a historical situation. mass intellectuality. what is really at stake. A finality without means (the good and the beautiful as ends unto themselves). in Marxian terms. That is why the first consequence deriving from this experiment is the subverting of the false alternative between ends and means that paralyzes any ethics and any politics. experience of the General Intellect). It does not concern a state but an event of language.ers suggest. loyalty. it is the sphere of a pure mediality without end intended as the field of human action and of human thought. the same) as a point of indifference between the proper and the improper-that is. the possibility and the modalities of a free u~e. experience of "compearance"-as Jean-Luc Nancy suggests-or. equality. above and beyond the concepts of appropriation and expropriation. Politics is the sphere neither of an end in itself nor of means subordinated to an end. as something that can never be grasped in terms of either expropriation or appropriation but that can be grasped. the power of thought (in Spino zan terms: an experiment de potentia intellectus. rather. or the proper demands the exclusion of any impropriety (as it happens in integralist and totalitarian states). Therefore. that is. is just as alienating as a mediality that makes sense only with respect to an end. The second consequence of the experimentu71Z linguae is that.116. rather. rather. only as use-the essential political problem then becomes: "How does one use a common?" (Heidegger probably had something like this in mind when he formulated his supreme concept as neither appropriation nor expropriation. such.) The new categories of political thoughtinoperative community. If instead we define the common (or. we need to think. Praxis and political reflection are operating today exclusively within the dialectic of proper and improper a dialectic in which either the improper extends its own rule everywhere. sive de libertate). rather. is the only possible material experience of being-generic (that is. thanks to an unrestrainable will to falsification and consumption (as it happens in industrialized democracies). Politics is the exhibition of a mediality: it is the act of making a means visible as Notes on Politics . compearance. whatever sin- What is at stake in this experiment is not at all communication intended as destiny and specifie goal of human beings or as the logical-transcendental condition of politics (as it is the case in the pseudophilosophies of communication). being-into-a-mean as an irreducible condition of human beings. it does not pertain to this or that grammar but-so to speak-to the factum loquendi as such.

>- '" o W I I- gularity. the manners. (1992) • . or however else they might be called-will be able to express the political matter that is facing us only if they are able to articulate the location. and the meaning of this experience of the event of language intended as free use of the common and as sphere of pure means.

All due differences notwithstanding. to the extent to which they had been authentic witnesses. or more well disposed toward human beings". and disoriented. rather. And they had no wish to talk about it. better. more human. we too are affected by this sense of suspicion regarding our WE ARE . they did not try to communicate what they had lived through. They knew-and still know-that in Auschwitz or in Omarska they had not become "wiser. as if they themselves were the first to be seized by doubts regarding the reality of what had befallen them. more profound. and that. they had come out of the camps stripped naked.. hollowed out. 1992 . as if they had somehow mistaken a nightmare for a real event. 94) v 1\1 told that the survivors who came back-and who continue to come back-from the camps had no stories to tell..In This Exile (Italian Diary.

one's biological body. and it is precisely this indiscernibility that constitutes the specific anguish of the camp. that is. What did we live through in the 1980s? A delirious and solitary private occurrence? Or. one's blood. It seems as if nothing of what we have lived through during these years authorizes us to speak. a moment bursting with events and a decisive moment in Italian history as well as in the history of the planet? It is as if all that we have experienced during these years has fallen into an opaque zone of indifference. become rigorously indistinguishable. the camp truly is the inaugural site of modernity: it is the first space in which public and private events. What makes Joseph K. one entered the camp as a result not of a political choice but rather of what was most private and incommunicable in oneself. But precisely the latter functions now as a decisive political criterion. not only. Kafka was the first to describe with precision this particular type of site. In This Exile . in the case of a soldier who participated in the battle of Waterloo). And if terrorism really was an important moment of our recent political history. in which everything becomes confused and unintelligible. he or she is an absolutely private person. political life and biological life.>oo o >GO 122. in fact. Suspicion regarding one's own words arises every time that the distinction between public and private loses its meaning. moreover. And not reallyor. This is precisely what makes The Trial a prophetic book. If one was a Jew in Auschwitz or a Bosnian woman in Omarska. then.3 o W I >- own witnessing. Italy's protracted corruption scandal. still from the camp that we must begin again. And yet there is not one single instant in which he or she might be able to find shelter in the realm of the private. guilt. to a life "that does not deserve to be lived"). or was it a strictly private experience? Neither one nor the other. Are the events of Tangentopoli ["Bribeville"]. And if we are calling this opaque zone of indiscernibility "camp. public events or private ones? I confess that it is not clear to me. Inasmuch as the inhabitant of the camp has been severed from the political community and has been reduced to naked life (and. for example. since there is not an inch on it that is not public? And yet it is from such a zone of indifference-in which the actions of human experience are being put on sale-that we ought to start today. with which since then we have become perfectly familiar. and conversion? To this slippage of the public into the private corresponds also the spectacular publicization of the private: are the diva's breast cancer or Senna's death public vicissitudes or private ones?l And how can one touch the porn star's body.'s vicis- situdes at once so disquieting and comic is the fact that a public event par excellence-a trial-is presented instead as an absolutely private occurrence in which the courtroom borders on the bedroom. how is it possible that it rises now to the surface of conscience only thanks to the interior vicissitudes of some individuals and in the form of repentance. rather. say. What exactly did the inhabitants of the camps. In this sense.as far as the camps are concerned. live through? Was it a political-historical event (such as." it is.

constimtional state. Never has an age been so inclined to put up with anything while finding everything intolerable. One of the reasons why Italians are silent today is certainly the noise of the media. for example. one realizes that what is intolerable in the end is only that human bodies be tormred and hacked to pieces. the media establishment apparently dissociates itself from the regime of which it is an integral part so as to govern and direct the general discontent lest it mrn itself into revolution. The very people who gulp down the unswallowable on a daily basis have this word-intolerttble-ready-made on their lips every time they have to express their own opinion on whatever problem. as if they were spying on it while motionless in front of a large television screen. I still remember the paralyzing impression that the word In This Exile . democracy. As far as the majority ofItalians are concerned.5 >- " 0 W I >- One hears something being continuously repeated in different quarters: that the simation has reached a limit. You will be able to reply to the unbearableness of that silence only by means immanent to it. apart from that. As soon as the ancien regime began to crumble. you will not be able to resort to any tradition and you will not be able to avail yourself of any of the words that sound so good: freedom. Thus. that the revolution has already happened). even though up to that day they had been the main organizers of consent to the regime. that things by now have become intolerable. Only that when someone acmally risks giving a definition. whenever you try to speak. are the politicians and the press that want to guide change in such a way that in the end nothing really changes. human rights. thereby impeding that facts would follow the words that had been recovered slowly and with much effort. Remember that. as many newspapers have been doing for months.~ 0 >~ 0 124. Those who repeat this more than anybody else. It is not always necessary to simulate an event. and hence circnlate and grow throngh daily conversations and exchanges of opinion. the press and television unanimously revolted against it. they literally silenced people. and that change is necessary. it suffices to anticipate not only facts (by declaring. progress. they seem to be watching the intolerable in silence. but also citizens' sentiments by giving them expression on the front page of newspapers before they mrn into gesmre and discourse. You will have to remain faithful to that inexplicable silence. But what exactly is unbearable today in Italy? It is precisely this silence-that is. as happened in Timisoara. one can put up with just about anything. You will have to try and describe the intolerable without having anything with which to pull yourself out of it. You will not even be able to show your credentials of representative of Italian culmre or of the European spirit and have them connt for anything. One of the not-so-secret laws of the spectacular-democratic society in which we live wills it that. and hence that. the fact that a whole people finds itself speechless before its own destiny-that is above all unbearable. however. whenever power is seriously in crisis.

all conspiracies in our time are actually in favor of the constituted order. We Italians live today in a state of absolute absence of legitimacy. And a reassuring frustration. they act solely as an instance of punishment and revenge. according to whom the judges who were indicting him were actually conspiring against themselves. now the very same eyes watch with curiosity how a constituted power might govern the passage to a new constitution without passing through a constitutive power. for what was being lost in terms of legitimacy. In the 1980s.U) o z ~ o al 126. while forgetting to add that this was done for the good of the country and for the security of its public institutions. for they actively collaborated in the experiment) the way that a well-aimed politics of terrorism could possibly function as the mechanism of relegitimation of a discredited system. of course. Nowadays. Just as the governments and services of the entire world had observed then with attentive >- '" o W J: >-- participation (and that is the least one can say. those who spoke of conspiracies were accnsed of Oldthink. against the constitution and public order. This means. The legitimation of nation-states. The statement released by the head of a large democratic party. This accusation is imprecise only with regard to one detail: as someone already has punctually pointed out. and the most evident symptom of such a crisis was precisely the obsessive attempt to make up in terms oflegality. had been in crisis everywhere for some timc. is more impenetrable and yet unwittingly pro- In This Exile . that Italy is becoming once again the privileged political laboratory that it had been during the 1970s. it is the president of the republic himself who publicly denounces the state secret services before the whole country as having conspired. Naturally. and as continuing to conspire. the feeling of those who have been dispossessed of their own expressive faculties. much like the Erinyes of Greek tragedy that have ended up in a comedy by mistake. The judicial powers have been spared such ruination only because.7 >-~ o SHAME as a banner headline on the front page of one of the regime's major dailies made on me the day after the authorization to proceed legally against Bettino Craxi was not granted. There is no power or public authority right now that does not nakedly show its own emptiness and its own abjection. And the enormity of such a denunciation is matched only by the brazenness with which the supreme organ of the state admits that its own secret services have made attempts on the life of the citizens. But nowhere has decline reached the extreme limit at which we are getting used to living. through an unprecedented proliferation of norms and regulations. is today the dominant affect in Italy. that is. a feeling at once of reassurance and of frustration. 2 To find in the morning the right word to say ready-made on the front page of a newspaper produces a singular effect. one is dealing here with a delicate experiment during which it is possible that the patient may not survive (and that would not necessarily be the worst outcome). however.

" One used to speak rather of "reason of state"which Botero had defined without hypocrisy: "State is a stable rule over a people and Reason of State is the knowledge of the means by which such a dominion may be founded. and since then we have been witnessing an interminable procession of faces that have been grim in their resolve and determined in their very wavering. in fact. and it gropes its way toward its own end. and the "penitentials" on the other side. It is well known how peremptorily Spinoza bars repentance from any right of citizenship in his Ethics. from the rational to the irrational? Because it would be simply indecent to speak of "reason of state" today."3 What is hidden behind this slippage from reason to sense. The whole question thus turned upon itself right away like a vicious circle." This is the dire voice with which the conscience calls from the shadows nowadays. prove the authenticity of repentance? Camps were soon formed with Peter Abelard on one side. During the terminal phase of the evolution of the state-form. whose only requirement was the contrition of the heart. power looks for one last possibility of well-being in a "sense" that nobody quite understands where it resides and that reminds one of tbe sense of honor in the ancien regime. in fact. for whom the unfathomable interior disposition of the one who repents was not important when compared instead to the unequivocal accomplishment of external acts. In the case of the mafiosi. Repentance. is the most treacherous of moral categories-and it is not even clear that it can be counted at all among genuine ethical concepts. each state organ and service is engaged in a ruthless as well as uncontrollable conspiraey against itself and against every other organ and service. But repentance presented itself right away as a problem already when it began powerfully to permeate Catholic doctrine and morality in the twelfth century. But this is precisely the point at which our time betrays its inconsistency. as if our time did not know any other ethical experience outside of repentance. and-as if from the burning bush-we would hear "only a voice. Today's trials function according to the same logic. But a state tbat has lost its reason and become insane has also lost its senses and become unconscious. Of what are Italians repenting?4 The first to repent were mafiosi and members of the Red Brigades. preserved and extended. the face would appear in shadow so as to make sure that it would not be recognized. which decrees that to accuse one's own In This Exile . It is now blind and deaf. and the second time beeause he has repented of it. Nowadays one often hears journalists and politicians (and in partieular the president of the republic) warning citizens regarding a presumed crisis of the "sense of the state. heedless of the ruination into which it drags its subjects along. How does one. in which external acts had to attest to the authenticity of repentance and internal eontrition had to guarantee the sincerity of the works.9 phetie. The one who repents-he writes-is twice disgraceful: the first time beeause he eommitted an act of which he has had to repent.128.

they were no longer raised high in gestures of invocation-useless emblems of a torture more terrible than fire. it is ethical concepts instead that are being brandished like the lictor's ax. If repentance informs the relationship that Italians have with the good. The truth is that repentance presents itself from the start as an equivocal compromise between morality and the law. who have erected their conceited victories on the misfortunes of the former. And if repentance is their only ethical experience. there truly is no hope. as soon as the discussion gets heated up. But there is no surer index of the irreparable ruination of any ethical experience than the confusion between ethical-religious categories and juridical concepts. the expression "Shame on you!" readily comes in handy. it is also the case that for them there is perhaps still some hope. The large one I saw yesterday near the courthouse had almost all the statuettes of the purgatorial souls with their arms broken off. no. The icons of the souls of purgatory in the streets of Naples. of course. and wherever laws are being made and trials are being conducted. It seems.1 comrades is a guarantee of the truthfulness of repentance and that innermost repentance ratifies the authenticity of the accusation. for these. that repentance has ended up in the courtroom. they likewise have no other relation to the true outside of shame. that the ones who are forced by an inauthentic belief to gamble their whole inner experience on a false concept are truly wretched. the first ones who succeed in using that formula will have truth on their side. On the contrary. is the prelude to repentance. in this strange game that everybody here is busy playing. it is taken for granted that they will not do that. With the help of repentance. and repentance in Italy today is the winning card. people immediately havc legal categories on their lips. however.130. Wherever morality is being discussed today. If it is the case. in fact. But one is dealing here In This Exile . a religion that had ambiguously come to terms with worldly power attempts to justify such a compromise by instituting an equivalence between penance and the punishment of the law as well as between crime and sin. But for the media establishment elite acting as moralists and for the televisual manns it penser. Shame. It is not a coincidence. The mock seriousness with which secular politicians rushed to welcome the entrance of repentance into codes and laws as an unquestionable act of conscience is therefore all the more irresponsible. But none of those who throw shame in other people's faces trulyexpect them suddenly to blush and declare that they have repented. Of what are Italians ashamed? It is striking how frequently in public debates. almost as if it held the decisive argument every time. They were lying on the ground. that. after all. shame dominates their relation to truth. as well as in the streets or in cafes.

however. And the docility is just as astonishing. Those who have felt this silent shame of being human have also severed within themselves any link with the political power in which they live. And it is a shame of this type. Marx would reply that shame already is a revolution. by handing all their savings over to the state in exchange for bonds. Joseph K. as it has been rightly pointed out. This wasand still is-the shame of the camps. the shame of the fact that what should not have happened did happen. shame is the only truth on which judgment might be passed. In a trial in which repentance has been given the decisive role. when confronted with the faces of their hosts and with the self-assured smiles of those "experts" who jovially lend their qualifications to the political game of the media. those who have made themselves stolidly complicitous with the imbalance of the public debt. And there is no so-called democratic state today that is not compromised and up to its neck in such a massive production of human misery. but also that a growing percentage of the citizens of the industrialized societies be marginalized and without a job."5 But what he was referring to was the "national shame" that concerns specific peoples each with respect to other peoples. with one last leap succeeds in getting hold of the shame that will survive him. much as the state of exception is today the normal structure of political power. when watching certain TV shows. now receive the warning blow without batting an eyelash and ready themselves to tighten their belts. In This Exile . in such a way crisis. that we feel today when faced by too great a vulgarity of thought. the Germans with respect to the French.) Nothing is more nauseating than the impudence with which those who have turned money into their only raison d'etre periodically wave around the scarecrow of economic crisis: the rich nowadays wear plain rags so as to warn the poor that sacrifices will be necessary for everybody. When Arnold Ruge would object that no revolution has ever come out of shame. (At the moment when the executioners' knives are about to penetrate his flesh." a shame that in some way or other has tainted every human being.3 0 0- co 0 with a shame that survived those who should have felt it and that has become as objective and impersonal as a juridical truth. demands not only that the people of the Third World become increasingly poor. Primo Levi has shown. that there is today a "shame of being human."' '" z co 0 <n ~ 132. and he defined it as "a sort of anger that turns on itself. having now become permanent. And yet those who have any lucidity left in them know that the crisis is always in process and that it constitutes the internal motor of capitalism in its present phase. And just as the state of exception requires that there be increasingly numerous sections of residents deprived of political rights and that in faet at the outer limit all citizens be reduced to naked life. Such a shame feeds their thoughts and constitutes the beginning of a revolution and of an exodus of which it is barely able to discern the end. Marx still used to put some trust in shame.

134. that the church cunningly manages in the form of the indult and of the penitential remission of sins. Such is the sense of the rule of the law over human life in our time: all other religious and ethical powers have lost their strength and survive only as indult or suspension of punishment and under no circumstances as interruption or refusal of judgment. But what betrays itself here is also the church of Christ's unconditional renunciation of any messianic intention. Hence the paradoxes of messianism. Nothing manifests the definitive end of the Christian ethics of love intended as a power that unites human heings better than this supremacy of the law. That is because here to plead guilty is immediately a universal call upon everyone as an accomplice of everyhody else. in which religion and the law come to the decisive day of reckoning. however. explodes and comes into full view with Craxi's confessions and with the confessions of all those who were in power and governed us up until yesterday.) The task that messianism had assigned to modern politics-to think In This Exile . Nothing is more dismal. This loss of sense. in fact. precisely when they have to abdicate to others who are probably no better than they were. the messianic event marks first of all a crisis and a radical transformation of the properly legal order of religious tradition." Having struck with the law a lasting compromise. but to fulfill it. (The Messiah has no need for such a remission: the "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" is nothing other than the anticipation of the messianic fulfillment of the law. In the Jewish as much as in the Christian and Shiite contexts. The old law (the Torah of creation) that had been valid up to that moment now ceases to be valid. thereby handing the world over to the power of judgment-a power. therefore. (Even the Lord on the Last Day would refrain from pronouncing his sentence if everybody had to be damned. than this unconditional beingin-force of juridical categories in a world in which they no longer mirror any comprehensible ethical content: their being-in-force is truly meaningless. That is because the Messiah is the figure in which religion confronts the problem of the law. which transforms the clearest of sentences into a non liquet. it is not simply a question of substituting for it a new law that would include commandments and prohibitions that would be different from and yet structurally homogeneous with the previous ones. and where everybody is guilty judgment is technically impossible.) The law here retreats back to its original injunction that-according to the intention of the Apostle Paul expresses its inner contradiction: be guilty. the church has frozen the messianic event. which Sabbatai Zevi expressed by saying: "The fulfillment of the Torah is its transgression" and which Christ expressed (more soberly than Paul) in the formula: "I did not come to destroy the law.5 The punishment for those who go away from love is to be handed over to the power of judgment: they will have to judge one another. much as the countenance of the guardian of the law in Kafka's parable is inscrutable. but obviously.

>- '" o W I >- 136. If. however. this defeat also involved dishonor. The revolution used to have to compromise with capital and with power. the zeal with which the head of a party-that up until not too long ago used to call itself Communist-saw fit to reassure bankers and capitalists by pointing out how well the lira and thc stock exchange had reeeived the blow is. that the complete corruption of minds has taken that hypocritical form and that voice of reason and common sense that today goes under the name of progresslvlsm. as is certainly the case. There was dishonor because the defeat did not conclude a struggle over opposite positions. in fact. Perhaps so. the first thing he did was to summon the notables who constituted the old regime's backbone and to inform them that under the new sovereign their privileges and functions would remain untouched. but rather decided only whose turn it was to put into practice the same ideology of the spectacle. the political parties that define themselves as "progressive" and the so-called leftist coalitions have won in the large cities where there have been elections. What concerns us here. In a recent book. One is struck by the victors' excessive preoccupation with presenting themselves as the establishment and with reassuring at all costs the old economic. one has to reconcile everything with its opposite. the motto that has guided the strategy of progressivism during the march toward its coming to power slowly took shape: one has to yicld on everything. Jean-Claude Milner has clearly identified and defined as "progressivism" thc principle in whose name the following process has taken placc: compromising. just as the church had to come to terms with the modern world. inappropriate. the working class with capital. It is since then. is only the evolution that has taken place beginning with the end of the 1970s. that is because it marked the conclusive moment of a process of involution that had already bcgun many years ago. democracy with the electoral machine. bad conscience and abjuration with memory and loyalty. Today. intelligence with television and advertisement. One might see in this nothing other than a necessary consequence of a betrayal that had already begun in the ycars of Stalinism. freedom of specch with the state of the spectacle.7 a human community that would not have (only) the figure of the law-still awaits the minds that might undertake it. political. Since here one is not dealing with the military conquest of a foreign country. the environment with industrial development. The desire to be the establishment will ruin them just as it ruined their predecessors. When Napoleon defeated the Mamluks in Egypt. The victory of the right in the 1994 political elections was a defeat for the left. This much is certain: these politicians will end up being defeated by their very will to win at all eosts. science with opinion. 6 It is important to be able to distinguish between defeat and dishonor. which does not imply that because of this it was also a dishonor. Thus. and religious powers. and of enterprise. of the market. to say the least. In This Exile .

The nameless animal that is the protagonist of the story-mole. whose place was in the home. We have endured such an impotence as best we could while being surrounded on every side by the din of the media.138. will just need to apply and develop so as to achieve its own goals without difficulty. He answered that. experiences that once used to be called political suddenly were confined to our biological body. The left has actively collaborated in setting up in every field the instruments and terms of agreement that the right. As Foucault once wrote. and human beings as political subjects. of what is enslaved and what is free. bumping against solitude and speechlessness over and over again precisely tllere where we were expecting company and words. it was above all the short story "Der Bau" (The burrow) that had made an impression on him. And while the citizens of goodwill are being called on to keep watch and to wait for phantasmatic frontal attacks. This has meant-why not admit it? . or human being-is obsessively engaged in building an inexpugnable burrow that instead slowly reveals In This Exile . between natural life and political life. of another word. But it is by starting from this uncertain terrain and from this opaque zone of indistinction that today we must once again find the path of another politics. I would not feel up to forgoing this indistinction of public and private. I remember that in 1966. of the little he had read. between what is incommunicable and speechless and what is speakable and communicable. Classical politics used to distinguish clearly betwcen zoe and bios.9 Today one can see what such a strategy has led to. of outside and inside. We have had to grow used to thinking and writing in such a confusion of bodies and places. of what is speechless and what has words with which to speak. of zoe and bios. for any reason whatsoever. once in power. of biological body and body politic. of what is need and what is desire.experiencing absolute impotence. It was exactly in the same way that the working class was spiritually and physically disarmed by German social democracy before being handed over to Nazism. I asked Heidegger whether he had read Kafka. between human beings as simply living beings. Well. Living in the state of exception that has now become the rule has meant also this: our private biological body has become indistinguishable from our body politic. we are animals in whose politics our very life as living beings is at stake. which were defining the new planetary political space in whim exception had become the rule. and private experiences present themselves all of a sudden outside us as body politic. while attending the seminar on Heraclitus at Le Thor. fox. We can no longer distinguish between zoe and bios. It is here that I must find my space once again-here or nowhere else. of another body. whose place was in the polis. we no longer have any idea of any of this. between our biological life as living beings and our political existence. the right has already crossed the lines through the breach that the left itself had opened up. Only a politics that starts from such an awareness can interest me.

their naked life. and a work proper to man. workless [inoperoso] : For just as the goodness and performance of a flute player. man as man has none. the totalitarianisms of our century truly constitute the other side of the Hegelo-Kojevian idea of an end of history: humankind has by now reached its historical telos and all that is left to accomplish is to depoliticize human societies either by unfolding unconditionally the reign of oikonomia or by undertaking biological life itself as supreme political task. And this is the trap we live in today. (This is the true political meaning of Averroism. a being-in-the-act. are thought to reside in his proper function [ergonl. to the radical being-without-work of human communities. but was left by nature a good-for-nothing without a function [argos]?? Politics is that which corresponds to the essential inoperability [inoperosita] of humankind. might In This Exile .1 itself to be a trap with no way out. which links the political vocation of man to the potentiality of the intellect. a being-operative.140. or any kind of expert. But as soon as the home becomes the political paradigm-as is the case in both instances-then the proper. and generally of anyone who fulfills some function or performs some action.) Over and beyond the planetary rule of the oikonomia of naked life. of nationalism and imperialism-is to misunderstand completely the nature of such experiments. Aristotle wonders whether there is such a thing as an ergon. because it was a question of turning into and undertaking as a task the factitious existence of peoples pure and simple-that is. a sculptor. Beginning with the end of World War I. In this sense. in fact. Is it then possible that while a carpenter and a shoemaker have their own proper function and spheres of action. so the goodness and performance of man would seem to reside in whatever is his proper function. this essential potentiality and inoperability. or whether man as such might perhaps be essentially argos. without a work. more extreme stakes here. beings of pure potentiality that no identity or vocation can possibly exhaust. There is politics because human beings are argos-beings that cannot be defined by any proper operation-that is. that is. it is evident that the European nation-states no longer have any assignable historical tasks. There are other. in the last instance. the issue of the coming politics is the way in which this argla. and the innermost factitiousness of existence run the risk of turning into a fatal trap. what is most one's own. In a crucial passage of the Nicomachean Ethics. To see the great totalitarian experiments of the twentieth century only as the continuation and execution of the last tasks of nineteenth-century nation-states that is. But isn't this precisely what has happened in the political space of Western nation-states? The homes-the "fatherlands" that these states endeavored to build revealed themselves in the end to be only lethal traps for the very "peoples" that were supposed to inhabit them.

trans.') in DlI chfltiment dans la cite: Supplices corporels et peine de J110rt dans Ie J11077dc antique (Rome: L'Ecole franc. 4. p. we can understand one another. l'I. all the peoples of Europe (and. at last.ntial Politic. 15.: Stanford University Press. pp. perhaps. often an institutional apparatus such as the state.. _Marsilius of Padua." Every people has had its particular way of going bankrupt. 1998). on the other hand.(. M. Potenza can often resonate \vith implications of potentiality as well as with decentralized or mass conceptions of force and strength. P. . In the Italian . Daniel Heller-Roazen-and to retain the earlier translation of nuda vita as "naked life" to be found in Cesare easarino's translation of Agamben's essay "Forma-di-vita" (see "Form-of-Life" in the collection edited by Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt. 151-56). potmza (lnd potere (which roughly correspond to the Philosophy of History. 2. since then. 1996]. We have decided not to follow Daniel Heller-Roazcn's translation of nuda vita as "bare life" -see Homo Sacer: Sovereign P07vcr and Bare Life (Stanford. for other people. in the end. or.. Walter Benjamin) "Theses on the . '" o w o Translators' Notes x >-- E. ~ The English term power corrcsponrls to nvo distinct terms in Italian. French prdm717cc rind pmlT'oir. trans. p. We live after the failure ofpeoples. Press. la mort. for the French it meant Vichy. the way in which politics might be nothing other than the exposition of humankind's absence of work as well as the exposition of humankind's creative semi-indifference to any task. 1984). As the Alexandrian poet might say today with a smile: "Now.ldiral Thought in Italy [M-inne(lpolis: University ofMinnesot. and the Latin pntcrttia and potestas) respectively). and certainly it does make a difference that for the Germans it meant Hitler and Auschwitz. The Dcfensor of Peace.' Rf.t!/. This term appears also in the subtitle of Giorgio Agamben's BOl1ZO Saeer: it poten SO<YflnO elf! mf{lf! . See Yan Thomas. 257." I believe that one of the few things tbat can be declared with certainty is that. "Vita n('risquc pntc. it meant the quiet and atrocious 1950s.): Le pere.ed capacity." (1995) Preface 11. instead." in J!/717JJin{!tio1l.\'. and might only in this sense remain integrally assigned to happiness. 1989). the German Macht and VC17J1iig("f7. translation mooified. in other words. 1956). Potert.'" o z co o ro >-co be undertaken witbout becoming a historical task. A Pot(. Calif. all the peoples of the Earth) have gone bankrupt.. the poet told him: "You English cannot understand us: we Greeks went bankrupt a long time ago. The term llaked life translates the Italian nuda vita. because there is no longer a people to undertake it. Perhaps it is not even accurate to define it as a task. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books. because you too have gone bankrupt. trans. refers to the might or authority of an already structured and centraliz. for the Spanish it meant a civil war. what is crucial for us is only the new task that such a failure has bequeathed us. and for the Serbs it meant the rapes of Omarska. just as Apollinaire would say of himself: "I lived in the time when the kings would die. Alan Gewirth (New York: Harper and Row. Cavafy in Alexandria.'ita) as well as throughout that work. la cite.'>. Forster relates how during one of his conversations with C.aise de Rome.

Edition p.~ Sciences Sociffles rips RtligiollS et ArrbiZ'c. where he died in early 2000. 15-16. the Clinicifln: The Tuesday Lessons (New York: Raven Press. cited in Guy Debord. In the early 1990s. Sovereign Police 11. 1 (1943): 77. 66-67. Rinehart and Winston.. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press. trans. Pl'. Tomas Hammar. 1992-94) de "La Societe du Spectacle" (Paris: Editions Champ Libre. 273·-74. Aristotle. DC1J!ocmcy flnd the Nation State: Aliens. p. 1990). 5.yitz.. Here Agamben is referring to the controversial phenomenon of pclltitis7Jlo) which ignited public opinion in Italy throughout the I 990s.. 9. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schocken Books. Harty Zohn (Montreal: Engendra Press. We have translated this passage from Ayrtan Senna--Brazilian race-car driver and charismatic public icon-died in Italy during the San Marino Grand Prix at the age of thirty-four. 1971). Ibid. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schocken Books. in which he uses the English tenn. Pl'.l1O'[~clllcnt-J1J!agc. Kent (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1984). Giovanni Botero. Les princcs tin jargon. "Preface to Capital Volume One.1edawar. 2~ Bettino Craxi was head of the PSI (Italian Socialist Party) from 1976 to 1987." in In These Great Times. "We Refugees. 312. 1. Becker-Ho. itfl!iClll7C P1·~face it la q7li1tric7Jlc fditir!1l In This Exile (Italian Diary. Notes on Gesture original. trans. ChaTCot. 3. 4. Ari. 11." in Reflcrtim7. On 2~ Walter Benjamin) "TheologicoPolitical Fragment. Les prince. in The Complete 1. See Karl Marx. 1.Ticomachean Ethics) trans. 51. and fled Italy for Tunisia. Gilles de la Tourette. as well as Italian prime minister from 1983 to 1986.fifJlogiq71cS mr la 71um:bc (Paris: Bureaux de progres." in Rejltrtiom. Fran~ois De Vaux de Foletier. same as that used for bank transactions (and thus "naked life" becomes here the cash reserve contained in accounts such as the "forms of life"). The Star ofRede'lnp- tion.~totlc to Znns (Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. Ibid. Franz Roscn7\veig.s (Paris: Gerard Lebovici. 682-83.c: FOlllldfltiollS of the Critique of Political E(()llomy. 1977). J. 3. 6. trans. Hannah Arendt. See Gilles Deleuze.' de Sociologic dc" Religif)J1s 60: 1 (Paris. 10. Dante Alighieri. Gershom Scholem. Part II of trans." in Lenin and Philomphy. Grrmdris. 6." which is the phrase Agamben llses in the preceding section of this essay and which will be a crucial refrain in several of the other essays included in this volume. pp. p. 1986). p. 2:. Beyond Human Rights 5. 1977). trans.mn:ll) was accused of corruption. 3. Les Tsigal1es dlllls ttlllcicllJlC Fmncej cited in Alice Beckel'-Ho. Hannah Arendt..]. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton.miz(ltions who decide to disavow their beliefs publicly and to name other members oftheir org<1nizations during police 1. 4. What Is a People? (fl1[JI7!C!ltic) 3.Higmtiol1 (Brookfield. 1951). In English in the original. Martin Nicolaus (New York Random House. Pentiti-"turncoats. Holt. Languages and Peoples 4~ Louis Althusser. Ben Fowkes (New York: Vintage Books. "the ones who have repented"are fonner memhers of organized crimc or of left-wing or right-wing political org. "Experimental life" is in English in the 4. Dcniztns. 153. vol. pp. 1987). the Italian as we could not find the original reference. from German into French by Stefan Moses. "Une lettre incdite de Gershom Scholem a Franz Rosen7'i. 1986). 1983). Hallo (New York: Translators' Notes . Varro.: Princeton University Press. Vt. Pl'. Aristotle. On the Soul. 1963). lind Citizens in a World of IntCI7l(!tiOl1tl! . 8. pp. "In These Great Times. Schneider (Indi(lnapolis: Liberal Arts. Pl'. 1985): 83-84. "state of emergency" is translated as "state of exception. 6-7. and espcci:llly pp. Brace. p. The terminology in the original is the pby.. The Face The Origin. 5. Waley (New Haven: Yale University Press.: Gower. Cincmfl 1: The . William W.J. 1. 1986). Roland G." or. Marginal Notes on Commentaries on the Sociefy 01 the Specta. ~fTotfllitflrifllliJ711 (New York: Harcourt. 1976).'oll1tio71 (New York: Viking Press. and D. p. he was at the center of the Tlfl7gc71topnli sc.A1ed::nvar (Inc! Jean J\. Peter . P. Martin Ostwald (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill Educational Pllblishing. 165.) trans." trans. 1979). j the Latin Language. On 2.. Karl Kraus. p. 1970). but see the whole essay. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. trans. Walter Kallfmrmn (New York: Vintage Books. pp. 81 and 88. trans. for example. p. literally. 1886). 290-95. pp. 70. 1957). Karl Marx. The reference is to Alice Becker-Ho. Karl von Cla-use.\"cig: A propos de notre langue. 22-23. 1993). The Gay Science. 287. 1990). Une confession. 1I~ World-Government trans. du jargon: Un facteur neglige flUX origines de l'argot de. 1956). 266-98. 1974)." Jlrnomb Journal. W-alter Benj:lmin) "Critique ofVio!cnce. 245. See. 1. Friedrich Nietzsche.144. Notes on Politics 11M 4. 70. p. p. Imperifllism. N. Herbert W. Les princes du jmgoJl: Un facteur ncglige (Ju:r origincs de l'argot des riffS. Jean-Martin Charcot.r classes dtlllgcrellscsj Edition (!If[Jmcntce (Paris: Gallimard. trans..5 translation of Benjamin's passage. P. ed. 422-23. no. 1973). Capital) vol. 95. Etudes di17iquCJ' et 7. On RCi. 1983). :i~ Works ofAristotle. His death was a highly publicized media evcnt. The Reason of State) trans. Arc/1iI'cs d('. 2. translation modified. p. 50.W' dangerclL':(. Hannah Arendt. 3.cle 5~ 11. This term is taken from a single reference by Marx. trans. 706.

104. 82. Prentice Hall. 6. 83 advertising. 138. N. 64-67. Peter. 64. 129 act/activity. 145n Beckett. 128 Al1dropov. 32. Karl Marx l The Letters of Karl Marx. 137 Badiou.141. 86 Ancrkcnmmg (recognition).lis/. Yuri. 24-25.-35. 91. book 1. 24. 16. 145n ancien regime. 92 ataxia. Saul K. 65.43. 68 Bataille. 93 Apollinairc. Alain. 52 Auschwitz. naked life. 80.Index investigations or tdals in exch:mge for immunity or reduced prison terms. The term c. 98 Adam. 10. p. 145n bioethics. 54. 80. 43-45 . 1460 Armenians) 67 art. 3. 112 Arendt. 19) 25. 143-44n. 64-65. Walter.69 Aristotle. G. IS. 70. 85. 5. 49.. 56 Benjamin. 1979). 87.. 80. 114 bios. 10. trans. 21.69 bad conscience. Aristotle. argos.20. 45. 114l 141 awakening. 96 Althusscr. Alice. See also life. 139. 144n. 56 Babel. 91. Hannah.J.114. 94 appropriation. 95. 125. 142 Basques.1J1cJJt is in English in the original.. Martin Ostwald (IndLmapolis: Liberal Arts Press. 76. 113 hankruptcy. 50 ban. Samuel. 109 Balzac. Georges. 1962). 98. 7 biopolitics. 82.121. 41. 112. trans. ix. 7 biology. Padover (Englewood Cliffs. 10. Abel. Guillaume.fta/. 142 appear. 31 Abelard.mce. 144n argia. 3. 7. Niromoc/. 3. . 141 argot. zoe birth. Honore de. 112 animals. tragicomedy of. 40. 144n. 137 alienation. Louis. 67. 110. p.ul1l Ethics. bios theoreticos. 94. 122l 142 Averroism. 79. Karl. 57. 117 arche. 7 Becker-Ho.

79.. 136 Eichmann) Adolf.22.41. common life. Thomas. 83. 85 Hammar. 57-60.26. 41. 81. 117) 118 freedom. 104 Catalan language. 124.24.80. 44 form-of-life. Frant. Gilles. 68 Hegel. 9. 142 Hobbes. 96-98. 53.A. 43. 59. Adolf. 121-23. 55. 134 GnlfWar. 109. ix. 133 denaturalizatiol1/denationaliz<1tion. 59. 74. 93. 33 Freud. Elias. 82. 64. 95." 22. 95--97. 49. 145n crime/criminals. 7. 111. Mikhail. 58.99. 13 7 capital pnnishment. . 91 civil war.134 Gorbachev. Spanish. 24. 51-53.39 Dante Alighieri.85. 76. 105 consumption. 118. x. 79. biological. 76. 128 consul. Heinrich. of speech. the. 20. 142 economics.136. 86.125 God/gods. 140 honzo sacer. 18. 109. 32 Clauscwir. 117 Ereigni. 16. 84 camera. 89 Capitl". 139 destiny. 37-45. 94 executioner. 3. M. 82. 144n democracy.10. the. 133 city. 145n Cohn. 142 Foucault. 116. 70. 1. 69. the. 5. 144n Diaghilev. 124. 81. 82. economism) 33 Egypt. 139 Heller. 93-94 general will.116 false. 84. 98 Burgundy. 140 Hcidcgger. 40. 145n Derlamtio17 des droits de I'ho7Jl1J!c et d71 citoyen. 89 Index . 123. 116 Greece.142 expression.21-24. 129-30 expcrimcntum linguac.24. 59. 68 dialectic. 86 cab. ethical. 68 Catholic Church. 75-76 Common. 67.112. 132. 116. 142 free use. 100 Deleuze. 5 home. 116-17 enemy. 132. 113 doxa. 84. 97 expropriation. 104. 35 Gaelic language. 57 Europe. 78. 66. 105 (f)fjllillard. 15 commedia dell'arte. C. 117 confes<. 99. 144n Christ. 91-93. 126 ethics. Ill. 93.60 gait. 80. 66. 140 "final solution. 80. Georg Whilhelm Friedrich. 111. 53 Earth.. 127-29. 59. 31. 138 body politic. 69. 82. 22 Heraclirus. 17. 129 fartIl'tJl !oqurndi. 121 exodus..ichel. 4. 129. global. 89 communicability. Martin. 138 France/French. 122.]ean-Martin. 135 C. ix. 9.142 heads of state. Georg. x. 23 de-propriation. 85. 75-76 Dachau.ois de Foletier. 17.114. 142 class struggle. 128. 8-9. Bettina. 82. 105 Bush. 68 Haggadah.111. 6. 74.l. 84. 18. 117 dialectical image. 16. 124 European Union. 103 Gypsies. 105. 96.r. 93. 22. 50 gaze. economic.123.107 crisis. 80. 76 capit:dism) 11. essence of. 140 Hitler. silent.44 Forster. 10. 55-56. 136. 144n death. 106 environment. 138 gesrure. 87 bureaucracy. 33. 54 DeJorio.I.. Isadora. 111 ergon. 87 dissimulation. 95. 56 guilt. 76. Agnes. 68. 91-92. 107 exile. 6. as in<lugural sitc of modernity. 137 French Revolution. 142. 117. 3.54 discourse.l!ists 83. 117-18. 10. 77 Cantor. 134. 54. 92. 34. 69 Craxi. 70. 10. 41. 82. 79. inoperative.89. 96 ends.11. P. 115. 10. 31 Duncan. 94 domination.141.125. 17. thelfalsification. George Herbert. 132 experience! experirncntwl!. spirit of. 86 cinema. 39. 107 Hebrew lDnf. 93. 56 constituent power. 94 De Vaux.117 extermination.114.ion. 53.25. 110.115. 57.]ean. ancient. 112 contrition. 142 character. 94 camps.116. x. 53-54 citizen. Sergei Pavlovich. 91. 110.132.31. 137 equality. 8 Debord. end of. 138 Botero. 30. Roman. 3S. Giovanni. 86 commodity. 13 8. 133. Sigmund.115. 97 Fascism. 106 emptiness. 110. 107. 82.43 denizens. 139 Himmler. 122 Canetti. 100 desire.64. Duke of. 55. 54 fatherland. 83. 31. 94-100. 73. 75. 134 conspiracy.if> z o o => CD ~ 148. 86 grammar.9 o Bodin. 92. 79 C07J1ment/fries all tbe Society of the Spectade. 32. 105 face.17 exposition. 51. 135 Christianity/Christians. 74. 63-66. 8. 37. 133 Crystal Palace. 93. 135 Cavafy.69. 106 Germany/Germans. 22. 23 eyes. 134 ethos. 115-17.l'uage. 4. 21 dc-identification.16. 145n bourgeoisie. 11. 86. 112 history. 95. 41 Hn Yaobang. 45. 126. 53 dialect. 14411 happiness. 30. 109. 49. 95. 12. 141 Erinyes. Edward Morgan. 85. 23.30 body. 97 Charcot. 84 commnnity. 68 gag. 110 genocide. 42. 115 j commllnication. 134. 18.Mr.r. Tomas. 117 compcanncc. 110. 94. 95 Dumont. 97. 117 constellation. 74.95. 87. 121. 69. 34. 35. 77. 25. Guy. 39 historicity. 24. Karl von. 129 Coqucluchc. 125 dissent. 77.

world. 19. See also bios. 4.nnr. 81. 79. 138. 88. naked life.43.14 Justice. 25. 67 Kuwait. 1. Antonio.<tion of. 136 nation. 77.13 j\1achado. 38. 16. See also bios. 17. political.A"icniJ7({s. 10. 80 Pascali. 77. 134 loyalty. 18-21. 82. 104. 94. 139 }''/bJCmo.13. 116. 145n. 84. shame of being. 86.11. 76-77. sovereign. 137 idea. 105. 13S. 8. Etienne Jules. See ({/so practice. 117. international 110.88. 114. 134 ]ugcnd. 115 immigration/immigrants) 23. the. 141 Omarska.135. Karl.llc) 54 messianism) 33. 86 polis. 114. 26.114. 81 Levi.95.69. 140 Kraus. 135. 42. 99. racial.20. 93 incomllllmicahle.11. 87. 34. 11~ 112. . 104. 122 indistinction. 55 monarchy. 11~ 117. zoe Nancy.141 pleasure.121. ix.88. Baron de. 139 indult. Alc'{.113. 116~17 interiority.C. 64.94. 110 inoperativelinoperahility.83.1xis police. 67-70 Jcrus:llcm. 91.93.84. 58. 75 Ladino Llnguagc. police. human. 60 poiesis. 115. 114. 34.!).85. 122. 112. 128 A1allannc. being of. . 22. 16 Marey. natural.87 image.1 Kafka. 63. 12. 1. ] 36 Italy/Ito lians. 56. 103. 113 morality. Franz. 21 nature. 94. . 138 Index . 85 JlO7110S) 37.42. 11.114 photography. pr. 96. 139 Kant. x. 7.25. 81. 142 open. 42 impotence. 106 journalists.05 left.41--44. 140.76. 11. 107.59. 103 identity. 11411 media. 144n i\1cd. 122 phenomcn.41. 104. llO. . 97. 92 pnssivity.. international. 144n. 18. 125. modern. 18.34. the. 75 penitance. end of.41.43. 130 intolerable. 98 Paxton. Sir Joseph. 6. 146n mask. 25. 55 law.74. 132 lictor. 7. 126 Leninism. coming. 33.23-25. 58 immanence. 22. 136 man. 133. 140.1. 12. social. Charles de Secondat.til) .44. Abraham. 58.1-66. 53. 127 Palestinians. alienation of. 93 Mobius strip. Friedrich. 80. 3-9. Stefan. x. ix. 112. 4. 112. St6phlme.0. 122~23. Roman.96. zone of.66. 56 logos. 67. 85 Pardes. 110. 109. 5.25. 93. 110.141. 54 paradise.65-68. 125.43-45 nothingness) 84. See aha right! rights hypocrisy..32. 91 outside.84. EedwerdJ. state and event of.93. 78.122. 86 A1ontcsquien. Peter. 76.97. lOS.118 Las . 95 i'flMgO. 59. prison.1. 139 Nietzsche.1 human/human beings/humankind.42. 70. 16. 70.116. 53 passion. 85. 110 nation-state. 85. political will. the. 112. totaJitarinn. 59. 6S Italian Communist Party (P. 84 judgment.140-41. the.22. 93 planetaIy.95.135 people. extermination of. 16. 135. 10. Erwin.32. x. 136. 138. 25 knowledge. R8. 85.63. 59 Milner. 124 iron curtain.'mdre. 68 language. 55 j need. 122. 138 politics. 3. 133 modernity/modern. 82. 13 7 mime.1) 56 philosophy. 95. 113. 65. . 56. 19. .l). 68 litigatio. 136.132.112.1.82. 30 linguistics. 81 Israel. 134.113. 116 Napoleon. 134. 9.82. Giovanni.65. See also state native. of.112.60. 11 '\fuybridge. 42 . 81. Carl Gustav. 38. 98 mcans/mediality.42. rule of. 122. Primo. private. 67. 1.92.116. linguistic nature of. 106. 130. 134. 44. 77.15.132. system of. 84. 121. 58 misery. the. 143n Marx. ix.Machiavelli) Niccoio. 81 naked life.24 Jews. 83 Kojeve. 17. 117 person. Nuremherg la\VS. 16. apprnpri.92. l32 human rights. Jean-Luc. 117 Lumiere. 103 jargon. 16.10.96.116-18 l\1cda\yaT. 8~9.19. 51. 59. 113.67. III NazislNazism. state. nonstatist.97 modesty. Louis. 110. secret. 66. . 96. 103. 145n nihilism. 53 market.75.139.110. 138 legitimacy.13 Jung. life. 142. 139 improper. 124. 1. p1:111(. .79. 6.30-35. 82. 79. the 13 7 IVTarsilins ofP"dun. 112. 67 Panofsk'Y. 98. llO life. public. 135 inc1llStrial revolution. 141 intellect!intcllcctu:llity. 11. life. 7. 121-42 ius belli. 42-45.35. 117 impudence. zoe Lincoln.Jean. 58 poetry. 43. SO. 106. dwelling in. political.87. 135 metal"ngnnge. 145n Kurds. 1.86. 60. 57. Karl. 144n. ImmanlleC 59 Klein bottle. 83 parody. Jean-Claude. 1!3 Mamluks. 94.16 ideology. police operation. the. 112 love. 130 Moses. 85.150.11. ix.07.00 order. 145n multitude. happy. 42. 64. 74 mafiosi. 114.29. 93.17. European. 67 labor. 135.142.1 oikollomill. 6. 25 Mona Lisa.1.35. 95. intelligence. 143n. 60. 4. 8. 68-70. 97.

Ludwig.152. 60. 135 same. 86. 131 rabbis. of speech. 69 word. 89. 7.22. the. 9.39 Senna. 88. 53 Robespicrrc. 42. 68. 87.97. 95. 49-52. 144n. 105 Third World. the.95.25 Torah. 88. 92. 115. 104. 135 torture.133. 8. 122 weapons. 19. 122. 137 state. 7 racism. Aby. sovereign. 125.Minority Treaties. 87. 38. 140 Tourette.li7JllI/trlJ).80-87.117.10. 76 tnmsccndcncc. 43.MaximiJicn Marie Isidore de. 86. 53. the. /Jentitis71lo). 137 speechlessness.11. 59 trap.3 pornography. sovereign. 78 Situationists. 125 totalitarianism. 53 psychoanalysts. 10. 110. 136. 142 real/realiry. 142 victim. 18 Reichstag. 143n.131. 16. l. 137 proper. 144n trace. 138 right/rights. 8l. 128 refllgees. Franz.117-18 witness. 81.10. capitalistdemocratic.31. 129 Volk.103 Red Brigades. 44. 87. 97.33. the. life of. 83. 122 public opinion. 109. Marcus Terentius. 25. 113 subject. 88. -109.16. 6. 52 sacred. 105. 98.106 Index . 94. 5 practice. 124. spectacular.86. 99 sincerity. end of the. 91.80. 88. 83 sentence. 137 territory. 95 United States. 11. 122 Talmlld. 109 spcctade. 135 shock. 87 socialism. 105 West. 6. Carl. 30 Universal Exposition: London (1851).11. 5. 88. nonstate. 82-85 Shijte. 5. 104 Saint Paul. x. 106. 97. 22. 145n secret. defined. ix. Gilles de la. 97 working class. 137 right. 16.112. Il2 rule. 122. classless. 144n Vichy.139. 81. 92. 68.126. 109. 95. 93. state power. 92 Sacks. 113 Society of the Spertacle.x. 113. 139 soundtrack. 30 Rom language. 97 voice. 86 rape. lOS visage. Rainer Maria. 69 violence.103-7. 112. 85. 125 topos/topological. Marcel. lmiversal. 76.113. 4. 92 satire. 13 0. 95. 81 wbtcvcr singtllarity. ] 45n Schutzhflft.131 tyranny. 88. 35. 123 postmodern theorists.103. 89 tics. 97. 106. 113. 97. 137 World War J. 145n Ruge.138. 43. 95 secret services. 9l. 121 suspicion. 127 Sefirot. 57. 104. 93. 64 Romania. 75 Universal Judgment. 123. 132. x. 115. 86. 112. 125 . 78 value (cxch:mge and llse). 74. constitutional.139 threshold. 116. 104. . 12. 109. 8l. 129 situation. 110 potentiality/possihility. 23. 111.S.21. Baruch. See also nation-state state of emergency/state of exception. 7. 81. 33-34 society. 83. Arnold. 81. 95. 80. progressivism. 7 television. as rule.73. 57. consurncr. 78 socia) bonds.132 Shekinah.fi71l1!i({crl!7Jl. See also civil war Warburg. 92 revolution. 24. 75. common. 37 Villon. See also human rights Rilke. 123 progress.104. 128. 125.141. 33 power. 74.78. 121. Gershom. 122 Wittgensteil1. 77.140 Proust. 97.38-41. 54 Waterloo. 100. 80 solitude. 6. 40. 69. 77 Schmitt. state-form.S. 19. 51 Sieyes. 85 Trlllgcntopoli. democratic. 87 revelation. 51 Timisoara. 136 Soviet Communist Party. 145n tcchnosciencc. 123. 78 Wannsee Confcrence. . 127 theory.21-22. III Tian<lnmcn. ancient. sense of. 134. 82. 128. 106 war. 115.112. 139 Spinoza. Paris (1867). totalitarian.34 Walpurgis Night.11. 134 Serbs. 11 things. 80.110. 128. 98.the. 70 truth.42. 99 resistance. 124. 117 Satan. 56. 9. Seefl/so power poverty. 4. 44 terrorism. 14311. 81 Rome. 17 trials.24. See also poiesis praxis. 11. 104 Rosenz\ycig.79. 113 survivallsllrvivors. 99 simulation. 133. 93 Third Reich. 17. 8. 9. 30 silence. 99 simlllt:meity (. Rabbi Akiba. 129 Stalinism. 15-17. ix repentance (pcntiti. defined. 83. 124. 110 punishment. 94. 142 shame. 89. 57. 86. 117 utopia. 13 2 troubadors.43. Oliver. 133 thought/thinkjng. 76 Varro. 112. 128-31. III Scholem. 140 treaties. 117 private. Constitution of the. 109. 77-78 use. 88. Frall~ois. Paul. 139 Sahbath. 137. to kill. 98 United Nations. 84 public. 85 Rabinow. 9. 60 sovereignty. 124. 59 rcsemhhmce (similiwdo). political. Il2.58. 123. 76. 123. 110. 42. 82.44. 16.110-15. 134 purgatory. 98. 145n republic. 98. 113. Ayrtan. III sacrifice. 86 res gesta. 94. international organizations for. 33. reason of. 81 religion.39.104.

Stanzas (1992). life. including Language aud Death (1991). naked life zones d'attcntc) 42 zoology. Many of his works have been translated into English. Sabbatai) 135 Zionism. 32. 139. See also bios·. 3 Giorgio Agamben is professor of philosophy at the University of Verona. 44 Zevi. 3.5. Cesare Casarino is assistant professor of cultural studies and comparative literatllre at the University of Minnesota.writing l 13 9 xenophobia. former territories of. 68 zoe. all published by the University of Minnesota Press. . 23 Van Thomas. 20. Vincenzo Binetti is assistant professor of Romance languages and literatures at the University of Michigan. 143n Yiddish language. 138. . 68 Yugoslavia. and The Coming Cmmmmity (1993). ix.

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