Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A new Agamben book

As many of you know, I keep an updated thread over at cross-x where I post about new interesting books coming out.
Recently I have been wanting two books by Agamben to come into english translation. The first is, of course, Il Regno E La Gloria (The Kingdom and the Glory), which is the newest installment of the homo sacer series. But the other book I've been wanting to come out is Agamben's version of Qu'est-ce qu'un dispositif (What is an apparatus. To be honest, I don't know what the italian title of this book is). For a couple of reasons, (1) is that this a title of one of Deleuze's great essays on Foucault, and (2) that I believe the thought of the machine is central to all of Agamben's political concepts.

Well, it seems that Stanford University Press will be releasing an english translation of What is an Apparatus and other essays in April.

Happy days.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon

Many of you have probably already seen the viral video of Sarah Palin, after conducting a pardoning of a local turkey, doing an interview while a turkey is slaughtered right behind her.

This, along with thanksgiving in general, seems like a good idea to push everyone to read Magnus Fiskesjö's The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon, the Death of Teddy's Bear, and the Sovereign Exception of Guantánamo from Prickly Paradigm Press. You can download it free from the publisher here,
Like the other titles from PPP, it is short, manifesto style pamphlet/book. It is also extremely insightful, grasping the connection between the annual thanksgiving turkey pardon and biopolitical/sovereign violence.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Some thoughts on Simon Critchley and non-violence

I was at conference recently where Simon Critchley was the keynote. He was funny and engaging, the opening line was "Slavoj Zizek has been telling lies about me." The presentation itself was uneven, and clearly still very much a work in progress. It was also mostly a polemic against Zizek, focusing on their differing views of violence. And, I want to make three points here on Critchley's view of violence both in the speech he gave, and also in Infinitely Demanding.

(1) For some, still unexplained reason, Critchley associates anarchism with non-violence. I don't know why, considering most historical anarchist leaders are not exactly pacifists. Someone got to ask him this question at the speech, and his response was less than satisfying (as a matter of fact, he gave no reason why anarchism was connected to non-violence, and leninism to violence). He argued that there was a difference between (and here I wish I had written down his original terms) individual anarchism and ethical anarchism based on community. And, Critchley is concerned with promoting ethical anarchism. I want to return to this point below.

(2) Critchley was also concerned to change his views on violence since he wrote Infinitely Demanding. He has decided that non-violence cannot be absolute, but rather it has to be a guideline. Non-violence, thou shalt not kill, is not universal just usual, but sometimes an exceptional circumstance demands violence. Critchley is aware that this word exceptional draws to mind Schmitt, but didn't spend any real time answering what the problem might be, here. It seems to me that this brings decisionism in through the back door, and that is probably the worst way to bring decisionism in. If any of you are familiar with William Rasch's book on Schmitt, Sovereignty and Discontents, I think he makes this argument very effectively there. Orders that pretend that the political no longer exists become harder to contest. And remember your Schmitt, it isn't that violent acts are necessary for the political, but that the possibility that violence is necessary is what guarantees the political. Those orders that refuse the violence inherent in the political are all the more violent in trying to defend peace. If non-violence is a guideline, then who decides when the exceptional case presents? Who decides when violence is necessary? If one argues that each individual has the power to decide, than each individual is sovereign. And we are right back to the individualist anarchism, and we have failed to think an ethical anarchism. The question of decisionism needs to be confronted directly.

(3) Critchley also said that the acts of violence must give us shame. Now, as I said above, this talk was in work as he gave it, so I don't know how much importance should given this word "shame," but let's take it seriously for a bit. I'm not sure, first of all, what use shame is in thinking through an ethical system. I feel that shame brings in through the back door idealism. Shame is only a grounding in a ethics, if that ethical system is an idealist one. If Nietzsche teaches us nothing else, one assumes he has taught us this. If the question of decisionism remains with us, so too does a question of idealism.

He might have answers to all of these points, but I would be interested in finding out. The projects of ethical anarchism and non-violence are projects I have a lot of sympathy for, but sometimes sympathy isn't enough.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In praise of Antonio Negri: A joke

I recently picked up a copy of the book length interview of Negri, entitled Goodbye, Mr. Socialism. I've not very far into it, so if anyone has any comments about it feel free to share them. But I wanted to share a little joke on the back cover.

The back cover has at the top a section entitled, "In Praise of Antonio Negri" with two quotations underneath it. The first is from the New Statesman, "One of the most significant figures of current political thought." Fine, nothing remarkable there. The next, however is from Slovaj Zizek, "A guru of the post-modern left." What is truly remarkable is I'm sure that is neither meant as praise by Zizek, nor taken as praise by Negri.

Seriously, that is more humorous than the back cover of Anti-Oedipus with the quotation from the New Republic about how D&G are advancing a metaphor.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Origin of the Camp in Agamben

Why is that Agamben, obsessed with history and genealogy, doesn't ever bother do the history of the camp. He cites the origin, either the colonialism of the British during the Boer War or colonialism of the Spanish in Cuba. But he does nothing to develop this history of the camp as rooted in colonialism.


Eurocentrism might be the right answer, I am trying to find a more complex answer, if one exists.