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Means without End

Means without End: Notes on Politics

Giorgio Agamben
Vincenzo Binetti
Cesare Casarino
Volume: 20
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Means without End
    Book Description:

    In this critical rethinking of the categories of politics within a new sociopolitical and historical context, the distinguished political philosopher Giorgio Agamben builds on his previous work to address the status and nature of politics itself. Bringing politics face-to-face with its own failures of consciousness and consequence, Agamben frames his analysis in terms of clear contemporary relevance. He proposes, in his characteristically allusive and intriguing way, a politics of gesture-a politics of means without end. Theory Out of Bounds Series, volume 20

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8858-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PART I

    • ONE Form-of-Life
      (pp. 3-13)

      THE ANCIENT Greeks did not have only one term to express what we mean by the wordlife. They used two semantically and morphologically distinct terms:zoē,which expressed the simple fact of living common to all living beings (animals, humans, or gods), andbios,which signified the form or manner of living peculiar to a single individual or group. In modern languages this opposition has gradually disappeared from the lexicon (and where it is retained, as inbiologyandzoology,it no longer indicates any substantial difference); one term only—the opacity of which increases in proportion to the...

    • TWO Beyond Human Rights
      (pp. 15-27)

      IN 1943, Hannah Arendt published an article titled “We Refugees” in a small English-language Jewish publication, theMenorah Journal. At the end of this brief but significant piece of writing, after having polemically sketched the portrait of Mr. Cohn, the 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...

    • THREE What Is a People?
      (pp. 29-35)

      ANY INTERPRETATION of the political meaning of the termpeopleought 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—from politics.

      The Italian termpopolo, the French termpeuple,and the Spanish termpueblo— along with the corresponding adjectivespopolare, populaire, popular— and the late-Latin termspopulusandpopularisfrom which they all derive, designate in common parlance and in the political lexicon...

    • FOUR What Is a Camp?
      (pp. 37-46)

      WHAT HAPPENED in the camps exceeds the juridical concept of crime to such an extent that the specific political-juridical structure within which those events took place has often been left simply unexamined. The camp is the place in which the most absoluteconditio inhumanaever 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...

  5. PART II

    • FIVE Notes on Gesture
      (pp. 49-61)

      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 Hôpitaux de Paris et de la Salpêtrière,” published with Delahaye et Lecrosnier theÉtudes 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 pathology of social life announced by Balzac had produced nothing more than the...

    • SIX Languages and Peoples
      (pp. 63-71)

      BANDS OF Gypsies made their appearance in France during the first decades of the fifteenth century—a period characterized by wars and disorders. They said they came from Egypt and were led by individuals who called themselves dukesin Egypto parvoor countsin Egypto minori:

      The first groups of Gypsies were sighted on the territory of present-day France in 1419.... On August 22, 1419, they appear in the town of Châtillon-en-Dombe; the following day, the group reaches Saint Laurent de Mâcon — six leagues away— led by a certain Andrea, duke of Minor Egypt.... In July 1422, an even larger...

    • SEVEN Marginal Notes on Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle
      (pp. 73-89)

      GUY DEBORD’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 clarifications, 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 factseparatedfrom the text and...

    • EIGHT The Face
      (pp. 91-100)

      ALL LIVING beings are in the open: they manifest themselves 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 beingmanifest. Language is this appropriation, which transforms nature intoface. 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 humans and the very opening in which they hide and stay hidden. The face is the only location of community, the only possible city. And...


    • NINE Sovereign Police
      (pp. 103-107)

      ONE OF 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 nonchalance with which the exercise of a particularly devastatingius belliwas 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). The mostspectacularcharacteristic of this war, perhaps, was that the reasons presented to justify it cannot be put aside as ideological superstructures used to conceal a hidden plan. On the contrary, ideology has in...

    • TEN Notes on Politics
      (pp. 109-119)

      THE FALL 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, and progressivism and the constitutional state on the other. Thought thus finds itself, for the first time, facing its own task without any illusion and without any possible alibi. 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...

    • ELEVEN In This Exile (Italian Diary, 1992-94)
      (pp. 121-142)

      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 communicate what they had lived through, as if they themselves were the first to be seized by doubts regarding the reality 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...

  7. Translators’ Notes
    (pp. 143-146)
  8. Index
    (pp. 147-154)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 155-155)