Let’s consider the example of how the law, which is an abstraction much like the norm, comes to refer to the empirical world and acquires it legitimacy. Outline of an Outline: Karl Marx’s 1845 “Theses on Feuerbach”. As Agamben indicates in the 1989 preface to the English translation of Infancy and History, the key question that unites his disparate explorations is that of what it means for language to exist, what it means that “I speak.” In taking up this question throughout his work, and most explicitly in texts such as Infancy and History, Language and Death, and most recently, The Open, Agamben reinvigorates consideration of philosophical anthropology through a critical questioning of the metaphysical presuppositions that infor… On Giorgio Agamben’s State of Exception Stephen Humphreys* Agamben, Giorgio. Bottom-line: However, although the “original nexus between tumultus and iustitium is still present”, during the Roman Empire, the state of exception and anomie are embodied in the sovereign “who begins to free himself from all subordination to the law and assert himself as legis solutus [unbound by the laws]” (69). Turning to the 13 January 27 BCE edict wherein Augustus defined himself as auctor of the highest standing and declared his intention to restore the republican constitution, Agamben explains precisely how Augustus “surpassed all in authority”. “The ultimate ground of the exception here is not necessity but the principle according to which ‘every law is obtained for the common well-being of men, and only for this does it have the force and reason of law; if it fails in this regard, it has no capacity to bind” (25). In Chapter 2, “Force of Law Without Law”, Agamben critically appraises Schmitt’s theory theory of state of exception/sovereignty in order to develop his conception of the state of exception as an ambiguous zone of indistinction connected to the juridical order. In Foucaultian terminology when sovereignty ended, biopolitics began (Foucault, 142). Turning to the Roman Republic, Agamben examines the “extreme figure of authority” that arises in relation to the senatus consultum ultimum and the iustitium which suspends the juridical order (78-9). Corresponding to the undecidability of nomos and anomie in the living body of the sovereign is the undecidability between state of exception and public mourning in the city. With biopolitics, human life becomes the target of the organizational and institutional power of the State (Foucault, 143). Within this dual structure that characterizes the Western juridical system, the normative element requires the anomic element for its application just as the validation and/or suspension of power is the only way in which authority can assert itself. Not to be conceived as merely occasional and conditional, invocations of a state of exception have come to constitute the basis of modern state power. ISBN: 0-226-00924-6 Abstract This review essay examines in some detail Giorgio Agamben’s recent State of Exception, his These frameworks are also inadequate because they imply a topological structure–i.e., inside/outside–which neither accounts for necessity emergency or the state of exception. The state of exception is an anomic space in which what is at stake is a force of law without law (which should therefore be written: force-of-law).6 Such a force of law, in which potentiality and act are radically separated, is certainly something like a mystical element, or rather a fictio by means of which law seeks to annex anomie to itself (38-9). Law seems able to subsist only by capturing anomie, just as language can subsist only by grasping the nonlinguistic. That state of exception is what ties these systems together and allows Western politics to access the legal anomie without abandoning conventional legal processes (85-86). Agamben argues that “necessity” is the result of the law’s loss of reference to reality (chapter 1) and that the concrete suspension of the sphere of the norm’s application creates the conditions where the norm can once again apply7.  In this way, the state of exception can be understood as the strategy through which law comes to “refer” to concrete reality8. 3) The attempt to ensnare life, a defining characteristic of the juridico-biopolitical-machine, is bound up with a counter-movement (pure means) the objective of which is to forge the conditions of possibility for a realm of human activity that is totally external to the law. In both cases, the conflict seems to concern an empty space: on the one hand, anomie, juridical vacuum, and, on the other, pure being devoid of any determination or real predicate. Agamben develops his theses about the state of exception as a juridical void and pure violence and the possibility of a new historical epoch by tracing the contemporary form of the state of exception and to its paradigmatic articulation as iustitium during the Roman Republic and Empire and establishing its relationship to a dialectic between authority (auctoritas) and power (potestas) which converges under the figure of the absolute sovereign  (Chapter 3, 5 and 6). It is a field of juridical tensions in which a minimum of formal being-in-force [vigenza] coincides with a maximum of real application, and vice versa” (36). The state of exception is the expansion of the executive power to the point where presidential decrees have the force of law, often invoked during “states of siege” or a “state of war.” Through this expansion of executive power, the separation of powers no longer constrains the executive branch. 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