Review of Agamben Il Potere e la Gloria

My colleague Claudio Minca (Royal Holloway) offers a review of Agamben’s latest book:

This is an astounding book that stands to fundamentally transform how we look at all things
economic and also the very ways in which we understand power in the Western tradition.

Agamben inaugurates this exploration by asking two crucial questions: “Why does power
need glory?” and “What is the relationship between power and glory?” By attempting to answer these questions, he claims, we can recover their theological dimension and identify in the relationship between oikonomia and gloria, the inner, intimate structure of the Western governmental machine. He is also very explicit about the fact that this project must be located in the gaps in Michel Foucault’s work on the genealogy of governmentality; indeed, it may allow us to understand the very reasons behind Foucault’s unaccomplished attempt. The shadow that this novel, theoretical `interrogation of the present’ projects on the past, Agamben argues, reaches out well beyond the chronological limits that Foucault assigned to his own research.

This points to one of the fundamental questions in fact for Agamben fans, namely, how much is this derivative of Foucault. Indeed, one major way that Foucault’s work on governmentality was “unaccomplished” was that his life was curtailed. What would be interesting would be a longer examination of the Agamben-Foucault engagement.

Minca is impressed with the end of the book where apparently Agamben finds a void at the center of the “governmental machine,” because in the same way that acclamations of the glory of power in Christian political theology, then it is the media that do the same thing today. And these links between Christian theological politics and government are not accidental.

Yet reading this review 1.5 weeks after at least in the US the (conservative) Christian movement was defeated however, makes me wonder if this book is not already obsolete.

More here (pdf).

One Response

  1. It’s a fairly shocking mistake to assume that secular power is entirely innocent of the governmental theology of Christian monasticism. In fact, the moment governmental became demonic in Foucault’s system (according to Security, Territory, Population and “Omnes et Singulatim”) is not when Christian monasticism developed technologies of ethics and obedience, but when these technologies became obligatory as part of secular citizen participation.

    Agamben’s work is of course excellent, but he still needs to address asceticism more directly if he is to claim it as a response to and continuation of Foucault’s work on biopolitics. It does not appear as if he does this in his most recent book.

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