Giorgio Agamben’s Analysis of the Mechanism of Exclusion or the Logic of Sovereign Power
In Homo sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Giorgio Agamben extends Michel Foucault’s notion of biopolitics to include life, stripped bare, that is placed completely at the mercy of the powers that be. For him, the biopolitical paradigm is no longer the asylum but the concentration camp. Agamben drew the inspiration for this shift from Walter Benjamin, who decades ago had observed that the state of exception favored by the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt had become the rule. Certain strata of the population, in this case the Jewish citizens in Germany, were abandoned by the law while continuing to fall under its control. Agamben examines the extent to which Aristotle gave support to this murderous logic with his considerations on “potentiality to be” and “potentiality not to be.” It is by suspending its “potentiality not to be” (that is, all elements that thwart its selfaffirmation) that absolute Being founds itself. In addition, Agamben dwells on Pompeius Festus’s definition of the outlaw (homo sacer): the one who cannot be sacrificed but who can be killed with impunity. The article concludes with a sketch of the figure of the Messiah (equally borrowed from Benjamin) who is expected to reverse the logic of the law.