Month: March 2011

Links and Such

Today, I’m in Wisconsin, set to give a talk tomorrow on Foucault’s genealogies of power in the mid-70s, but also getting on-the-ground discussions of Gov. Walker’s union-busting and the political movement created to confront it. For now, here are some links:

1. What is it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy? is now taking (horrifying) stories again. Feminist Philosophers also announced a sister site about what’s being done about what it’s like to be a woman in philosophy.

(Here’s one thing being done: New APPS has this post, which is covered in Inside Higher Ed here).

(Also, here’s ideas for not having a gendered conference. I should also note those are good ideas simply for, say, young grad students who happen to have an infant son and a working partner–as I once was. Conferences are still run as if children take care of themselves and men should have no role in it anyway.)

2. No Border Metaphysics has an update on Badiou’s recent lectures at the École Normale.

3. On Monday at Cornell, someone raised the brief letters exchange between Agamben (his letter) and Arendt (her letter). Nothing too special, I should note, in light of Arendt’s astounding letter correspondences.

4. Brian Leiter has this report on another threatened closing of a philosophy program, this time at Greenwich.

5. Speaking of Agamben, here’s a podcast of his recent talk (via Infinite Thought), “What is a Commandment?” which should go well with his recently translated book on the origin of the oath.

6. Nina Power has an article at Stir on “Mastering Masterlessness,” concerning Rancière and Jacotot.

7. Harvard University’s Peter Godfrey-Smith at Academic Minute takes a minute to think about philosophy and the octopus.

8. Shocking news that as the University of Phoenix has begun to try to teach its students anything to get regulators off its back, its stock has dropped.

9. Speaking of Infinite Thought, she posts links to a bunch of interesting podcasts (I’ll presume they’re interesting, since I have to download them still) from CREMP.

10. Buying back in on PIC: Devin Shaw has his PIC conference round-up here. (I wouldn’t say I’m critiquing equality, just certain concepts of it in the name of another equality to come.) Critical Animal discusses PIC here.


And now thoughts on the talk at Cornell

It was a great visit here. The focus of my talk (it was a bit varied, since I wanted to lead it into a confrontation with the logic of deconstruction) was the use of hyperbole in Agamben. While at first that seems a critical take (okay, indeed at points it was), it also provided leverage into talking about language as such in Agamben, which for him means the opening cut at the heart of the human being from reference. Thus, language throws itself out ahead of itself (thus the root of the word in Greek), and eventually in the society of the spectacle we pay attention only to signs as such. And that last claims tells you that I was also interested in how Agamben does operate by hyperbole in the straight-forward sense: provocations thrown out ahead of evidence he provides, yet in a way that meets up  with his depiction of language splitting us off forever from what he calls the “open” in the book of that name. Here’s a bit from the opening of my talk:

Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer volumes (three now published, comprising five books)[1] offer the most prominent and influential accounts of sovereignty in recent Continental philosophy.[2] Agamben’s writings are known for their strikingly apocalyptic—in fact hyperbolic—tone as they mark a coda to two prominent “ends”: the end of metaphysics and with it a certain epoch of being as described by Heidegger, as well as the end of political history, as announced by post-Kojèvian ideologues and feared by those countenancing the denouement of the emancipatory hopes of modernity. For Agamben, any accounting of a non-sovereign politics must confront this double closure, since one would otherwise naively repeat the sovereigntisms of the past. “The only possibility” left for us, he argues, is “to really seize the contemporary” and “to think of it as the end.”[3] This is not a charge for us to choose or not to choose, since this is a task that the time “imposes on us,” even as it presents “extreme danger.” Agamben thus posits that we need to “take seriously…the theme of the end of history as well as the Heideggerian theme of Ereignis as the end of the history of being,” and this also means “thinking the end of the state” as correlative to the “end of the history of Being.”[4] Only “a thought that” can “mobiliz[e] one against the other” is, he argues, “equal to this task” before us. Or, to put it in the pithy Heideggerian phrase, where there is danger, the saving power also grows.[5]

It’s well known that Agamben’s work identifies key moments in the long use and abuse of the concept of sovereignty while attempting an intricate reconciliation of Schmitt’s theory of the sovereign exception with the historical genealogies and archaeologies on offer from Arendt and Foucault. Much is to be gained in reading him on sovereignty and its crucial place in the political. However, the hyperbole often found in Agamben’s writing—narratives that often describe thousands of years and a near infinite series of texts in but a few pages—is not a feature of his work that one could isolate from the central theses of his project. In what follows, I will circle around many of Agamben’s major claims about language, since like Kevin [Attell], I would argue that Agamben’s work must be understood in light of his views of language. While doing so, I’ll have to brush past crucial points—the problem with saying anything about Agamben is that his work cries out for describing everything—that can be elucidated in any ensuing discussion. Moreover, I’ll practice at points a certain hyperbolic strategy that I think is found in Agamben’s work—though perhaps this, too, is hyperbole, one surmises that Agamben never makes a subtle claim when offered a choice of proclaiming the history and destiny of the West—in order to accent the distinction between Agamben’s practice and other critical endeavors. Finally, about my title today: it’s true you will hear barely a word about Rousseau, though in the background here, my view is that Agamben’s work is often best understood as confronting the deconstructed Rousseau underway in Derrida’s Of Grammatology. To put it simplistically and even hyperbolically, one wonders if there’s much distance, in the end, between Agamben’s ultra or meta-historical arché and Rousseau’s hypothetical state of nature, especially when it comes to depicting a language of the pure gesture.

Agamben’s hyperbole, to follow up on this point, derives from his radicalization and critique of Heidegger’s account of language. To be precise: Agamben’s view is that all language is hyperbolic in that is separates itself from its signified, thrown beyond itself, and thus provides the place for the modes of the true and false, the proper and the improper oath.[6] In the precise sense of his own use of the terms: to use language, for Agamben, is to speak sovereignly….

Kevin Attell, who is working on a book on Agamben and his relation to deconstruction, gave a really great response and his questions afterward about the role of the example as it might relate to this logic of hyperbole were perspicuous and suggestive. And my thanks for Lorenzo Fabbri for getting all the details in order, not least making sure (as was scheduled somehow) that the power and heat didn’t go out last night in the A.D. White building in which I was staying.

[1] The volumes, in order, are Homo Sacer I: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1995), Homo Sacer II.i: States of Exception (2003) Homo Sacer II.ii: Il Regno e la Gloria (2007), Homo Sacer II.iii: Il sacramento del linguaggio. Archeologia del giuramento (2009), and Homo Sacer III: Remnants of Auschwitz (1994).

[2] What follows is an adaptation and elaboration of chapter five, “What More Is There to Say? Agamben and the Hyperbole of Sovereignty,” of my The State of Sovereignty: Lessons from the Political Fictions of Modernity (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2011).

[3] Agamben, “Une biopolitique mineure, 18, my emphasis.

[4] Agamben, Means without End, 111.

[5] See Lorenzo Fabbri, “From Inoperativeness to Action: On Giorgio Agamben’s Anarchism,” Radical Philosophy Review 14, no. 1 (2011): 85-100. My thanks to Fabbri for many helpful discussion of Agamben in recent years: if I can at all accept the oath of Agamben’s language, it is because of Fabbri’s careful analyses of his work.

[6] As he puts it, “With the logos are given both…names and discourse, truth and life, oath and perjury, …existence and non-existence of the world, being and nothingness” (Agamben, The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath, trans. Adam Kotsko [Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011], 56).

Thoughts on PIC

Clearly I did not follow through a vague promise to live blog during the conference: having my computer out felt intrusive and, frankly, most papers were limited to 15 minutes and I would just be replicating what was in the abstracts. The papers, on the whole, were outstanding, and given the larger work on time out there, I was surprised not to hear more Deleuze, thoguh there were papers on Agamben, Benjamin, Kristeva, Derrida, and other usual subjects. It was a lot of fun, not least because I met bloggers and/or contributors to RPR that I hadn’t met in person: since the bulk of the attendees were fresh PhDs, I think this was a timely reminder of the future of the profession…

PIC: First Panel

Other Time: 9:00-10:20

“Toward PostModernity, or, the logic of silence in the absence of citation between Schmitt, Adorno, and Derrida”
– Lewis Levenberg, George Mason University


“Toward Post-Modernity, or, the logic of silence in the absence of citation between Schmitt, Adorno, and Derrida.”

This paper addresses interactions between the philosophies of Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), Theodor Adorno (1903-1969), and Jacques Derrida (1930-2004). It confronts a dearth of mutual citations or references between their works, and a lack of correspondence or meetings between them in each of their lifetimes. Through a detailed examination of that confrontation, it poses the question of a genealogy of thought that connects each of these three. Most importantly, it asks what that genealogy teaches us about the development of the idea of modernity, its limits, and what might succeed it. A radical break with modernity, placed variously according to human atrocity, political revolution, technological singularity, or some other criterion, bespeaks a generative paradox for contemporary thought. This paper plumbs the statements made by persistent silences.

[PG: This paper attempts to offer the linkages between and among the three authors mentioned. The time doesn’t allow much broaching of this, nor why one should look for this hidden tradition between and among them. Questions that rise: why the necessity of reading the “radicality” of Schmitt? Also, if Derrida is so influenced by Adorno, why so few mentions? (Derrida, after all, isn’t known for remaining silent about much of anything…)]

“(Dis)Abling Time: The Refusal of Work in Antonio Negri”

– Brad Kaye, Broome Community College

Abstract:  Antonio Negri points out in various places that within capitalism time must always be reducible to productivity. He therefore posits resistance to the most alienating forms of work by postulating the refusal of work (strikes, sabotage, direct action against the mode of production, etc.). My paper will attempt to appropriate the refusal of work as an empowering tactic for subjects labeled as (Dis) Abled, and/or Mad. (Dis)Abled bodies are typically deemed as such precisely because we exist outside the metrics of capitalist productive time. This is not an inherent flaw in the (Dis)Abled body, but rather shows the politics of exclusion that underpin capitalist work, where the assumption goes ‘time is money’. This paper will hopefully theorize unproductive time as resistance to real subsumption, but also that being unproductive can be empowering to marginal groups.  Negri points out that the refusal of work is neither utopian escapism, nor a quietist retreat into isolated consciousness, but rather a strategy to forge lasting class composition culminating in the positive development of communist collective modes of production.  The refusal of work is all about class-valorization, and the end of exploitation, but this starts with theorizing about the proper time to take action, that is deciding when capital is most vulnerable.  In turning to Antonio Negri’s The Time for Revolution, my goal is to think through the temporal dimensions of the antagonistic, differential social ground that capital produces, wherein the proletariat emerges as capitalism’s very own gravediggers. These gravediggers are not merely able-bodied workers, as Marx had envisioned, but may also include those who are also excluded from factory work, the Industrial Reserve Army and the Lumpenproletariat which can be made up of (Dis)Abled subjects as well.  Hence, in an omni-crisis, which is what Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt call the current phase of capitalist Empire, revolutionary subjectivity could emerge anywhere, and at any time. Therefore, in the current phase of capitalist exploitation, the time is always ripe for radical praxis.

PIC Starting Today

I arrived here yesterday for the PIC conference. I think I somehow talked myself into live-blogging the talks, so look for that here later when things start up around 9 am. It’s been great to meet some people I only knew through reviews for RPR or online (Scu, Matt Applegate, etc.), plus seeing people like Devin Shaw again.

Where I’ll be this week and next…

First, at the PIC conference. Then at Cornell:

Peter Gratton
University of San Diego

“Agamben’s Rousseauian Politics: Problems and Prospects”

Followed by a response by Kevin Attell (Cornell)

March 28th, 4:30
A.D. White House, Guerlac Room
Cornell University

(event sponsored by the Romance Studies Department, diacritics, and the Society for the Humanities)

This talk addresses the link made between sovereignty and the use of language in the work of philosopher Giorgio Agamben. This will lead into a discussion of Agamben’s relation to deconstruction, as represented by Derrida’s readings ofRousseau. Finally, Peter will analyze the political import of Agamben’s attempts to think a messianism beyond deconstruction.

Extended Deadline for RPR CFP

Radical Philosophy Review, Special Edition:


The deadline for submission has been EXTENDED to April 15, 2011.

Call for Papers

The Radical Philosophy Review invites article submissions for a special edition on the theme: Violence: Systemic, Symbolic, and Foundational. We encourage conference participants who attended the Ninth Biennial Meeting of the Radical Philosophy Association to develop their presentations into article-length works suitable for publication in the RPR.

In the spirit of collaboration and in the recognition that radical philosophy is often done outside traditional philosophical settings, we invite submissions not only from philosophers inside and outside the academy, but also from those who engage in theoretical work in other academic disciplines – such as ethnic studies, women’s studies, social sciences, and literary studies – and from those engaged in theoretical work unconnected to the academy.

We especially welcome contributions from those often excluded from or marginalized in philosophy, including people of color, glbt persons, persons with disabilities, poor, and working class persons.

Guidelines for Submissions

Manuscripts (of no more than 10,000 words) should be sent as e-mail attachments (preferably in MS Word) to the guest editors of the special issue.  Please attach two copies, one of which is prepared for blind refereeing with all direct or indirect references to the author removed.  Include an abstract of no more than 100 words, a short author bio, and email and mailing address.  Citation style should follow the Chicago Manual of Style.

The deadline for submission has been EXTENDED to April 15, 2011.

Guest Editors

Anatole Anton (

Brandon Absher (

Jose Jorge Mendoza (


Two Keynes Posts, One Tragic, One Comic

First, there’s Brad Delong’s wonderful post asking if economics can even consider itself a discipline, let alone a science:

Moreover, it is not even a discipline. There were a lot of things that economists like Frederic Bastiat, Jean-Baptiste Say, and John Stuart Mill knew in 1830 about the origins of aggregate demand shortfalls and the usefulness of expansionary fiscal policy in a downturn that modern Chicago never bothered to read, never bothered to learn, or have long forgotten.

Since my knowledge of economics is largely historical (readings of the above, plus various early 20th century figures) rather than mathematical and model-based, it’s particularly interesting to read all the quotes Delong produces from Chicago-school economists denying not just Keynes, but also economic principles dating to Adam Smith. (Also, note the “trust” is the excuse offered by this ideology, which then, of course, refuses anything to be done regarding making markets more trustworthy.)

But, you might be thinking, what can I, private citizen and non-economist do to bring about a Keynesian-style economic stimulus? Alex as An und für sich believes it’s up to Richard Dawkins. I’ll let him explain.


Call for Papers

Special Radical Philosophy Review issue on Herbert Marcuse

The International Herbert Marcuse Society holds its 4th Biennial Conference on “Critical Refusals” at the University of Pennsylvania, October 27-29th, 2011.

A special issue of the Radical Philosophy Review (to be published in fall 2012) will feature papers and other contributions from this conference. The peer review process will be led by an editorial collective (John Abromeit, Arnold Farr, Douglas Kellner, Charles Reitz, and other critical scholars worldwide).

While obviously it would behoove you to go to the conference, any one can submit additional submissions for the special issue until December 1, 2011, which should be sent to Harry van der Linden (, adhering to the standard RPR submission guidelines.