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Adam Kotsko

I second you on the indispensability of the Potentialities collection. There's something very appealling to me in Agamben's "politics" (such as it is), insofar as I am attempting to be a "Christian" or at least "Pauline" thinker on such matters -- yet I recognize the incomprehensibility and worry that the reason it seems "right" to me is that I have been so habituated to think of the "best" as being somehow above human understanding while also being somehow more originary, bereft of the accretions of human history/civilization. (That is, I was so habituated through being brought up in a church environment, where even the most "vulgar" or unreflective picture of something like "the kingdom" cannot fail to participate in the most noble and authentic articulations of such an idea.)


the "sayability" of things -- that which allows their exposition in language -- becomes the model for a "coming community" of singular, identity-free (and therefore genuinely free) individuals, insofar as this sayability is at once shared by all things (since each thing only is what it is, as such, in relation to the totality of the predications allowed by its linguistic exposition) without yet constituting any particular shared predicate (since such sayability is the precondition of predication in general). In fewer words, humanity's dwelling in language as such becomes the model and basis for something like Bataille's "community of those who have no community."

Paolo Virno attempts something similar, in terms of language and, for him at least, another series of connections are made: 'species-being', 'cognitive labour', and so on. I'm not entirely persuaded, though, by the valorisation of language.


Terrific post.

Gary Sauer-Thompson

Well now Adam,

I do recall that nearly a year ago I had struggled my way through your large chunks of your Specters of Nietzsche paper, and through the idea of the 'Potential Futures for the Concept of the Political in Agamben and Derrida.'

See here and here at

My postings are poor--it was all new to me-- and I didn't get that far into your paper re a close read---the juxtaposition of Derrida and Agamben was hard going. I did not know about your Cutting the Branches paper.

Your Spectres paper aroused my interest in Agamben, due to him working in, reworking and building on, the Heideggerian tradition in a way that I found to be very attractive. I also appreciated the Schmittian tone and the references to Bataille.

What you were saying about Agamben made sense to me in terms of the political life I was living in Canberra last year. It kinda gave me a bearings on the profound changes in liberal democracy, which had been taking place since 1996 in Australia, and then had accelerated after 9/11 in Australia, the US and the UK.

I went and ordered Agamben's political books, and I never did get back to your Spectres article. I think that I still have the scrawled over copy somewhere at home in Adelaide. I'll dig it out.

So it is nice to make acquaintance through blogging.

Re-reading your post in the light of that personal experience I can see that I did approach the bio-politics--though not the language ontology texts---in terms of asking the most concrete of questions, that is, what good does this framework do me down here on the ground?

Then again I was partial to the Heideggerian framework, though not to Derrida's re-working of it.

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