The Endgames of Sovereignty
Pitched somewhere between essay and conversation, this chapter records an exchange in which the voice of the Italian philosopher Roberto Esposito merges with that of his interlocutor, Roberto Ciccarelli, to create a third person. The two figures, at once diverging and blending, present a succinct yet comprehensive account of many of the concepts, such as biopolitics, the impersonal, and the unpolitical, that have begun to pervade our political terminology and that inform many of the essays assembled here. The result is more than just a précis of Esposito’s work to date, however (although it is that). It is also an experiment in a common search for, and presentation of, the crisis in our theological, philosophical, and juridical tradition that will activate the philosophy of immanence and affirmative biopolitics lying dormant there, patiently awaiting its vindication in contemporary thought.
Reopening the Plato Question
This chapter focuses on the conceptual aftershocks stemming from book 3 of Plato’s Laws, where Clinias reveals to his interlocutors that he has been commissioned to settle a new colony. Reading Strauss and Badiou as mutually implicated in a tradition that posits the nonrelation between law and philosophy, the chapter shows how the impossible philosophical activity of inventing a new political order will silently shape the course of exploration in the Laws and in much of colonialist thought after Plato. Suddenly, philosophical nomos acquires a paradigmatic and, if the accusations Badiou levels at the lawgiving apparatuses of late Plato are correct, disastrous name in the emerging discourse of political philosophy, a name born from the immunitarian logic of colonial thinking: to solve the war within the home by constructing the space of a home away from home.
The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty
Chapter 7 identifies one possible name for the ongoing crisis of modernity: flesh. Expanding upon Kantorowicz’s study of political theology by tracing the dispersal of sovereignty in postmedieval Europe from the body of the king to the flesh of the people, the chapter shows how the flesh that was once contained by sovereign krísis now floods the modern scene, overwhelming and deranging it. This constitutes the basic dilemma of our present moment: having rid ourselves of sovereignty’s representational regime, we can no longer figure out what to do with the flesh bequeathed to us by the demise of krísis, leaving us with an “investiture crisis” that the so-called sciences of immanence are no longer capable of managing.
Arendt: Thinking Cohabitation and the Dispersion of Sovereignty
Chapter 8 takes up Hannah Arendt’s account of the Eichmann trial to derive, from the text’s rhetorical and theatrical dimensions, an imperative regarding the rights of cohabitation. Eichmann, declares Arendt, abrogated a fundamental principle of human rights when he denied that no one has the right to choose with whom to cohabit the earth. Reading that principle in terms of “right” that Arendt elaborates in On Totalitarianism, the “right to have rights,” the chapter reminds us that Arendt’s social right presupposes a plural subject able to put pressure, through its inherent performative power, on the status of the sovereign exception. Asking if we might then rethink the performative more fundamentally, as a dispersion of sovereignty, the chapter interprets the cohabitation on earth and the internal company we keep as two forms of socializing plurality able to guide us beyond the sovereign exception.