Among the principal demands of contemporary political theory and practice is to determine habitable alternatives to (1) the violent and falsely two-sided dynamic of sovereignty and (2) the modern equation of the unitary, self-governing entity with the human itself. This essay contributes to this effort by conducting a genealogy of the political anthropology at the root of sovereignty, focusing on the notion of habit. It argues that the anthropology of sovereignty is deeply entrenched in a form of Christian metaphysics, which crystallizes in St. Augustine's conception of habit. Under Augustine's self-examining gaze, habit comes to be construed as the symptom of man's metaphysical “fallenness” into a state of “entanglement in the multitude”: an inhuman structure of ontological constriction at the heart of the human. By tracing the genealogy of sovereignty back to the early Christian discourse of the human soul's struggle to master the “habits of this life,” the author calls attention to an alternative conception of habitual bodily being that gives expression to the latter's fundamental ambi-valence. The habitual body of the multitude is read as an ontological structure of disposedness that both limits and opens, contracts and dilates. Habit, in this expansive sense, can be redirected not only to refashion the routines through which we inhabit our shared habitats but also to transform the rituals through which we inhabit truth. The essay argues that, as the variable amplitude of existence, habit is the common structure through which humanity must grasp its future.
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Brady Thomas Heiner; Reinhabiting the Body Politic: Habit and the Roots of the Human. differences 1 December 2009; 20 (2-3): 73–102. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2009-005
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