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Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics) Paperback – 1 Apr 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Frequently bought together

  • Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics)
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  • State of Exception
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  • The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979: Lectures at the College De France, 1978-1979 (Michel Foucault: Lectures at the Collège de France)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (1 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804732183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804732185
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

" The story of homo sacer is certainly worth reading because of its suggestiveness and provocations." -- Modernism/Modernity

" Agamben' s intuition, chronicle and meditation are fascinating." -- "The Review of Politics"

" The story of "homo sacer" is certainly worth reading because of its suggestiveness and provocations." -- "Modernism/Modernity"

0;Agamben7;s intuition, chronicle and meditation are fascinating.1;2; "The Review of Politics"

0;The story of "homo sacer" is certainly worth reading because of its suggestiveness and provocations.1;2; "Modernism/Modernity"

“Agamben’s intuition, chronicle and meditation are fascinating.”—"The Review of Politics"

“The story of "homo sacer" is certainly worth reading because of its suggestiveness and provocations.”—"Modernism/Modernity"

"The story of "homo sacer" is certainly worth reading because of its suggestiveness and provocations.""Modernism/Modernity""

"Agamben's intuition, chronicle and meditation are fascinating."--The Review of Politics

"The story of homo sacer is certainly worth reading because of its suggestiveness and provocations."--Modernism/Modernity

-Agamben's intuition, chronicle and meditation are fascinating.---The Review of Politics

-The story of homo sacer is certainly worth reading because of its suggestiveness and provocations.---Modernism/Modernity

Review

"Agamben's intuition, chronicle and meditation are fascinating." (The Review of Politics)

"The story of homo sacer is certainly worth reading because of its suggestiveness and provocations." (Modernism/Modernity)

See all Product description

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Arrived on time. It was like described.
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This is an important book, and one which deserves wide readership. It deals with the relationship between sovereignty and bare life, and explores this theme through the concept of the "homo sacer" - a man in ancient Rome whose life is not subject to conventional legal protection (he can be killed, but not put to death under the law), and thus exists within the state of exception - a legal space where, paradoxically no law exists, that defines the limit of the law.

With the advent of National Socialism - brilliantly analyzed through Agamben's application of Foucault's notion of "biopolitics" - homo sacer becomes central to the way in which citizenship and life are conceived by the state. The concentration camp, an arena legally constituted where no law exists, becomes the ultimate space where sovreignty over life is constituted. Even with the disappearance of Auschwitz in 1945, argues Agamben, the concentration camp casts its shadow over the way the state describes life, different legal categories of life and their limits. While perhaps Agamben concepts could be tested more thoroughly in their various mid and late twentieth century contexts in order to refine his argument, this is a compelling (and terrifying) view of the operation of state power and politics in our era.
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Homo Sacer is one of those few books that after reading I was a different person. It is a profound but very difficult text to understand. However difficult it may be, I would argue it is a necessary read for anyone who is interested in current politics matters of law and many contemporary ethical issues. In the introduction Agamben reflects on the fact that the Ancient Greeks had two words for life bios, and zoe: he characterizes Zeo as natural or "Bare Life" and argues that this, inclusions by exclusion of Zoe from bios is a fault-line that has been in the heart of politics (western) from its very inception. Building on the ideas of Foucault, Arendt, and in definition of Sovereignty suggested by Schmitt "sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception" Agamben constructs a power critic of political-Judical systems, and how they come more and more to exercise their power on the bodies of their subjects, the camps and the holocaust being the most extreme expression. However Homo Sacer is a very difficult read in the tradition of Continental Philosophy, I also feel it is something of an introduction to Remnants of Auschwitz.

Once read nobody can hear the argument surrounding "the war on terror" in the same way. Agamben raises many challenging questions, although it has to be said not all that many solutions. However difficult this text is it is profound and important a must read.
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This is an extremely heavy philosophical text which is not for beginners or those unfamiliar with continental philosophy.

The basic thesis Agamben advances is that sovereignty (hence state power) is constructed through the exclusion (which is simultaneously an inclusion-as-exception) of "bare life", which is to say, the body and relations of force. This exclusion returns in the figure of sovereign power (as law-making and thus as excess over law) and its construction of homo sacer, a type of subject who can be "killed but not sacrificed" (and who is thus outside both profane and sacred law). Homo sacer reaches his apogee in the camp, such as Nazi concentration camps. The camp is the "paradigm" of the modern state, and homo sacer and the "state of exception" in which the state suspends basic rights is becoming the normal condition of politics.

There are several problems here. The first is that Agamben is prone to argue by assertion and exegesis. The result is that his claims are largely unsupported and "take it or leave it" - either you're convinced by his account or you aren't. The second is that he doesn't draw political conclusions from what is obviously a political subject. If the state of exception and homo sacer are inherent to state sovereignty as such, Agamben's thesis would seem to be a powerful case for anarchism, yet he never draws any such implication, nor addresses the corresponding question of how else bodies can be "politicised". Thirdly, the thesis isn't really as original as Agamben seems to think - it's a repetition of themes arising in the work of A. Hirschman, John Zerzan, ecofeminists such as Robyn Eckersley, the Frankfurt School (e.g.
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This text is an absolute must-read for any thoughtful person. I cannot, in the space of a marketplace review, do justice to the profundity, the exquisite judgement and interpretative genius of Homo Sacer but it is clear that for any thinker worth his or her salt that there will be a before and an after Giorgio Agamben.

To be sure this is not a layman's read. An uncanny facility with language including the classical languages, German, French and English is a requisite - as indeed it is for all worthwhile modern philosophy - in addition to a deeply philosophical and noble temperament.

The highlights include incredible and mind-boggling interpretations of a Kafka parable, fragments by Pindar, Holderlin, Benjamin and Carl Schmidt as well as the great Aristotle - but so much more is contained in this exceptional book such as interpretations of the messiah, even the Antichrist, the concept of the wolf-man (werewolf) and the most astute understanding of sovereign power I have had the chance to read:

A real feast. Don't miss out!

P.S. I look forward to reading the sequels to this monumental work of thought, namely State of Exception and The Kingdom and the Glory.

Five stars, no question
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