Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'play'.
Found 1 result
Hi All, I'm planning to run the Agamben aff, and I was wondering whether anyone has some good cards to respond to the following: Studious play fails --- ignores inevitable role of institutionsPassavant 7 (Paul A. – Associate Professor of Political Science at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, “The Contradictory State of Giorgio Agamben,” in Political Theory, Volume 35, Number 2, April 2007, http://ptx.sagepub.com/content/35/2/147.abstract) Third, any social formation is constituted by elements of both contingency and determination. By emphasizing pure potentiality, Agamben misses this and either cherishes the excessive quality of pure potentiality to the neglect of the exigent needs of the present, or neglects how the active political subjects he does defend are embedded within finite commitments that necessarily persevere through the foreclosure of other possibilities. Some contemporary political theorists concerned with injustice and the lack of democracy also emphasize contingency, excess, and potentiality over determination, finitude, and acts.49 These theorists correctly seek to disrupt oppressive patterns. Since politics-hence political change-would not be possible under conditions of absolute determination, emphasizing contingency or excess makes sense. Yet reflection upon the retraction of certain state services from places like the Bronx during the late 1970s per mits us to see how neither justice nor democracy is served by excessive eco nomic duress or violence. Not only are these contingencies unjust, but also their incapacitating effects prevent democratic practices of government where the latter necessarily presupposes some collective capacity to direct and achieve collective purposes. State actions that mitigate chaos, economic inequality, and violence, then, potentially contribute to the improved justice of outcomes and democracy. Political theorists must temper celebrating contingency with a simultaneous consideration of the complicated relation that determination has to democratic purposes.50 Fourth, the state's institutions are among the few with the capacity to respond to the exigency of human needs identified by political theorists. These actions will necessarily be finite and less than wholly adequate, but responsibility may lie on the side of acknowledging these limitations and seeking to redress what is lacking in state action rather than calling for pure potentiality and an end to the state. We may conclude that claims to justice or democracy based on the wish to rid ourselves of the state once and for all are like George W. Bush claiming to be an environmentalist because he has proposed converting all of our cars so that they will run on hydrogen.5" Meanwhile, in the here and now, there are urgent claims that demand finite acts that by definition will be both divisive and less than what a situation demands.52 In the end, the state remains. Let us defend this state of due process and equal protection against its ruinous other. Studious play is too abstract --- would lead to totalitarianism in practiceKohn 6 (Margaret – Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, “Bare Life and the Limits of the Law,” in Theory & Event, Volume 9, Number 2, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/v009/9.2kohn.html [modified for ableist language]) Is there an alternative to this nexus of anomie and nomos produced by the state of exception? Agamben invokes genealogy and politics as two interrelated avenues of struggle. According to Agamben, "To show law in its nonrelation to life and life in its nonrelation to law means to open a space between them for human action, which once claimed for itself the name of 'politics'." (88) In a move reminiscent of Foucault, Agamben suggests that breaking the discursive lock on dominant ways of seeing, or more precisely not seeing, sovereign power is the only way to disrupt its hegemonic effects. Agamben clearly hopes that his theoretical analysis could contribute to the political struggle against authoritarianism, yet he only offers tantalizingly abstract hints about how this might work. Beyond the typical academic conceit that theoretical work is a decisive element of political struggle, Agamben seems to embrace a utopianism that provides little guidance for political action. He imagines, "One day humanity will play with law just as children play with disused objects, not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good." (64) More troubling is his messianic suggestion that "this studious play" will usher in a form of justice that cannot be made juridical. Agamben might do well to consider Hannah Arendt's warning that the belief in justice unmediated by law was one of the characteristics of totalitarianism. It might seem unfair to focus too much attention on Agamben's fairly brief discussion of alternatives to the sovereignty-exception-law nexus, but it is precisely those sections that reveal the flaws in his analysis. It also brings us back to our original question about how to resist the authoritarian implications of the state of exception without falling into the liberal trap of calling for more law. For Agamben, the problem with the "rule of law" response to the war on terrorism is that it ignores the way that the law is fundamentally implicated in the project of sovereignty with its corollary logic of exception. Yet the solution that he endorses reflects a similar blindness [failure]. Writing in his utopian-mystical mode, he insists, "the only truly political action, however, is that which severs the nexus between violence and law."(88) Thus Agamben, in spite of all of his theoretical sophistication, ultimately falls into the trap of hoping that politics can be liberated from law, at least the law tied to violence and the demarcating project of sovereignty. I have the following card, but would it be enough to respond to both of the cards above? Only studious play can deactivate the law’s coupling with violence and re-engage politicsMorgan 7 (Benjamin, University of California, Berkeley, “Undoing Legal Violence: Walter Benjamin's and Giorgio Agamben's Aesthetics of Pure Means”, Journal Of Law And Society, volume 34, Number 1, March, www.academia.edu/1111547/Undoing_Legal_Violence_Walter_Benjamin_s_and_Giorgio_Agamben_s_Aesthetics_of_Pure_Means This philosophical effort to describe non instrumental means is the basis for Agamben's political response to our `global state of exception'. A theory of pure means can counteract a central problem of the state of exception: its exacerbation of the `nexus between violence and law'. Benjamin, as we have seen, views law as inherently violent in both its creation and preserva-tion in so far as it is conceived as instrumental. Agamben argues that the state of exception extends this legal violence beyond its own boundaries by making it possible for extra-legal actions to acquire legal status. Tracing the legal history of the term `force of law' (the title Derrida gave to an essay in which he analyses `Critique of Violence'), Agamben describes those actions that, though not legally authorized, nonetheless draw upon the violence that guarantees law's dictates: `decrees, provisions, and measures that are not formally laws nevertheless acquire their ``force''.' What is peculiar, and dangerous, about the state of exception is that its suspension of legal norms allows any action to potentially acquire legal force. As such, in suspending the law, the state of exception does not also suspend the violence that creates and maintains law, but rather makes it available for appropriation by revolu-tionary groups, dictators, the police, and so forth: `It is as if the suspension of law freed a force ... that both the ruling power and its adversaries, the constituted power as well as the constituent power, seek to appropriate.' Agamben terms this potential coincidence of every human action and legal force the inseparability of law and life. Given that suspending law only increases its violent activity, Agamben proposes that `deactivating' law, rather erasing it, is the only way to undermine its unleashed force. It is in this context that Agamben offers the apparently strange solution of `play' with which I began: One day humanity will play with law just as children play with disused objects, not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good. What is found after the law is not a more proper and original use value that precedes the law, but a new use that is born only after it. And use, which has been contaminated by law, must also be freed from its own value. This liberation is the task of study, or of play. In proposing this playful relation Agamben makes the move that Benjamin avoids: explicitly describing what would remain after the violent destruction of normativity itself. `Play' names the unknowable end of `divine violence'. Agamben himself may not be entirely comfortable with this moment; in the final paragraph of State of Exception, he replaces this prediction with a question and a possibility: only beginning from the space thus opened [that is, by law's deposition] will it be possible to pose the question of a possible use of law after the deactivation of the device that, in the state of exception, tied it to life. Playfulness disappears completely in The Time That Remains, where Christian love instead designates our relation to the fulfilled law: `once he divides the law into a law of works and a law of faith ... and thus renders it inoperative and unobservable ... Paul can then fulfil and recapitulate the law in the figure of love.' Despite Agamben's apparent hesitation, this idea of play is instructive because of its resonance with Agamben's own articulations of aesthetic experience. In an essay arguing that play derives from ritual, Agamben claims that` everything pertaining to play once pertained to the realm of the sacred'. Play is the participation in a ritual whose meaning has been forgotten: it converts sacred objects into mere toys. This is what gives it its (literally)revolutionary force: Agamben notes that play `overturns' the sacred `to the point where it can plausibly be defined as ``topsy-turvy sacred''.' This mediation between the sacred and the secular is the function that Agamben would like play to perform on the law: overturning it without destroying it. Play would do this by retaining law's form while forgetting its meaning; Agamben writes that `Playland is a country whose inhabitants are busy celebrating rituals, and manipulating objects and sacred words, whose sense and purpose they have, however forgotten.' This ritual with a forgotten purpose articulates a means without end in so far as the end has become unknowable through its forgetting. This account also amounts to a transposition of Benjamin's often-cited account of the relation between the sacred and the profane in `The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproductibility': the unique value of the ` authentic' work of art always has its basis in ritual .This ritualistic basis, however mediated it may be, is still recognizable as secularized ritual in even the most profane forms of the cult of beauty. Agamben's toy is thus not opposed to, but the counterpart of Benjamin's `authentic' work of art. Furthermore, Agamben's claim that law that has opened itself to play `no longer has force or application' depends upon the logic that, for Agamben, characterizes Kantian aesthetics. This negative definition of the figure of law as law minus force and application removes law's functionality and normativity while maintaining that something called law still exists. Defin-ing `pure law' as what it is not repeats a rhetorical move for which Agamben criticizes Kant, namely that in the third critique, `judgment identifies the determinations of beauty only in a purely negative fashion' and con-sequently `our appreciation of art begins necessarily with the forgetting of art'. Agamben thus glosses Kant's fourth definition of the beautiful (that` which is cognized without a concept as the object of a necessary satisfaction' ) to emphasize its constitutive negativity: the beautiful, he says, is `normality without a norm'. In State of Exception, it may not be problematic that our appreciation of law would begin with the forgetting of law; indeed this forgetting may be the difficult work that the book proposes. But it is not only the negative structure of the argument but also the kind of negativity that is continuous between Agamben's analyses of aesthetic and legal judgement. In other words, `normality without a norm', which paradoxically articulates the subtraction of normativity from the normal, is simply another way of saying `law without force or application'. To the degree that this is true, Kantian aesthetic judgement hasn't disappeared in our experience of pure mediality; in fact, its name has barely changed. But perhaps most interesting is the similarity between Agamben's description of the disused law and a much less famous passage in Kant's third critique. In a footnote to his definition of the beautiful as `an object's form of purposiveness insofar as it is perceived in the object without the presentation of a purpose Kant describes an object much like Agamben's disused law. Anticipating a possible quarrel with his explication, Kant imagines someone who would point out that there are all sorts of objects whose use we don't know, but which still aren't considered beautiful: It might be adduced as a counterexample to this definition that there are things in which one can see a purposive form without cognizing an end in them, e.g., the stone utensils often excavated from ancient burial mounds, which are equipped with a hole, as if for a handle, which, although they clearly betray by their shape a purposiveness the end of which one does not know, are nevertheless not declared to be beautiful on that account. These stone utensils whose ends are unknown and unknowable give us an idea of what the law would look like to the humanity that Agamben hopes will play with it. Where Agamben imagines a future in which the law will still exist but will have lost its purpose, Kant describes a present in which we discover instrumental objects whose purpose is unknown. These objects offer us yet another figure of `means without end': things which `betray by their shape a purposiveness', but whose end has been erased by historical time. Kant argues that these objects are not actually susceptible to aesthetic reflection on the grounds that the counter-argument assumes. But they are significant because their obscured ends allow them to raise a question about their status as aesthetic objects. This is the precise question raised by Agamben's figure of a law to be played with after its use value has been superseded. To say, however, that Agamben's theory of a deactivated law returns to a theory of aesthetic judgement is not to say that Agamben aestheticizes law ± at least in the sense of this term that makes it an accusation. In The Time That Remains , Agamben argues that a certain way of thinking about messianism runs the risk of aestheticization: reducing `ethics and religion to acting as if God, the kingdom, truth, and so on existed' amounts to `an aestheticization of the messianic in the form of the as if '. But I am not suggesting that the infiltration of aesthetic experience into Agamben's messianic law amounts to a substitution of fictional for real redemption. It is not some fictionality in our relation to the deposed law that renders our experience of it aesthetic but, rather, its suspension of the relation between means and ends. As such, Agamben's argument against the aestheticization of the messianic ± that `the messianic is the simultaneous abolition and realization of the as if ' ± does not address the aesthetic trace that remains in the messianic law as formulated in State of Exception . This trace, I think, may testify more to the productive political possibilities of Kantian aesthetic judgement itself than to some falsity of Agamben's solution. Even so, this still amounts to a reading of Agamben against Agamben's own intention. Agamben ends State of Exception by suggesting that our experience of the law as a pure means is capable of reclaiming the political space that he believes has been eclipsed: a space between [life and law] for human action, which once claimed for itself the name of `politics'... . To a word that does not bind, that neither commands nor prohibits anything, but says only itself would correspond an action as pure means, which shows only itself without any relation to an end. If it is as difficult to separate the figure of pure means from aesthetic purposiveness as Benjamin's and Agamben's own writings suggest, then one can easily see the beauty inherent in `action as pure means, which shows only itself'. This leaves us with a different answer to the question with which Agamben opens his book ± `What does it mean to act politically?' ± than Agamben gives. We might say that what it means to act politically is to act aesthetically. To enlist the figure of pure means in a call for the return of an authentic politics is to partially ground the political on that moment in aesthetic judgement when we appreciate something not because it is useful or because it fits with our conceptual understanding of the world, but simply because we have a relation to it, independent of its purpose. Thanks, AmAsKh