Against Fate


[Talk delivered April 20 at the workshop ‘On Justice: Variations on a Theme from Walter Benjamin in 1916 (I)’]

The following remarks are at a slight, but I hope illuminating, tangent from the ‘convolute’ of texts we’ve gathered to discuss. In brief, I want to sketch some thoughts starting from another text of Benjamin’s from 1916, namely the short unpublished reflection on ‘Trauerspiel and Tragedy’, and to do so in part by bringing into relief and into contrast the relation of Benjamin’s early reflections on tragedy to Georg Lukács’s 1910 essay ‘The Metaphysics of Tragedy’ from Soul & Form, a text which, by Scholem’s own recollection, was of considerable significance to his friend. I want to think through how the approach to justice as a concern of tragedy – perhaps as the concern of Attic tragedy, especially in Aeschylus’ Oresteia, an abiding reference for Benjamin – might inflect our considerations of the messianic or political-theological interrogation of justice. Continue reading

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ATM as image


One of the central images that attended this turn [to personal banking], according to La Berge, was the ATM. As they were rolled out around New York, the machines showed up in a series of news stories, most of which reported on the various ways they confused or worried people. In the words of one bank manager, “people are wondering where the bank is.” There’s a not-often-mentioned ATM at the center of White Noise that just might be the proxy-narrator for the entire book. And a whole host of them populate American Psycho, drawing the historical connection elided in other texts—the direct one between high finance and personal banking—with a calculus that was pretty simple to grasp. The trader Patrick Bateman visits them obsessively, often for money he doesn’t need, an activity he likes to follow by randomly killing someone.”

Miranda Trimmier on Leigh Claire La Berge’s Scandals and Abstraction.

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Seeing is believing


Gordan Maslov reviews COTA in the Slovenian journal Sic.

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Kartographie(n) des Kapitalismus


Fabian Namberger reviews COTA in German for

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Images of State and Stásis

[Talk delivered at Historical Materialism 2015, on a panel with Jason E. Smith and Jessica Whyte on The Ends of Homo Sacer]


For fame had rumour’d that a fleet at sea, / Would cause our nation’s catastrophe. / And hereupon it was my mother dear / Did bring forth twins at once, both me and fear.
– Thomas Hobbes, Verse Autobiography


Agamben’s Stásis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm is the slim final volume of the Homo Sacer series, published, with some architectonic confusion (it is listed as II.2, originally the designation for The Kingdom and the Glory) after the compendious The Use of Bodies, which closes if not completes the series. Stásis is composed of two seminar presentations on a theme, civil war, that has coursed in and out of Agamben’s work, and in those of some of his intellectual and political comrades (namely Tiqqun and The Invisible Committee). Here it is dealt with first in a dialogue with the brilliant historian of stásis in Ancient Athens, Nicole Loraux, and then, in the essay from which my remarks today take their cue, in an attempt to excavate, from an analysis of the 1651 frontispiece to Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, a philosophical iconology of civil war.  Continue reading


Living, and Dying, Labour

COTA reviewed, alongside Mason’s Postcapitalism and Dyer-Witheford’s Cyber-proletariat, in Review 31.

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“I Have Seen Paris”

A View of Paris from the Pont Neuf; Jean-Baptiste Raguenet, French, 1715 - 1793; 1763; Oil on canvas; Unframed: 44.5 x 81.9 cm (17 1/2 x 32 1/4 in.), Framed: 62.2 x 98.7 x 6 cm (24 1/2 x 38 7/8 x 2 3/8 in.); 71.PA.26

A View of Paris from the Pont Neuf; Jean-Baptiste Raguenet, French, 1715 – 1793; 1763.

“I have seen Paris: but shall I affirm I can form such an idea of that city, as will perfectly represent all its streets and houses in their real and just proportions?”

(David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Ch. I)

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