Only Agamben can save us? Against the messianic turn recently adopted in critical theory

Sharpe, Matthew 2009, Only Agamben can save us? Against the messianic turn recently adopted in critical theory, Bible and critical theory, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 40.1-40.20.

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Title Only Agamben can save us? Against the messianic turn recently adopted in critical theory
Author(s) Sharpe, Matthew
Journal name Bible and critical theory
Volume number 5
Issue number 3
Start page 40.1
End page 40.20
Publisher Monash University ePress
Place of publication Melbourne, Vic.
Publication date 2009-10
ISSN 1832-3391
Summary In this paper, I offer a strong criticism of Giorgio Agamben’s recent political texts. I argue that these texts bring to fruition a larger, contentious trend in the theoretical academy coupling one-dimensional, pessimistic accounts of modernity with strands of messianism. Since the political prospects of messianism, as Agamben’s analyses show, are very thin indeed, I reflectively question the presuppositions that lead him to this prescriptive juncture. In Part I, recurring to Scholem’s classic analyses of Jewish messianism, I show how Agamben’s messianism borrows more or less directly (in The Open) from kabalistic, antinomian, utopian messianism. Having established this exegetical point, I argue two theses in parts II and III. The first, specifically theoretical thesis is that Agamben is driven into his political messianism by the transcendental logic of his analyses of ‘the political’, one which by its nature occludes meaningfully political distinctions by instead seeking out their ontological grounds. The second, specifically political thesis is that the widespread embrace of ontological messianism by thinkers in the post-Marxian academy is a symptom of, rather than a cure for, the wider malaise of the political left in the first world. If critical theory is serious about engaging with progressive praxis, one thing it must do is recall the difference between politics and prima philosophia, so that it does not continue to seek out ‘redemption’ – or at least an apology – in the bowels of the latter.
Language eng
Field of Research 160609 Political Theory and Political Philosophy
Socio Economic Objective 940203 Political Systems
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2009, Monash University ePress
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30022845

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: School of International and Political Studies
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