Dr Daniel McLoughlin
University of NSW
The introduction to Homo Sacer states that the book “was originally conceived as a response to the bloody mystification of a new planetary order.” While Homo Sacer focuses on deep historical analysis of the Western political tradition, Agamben develops a withering and detailed critique of this planetary order in The Coming Community and the essays collected in Means without End. These works draw heavily on Guy Debord to argue that a new state form, which Agamben calls the “global democratic spectacle,” has come to dominate politics across the world. Agamben argues that this state form is characterised by the hollowing out of democracy, a rise in nationalism, an increase in authoritarianism, the domination of society by the market, and a crisis of the left. In this paper I argue that Agamben’s analysis of authoritarian free market capitalism, or what is now usually called neoliberalism, plays a crucial role in shaping the concerns and stakes of the Homo Sacer project, from its interest in the problem of sovereignty and the state of exception, to the critique of totalitarianism, its analysis of oikonomia, and its critique of separation and political authority. Reading Agamben’s intervention into political thought in the context of his critique of contemporary politics allows me to provide a coherent account of the structure of the Homo Sacer project, and problematise a number of the major critiques of his work, including the claim that he simply ignores capitalism in favour of a focus on law and the state.
Daniel McLoughlin is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at UNSW. He is the editor of Agamben and Radical Politics (EUP, 2016) and the co-editor of The Politics of Legality in a Neoliberal Age (Routledge, 2017). He has published on theories of sovereignty, biopolitics and the politics of human rights in journals including Law and Critique, Theory & Event, and Law Culture and the Humanities.