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Agamben

The affirmative merely masks over the basis of sovereign power that legitimizes indefinite detention


Kohn, 6 -- University of Florida political science assistant professor

[Margaret, "Bare Life and the Limits of the Law," Theory & Event, 9:2, 2006, muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/v009/9.2kohn.html, accessed 9-12-13, mss]


Giorgio Agamben is best known for his provocative suggestion that the concentration camp – the spatial form of the state of exception - is not exceptional but rather the paradigmatic political space of modernity itself.  When Agamben first made this claim in Homo Sacer (1995), it may have seemed like rhetorical excess. But a decade later in the midst of a permanent war on terror, in which suspects can be tried by military tribunals, incarcerated without trial based on secret evidence, and consigned to extra-territorial penal colonies like Guantanamo Bay, his characterization seems prescient. The concepts of bare life, sovereignty, the ban, and the state of exception, which were introduced in Homo Sacer, have exerted enormous influence on theorists trying to make sense of contemporary politics. Agamben recently published a new book entitled State of Exception that elaborates on some of the core ideas from his earlier work. It is an impressive intellectual history of emergency power as a paradigm of government. The book traces the concept from the Roman notion of iustitium through the infamous Article 48 of the Weimar constitution to the USA Patriot Act. Agamben notes that people interned at Guantanamo Bay are neither recognized as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention nor as criminals under American law; as such they occupy a zone of indeterminacy, both legally and territorially, which, according to Agamben, could only be compared to the Jews in the Nazi Lager (concentration camps) (4). Agamben's critique of the USA Patriot Act, at least initially seems to bare a certain resemblance to the position taken by ACLU-style liberals in the United States. When he notes that "detainees" in the war on terror are the object of pure de factorule and compares their legal status to that of Holocaust victims, he implicitly invokes a normative stance that is critical of the practice of turning juridical subjects into bare life, e.g. life that is banished to a realm of potential violence. For liberals, "the rule of law" involves judicial oversight, which they identify as one of the most appropriate weapons in the struggle against arbitrary power. Agamben makes it clear, however, that he does not endorse this solution. In order to understand the complex reasons for his rejection of the liberal call for more fairness and universalism we must first carefully reconstruct his argument. State of Exception begins with a brief history of the concept of the state of siege (France), martial law (England), and emergency powers (Germany). Although the terminology and the legal mechanisms differ slightly in each national context, they share an underlying conceptual similarity. The state of exception describes a situation in which a domestic or international crisis becomes the pretext for a suspension of some aspect of the juridical order. For most of the bellicose powers during World War I this involved government by executive decree rather than legislative decision. Alternately, the state of exception often implies a suspension of judicial oversight of civil liberties and the use of summary judgment against civilians by members of the military or executive. Legal scholars have differed about the theoretical and political significance of the state of exception. For some scholars, the state of exception is a legitimate part of positive law because it is based on necessity, which is itself a fundamental source of law. Similar to the individual's claim of self-defense in criminal law, the polity has a right to self-defense when its sovereignty is threatened; according to this position, exercising this right might involve a technical violation of existing statutes (legge) but does so in the name of upholding the juridical order (diritto). The alternative approach, which was explored most thoroughly by Carl Schmitt in his books Political Theology and Dictatorship, emphasizes that declaring the state of exception is the perogative of the sovereign and therefore essentially extra-juridical. For Schmitt, the state of exception always involves the suspension of the law, but it can serve two different purposes. A "commissarial dictatorship" aims at restoring the existing constitution and a "sovereign dictatorship" constitutes a new juridical order. Thus, the state of exception is a violation of law that expresses the more fundamental logic of politics itself. Following Derrida, Agamben calls this force-of-law. What exactly is the force-of-law? Agamben suggests that the appropriate signifier would be force-of-law, a graphic reminder of the fact that the concept emerges out of the suspension of law. He notes that it is a "mystical element, or rather a fictio by means of which law seeks to annex anomie itself." It expresses the fundamental paradox of law: the necessarily imperfect relationship between norm and rule. The state of exception is disturbing because it reveals the force-of-law, the remainder that becomes visible when the application of the norm, and even the norm itself, are suspended. At this point it should be clear that Agamben would be deeply skeptical of the liberal call for more vigorous enforcement of the rule of law as a means of combating cruelties and excesses carried out under emergency powers. His brief history of the state of exception establishes that the phenomenon is a political reality that has proven remarkably resistant to legal limitations. Critics might point out that this descriptive point, even if true, is no reason to jettison the ideal of the rule of law. For Agamben, however, the link between law and exception is more fundamental; it is intrinsic to politics itself. The sovereign power to declare the state of exception and exclude bare life is the same power that invests individuals as worthy of rights. The two are intrinsically linked. The disturbing implication of his argument is that we cannot preserve the things we value in the Western tradition (citizenship, rights, etc.) without preserving the perverse ones. Agamben presents four theses that summarize the results of his genealogical investigation. (1) The state of exception is a space devoid of law. It is not the logical consequence of the state's right to self-defense, nor is it (qua commissarial or sovereign dictatorship) a straightforward attempt to reestablish the norm by violating the law. (2) The space devoid of law has a "decisive strategic relevance" for the juridical order. (3) Acts committed during the state of exception (or in the space of exception) escape all legal definition. (4) The concept of the force-of-law is one of the many fictions, which function to reassert a relationship between law and exception, nomos andanomie. The core of Agamben's critique of liberal legalism is captured powerfully, albeit indirectly, in a quote from Benjamin's eighth thesis on the philosophy of history. According to Benjamin, (t)he tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state of exception' in which we live is the rule. We must attain a concept of history that accords with this fact. Then we will clearly see that it is our task to bring about the real state of exception, and this will improve our position in the struggle against fascism. (57) Here Benjamin endorses the strategy of more radical resistance rather than stricter adherence to the law. He recognizes that legalism is an anemic strategy in combating the power of fascism. The problem is that conservative forces had been willing to ruthlessly invoke the state of exception in order to further their agenda while the moderate Weimar center-left was paralyzed; frightened of the militant left and unwilling to act decisively against the authoritarian right, partisans of the rule of law passively acquiesced to their own defeat. Furthermore, the rule of law, by incorporating the necessity of its own dissolution in times of crisis, proved itself an unreliable tool in the struggle against violence. From Agamben's perspective, the civil libertarians' call for uniform application of the law simply denies the nature of law itself. He insists, "From the real state of exception in which we live, it is not possible to return to the state of law. . ." (87) Moreover, by masking the logic of sovereignty, such an attempt could actually further obscure the zone of indistinction that allows the state of exception to operate. For Agamben, law serves to legitimize sovereign power. Since sovereign power is fundamentally the power to place people into the category of bare life, the law, in effect, both produces and legitimizes marginality and exclusion.

Sanitization of US policy leads to endless violence and imperialism – turns case


Bacevich, 5 -- Boston University international relations professor

[A. J., retired career officer in the United States Army, former director of Boston University's Center for International Relations (from 1998 to 2005), The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, 2005 accessed 9-4-13, mss]


Today as never before in their history Americans are enthralled with military power. The global military supremacy that the United States presently enjoys--and is bent on perpetuating-has become central to our national identity. More than America's matchless material abundance or even the effusions of its pop culture, the nation's arsenal of high-tech weaponry and the soldiers who employ that arsenal have come to signify who we are and what we stand for. When it comes to war, Americans have persuaded themselves that the United States possesses a peculiar genius. Writing in the spring of 2003, the journalist Gregg Easterbrook observed that "the extent of American military superiority has become almost impossible to overstate." During Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. forces had shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that they were "the strongest the world has ever known, . . . stronger than the Wehrmacht in r94o, stronger than the legions at the height of Roman power." Other nations trailed "so far behind they have no chance of catching up. ""˜ The commentator Max Boot scoffed at comparisons with the German army of World War II, hitherto "the gold standard of operational excellence." In Iraq, American military performance had been such as to make "fabled generals such as Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian seem positively incompetent by comparison." Easterbrook and Booz concurred on the central point: on the modern battlefield Americans had located an arena of human endeavor in which their flair for organizing and deploying technology offered an apparently decisive edge. As a consequence, the United States had (as many Americans have come to believe) become masters of all things military. Further, American political leaders have demonstrated their intention of tapping that mastery to reshape the world in accordance with American interests and American values. That the two are so closely intertwined as to be indistinguishable is, of course, a proposition to which the vast majority of Americans subscribe. Uniquely among the great powers in all of world history, ours (we insist) is an inherently values-based approach to policy. Furthermore, we have it on good authority that the ideals we espouse represent universal truths, valid for all times. American statesmen past and present have regularly affirmed that judgment. In doing so, they validate it and render it all but impervious to doubt. Whatever momentary setbacks the United States might encounter, whether a generation ago in Vietnam or more recently in Iraq, this certainty that American values are destined to prevail imbues U.S. policy with a distinctive grandeur. The preferred language of American statecraft is bold, ambitious, and confident. Reflecting such convictions, policymakers in Washington nurse (and the majority of citizens tacitly endorse) ever more grandiose expectations for how armed might can facilitate the inevitable triumph of those values. In that regard, George W. Bush's vow that the United States will "rid the world of evil" both echoes and amplifies the large claims of his predecessors going at least as far back as Woodrow Wilson. Coming from Bush the war- rior-president, the promise to make an end to evil is a promise to destroy, to demolish, and to obliterate it. One result of this belief that the fulfillment of America's historic mission begins with America's destruction of the old order has been to revive a phenomenon that C. Wright Mills in the early days of the Cold War described as a "military metaphysics"-a tendency to see international problems as military problems and to discount the likelihood of finding a solution except through military means. To state the matter bluntly, Americans in our own time have fallen prey to militarism, manifesting itself in a romanticized view of soldiers, a tendency to see military power as the truest measure of national greatness, and outsized expectations regarding the efficacy of force. To a degree without precedent in U.S. history, Americans have come to define the nation's strength and well-being in terms of military preparedness, military action, and the fostering of (or nostalgia for) military ideals? Already in the 19905 America's marriage of a militaristic cast of mind with utopian ends had established itself as the distinguishing element of contemporary U.S. policy. The Bush administrations response to the hor- rors of 9/11 served to reaffirm that marriage, as it committed the United States to waging an open-ended war on a global scale. Events since, notably the alarms, excursions, and full-fledged campaigns comprising the Global War on Terror, have fortified and perhaps even sanctified this marriage. Regrettably, those events, in particular the successive invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, advertised as important milestones along the road to ultimate victory have further dulled the average Americans ability to grasp the significance of this union, which does not serve our interests and may yet prove our undoing. The New American Militarism examines the origins and implications of this union and proposes its annulment. Although by no means the first book to undertake such an examination, The New American Militarism does so from a distinctive perspective. The bellicose character of U.S. policy after 9/11, culminating with the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, has, in fact, evoked charges of militarism from across the political spectrum. Prominent among the accounts advancing that charge are books such as The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson; Hegemony or Survival: Americas Quest for Global Dominance, by Noam Chomsky; Masters of War; Militarism and Blowback in the Era of American Empire, edited by Carl Boggs; Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions, by Clyde Prestowitz; and Incoherent Empire, by Michael Mann, with its concluding chapter called "The New Militarism." Each of these books appeared in 2003 or 2004. Each was not only writ- ten in the aftermath of 9/11 but responded specifically to the policies of the Bush administration, above all to its determined efforts to promote and justify a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. As the titles alone suggest and the contents amply demonstrate, they are for the most part angry books. They indict more than explain, and what- ever explanations they offer tend to be ad hominem. The authors of these books unite in heaping abuse on the head of George W Bush, said to combine in a single individual intractable provincialism, religious zealotry, and the reckless temperament of a gunslinger. Or if not Bush himself, they fin- ger his lieutenants, the cabal of warmongers, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and senior Defense Department officials, who whispered persua- sively in the president's ear and used him to do their bidding. Thus, accord- ing to Chalmers Johnson, ever since the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991, Cheney and other key figures from that war had "Wanted to go back and finish what they started." Having lobbied unsuccessfully throughout the Clinton era "for aggression against Iraq and the remaking of the Middle East," they had returned to power on Bush's coattails. After they had "bided their time for nine months," they had seized upon the crisis of 9/1 1 "to put their theories and plans into action," pressing Bush to make Saddam Hussein number one on his hit list." By implication, militarism becomes something of a conspiracy foisted on a malleable president and an unsuspecting people by a handful of wild-eyed ideologues. By further implication, the remedy for American militarism is self-evi- dent: "Throw the new militarists out of office," as Michael Mann urges, and a more balanced attitude toward military power will presumably reassert itself? As a contribution to the ongoing debate about U.S. policy, The New American Militarism rejects such notions as simplistic. It refuses to lay the responsibility for American militarism at the feet of a particular president or a particular set of advisers and argues that no particular presidential election holds the promise of radically changing it. Charging George W. Bush with responsibility for the militaristic tendencies of present-day U.S. for- eign policy makes as much sense as holding Herbert Hoover culpable for the Great Depression: Whatever its psychic satisfactions, it is an exercise in scapegoating that lets too many others off the hook and allows society at large to abdicate responsibility for what has come to pass. The point is not to deprive George W. Bush or his advisers of whatever credit or blame they may deserve for conjuring up the several large-scale campaigns and myriad lesser military actions comprising their war on ter- ror. They have certainly taken up the mantle of this militarism with a verve not seen in years. Rather it is to suggest that well before September 11, 2001 , and before the younger Bush's ascent to the presidency a militaristic predisposition was already in place both in official circles and among Americans more generally. In this regard, 9/11 deserves to be seen as an event that gave added impetus to already existing tendencies rather than as a turning point. For his part, President Bush himself ought to be seen as a player reciting his lines rather than as a playwright drafting an entirely new script. In short, the argument offered here asserts that present-day American militarism has deep roots in the American past. It represents a bipartisan project. As a result, it is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, a point obscured by the myopia and personal animus tainting most accounts of how we have arrived at this point. The New American Militarism was conceived not only as a corrective to what has become the conventional critique of U.S. policies since 9/11 but as a challenge to the orthodox historical context employed to justify those policies. In this regard, although by no means comparable in scope and in richness of detail, it continues the story begun in Michael Sherry's masterful 1995 hook, In the Shadow of War an interpretive history of the United States in our times. In a narrative that begins with the Great Depression and spans six decades, Sherry reveals a pervasive American sense of anxiety and vulnerability. In an age during which War, actual as well as metaphorical, was a constant, either as ongoing reality or frightening prospect, national security became the axis around which the American enterprise turned. As a consequence, a relentless process of militarization "reshaped every realm of American life-politics and foreign policy, economics and technology, culture and social relations-making America a profoundly different nation." Yet Sherry concludes his account on a hopeful note. Surveying conditions midway through the post-Cold War era's first decade, he suggests in a chapter entitled "A Farewell to Militarization?" that America's preoccupation with War and military matters might at long last be waning. In the mid- 1995, a return to something resembling pre-1930s military normalcy, involving at least a partial liquidation of the national security state, appeared to be at hand. Events since In the Shadow of War appear to have swept away these expectations. The New American Militarism tries to explain why and by extension offers a different interpretation of America's immediate past. The upshot of that interpretation is that far from bidding farewell to militariza- tion, the United States has nestled more deeply into its embrace. f ~ Briefly told, the story that follows goes like this. The new American militarism made its appearance in reaction to the I96os and especially to Vietnam. It evolved over a period of decades, rather than being sponta- neously induced by a particular event such as the terrorist attack of Septem- ber 11, 2001. Nor, as mentioned above, is present-day American militarism the product of a conspiracy hatched by a small group of fanatics when the American people were distracted or otherwise engaged. Rather, it devel- oped in full view and with considerable popular approval. The new American militarism is the handiwork of several disparate groups that shared little in common apart from being intent on undoing the purportedly nefarious effects of the I96OS. Military officers intent on reha- bilitating their profession; intellectuals fearing that the loss of confidence at home was paving the way for the triumph of totalitarianism abroad; reli- gious leaders dismayed by the collapse of traditional moral standards; strategists wrestling with the implications of a humiliating defeat that had undermined their credibility; politicians on the make; purveyors of pop cul- turc looking to make a buck: as early as 1980, each saw military power as the apparent answer to any number of problems. The process giving rise to the new American militarism was not a neat one. Where collaboration made sense, the forces of reaction found the means to cooperate. But on many occasions-for example, on questions relating to women or to grand strategy-nominally "pro-military" groups worked at cross purposes. Confronting the thicket of unexpected developments that marked the decades after Vietnam, each tended to chart its own course. In many respects, the forces of reaction failed to achieve the specific objectives that first roused them to act. To the extent that the 19603 upended long-standing conventions relating to race, gender, and sexuality, efforts to mount a cultural counterrevolution failed miserably. Where the forces of reaction did achieve a modicum of success, moreover, their achievements often proved empty or gave rise to unintended and unwelcome conse- quences. Thus, as we shall see, military professionals did regain something approximating the standing that they had enjoyed in American society prior to Vietnam. But their efforts to reassert the autonomy of that profession backfired and left the military in the present century bereft of meaningful influence on basic questions relating to the uses of U.S. military power. Yet the reaction against the 1960s did give rise to one important by-prod: uct, namely, the militaristic tendencies that have of late come into full flower. In short, the story that follows consists of several narrative threads. No single thread can account for our current outsized ambitions and infatua- tion with military power. Together, however, they created conditions per- mitting a peculiarly American variant of militarism to emerge. As an antidote, the story concludes by offering specific remedies aimed at restor- ing a sense of realism and a sense of proportion to U.S. policy. It proposes thereby to bring American purposes and American methods-especially with regard to the role of military power-into closer harmony with the nation's founding ideals. The marriage of military metaphysics with eschatological ambition is a misbegotten one, contrary to the long-term interests of either the American people or the world beyond our borders. It invites endless war and the ever-deepening militarization of U.S. policy. As it subordinates concern for the common good to the paramount value of military effectiveness, it promises not to perfect but to distort American ideals. As it concentrates ever more authority in the hands of a few more concerned with order abroad rather than with justice at home, it will accelerate the hollowing out of American democracy. As it alienates peoples and nations around the world, it will leave the United States increasingly isolated. If history is any guide, it will end in bankruptcy, moral as well as economic, and in abject failure. "Of all the enemies of public liberty," wrote James Madison in 1795, "war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies. From these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, debts and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few .... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual Warfare." The purpose of this book is to invite Americans to consider the continued relevance of Madison's warning to our own time and circumstances.

The Alternative is to reject the 1AC and imagine Whatever Being--Any point of rejection of the sovereign state creates a non-state world made up of whatever life – that involves imagining a political body that is outside the sphere of sovereignty in that it defies traditional attempts to maintain a social identity


Caldwell 04 – Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Louisville

(Anne, “Bio-Sovereignty and the Emergence of Humanity,” Theory & Event, Volume 7, Issue 2, Project Muse)


Can we imagine another form of humanity, and another form of power? The bio-sovereignty described by Agamben is so fluid as to appear irresistible. Yet Agamben never suggests this order is necessary. Bio-sovereignty results from a particular and contingent history, and it requires certain conditions. Sovereign power, as Agamben describes it, finds its grounds in specific coordinates of life, which it then places in a relation of indeterminacy. What defies sovereign power is a life that cannot be reduced to those determinations: a life "that can never be separated from its form, a life in which it is never possible to isolate something such as naked life. " (2.3). In his earlier Coming Community, Agamben describes this alternative life as "whatever being." More recently he has used the term "forms-of-life." These concepts come from the figure Benjamin proposed as a counter to homo sacer: the "total condition that is 'man'." For Benjamin and Agamben, mere life is the life which unites law and life. That tie permits law, in its endless cycle of violence, to reduce life an instrument of its own power. The total condition that is man refers to an alternative life incapable of serving as the ground of law. Such a life would exist outside sovereignty. Agamben's own concept of whatever being is extraordinarily dense. It is made up of varied concepts, including language and potentiality; it is also shaped by several particular dense thinkers, including Benjamin and Heidegger. What follows is only a brief consideration of whatever being, in its relation to sovereign power. / "Whatever being," as described by Agamben, lacks the features permitting the sovereign capture and regulation of life in our tradition. Sovereignty's capture of life has been conditional upon the separation of natural and political life. That separation has permitted the emergence of a sovereign power grounded in this distinction, and empowered to decide on the value, and non-value of life (1998: 142). Since then, every further politicization of life, in turn, calls for "a new decision concerning the threshold beyond which life ceases to be politically relevant, becomes only 'sacred life,' and can as such be eliminated without punishment" (p. 139). / This expansion of the range of life meriting protection does not limit sovereignty, but provides sites for its expansion. In recent decades, factors that once might have been indifferent to sovereignty become a field for its exercise. Attributes such as national status, economic status, color, race, sex, religion, geo-political position have become the subjects of rights declarations. From a liberal or cosmopolitan perspective, such enumerations expand the range of life protected from and serving as a limit upon sovereignty. Agamben's analysis suggests the contrary. If indeed sovereignty is bio-political before it is juridical, then juridical rights come into being only where life is incorporated within the field of bio-sovereignty. The language of rights, in other words, calls up and depends upon the life caught within sovereignty: homo sacer. / Agamben's alternative is therefore radical. He does not contest particular aspects of the tradition. He does not suggest we expand the range of rights available to life. He does not call us to deconstruct a tradition whose power lies in its indeterminate status.21 Instead, he suggests we take leave of the tradition and all its terms. Whatever being is a life that defies the classifications of the tradition, and its reduction of all forms of life to homo sacer. Whatever being therefore has no common ground, no presuppositions, and no particular attributes. It cannot be broken into discrete parts; it has no essence to be separated from its attributes; and it has no common substrate of existence defining its relation to others. Whatever being cannot then be broken down into some common element of life to which additive series of rights would then be attached. Whatever being retains all its properties, without any of them constituting a different valuation of life (1993: 18.9). As a result, whatever being is "reclaimed from its having this or that property, which identifies it as belonging to this or that set, to this or that class (the reds, the French, the Muslims) -- and it is reclaimed not for another class nor for the simple generic absence of any belonging, but for its being-such, for belonging itself." (0.1-1.2). / Indifferent to any distinction between a ground and added determinations of its essence, whatever being cannot be grasped by a power built upon the separation of a common natural life, and its political specification. Whatever being dissolves the material ground of the sovereign exception and cancels its terms. This form of life is less post-metaphysical or anti-sovereign, than a-metaphysical and a-sovereign. Whatever is indifferent not because its status does not matter, but because it has no particular attribute which gives it more value than another whatever being. As Agamben suggests, whatever being is akin to Heidegger's Dasein. Dasein, as Heidegger describes it, is that life which always has its own being as its concern -- regardless of the way any other power might determine its status. Whatever being, in the manner of Dasein, takes the form of an "indissoluble cohesion in which it is impossible to isolate something like a bare life. In the state of exception become the rule, the life of homo sacer, which was the correlate of sovereign power, turns into existence over which power no longer seems to have any hold" (Agamben 1998: 153). / We should pay attention to this comparison. For what Agamben suggests is that whatever being is not any abstract, inaccessible life, perhaps promised to us in the future. Whatever being, should we care to see it, is all around us, wherever we reject the criteria sovereign power would use to classify and value life. "In the final instance the State can recognize any claim for identity -- even that of a State identity within the State . . . What the State cannot tolerate in any way, however, is that the singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that humans co-belong without a representable condition of belonging" (Agamben 1993:85.6). At every point where we refuse the distinctions sovereignty and the state would demand of us, the possibility of a non-state world, made up of whatever life, appears.



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