‘Its Silent Working was a Delusion’

Whyte Jessica

in The Work of Giorgio Agamben

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780748634620
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652440 | DOI:
‘Its Silent Working was a Delusion’

Show Summary Details


This chapter opens with Franz Kafka's notorious short story ‘In the penal settlement’, establishing its emblematic function for Giorgio Agamben. A discussion of Agamben's explicitly political theses is presented, through Carl Schmitt and Jean-Luc Nancy's accounts of, respectively, the sovereign exception and abandonment, before returning to the project identified as the kernel of Agamben's work. Agamben offers an interpretation of the machine's destruction in which the officer inserts the injunction Be Just into the machine with the precise intention of destroying it. In Agamben's work, the blurring of law and life is the key characteristic of the state of exception. We see in the Penal Settlement how the attempt to make the apparatus inscribe Be Just into the body of the officer shatters the machine. When Agamben wishes to provide an image of being without presuppositions, he turns once again to Kafka.

Keywords: Franz Kafka; Giorgio Agamben; Penal Settlement; Carl Schmitt; Jean-Luc Nancy; machine; exception

Chapter.  6986 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.