Chapter

Politics and Poetics of Divine Violence: On a Figure in Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin

Arne De Boever

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748634620.003.0006
Politics and Poetics of Divine Violence: On a Figure in Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin

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This chapter explores the relation between violence and justice in Giorgio Agamben's work. It investigates the essential role that Walter Benjamin's classic essay ‘Critique of Violence’ plays for Agamben. This essay is a foundational text for Agamben's study of sovereign power. It shows links between Benjamin's obscure notion of ‘divine violence’ and his essay on ‘The Storyteller’. Carl Schmitt's sovereignty confirms the dialectic between violence and the law; Benjamin's divine violence breaks with it. Agamben's reading of Oedipus and the Sphinx turns into an implicit critique of Benjamin when he develops his preference of the enigmatic Sphinx over and against the transparency that Oedipus brings into a reflection on the story. The distinction between the violent political strike and the nonviolent proletarian strike makes perfect sense in the context of Agamben's reading of the Benjamin-Schmitt debate.

Keywords: Giorgio Agamben; Walter Benjamin; divine violence; The Storyteller; Carl Schmitt; sovereignty; law; Oedipus; Sphinx

Chapter.  6442 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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