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Against Biopolitics: Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, and Giorgio Agamben on Political Sovereignty and Symbolic Order

David Pan
The German Quarterly
Vol. 82, No. 1 (Winter, 2009), pp. 42-62
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Association of Teachers of German
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27701115
Page Count: 21
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Against Biopolitics: Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, and Giorgio Agamben on Political Sovereignty and Symbolic Order
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Abstract

While Walter Benjamin's equation of law with violence leads to his affirmation of a kind of unmediated divine violence and Giorgio Agamben's notion of sovereignty links politics directly with the body, Carl Schmitt's idea of sovereignty does not concern itself primarily with bare life but with an acculturated subject that links law and politics to a particular tradition. Because he is always concerned about this relationship between culture and politics, Schmitt offers a concept of the political that is better able to explain the kinds of ideological and cultural factors that impact upon politics in situations such as the Weimar Republic or the civil war in Iraq, in which cultural conflict leads to political instability. His thinking suggests that the cultural analysis of both religious and secular literary traditions can throw light on the ideological commitments that motivate political conflict.

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