The following is an excerpt from Giorgio Agamben’s The Church and the Kingdom.
Given what I have said about the structure of messianic time it is clear that what is at issue cannot be to chastise the Church in the name of radicalism for its worldly compromises, just as little as it can be to portray the Roman Church—as did the greatest orthodox theologian of the nineteenth, Fyodor Dostoevski—as a Grand Inquisitor. What is at issue, instead, is the Church’s ability to read what Matthew called ‘the signs of the times’, ta semeia tōn kairōn (Mt 16.3; 23). What are these signs which the apostle opposed to the futile desire to know the forms that move across the sky? If the relation of history to the Kingdom is penultimate, the Kingdom nevertheless is to be found first and foremost in that history. For this reason, to live in the time of the messiah means to read the signs of his presence in history, to recognize in the course of history ‘the signature of the economy of salvation’ [la segnatura dell’economia della salvezza]’. In the eyes of the Church Fathers—as well as the eyes of those philosophers who have reflected on the philosophy of history, which is, and remains (even in Marx) an essentially Christian discipline—history is presented as a field traversed by two opposing forces. The first of these forces—which Paul, in a passage of the Second Letter to the Thessalonians that is as famous as it is enigmatic, calls to catechon—maintains and ceaselessly defers the end along the linear and homogeneous line of chronological time. By placing origin and end in contact with one another, this force endlessly fulfills and ends time. Let us call this force Law or State, dedicated as it is to economy, which is to say, dedicated as it is to the indefinite—and indeed infinite—governance of the world. As for the second force, let us call it messiah, or Church; its economy is the economy of salvation, and by this token is essentially completed. The only way that a community can form and last is if these poles are present and a dialectical tension between them prevails.
It is precisely this tension which seems today to have disappeared. As a sense for an economy of salvation in historical time is weakened, or eliminated, the economy extends its blind and derisive dominion to every aspect of social life. Today, we witness the eschatological exigency which the Church has abandoned return in secularized, and parodic form, in the occult sciences that have rediscovered the obsolete gestures of the prophet and announce every sort of irreversible catastrophe. The crises—the states of permanent exception and emergency—that the governments of the world continually proclaim are in reality a secularized parody of the Church’s incessant deferral of the Last Judgement. With the eclipse of the messianic experience of the culmination of the law and of time comes an unprecedented hypertrophy of law—one that, under the guise of legislating everything, betrays its legitimacy through legalistic excess. I say the following with words carefully weighed: nowhere on earth today is a legitimate power to be found; even the powerful are convinced of their own illegitimacy. The complete juridification and commodification of human relations—the confusions between what we might believe, hope and love and that which we are obliged to do or not do, say or not say—are signs not only of crises of law and state but also, and above all, of crises of the Church. The reason for this is that the Church can be a living institution only on the condition that it maintains an immediate relation to its end. And—a point which we would do well not to forget—according to Christian theology there is only one legal institution which knows neither interruption nor end: hell. The model of contemporary politics—which pretends to an infinite economy of the world—is thus truly infernal. And if the Church curtails its original relation with the paroikia, it cannot but lose itself in time. (27, 34-5, 40-1)
entered what I looked at
with a regal nonchalance
while the other me stayed
building built w/ feeling
of guilt; the bulldozer’s
groans have such a lilt
and Mark on his lunch
flailed limbs in concert
this lobby is run-down
(the walls) with eyes
now collapsed in on
themselves: we wonder
if no sight is the same
as not seeing (not)
elevators pull down
just as much as they
go up; and every time
I feel the invisible up
try to pull down; could
it be that Eval needs
help, needs love, needs
entered what I looked at
with a regal nonchalance
while the other me stayed
and let the tornado of
still leaves hit its brain
with a sensehammer
and my self spatters on
everything; is that really
if tiny men in hats of gold tell me all that I have known is not then
we will call our friends & family & tell them fuck what we have been
as doors down kicked, mattresses burned material, matter & form
al engagements made to meet new messengers who I will conscript for
my own purposes are unclear even to me, is the tumor to me?
in Wednesday school I learned that my head is form
er my body after—pet-heavy breathings I sigh off with laughter
(nip that shit in the bud, bud) (lick that tit on the rug, bug)
jokes told thru incense coughs & get in
sense the cents inpocket & come to find me whileworth like child
birth (painful but forgotten) & (spent myself) redrum reflectors
your given station
if the train islate
t’was yours tomiss
miss (and mark’d)
can you help
me find the next line
(two much white)
lights that glare
light this glare
and in an instant my serotonal palaces collapse
I’m sorry I wrote
that I’d god your throat.
The following is an excerpt from The Invisible Committee’s The Coming Insurrection:
The order of work was the order of a world. The evidence of its ruin is paralyzing to those who dread what will come after. Today work is tied less to the economic necessity of producing goods than to the political necessity of producing producers and consumers, and of preserving by any means necessary the order of work. Producing oneself is becoming the dominant occupation of a society where production no longer has an object: like a carpenter who’s been evicted from his shop and in desperation sets about hammering and sawing himself. All these young people smiling for their job interviews, who have their teeth whitened to give them an edge, who go to nightclubs to boost their company spirit, who learn English to advance their careers, who get divorced or married to move up the ladder, who take courses in leadership or practice “self-improvement” in order to better “manage conflicts”—“The most intimate ‘self improvement’,” says one guru, “will lead to increased emotional stability, to smoother and more open relationships, to sharper intellectual focus, and therefore to a better economic performance.” This swarming little crowd that waits impatiently to be hired while doing whatever it can to seem natural is the result of an attempt to rescue the order of work though an ethos of mobility. To be mobilized is to relate to work not as an activity but as a possibility. If the unemployed person removes his piercings, goes to the barber and keeps himself busy with “projects,” if he really works on his “employability,” as they say, it’s because this is how he demonstrates his mobility. Mobility is this slight detachment from the self, this minimal disconnection from what constitutes us, this condition of strangeness whereby the self can now be taken up as an object of work, and it now becomes possible to sell oneself rather than one’s labor power, to be remunerated not for what one does but for what one is, for our exquisite mastery of social codes, for our relational talents, for our smile and our way of presenting ourselves. This is the new standard of socialization. Mobility brings about a fusion of the two contradictory poles of work: here we participate in our own exploitation, and all participation is exploited. Ideally, you are yourself a little business, your own boss, your own product. Whether one is working or not, it’s a question of generating contacts, abilities, networking, in short: “human capital.” (49-51)
the Angels shuttle the god’s letters but they all wind up dead
hollow specter hovering toward
his eyes I eye
decades to die
consecrated post-age stamps I never buy from stores
and then late so too late so can-not face-
up face and wind down and win the wind carrying
tiny Messenger pigeon feelshells
I recognize you where you have been
I recognize you who you have become
but if you had never told me
I never would have known
your decadent death on wings is Flown
my words will outlive me (outside)
my language outlives me (outside)
my-self I put on objects (outside)
predicate mi subject (out-side)
—language a forest I can-not not maneuver
and you is the clearing
u is the sonlight
while I know that one day eu will die; no longer
let’s limbo in limbo
that profane ballroom where
life a dance
the roof is on fire,
the church is on fire,
the king is on fire;
all life is all fire.
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
En archē ēn ho logos, kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, kai theon ēn ho logos.
King James Translation:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was god.
Possible “Agambenian” Translation:
(The first principle is that language exists) & (Language has the capacity to signify, that is, to correspond to entities in the world in the form of ‘true’ propositions) & (The word ‘God’ signifies that language has the capacity to signify)
This illustrates the violence, vanity, and falseness of the Church and any other institution that establishes the “necessity” of its Law (including the State). Entities in the world constantly change; this is life, this is mutability itself. The truth, then, is just that sentences can sometimes be true and sometimes be false depending on context (for the signifiers of speech could possibly signify any number of different concepts: “the excess of the signifier over the signified”). The Church and the State, then, rely upon past oaths (which offer paradigms for thinking about the world) which were posited as truths and try to make them universal truths, try to make them exist not temporally but eternally (this is exactly the reliance upon an eternally absent presupposition, that which has always already presupposed itself and so cannot be grasped). Here, then, is the revolutionary capacity of the different disciplines: of revolutionary science, of philosophy, of literature, of art. For, insofar as oaths offer modes of thinking about the world and how it “must” be, if we create new oaths that are true in new contexts, if we create via self-reference (for this is all linguistic and vital creation), and let systems show the fact that they work (show that they exist), we also show alternatives to the way that things are — we show the non-necessity of our operative oaths. If existing temporally as we do is understanding the particular present with regard to the universal of our particular form of life, art and the like allow us to understand the present with regard to others’ forms of life, other possible presents, other lives that we could have. And so, the most vital thing of all, a life that perfectly coincided with its form, its zoe with its bios, a life of power — the whatever-being — would be a life that floated back and forth freely between all of the different vocabularies, the different oaths, the different paradigms, grasping the present purely as the presence of the potential for the instantiation of a vocabulary (language itself), as a present that could possibly fit into the narrative of my form of life, my art. And so, with all this talk about “God” — let us at least be clear about our words.
Everything happening will have happened
You cannot set your feet there the grass is not for walking
The branches cannot touch trees must grow at a distance
Your vocal cords cannot strain others are here too
They’re here too, the beard dude, crude & rude booze & shrooms
Booming out of hidden speakers fake false friends all wikileakers
Internet couture and internet detours to sites my life not cite
Rite & wrong, light that bong, I’m only on this room for justso long
Huff the streetlamp inject the coffee shop for clothes
Runny nose and running blows by blow so I know I’m not low
Seemed slow fast last frantic first and very worst
Deadstuck & trapped here I’ll never see out others’
All my lovers left that’s not right
I made a compass out of clay and prayed its hands temporalplay
I hid it under rocks beside there where you take your walks
Check it wreck it life it knife it; wives with knives no stop talking bout my lives
I’m always several already dreadful—get on my level, get on my level
Can’t wait for the future
Will make this present here so lovely
Pull the past out from under its feet
Tell those dead why they were alive
Everything then happening happened
Analytic philosophy acquires its specific character by way of its forgetting of the always possible disjunction between words and things, between language and the event of discourse — between the content of sentences and the subjects who speak those sentences.
And this is the source of analytic philosophy’s inherent ethnocentrism, as the subject speaking is mistaken for all possible subjects who ever could speak.
The following is §22 of Agamben’s The Sacrament of Language.
The connection of the theological theme of the name of God with the philosophical one of absolute being, in which essence and existence coincide, is definitively carried out in Catholic theology, in particular in the form of argument that, since Kant, one is accustomed to defining as ontological. As interpreters have clarified, the force of Anselm’s famous argument in the Proslogion does not consist in a logical deduction of existence from the notion of a most perfect being or “that than which no greater can be thought”; it is a matter, rather, of the understanding of id quo maius cogitare non potest as the most proper name of God. To pronounce the name of God means to understand it as that experience of language in which it is impossible to separate name and being, words and things. As Anselm writes at the end of the Liber apologeticus contra Gaunilonem (the only text in which he speaks of a proof, or rather of a vis probationis), “what is spoken of [hoc ipsum quod dicitur] is proved (as a necessary consequence of the fact that it is understood and thought of [eo ipso quod intelligitur vel cogitatur]) … to exist” (§10). It is a matter, that is to say, above all, of an experience of language (of a “saying”: hoc ipsum quod dicitur) and this experience is that of faith. For this reason Anselm thinks it important to inform us that the original title of the treatise was fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding) and that it had been written sub persona … quaerentis intelligere quod credit (in the name of someone who wants to understand what he believes). To understand the object of faith means to understand an experience of language in which, as in the oath, what is said is necessarily true and exists. That is to say, the name of God expresses the status of the logos in the dimension of the fides oath, in which nomination immediately actualizes the existence of what it names.
Fifty years later, Alain of Lille, in his Regulae theologicae (PL 210:621-84), pushes this special status of the divine name still further, writing that every name, even that which expresses an attribute, like iustus or bonus, when referring to the being of God is transformed into a pronoun (pronominatur); that is, it ceases to indicate, like every name, a substance plus an attribute and, being emptied of its content, now designates, like pronouns or proper names, a pure existence (substantia sine qualitate [substance without quality], in the tradition of classical grammatical thought). Not only that, but even the pronoun, if predicated of God, loses the sensible or intellectual ostentation that defines it [cadit a demonstratione] and carries out a paradoxical demonstratio ad fidem, that is, to the pure act of speech as such (apud Deum, demonstratio fit ad fidem).
For this reason Thomas Aquinas, taking up again the thesis of Maimonides on the name qui est, can write that it “names a being that is absolute and undetermined by anything added. … It does not signify what God is [quid est Deus], but signifies a sea of existence that is infinite and as if indeterminate … and thus there remains in our intellect only the fact that he is [quia est] and nothing more: and so it is as though it were in some state of confusion [in quadam confusione]” (Aquinas, d.8, q.1, a.1). The meaning of the name of God, then, has no semantic content, or better, suspends and puts in parentheses every meaning in order to affirm through a pure experience of speech a pure and bare existence.
We can therefore specify further the meaning and function of the name of God in the oath. Every oath swears on the name par excellence, that is on the name of God, because the oath is the experience of language that treats all of language as a proper name. Pure existence—the existence of the name—is not the result of a recognition, nor of a logical deduction: it is something that cannot be signified but only sworn, that is, affirmed as a name. The certainty of faith is the certainty of the name (of God). (52-3)