oh wow.

I'm tempted to blame it more on how my experience of reading the book played out (a four and a half hour caffeine fueled rush) than on the material itself, but I felt more totally shocked and awed by the end of this book than any other we've read yet. Not that the material itself didn't play a decisive role as well: it hit a lot closer to home as being explicitly concerned with the most basic definitions of life itself, and the descriptions of Nazi experimentation on "VP"s were riveting in a completely horrifying car crash kind of way. Which brings me to my first open question, or, well, into introducing it. These experiments are presented clearly with the intent to showcase through examples the horror of the direct interaction of power and bare life, in which law, supposedly a cushion and mediator between the two, becomes reversed and meaningless, only a tool of power and not a limit. And yet, to what can we owe the horror we feel, and I would argue are expected to feel, in reading these passages, as beings whose very bodily existence is "always already" constructed by power? How can we justify the ethics which we tacitly apply to these limit situations of interactions between power and bare life? Perhaps the problem I pose here can be easily solved by someone who can make more sense of the passage on page 153 where the philosophies of Heidegger and National Socialism, which both posit that "life is immediately political in its very facticity" (153), diverge. I struggled with this section, and also with its conclusion, which I tried to understand in light of the discussion of the "Muselmann" on page 185. Both seem to smack of our discussions of hyperconformity as subversion to me, but, the experience of the Muselmann seems pretty bleak to be resistance and subversion. Please feel not only free but encouraged to shoot this down and offer a more cogent and intelligible reading of these passages.

Also, tabling that issue, a passage I'd equally like to hear opinions on can be found on page 180. I'm trying to get a better handle on what's being argued here, because I feel like it's part of the missing link for me between the production and use of bare life by power through law in totalitarian regimes and modern democratic government. At this point I'm too tired to entirely figure out what I do and don't understand about this very clearly suggested link, but overall I can't quite complete it for myself. At any rate the paragraph on 180 tells me that "today's democratico-capitalist project of eliminating the poor classes through development not only reproduces within itself the people that is excluded but also transforms the entire population of the Third World into bare life". I'm most curious about what the emphasized text means, so basically: what exactly is said to be reproduced , and to a lesser extent how it happens. Is the idea here that development must necessarily take advantage basically of the cheap labor in nations that, to make things very local and explicit, while outside the realm of US law, are nonetheless, in perhaps a new cognitive spatial map, intimately and closely connected with US economic well being? And so then, thus, that these nations, as they develop, will rely on the exploitation of other nations until, because national boundaries are irrelevant in an age where power systems are basically economic anyway, somehow other groups are "encamped" and exploited as cheap labor? Meditating on this link between totalitarian regime and modern democracy seems almost a little short sighted; again in the realm of multi-national capital, where buying senators isn't such a tough proposition if you have the money to both do it and hide it (in the case of the RIAA, not even particularly well), wouldn't it make the most sense to consider all governmental systems in states involved in the trade of multinational capital as simply produced by the fact of the interactions of these companies (or however you want to draw the borders of ultimate agency within the realm of "late-capitalism") with bare life, to facilitate them? This is all pretty compelling to me at least: I remember seeing a documentary last year about workers rights' abuses that occurred only a few miles south of the US/Mexico border. They were manufacturing TVs for some electronics company which was doing so because it could do so more cheaply than in the US, where workers' rights laws prevent the direct exposure of workers on the assembly line to toxic glues used to manufacture the televisions. The wages were still so good for them (normal wages were lower), however, that many people felt they couldn't say no. So, when they're making TVs that go into US homes, why don't US workers' rights laws (or, if the parent company was Japanese, Japanese workers rights' laws) protect them? The answer, "Because they don't live in the US (or Japan), silly" seems significant to me. The fact also that they were so close to the US/Mexico border seems to underscore this problem of power producing laws and regulatory systems post-facto of its exploitive interactions with bare life, unless one can cogently argue that it is in the end governmental power that makes the world go round, and not economic, a thesis I think few would be eager to advance and defend. All of this makes me want to run back and forth, yell wildly and incoherently, and wave my hands in the air, at least for a few minutes, so I'd be excited to get a little cold water poured on me. Fire away.

In thinking of the homo sacralization of the third world (by which I mean the reduction of humans there to 'bare life' and, as you put it, the geographical 'encampment' of them), I found the passage on 133-4 both sort of illustrative and mystifying:

'The separation between humanitarianism and politics that we are experiencing today is the extreme phase of the separation of the rights of man from the rights of the citizen. In the final analysis, however, humanitarian organizations - which today are more and more supported by international commissions - can only grasp human life in the figure of bare or sacred life, and therefore, despite themselves, maintain a secret solidarity with the very powers they ought to fight. It takes only a glance at the recent publicity campaigns to gather funds for refugees from Rwanda to realize that here human life is exclusively considered (and there are certainly good reasons for this) as sacred life - which is to say, as life that can be killed but not sacrificed - and that only as such is it made into the object of aid and protection. The 'imploring eyes' of the Rwandan child, whose photograph is shown to obtain money but who 'is now becoming more and more difficult to find alive,' may well be the most telling contemporary cipher of the bare life that humanitarian organizations, in perfect symmetry with state power, need. A humanitarianism separated from politics cannot fail to reproduce the isolation of sacred life at the basis of sovereignty, and the camp - which is to say, the pure space of exception - is the biopolitical paradigm that it cannot master.'

Any sacralization of third world life, even for humanitarian means, strengthens the sovereignty that needs bare life for, as you put it, encampment, exploitation, and so on. That said, it seems as though politicizing rights too rigidly, such as the 'rights of the citizen,' is an equally dangerous prospect for Agamben, since simply denuding subjects of citizenship would simultaneously denude them of those rights (as in the case of refugees, viz. genocidal legislation: 'And one of the few rules to which the Nazis constantly adhered during the course of the "Final Solution" was that Jews could be sent to the extermination camps only after they had been denationalized [stripped even of the residual citizenship left to them after the Nuremberg laws]'). I wonder whether the solution isn't to politicize life in a non-rigidly-national way but also not in a way that approaches the sort of diffusely 'inalienable rights' that result in a reinstitution of the category of bare life - but what would such a 'political humanitarianism' end up looking like?

--Guattari Hero

I think Agamben does see subversive potential in the Musulman, but I don't think it is necessarily the result of his suffering. Agamben invokes the Muselman to demonstrate a tendency in 'law that seeks to transform itself into life' to create one of those oft-cited 'zones of indistinction' - in this case the obverse of the fuhrur, whose body is the public and whose voice is law, creates the Musulman, who cannot distinguish between the law of the SS and the natural phenomenon of cold. It is the indistinguishability of bios and zoe that Agamben holds out hope for, or, at least, sees as an irrefutable fact that any future thought had better deal with.

-aha