chapter  5
Messianism: time, happiness and completed humanity
Pages 26

As we saw in Chapter 3, Agamben’s diagnosis and critique of contemporary juridico-political conditions revolves around the notion of bare life. Obscure as this concept seems at times, it provides not only the central axis for his analysis of exceptional politics, but also the starting point for a theorization of a way beyond contemporary nihilism and the violence of biopolitical capture and abandonment. The notion of bare life develops from the distinction that Aristotle makes between zoe¯, or biological life, and bios, or a specified way of life within a political community. At its most conceptually specific, bare life is life suspended between the natural and the political, or natural life included in politics through its exclusion and, as such, infinitely abandoned to sovereign violence. In its position of suspension in relation to sovereign violence, bare life cannot provide a basis for a politics and thought beyond biopolitical sovereignty for Agamben. Instead, any attempt to found a politics on bare life will merely repeat the aporias of modern democracy, which fails in its attempts to reconcile zoe¯ and bios, and in doing so, continues to produce bare life as the life of political subjects. Given this characterization of bare life, Agamben goes on to indicate that what is required to provide a “unitary centre” for a coming politics is a way of thinking the concept of life that no longer operates within the terrain of bios and zoe¯.