I’ve been having a conversation with Angela in fits and starts, turning around, among other things, what the sense of ‘nonpolitical’ could mean.

I stumbled across a quote a moment ago related to this while looking for something connected to the Doctrine of National Security. Agamben quotes Schmitt: “[P]recisely the decision concerning whether a fact or a kind of thing is apolitical is a specifically political decision.” Agamben then writes “Politics is now literally the decision concerning the unpolitical”. (Homo Sacer, 173. The Schmitt quote is from p17 of “Staat, Bewegung, Volk,” in the collection Die Deigliederung der politischen Einheit. I don’t know if that’s been translated or not, I’ll look later.)

One way to read this is to say that the determination of something being political or not only ever occurs from a political location (from ‘within’ the political). The obvious question is “from what (type of) location is this determination made on the nature of determining whether something is political or not?” The only answer can be “a political one.” This always-already political position makes sense insofar as Schmitt thinks the political is an existential condition. This slides easily into “everything is political” which can be quite flattening. I prefer a formulation of this as not alles ist political but rather that the determination of political status is a frequent and useful move for political maneuvering. That way one avoids ascribing an a priori political status.

I also should note that Agamben identifies the (decision on the) unpolitical with the (decision on) bare life. The unpolitical is a sequestering form the political which within the political – a confinement, an enclosure.

Agamben also comments on the etymology of exception, derived from “ex-capere” – “taken outside” – those who enter the camp, as spatial locale of the exception, enter “a zone of indistinction between outside and inside”, HS 170. Another way to put this might be that the political is always decision over bodies: the decision constitutive of the political body, in the sense of a corporate entity, is a decision on which bodies are normal, which abnormal, and the different ways those assigned to abnormality will be treated. Life is is not a part of any “properly scientific concepts” or ensemble thereof “but rather political concepts, which as such acquire a political meaning precisely only through a decision. (HS164. Look up Agamben’s comments on Marx and biologism, I believe in Means Without End.) In any case, this is stuff to return to later.

Among said stuff for said return:

a piece by JL Nancy

a post by Brett on Esposito

a post by Angela on Esposito

extracts from an article by Nancy

article by Angela and Brett

an article by Werner Hamacher

Far too much material to read any time soon but to peruse at leisure

My own assorted notes on Schmitt in relation to Marx, Negri etc

Also potential starting points for a discussion of the relation between the laboring body and the collective bodies of (or, which operate in the name of) workers –

notes on Sewell’s book on French labor history

On Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts and the rather Schmitt-esque reduction of the political to the national and statist