The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government
by giorgio agamben
translated by lorenzo chiesa, with matteo mandarini
stanford, 328 pages, $70

The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life
by giorgio agamben
translated by adam kotsko
stanford, 184 pages, $50

The Church and the Kingdom
by giorgio agamben
translated by leland de la durantaye
seagull, 64 pages, $20

Several years ago, Giorgio Agamben began one of his lectures by asking why he had made law and theo­logy the areas of his recent investigation. “A first answer,” he said, “which is obviously a joke, but every joke has a serious core, would be, because these are the only two fields in which Michel Foucault did not work.”

Agamben is a continental philosopher widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary thinkers on political theology and aesthetics. He follows Foucault and the postmodern tradition of ­genealogy by looking beneath the surface of contemporary phenomena, searching for the traces of earlier philosophical and political decisions that pervert our present existence. The most striking modern phenomena, from totalitarianism through liberal democracy to the current rule of economic technocrats and central ­bankers across much of Europe, have their roots in a forgotten past.

In exposing the roots of modern politics, Agamben hopes to open up a path to overcoming what he sees as its flaws. His core complaint: We allow ourselves to be dominated by the law of efficiency, which requires us to view all things, including the human things, in terms of their ability to be operated, their “operativity” (operosità). His central thesis: We’ve come to this because of a theo-­political misstep. Like Heidegger, under whom he studied, he thinks that Western society has always been in a crisis brought about by Greek philosophy and Christian theology. 

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