Αναρτώ εδώ το ολοκληρωμένο κείμενο, μια και έχουν γίνει αρκετές προσθέσεις και προσαρμογές και στο κομμάτι των δύο πρώτων τμημάτων που είχαν δημοσιευθεί αρχικά. Οι κριτικές παρατηρήσεις είναι ευπρόσδεκτες εν όψει πιθανών αναθεωρήσεων σε κατοπινό στάδιο.RD (Αντώνης)
The Discreet Charm of the ‘Anarchist Sublime’: Sovereign Power and Bare Life Revisited
Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, the first of a group of works Italian philologist and critical theorist Giorgio Agamben was to devote to the questions of sovereignty, law and violence, was originally published in Italian in 1995. Its English translation appeared three years later, when the book was included in the prestigious “Crossing Aesthetics” series published by Stanford University Press. The book’s reception in the Anglophone academic world does not appear to have been exceptional initially. An MLA bibliography search shows a modest two references in 1999, in book reviews undertaken for the journals Modernism/Modernity and Theory & Event. Six more references, all of them in reviews of the book, appeared in 2000. In 2001, the bibliography lists three critical essays that involved Agamben’s book: Steven DeCaroli’s and Brett Levinson’s essays in Philosophy Today and Nepantla, and, perhaps more fatefully, Michael J. Shapiro’s “Wanted, Dead or Alive”, which appeared in the “Reflections on 11 September” special issue of Theory & Event, where Agamben himself contributed an essay on “Security and Terror”.
I say “more fatefully” because in linking the book to the legal and political questions posed by the so-called war on terror, Shapiro laid the foundations for what was to prove an extremely popular and widespread trend in the Anglophone world, one which rendered Agamben’s conceptual nomenclature (“sovereign power” “state of exception”, “bare life”) well-nigh synonymous with the state of American and global politics in the first years of the twenty-first century. By 2002, the link between Agamben’s book and critical reflection on 9/11 was well on the way to consolidation: an essay on terrorism in Anthropological Quarterly and a special issue on 9/11 in Theatre Journal both make reference to Agamben’s book. 2003 marks something of a threshold for the book’s (and Agamben’s) reception, particularly in the United States: the MLA bibliography lists eleven essays which deal either with Homo Sacer or with the thematically related volumes that had followed it by that time, Remnants of Auschwitz (originally published in 1998), and The Open: Man and Animal (published in Italian in 2002). The attack on the Twin Towers, the Homeland Security act, and the legal implications of U.S.-led counter-terrorism initiatives form the focus of at least five of these—proof that by 2003 the dominant parameters of Agamben’s U.S. reception had been established, and that these parameters derive from a sort of retroactive reading into his work of preoccupations that were to gain center stage only a number of years after Homo Sacer’s original publication and translation into English.
What followed was a veritable flood of Agambeniana, intensified by the publication of yet another sequel to Homo Sacer, State of Exception, in 2005 (Italian original 2003). The MLA bibliography shows that more than a hundred essays, as well as at least three edited volumes, have been published on Agamben between 2003 and the present; without doubt, more were published in disciplines not included in the resources indexed by the MLA database. The period between 2003 and 2009 hence heralded something like an Agambenian turn in Anglophone cultural, social and political theory, one which was profoundly interconnected with the explosion of interest in Carl Schmitt and his conception of sovereignty and the state of exception, Michel Foucault and the tangled history of biopolitics and governmentality, and the literary and philosophical explorations of bare life and animality. These terms became constellated into a theoretically hegemonic vocabulary, one that became virtually coextensive with life under the Bush regime, and which aimed at exposing the interlocked legal, political and historical phenomena associated with the policies of this regime: the increasing curtailment if not outright violation of the civil rights and liberties of U.S. citizens, the abandonment of established norms of civil and international law (including due process and the right to legal representation), the normalization of torture in the interests of “security”, the re-emergence of the specters of the concentration camp (most notably in Guantanamo) and its “Musselmans” (this time, ironically, literally Muslims). In the structure of feeling that dominated these years, the bleakness of Agamben’s brazenly archaicizing understanding of sovereignty in the Roman terms of “authority of life and death” became the equivalent of common sense—reinforced, it would seem, by the baleful media iconographies of the near-nullity of human existence, the scandalous omnipresence of what Antonio Negri, critically appraising Agamben’s perspective, would call “the destinal insignificance of being”.
What this otherwise pedantic chronicle of publishing history suggests, then, is the existence of a concretely historical—which is also to say, ideologically meaningful—logic behind the spectacular popularity Agamben’s work was to enjoy in U.S. academia after 2001. It is a logic that is worth reflecting on in its own right. For what marks the seemingly counterintuitive prominence in the U.S. academic context a theologically bent Italian leftist (a phenomenon that came in the wake of the equally thought-provoking explosion of Anglophone interest in his compatriot Antonio Negri’s similarly idiosyncratic, if also markedly optimistic, brand of Spinozist post-Marxism) is a rather concrete event: the emergence of what one could call a negative form of thinking the connectivity between domestic and global experience. The global multitude that was to subvert the coextensive edifice of Empire through forms of spontaneous, non-state mediated, organization was replaced by the throngs of first and third-world lives catastrophically brought together under the aegis of a vulnerability that made recourse to forms of democratic political mediation futile or impossible. Homo Sacer and its sequels were works profoundly attuned to the galvanizing synapse 9/11 was to form between “us” and ‘them”, between the long- familiar spectacle of non-western refugees or civil war victims and the sudden revelation of the precarious life of first-world bodies, mass-incinerated in the flaming inferno of the Twin Towers, amputated by mines and ambushes in Afghani and Iraqi battlefields, frisked by police at metropolitan airports, surveilled, questioned or detained by state authorities at home. Indeed, if the immediate popularity of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire (published in English two years after Homo Sacer) was sealed by the affective congruence between its own exuberant faith in an autonomously engineered revolutionary transformation of global capitalist society and the ideological predispositions of a U.S. Left that believed itself insulated from the archaic workings of state sovereignty and state violence, the subsequent ascendancy of Agamben’s chronologically earlier work is testimony to the drastic, traumatic inversion of the ideological climate of the last years of the century (and of the Clinton regime).
A newly elegiac and mournful tone was settling like dust onto the older, exuberantly subversive esprit predominating in American cultural theory. When, in 2004, Judith Butler followed her 90s classics, Gender Trouble (1990) and Bodies that Matter (1993), with Precarious Life (2004), she was largely registering the impact of disconsolate winds of change: from within the experience of a world order seemingly organized around the globalizable right of states to kill, torture and detain their subjects or the subjects of other states with impunity, bodies simply didn’t seem to matter in the way they once did, as sites of transgression and defiance: “each of us is constituted politically in part by virtue of the social vulnerability of our bodies […] Loss and vulnerability seem to follow from our being socially constituted bodies, attached to others, at the risk of losing those attachments, exposed to others, at risk of violence by virtue of that exposure”. Indeed, performativity itself, Butler’s earlier alternately celebrated, maligned and misunderstood foundation for thinking the potentiality of gender and sexual insubordinations, had come to ground the unlimited violence of the state of exception:
My own view is that a contemporary version of sovereignty, animated by an aggressive nostalgia that seeks to do away with the separation of powers, is produced at the moment of this withdrawal [of law, pace Agamben], and that we have to consider the act of suspending the law as a performative one which brings a contemporary configuration of sovereignty into being or, more precisely, reanimates a spectral sovereignty within the field of governmentality […] The future becomes a lawless future, not anarchical, but given over to the discretionary decisions of a set of designated sovereigns—a perfect paradox that shows how sovereigns emerge within governmentality—who are beholden to nothing and to no one except the performative power of their own decisions.”
But in its virtually universal tendency to see in Agamben’s work a diagnostically accurate, if not prophetic, analysis of the circumstances and tendencies of our time, Homo Sacer’s U.S. academic audience has been a little too eager to accept and reproduce its fundamental presuppositions and interpretive emphases. Prominent among these is its diagnosis of the displacement of the site of political dialogue and political antagonism—the polis, in its various national and cosmopolitan metamorphoses—by the lethal spatiality of the camp, the site where all potential for political innovation and creativity is erased, and where death becomes the ultimate horizon and telos of politics. In his highly trenchant critique of what he calls “the jargon of exception”—in both its Schmittian and Agambenian versions—Jef Huysmans locates in Agamben’s tendency to think contemporary democratic politics from the perspective of the absolute limit of the concentration camp the foundations of a deeply depoliticizing gesture. If in Schmitt the decisionist theory of exception “sought to delete ‘the political capacity of society’ by writing it out of the very concept of the political and by collapsing the sociality of the people into a Volk brought into existence by fear of the enemy and the Führer”, Agamben’s vision of the camp as paradigmatic site of an anomic bare life takes on the character of Heideggerian “jargon of authenticity”, not simply bypassing the mediations that shape the “histories of sociopolitical struggles and the locales of these struggles” but also seeking to “ontologically erase them”. Bare life is life extricated from all legal, economic and political forms of mediation, life that “exists purely in relation to itself.” The Homo Sacer project thus radicalizes Schmitt’s project of insulating politics from the antagonistic realm of the social (the realm, for instance, of class struggle) by offering “an apocalyptic political vision” in which “the collapse of order into anomic, self-referential life” becomes the “defining”—one might say sovereign—“principle of politics.”
At the same time, it would be inaccurate to assume that Agamben’s work could be read as an unambiguously historical account of an epochal catastrophe, a fatal passage from the polis to the camp. Indeed, though he underlines the qualitative import of the shift from a premodern dialectic between norm and exception in the polis to the devastating normalization of their conflation—the diffusion of the permanent state of exception in a camp with no outside—Agamben does not quite assert that this shift possesses a historical valence. Jacques Derrida’s critical remarks in The Beast and the Sovereign point to the aporetic character of Agamben’s periodization quite astutely: Agamben’s “insecure” semantic distinction between Aristotelian deployments of bios and zoē “cannot serve to determine a historical periodization.” Though Agamben appears to take “the Foucauldian idea of a specifically modern biopolitics seriously”, he is also “keen to recall that it is as ancient as can be”; offering simultaneously an effectively “linear history” of the passage from ancient distinctions to modern conflations and a Heideggerian account of a foundational, primordial forgetting of the originary constitution of sovereign power in the ban, Agamben “wants both to be the first to announce an unprecedented and new thing, what he calls ‘the decisive event of modernity’, and also to be the first to recall that in fact it’s always been like that, from time immemorial.” The temporally aporetic nature of Agamben’s argument gains structural prominence when he observes that his inquiry concerns “the hidden point of intersection between the juridico-institutional and the biopolitical models of power”. This “hidden point” is of course the bare life of homo sacer, the focus of the pivotal second part of the homonymous volume’s tripartite structure. Furnishing a concept that can circulate undecideably between the discussion of the “juridico-institutional” foundations of Roman sovereignty in the first section and the investigation of the “biopolitical” realm of the modern camp in the third, bare life is precisely that which opens between them—between ancient and modern, diachrony and synchrony—what Agamben calls a “zone” or “threshold” of “indistinction.” Functioning like an abyssal fold in which the volume’s chronological origins and ends collapse, the book’s middle section signals a threshold in the strict sense in which Andrew Norris glosses Agamben’s use of the term: “a passage that cannot be completed, a distinction that can be neither maintained nor eliminated.”
Inevitably, then, the camp will constitute a sinister phantom, one that always already lurks within the polis, hovering over the constitution of political space and political subjectivity. But it will thereby also figure as their secret destiny, the terminal point of a catastrophic teleology that will retrospectively be shown to have informed the domain of politics from the start: “if in our age,” Agamben remarks during one of his frequent exercises in presentist pathos, “all citizens can be said […] to appear virtually as homines sacri, this is possible only because the relation of the ban has constituted the essential structure of sovereign power from the beginning”. Negri, who is critical of Agamben’s “undifferentiated—either cynical or pessimistic—horizon, where every element is reduced to the empty play of an equivalent negativity” is not far off the mark when he discerns traces of a “leftist Hegelianism” in this “catastrophist” conception of the biopolitical.  When Agamben concludes that “the river of biopolitics that gave homo sacer his life runs its course in a hidden but continuous fashion”, it is above all the voice of a catastrophist Hegelianism that emerges. The labor of the negative through which Spirit shapes history has here been entirely subsumed by the mechanical, unending whirr of the killing machine of sovereign power. Evoking Andreas Kalyvas’ trenchant response to the effective “absence of time” in Agamben’s “almost totalistic, agentless history”, we might say that Homo Sacer assumes that it is camp time all the time. The concentration camp, site of the total and lethal coincidence of a state of exception and the ‘normal’ state of affairs, appears as the inevitable termination point of the western “anthropological machine” long before the onset of modernity. Socrates himself, in Andrew Norris’s Agambenian reading of Plato, “openly accepts that his biopolitics must at the same time be a thanatopolitics”, making The Republic something like an obscenely unconcerned precursor of Mein Kampf.
But the ominous retroactivity with which the extremities of contemporary biopolitics register themselves within the realm of premodern law suggests that all time has become camp time in a different sense as well. From the standpoint of Agamben’s own vision, historical difference has been overtaken by what the concentration camp most paradigmatically effects: the ontological obliteration of time itself, the utter annihilation of eventfulness, contingency, and rupture from the horizon of history. In a certain sense, and against the Homo Sacer project’s explicitly anti-authoritarian intentions, the historical terrain has been transformed into a stage given over to the spectacle of denuded, unaccommodated humanity on the one hand and life-annihilating sovereign power on the other. It is a vision which, while viably arguing for the complicity between a biopolitics that privileges “humanity” and the dignity of its political destiny and one that exposes life to the violence of abandonment, also obliterates “the heroic pathos of negation”. What Agamben opts for instead (building on Benjamin’s notion of “messianic violence” in “Zur Kritik der Gewalt”) is the hypostatization of figures that embody a politics of “means without ends”, of an eschaton without telos: those prophets of projectless, socially deracinated anomie that may be said to comprise the triad of the Musselman, the human being as “what remains after the destruction of the human being”; the animal, figure of the “‘great ignorance’” that lets life “be outside of being, saved precisely in […] being unsavable”; and Bartleby, “the extreme figure of the Nothing from which all creation derives”, the guardian angel of “the luminous spiral of the possible” that can only emerge out of “the colorless abyss of the Nothing”.
In his Wars of Position, Timothy Brennan speaks of an “anarchist sublime”, a term he does not quite gloss, but which I think is an apt description of the affective and political modality expressed by this triad of privileged figures: a fusion of blanket anti-statism, which, as Brennan correctly points out, has found a particularly receptive audience among the U.S.’s “homegrown individualist anarchism” and the sublime post-humanity that is the banner of a certain nihilism—one which in Agamben’s complex deployment seems to weave together German and French, Benjaminian and Bataillean strands. Hence it is that the seemingly profoundly dystopian tone of works like Homo Sacer, Remnants of Auschwitz, or The Open reveals an obliquely, counter-intuitively utopian kernel, shaped “by an act of sheer hermeneutic controversion”, that turns “negatives into positives”, as Brennan puts it. “Passivity rather than rebellion”, mourning rather than insurgent self-assertion, figures of sur-vival rather than life: these subjective expressions of what Jacques Rancière calls “politics in its nihilistic age” are the constituent elements of what Agamben’s project presents as alternatives to what it diagnoses as the contemporary state of affairs. What remains after the very process of political subjectivation has been exposed as complicitous with what it nominally opposes or challenges—what remains in the wake of the spellbinding image of our universal capture by the sovereign exception—is, after all, ethics, “thinking that tars all thought and all politics with its own impotence, by making itself the custodian of the thought of a catastrophe from which no ethics, in any case, was able to protect us”.
We ought to wonder about the stakes involved in the spontaneous embrace of such a patently baleful vision of available margins of resistance. For there is something quite telling about the fact that an account which effectively obliterated the possibility of recourse to “the key category of democratic politics, ‘the people’ as a political societal multiplicity of relations and political practices” attained critical legitimacy at a time when, in the U.S. especially, the anti-politics of neoliberal “end-of-history” optimism were rapidly giving way to an equally antipolitical apocalypticism. The turn toward a view of political subjectivity as something always already subsumed by the Leviathan of unlimited and illimitable sovereign violence was not as drastic a departure from neoliberalism’s exuberant faith in the post-political “administration of things” as it might otherwise appear. It might instead be understood as an inversion of the affective register of the hegemonic ideology which nonetheless manages to keep intact the pre-emptive ban on politics as a process of emancipatory subjectivation. I believe this account can and should be challenged on multiple grounds; in what follows, I will undertake to provide an alternative genealogy of our problematic present by revisiting the configuration of bare life and sovereign power in three historical conjunctures—Roman antiquity, early modernity and the industrial era. Each of these moments, in turn, will be tied to a different domain of discursive inquiry and critique: for lack of better terms, I would refer to these as the domains of historical philology, political anthropology, and political economy.
Sacratio Against Sovereignty
“Rome”, Michel Serres was to remark in a work whose propensity to see violence as the primary vehicle of ethical, historical and political indifferentiation reminds one strongly of Agamben’s own tendencies, “is the city of the object; it does not pose the question of the subject”. Yet, I would argue, it is precisely the question of subject—the sudden and scandalous irruption of something that disturbs the hierarchical order of the polis—that is posed by the violent Roman custom of sacratio capitis—the Roman decree that declared one sacer. Since the discussion of sacratio in the middle section of Agamben’s book is pivotal—it is this section which, after all, gives Homo Sacer its title—let us take a more attentive look at its findings. What is one to make of the lessons imparted by homo sacer, this “obscure figure of archaic Roman law” which has haunted such a considerable proportion of contemporary scholarship on sovereignty and the modern state? Founding his discussion of the question on Pompeius Festus’s well-known passage in De Verborum Significatu (On the Significance of Words), where the status of sacer is defined as unsacrificeable and killable with impunity, Agamben moves rather too swiftly from the definition itself to an examination of the import of the topology of sacred man’s placement beyond the pale of both human and divine law. It is on the basis of this double exclusion from the human community and from the realm of the divine that he subsequently argues for a fundamental affinity between the “double exception” involved in Festus’s definition of sacratio capitis and the “structure of sovereign exception.” Hence, Agamben will remark, “the production of bare life is the originary activity of sovereignty.” “The sovereign and homo sacer” are “joined in a figure of an action that, excepting itself from both human and divine law […] nevertheless delimits what is, in a certain sense, the first properly political space of the West, distinct from both the religious and the profane sphere, from both the natural order and the regular juridical order.”
What is striking about the syllogism through which Agamben converts sacratio and its victims into the “key” which would make “the very codes of political power” unveil “their mysteries”, is that it barely pauses over the actual practice of a law that it is prepared to invest with effectively transhistorical significance. It is certainly puzzling that a study erudite enough to trace a series of convoluted and heavily attenuated connections between sacratio and such Roman customs as the handling of the surviving devotus or the funerary preparation of a funus imaginarium eschews discussion of the often diverging understandings of the practice in the retrospective Roman commentaries of Livy, Dionysius of Halicarnassus or Plutarch, not to mention the not insubstantial body of late nineteenth and twentieth-century philological, historical and legal commentaries on these inevitably contestable reconstructions of the unwritten history of early Rome. For one, this means that the potential shifts of emphasis and application that involve this practice as it develops from the years of the early kings (753 BCE-509 BCE) to those of the early Republic (509 BCE-367 BCE) are flattened out. Despite scholarly disagreements over whether sacratio persisted, vanished or was mutated in the legal practice of the Roman republic, however, there seems to be consensus over the fact that in its earliest deployment under the kings, sacratio, “the earliest penalty of Roman criminal law”, was only imperfectly separated from religious practices of sacrifice and was in fact largely subsumed within the auspices of private, family law. Already dwindling in relative significance, it appears, by the beginning of the Republic at the end of the sixth century BCE (509), sacratio was originally tied to an area of particular legal difficulty for the early Romans. This area concerned the problem of caring for subjects that were liminally situated in relation to the patrician ruling class—the clientes and the plebs.
Book II of Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s Roman Antiquities identifies the clientes with the plebs, suggesting that king Romulus, seeking to redress the fact that the plebeians had no voice in public affairs, “placed” them “as a trust in the hands of the patricians, by allowing every plebeian to choose for his patron any patrician he himself wished”. Other views suggest that the clientes were a group distinct from the plebeians, bereft of any freedoms and reduced to the status of passively represented elements of the populus romanus of patricians. In this interpretation, they were originally immigrants who went to Rome in search of peace and security or employment, or inhabitants of neighboring towns who were conquered without being turned to slaves. It was therefore their being perceived as ethnic aliens that deprived them not merely of access to political office, as was the case with the plebeians, but also of citizenship, civil rights and recourse to the law. Whether their distinction from the plebeians is to be maintained or not, the case remains that for early Roman law, they formed a category of social subject at once included in and excluded from the populus romanus: excluded politically, they were included through private—and hence, sacred—law. The hospitium privatum, which made a citizen responsible for the guardianship of a client (rendering the citizen a patronus) was considered as sanctified by religious and customary authority. It also produced mutual rights and obligations between the parties of patron and client. “The patron”, Fustel de Coulanges would note, “was obliged to protect his client by all the means and with all the power of which he was master; by his prayers as a priest, by his lance as a warrior, by his law as a judge”. The breach of fides, of the duty to be faithful in one’s representation of the client in legal and juridical affairs (even at the cost of acting against one’s own blood relatives), and of the sacred obligation never to undertake action against the client or bear witness against him, was considered treason or perduellio and was among the earliest and most principal wrongs punished by the terrible pronouncement of sacratio capitis. Indeed, after Dionysius’ reference to Romulus’s law, which punished the violation of patron-client fides by decreeing that the culprit should be put “to death by any man who so wished as a victim devoted to the Jupiter of the infernal regions”, the best-known early reference to sacratio is that immortalized by the Twelve Tables. Written in the early years of the Republic (451-450 BCE), largely as attempt to respond to the plebeian pressure for increased civil rights and protection from patrician abuse, the Tables stipulated that “Patronus si clienti fraudem fecerit, sacer esto”: the patron, if he defrauds his client, is to be decreed sacer.
Clearly, the relationship between sovereignty, the state of exception and bare life in this instance is dramatically different from what Agamben is predisposed to make of the historical archive in his work: the threat of reduction to bare life hangs over the head not of the individual who is caught in “inclusive exclusion” in relation to the community—for that would in fact be the client—but over that of his legal guardian and representative—the patron. The fall into a condition of bare life, in other words, is at once the sign of the absolute abandonment of one theretofore fully included in the political community and of the hyperbolic care the community exhibits towards one it has otherwise excluded. It is as if the state of exception through which the client is both excluded from and captured in the juridico-political order of the city posits a demand for a corresponding and mirroring state of exception, through which the Roman state seeks to redress a fundamental asymmetry of power that it nonetheless maintains. What this early application of sacratio illustrates is thus emphatically not the unlimited exercise of sovereign violence; it is rather a principle of violent containment targeted specifically against the abuse of the quasi-sovereign power of the patron—against, more precisely, the patron’s violation of the constraints of a moral economy of codependence and loyalty.
As I have already suggested, some historians have cast doubt on the reliability of Dionysius’ conflation of clientes and plebs, suggesting instead that the former constituted a third group, besides those of patricians and plebeians. What is more certain, however, is that the ground of protection from patrician abuse was in both cases the proclamation of the sacrosanctitas of the legally and politically endangered party. This in turn dictated that he who would seek to abuse these groups by exploiting their precarious position was to be decreed sacer. Though some have suggested that the shift from monarchy to Republic entails not merely a loosening of the bonds of patronage, but also an increase in the father’s sovereign power over life and death (the patria potestas), this does not mean that the threat of sacratio in the Republic ever lost its connection to its earlier role as a means of protecting the socially or economically weaker from abuse of established power and authority. It was so for the plebs, the group that replaces the clients at center-stage in the years of the Republic, partly due to the gradual decline of the patron-client institution, and partly due to the fact that the latter share the former’s exclusion from personal and civic rights, perhaps in an even more radical form. Responding to the demands posed by that eminent victory of ancient class struggle, the second plebeian secession of 450 BCE, the Leges Valeriae et Horatiae of 449 BCE accordingly declared that any man who violated the sacrosanctitas of a plebeian tribune (tribuni plebis) was to be decreed sacer, forfeiting his head to Jupiter, while his possessions were to be sold at the temple of Ceres, Liber and Libera: “ejus caput Jovi sacrum esset, familia aedem Cereris Liberi Liberaeque venum iret”. Livy further notes that the plebs demanded as a condition for their return to the city that those who “should declare the election of any magistrate without appeal, and that he who might so declare”, should “be put to death without offence to law or religion and that such a homicide should not be held a capital crime.” Agamben himself briefly refers to the similar stipulations of the earlier Lex Sacrata—a reference which occasions his momentary admission that sacratio was capable of founding “a political power that in some way counterbalanced the sovereign power”. Yet instead of elaborating on the reasons for making such an awkwardly counterfactual concession, he hurriedly moves the clock forward, to “the end of the old republican constitution and the birth of the new absolute power” of Augustus, who assumed the potestas tribunicia and declared himself sacrosanctus in perpetuum.
But this was already the dawn of the empire, when sacratio had almost beyond doubt vanished as a practice. In the era of the Republic, Augustus’ usurpation of tribunicial authority would have most likely constituted a capital offense, rendering him not sacrosanct but sacer. For by the time of the second plebeian secession (449 BCE), sacratio had become the fundamental means of safeguarding the inviolability of the civil rights embodied in the plebeian tribune. Note that Pompeius Festus, whose definition of sacer Agamben is ironically inclined to privilege, plainly says that the proclamation of sacratio belongs to the powers of the “plebiscite”, the plebei scito forged out of the class struggles of the fifth century. Having shed its regal prehistory as a patriarchal institution intended to regulate the virtually unlimited power of citizens over aliens, sacratio was transformed into a republican weapon, an active means that republican subjectivity deployed against the predations of elite authority. It is such from as early as 509 BCE, the first year of the republic, when Valerius, as Livy tells us, proposed that any man who would plot for the return of the monarchy was to be decreed accursed (“sacrandoque cum bonis capite eius qui regni occupandi consilia inesset”) to as late as the mid-first century BCE, when Antonius, according to Appian’s Civil Wars, was to help legitimate the assassination of Julius Caesar by suggesting that if the latter had indeed usurped sovereign power, he thereby placed himself beyond the pale of the law: “if our decision is that he was an upstart who ruled by force, his body is cast out unburied beyond the borders of his country and all his acts are invalidated”.
Sacratio against sovereign authority: this formula, in which the decree that renders one sacer figures as the violent precursor of a number of subsequent struggles for the salvaging of political rights from the rapacity of absolute power, underpins a crucial recasting of what Agamben calls “the secret tie uniting power and bare life”—one that refuses to “identify with the perspective of sovereign power” at the expense of attentiveness to “popular political practice”. In this politically heterodox version, bare life is not the indication of an abject surrender to the power of law and the state. It is rather the means through which a certain kind of power—the power, frequently, of the disempowered—opposes itself to the authority of social elites. This means that the “and” Agamben interposes between sovereign power and bare life does not necessarily mark the distribution of unlimited, law-exceeding power and killable zōe along the securely discrete positions of sovereign and victim. Rather, it indicates an internal fracturing within the concept of sovereignty, a self-division that occurs within the body of sovereign power, against the premises of sovereignty’s indivisibility or illimitability. If for Agamben, who in turn evokes Nancy, “sovereignty is […] ‘this law beyond the law to which we are abandoned’”, the Roman record invites us to think of an exceptional “law beyond the law” to which constituted sovereignty is itself absolutely exposed so that the vulnerability of those “normally” abandoned by the rule of law may remain less than absolute. The threat reserved for those who would play sovereign at the expense of the ethical imperative of fidelity and, reversely, the protection of those excluded from the provisions of normal juridicopolitical arrangements, constitutes a different, oppositional take on the import of inclusive exclusion. As Mika Ojankagas remarks on the question of the Foucauldian figure of the plebs, plebeian subjectivity may thus be understood as “the internal limit of power”; standing at the antipodes of the Schmittian sovereign, it is a “counter-figure” of the political power generated by a state of exception. Indeed, the plebeian secessions furnish paradigmatic instances of a mirroring of sovereign authority that is also its fracturing: subtracting themselves from the patrician count, the plebs convert the position of the outcast and excluded into one of counter-sovereign authority, capable of pronouncing its own interdictio against those who would retain a population in impotent, internal political exile. 
The King’s Three Bodies
It is to the extent that he forgets or represses the political import of this “other” trajectory that Agamben is able to cast the relationship between sovereign and homo sacer in terms of a fatal complementarity at “the two extreme limits of the order” of sacratio: “The sovereign is the one with respect to whom all men are potentially homines sacri, and homo sacer is the one with respect to whom all men act as sovereigns.” But the forgetting or repression of what is resistant to the reductive character of such formulations is not without its symptoms of reactive return: for no sooner has Agamben introduced the initially binary schema of the sovereign and the homo sacer than he begins to collapse the two terms onto each other. Hence, the discussion of the religious ritual of imperial funus imaginarium and its parallels in medieval burial custom leads the chapter on “Sovereign Body and Sacred Body” toward the idea that there exists “a darker and more uncertain zone […] in which the political body of the king seemed to approximate—and even to become indistinguishable from—the body of homo sacer.” Yet this is a discussion that involves nothing more politically consequential than the similarity between the emperor’s colossus and the one used in the iconic burial of the surviving devotus. It is not the logic that authorized the killing of the king that Agamben is concerned with; it is rather his natural death which, in and of itself, is said to make apparent sovereignty’s “supplement of sacred life”, an “excess that seems to be as such inherent in supreme power”. Such skirting around the difficulties posed by the historical deployment of sacratio against the abuse of sovereign power leads to a rather awkward handling of one of the vital political questions Roman history bequeathed to European early modernity: that of the existence of conditions that make regicide an act that is neither punishable by law nor considered a sacrifice.
When it finally broaches the question of regicide, Homo Sacer will argue for the existence of “analogies and correspondences” between the “apparently distant bodies” of the sovereign ruler and the homo sacer on the basis of their shared impossibility as objects of homicide. The problem with such a comparison, of course, is that, unlike the killing of bare life which is infinitely less than murder, regicide was often likely to be understood as infinitely more. For Agamben, the difference simply “does not matter,” since “what is essential is that in neither case does the killing […] constitute an offense of homicide”. From the perspective of the killer, of course, it makes a world of difference whether his act is conceived as unpunishable or as punishable with all the excess of sovereign cruelty Foucault immortalized in the opening of Discipline and Punish. And it is even more troubling that Agamben maps this particular version of a “zone of indistinction” by reading the statutes proclaiming the emperor “sacred and inviolable” in a manner that makes his inviolability interchangeable with the unsacrifecability of bare life: in Agamben’s account, the sovereign collapses into homo sacer only because the royal claim to absolute protectibility from violent intent is conflated with the condition of a person against whom the law considers no amount of violence to be enough.
Agamben’s way of framing the proximity between sovereign and homo sacer is also one that mobilizes Ernst Kantorowicz’s findings in his magisterial The King’s Two Bodies (1957), whose founding thesis is that medieval absolutist authority involves the “abstract physiological fiction” of the double body of the sovereign: the immortal and immaculate “body politic”, in Edmund Plowden’s Elizabethan formulation, and the perishable and fallible “body natural.” Yet there is good reason to think that this bipartite schema does not quite exhaust the problems raised by the legacy of counter-sovereign violence, and not merely in Rome. Aristotle’s Politics, let us recall, had positioned sovereignty at the borderline between the more-than and the less-than-human: “But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must either be a beast or a god.” If the state rhetoric of what Kantorowicz calls “medieval political theology” pivots on the division between the sovereign’s “body politic” and “body natural”, the Aristotelian schema underlies a vision of sovereignty (sovereign autonomy, sovereign externality to law and society) as something that doubly misses the destiny of the human, either by superceding it (as godliness) or by proving itself miserably inferior to it (as beastliness). Sovereign power and autonomy both replicate and complicate Aristotle’s famous definition of man as “political animal”, with its implicit oscillation between a meaning that would emphasize the qualitative transformation of the noun by its attribute—man as a political animal, one whose natural life is taken up and transformed by entry into political relations—and one that would on the contrary underline the power of the noun to transform the meaning of the attribute—man as a political animal, a creature which, judged by standards of political virtue, may always come to appear as less than human, and indeed almost less than animal as well.
When it comes to sovereignty, then, political theology is necessarily haunted by its entanglements with something one may call a political zoology; reflection on the origins, character and function of political authority and legitimacy involves a complex adjudication of the place of the sovereign within the figurative triad established by Aristotle and comprised of human, animal and god. Long before it was divided into “body natural” and “body politic”, the sovereign body was split between economies of superhuman excess and subhuman lack, between sublimely elevated and animalistically degraded valences which cannot properly be mapped within the “political/natural” dichotomy. In the first book of Aristotle’s Politics, for instance, sexuality and reproduction appear at once as the biological foundations of the patriarchal family—and hence, by extension, of the originally monarchical political order of the city—and as signs of a biological automatism and compulsion that renders humans abjectly indistinguishable from the animal world. Or we may recall that in Plato’s Republic Socrates describes the city guardian who abuses his authority as a dog, which “disobedience or hunger or some bad trait or other” turns into the very wolf he was meant to guard the herd from. Tyranny (Socrates refers to the possibility of guardians becoming indistinguishable from “despotais agriois”, “savage tyrants”) is hence grasped as the result of a properly political animal’s fall from the state of its own paradoxically humanized nature: the domesticated dog, as Socrates remarks earlier on, normally has the “philosophical” ability to distinguish, in avant la lettre Schmittian fashion, between friend and enemy. The tyrant is thus defined in terms of an internal metamorphosis that transmutes one animal to another: dog into wolf. Centuries later, and on the eve of the French Revolution, Rousseau would advance his argument for popular sovereignty by suggesting that in being entrusted with a pastoral function—in being elevated to the status of a human shepherd of his animal flock—the absolutist sovereign is effectively licensed to function as both dog and wolf, guardian and predator at once: “Here, then, is humankind, divided into herds of cattle, each with its chief who tends it to devour it”.
Derrida’s remark that the relationship between beast and sovereign reveals “a profound and essential ontological copula […] at work”—so that reflection on “la bête et le souverain” is always haunted by an “irresistible hallucination” which reveals that “la bête est le souverain”—is only the most recent manifestation of a long-standing recognition, in classical and early modern political theory (Machiavelli’s prince-as-centaur, Hobbes’s sovereign Leviathan) and, more recently, in cultural anthropology, of the effective interchangeability of sovereign and animal bodies. Whether it be at the level of philosophical speculation or at that of ritual practice and popular mythology (from coronation rites to heraldry or fairy tales), there has always been a recognition of the fact that the distinction between the “creative violence” of law-creating sovereignty and the anti-social, ferocious violence of the predatory beast is a precarious one. Readers of Freud’s Totem and Taboo cannot but recall the black comedy of his description of the unenviable position of those “savage”—but, at a certain remove, also European—kings, who find themselves watched over by ceaselessly distrusting subjects, surrounded by taboos that “vividly recall the restrictions placed on murderers”, ceremonially beaten with “such thoroughness” that they do not survive their coronation, “worshipped as god[s] one day” and “killed as criminal[s] the next”. It is difficult to miss the rather strict correspondence between the Aristotelian designation of the man who has no need of society and is sufficient to himself as “either a beast or a god” and Freud’s own description of taboo as something that “not only distinguishes kings and elevates them above all ordinary mortals, but […] also makes their life a torture and an unbearable burden and forces them into a thralldom which is far worse than that of their subjects.”
Freud, it should be noted, comes under sharp criticism in Homo Sacer, precisely on the occasion of Totem and Taboo’s uncritical reproduction of what Agamben calls the “mythologeme” of the “theory of the ambivalence of the sacred.” Though the theory has earlier exponents, it is only in Freud’s work, Agamben argues, that “a genuine general theory of the ambivalence of the sacred” emerges; and it is precisely such a theory that in Agamben’s view obscures the proper import of the sovereign ban, its function as the key that unlocks the juridico-political secrets of sovereign authority and their implications for modern biopolitics. Yet the denunciation of the explanatory power of the ambivalence of the sacred is by no means an adequate explanation for why Homo Sacer and its sequels choose to bypass the important record of anthropological engagement with the logical underpinnings and cultural forms of a violence explicitly addressed against the figures of sovereign authority. René Girard’s Violence and the Sacred (a work whose absence from Agamben’s references is striking, given its antagonistic nature as a genealogy of the function of scapegoating violence), is both equally critical of the effectively tautological presuppositions of a theory of the ambivalence of the sacred and emphatic about the fact that the genesis of sovereign authority cannot be extricated from the prior identification of the sovereign and the sacred man:
The encyclopedic character of the transgressions […] betray[s] who it is that the king is supposed to incarnate: the paragon of transgressors, the man who holds nothing sacred and who fearlessly assumes every form of hubris. […] It is because of this impurity that the king, in the course of enthronement and renewal ceremonies, is subjected to the ritualistic insults and abuse of the people. […] the needful insults and hostilities find their outlet in sacrificial ceremonies in which the king plays the chief role—the role of the original victim. […] What is essential is the granting of authority during his lifetime to someone who is designated as a future victim and who draws his power and prestige retroactively from the reconciling power of the original scapegoat […] When we consider the monarchy of the Ancien Régime, in France or any other traditional monarchic system, we cannot help wondering whether it would not be more profitable to consider these institutions in the light of sacred kingship than in the light of modern ideas about monarchy […] The life and death of the monarchic system in France—its sacred rites, its fools, its cure of scrofula through the royal touch, the grand finale of the guillotine—all this is clearly structured by the influence of sacred violence. The sacred character of the king—that is, his identity with the victim—regains its potency as it is obscured from view and even held up to ridicule.
Girard’s reference to the existence of lines of continuity that link the obscure logic of “sacred kingship” not simply to tribal means of containing violence but to the regicidal modernity of the French revolution is quite significant. Regicidal discourse predicated a specific relation between sovereignty and animality, one in which the sovereign—predisposed, like Rousseau’s Calligula, to view himself as God and the people as beasts of burden—is himself cast as a predatory animal whose killing was not murder and could not (any longer) be understood as an act of sacrifice. What Robert Zaller describes as the “desacralization of tyranny” during the English seventeenth century was a process that involved the drastic separation of the king’s body from any divine connotations of the sacred and hence one that threatened to reactivate the original meaning of sacer, that which is placed outside the boundaries of both law and religion. It is quite telling in this regard that Prince Rupert, leader of the Royalist army defeated during the English Civil War, was effectively identified with his “necromantic” pet dog, Boy; the latter’s intentional killing during the Marston Moor battle (1644) was deemed significant enough from the military point of view as to be triumphantly reported in parliamentary journals or celebrated in pugnacious verse: “Lament poor Cavaliers, cry, howl and yelp/For the great losse of your Malignant Whelp”. The executed king, Charles I, on the other hand, was so closely identified with his beloved royal court spaniels that so-called “King Charles” dogs were thrown into national disfavor as court pets until the last of the Catholic Stuarts had died. As Zaller shows, what prepared the ground for such literally cynical deflations of sovereign authority was not simply the rhetorical reinvigoration of Roman models of tyrannicidal virtue in pamphleteering and on the stage, but also a certain focus on the sovereign as beast, doubtlessly invigorated by Christian apocalypticism: “Is it utterly impossible that our King”, Joseph Boden was to ask of Charles I in his An Alarme Beat up in Sion (1644), “should be one of those tenne, of whom we read, [in] Revl. 17.13, that have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast?” Charles’ successor to the throne during the brief Restoration of the Stuarts, Charles II, fared no better in the zoological invectives of anti-Catholic propaganda: “No tumbling play’r so oft e’er changed his shape/As this goat, fox, wolf, timorous French ape”, in the telling imagery conjured by the libelous ballad “Oceana and Britannia.”
But no document attests to the lasting resonance of counter-sovereign sacratio for early modern varieties of counter-sovereign violence like Edward Sexby’s tellingly entitled Killing Noe Murder (1657), an uncompromising invective against Cromwell’s betrayal of revolutionary promise, his violation of the fides due to the revolutionary process itself. Sexby, a New Model Army agitator and a vociferous Leveller in the Putney debates, charges Cromwell with conspiring to reintroduce an effectively counter-revolutionary politics of individual charisma in the commonwealth, and thus to turn the republican revolution into a farce, a mere instrument of authoritarian dictatorship. Strikingly, Sexby’s text is dedicated to the Lord Protector himself, figuring him as its literary patron. It is difficult not to see this homicidal, as James Holstun calls it, recasting of the relationship to patronage as a strategically motivated indexing of the Roman tradition of sacratio against the unfaithful patronus. Sexton focuses on the murderous reconfiguration of his relationship to his own sarcastically proclaimed patron, converting the conventionally adulating and deferential language of the dedicatory preface into that of a death threat directed against a Protector who has turned, so the argument goes, into a predatory beast. The body of the pamphlet’s argument, accordingly, is a virtually textbook illustration of the persistence of Roman sacratio in the political imaginary of radical violence, one crucially dependent on the figuration of sovereign pretensions to super-humanity as instances of a sub-humanity that may be annihilated with impunity, without any trace of sacrificial solemnity:
a tyrant [is one] over whom every man is naturally a judge and an executioner, and whom the laws of God, of nature, and of nations expose, like beasts of prey, to be destroyed as they are met. That I may be as plain as I can, I shall first make it a question (which indeed is none), whether my Lord Protector be a tyrant or not? Secondly, if he be, whether it is lawful to do justice upon him without solemnity, that is, to kill him. […] I find none […] that have been so great enemies to common justice and the liberty of mankind as to give any kind of indemnity to a usurper who can pretend no title but that of being stronger, nor challenge the people’s obedience upon any other obligation but that of their necessity and fear. Such a person, as one out of all bonds of human protection, all men make the Ishmael, against whom is every man’s hand, as his is against every man. To him they give no more security than Cain, his fellow murderer and oppressor, promised to himself, to be destroyed by him that found him first […] a tyrant, as we have said, being no part of the commonwealth, nor submitting to the laws of it, but making himself above all law […] is therefore in all reason to be reckoned in the number of those savage beasts that fall not with other into any herd, that have no other defense but their own strength, making a prey of all that’s weaker […] his person should be sacrosancta, cui nihil sacrum aut sanctum, to whom nothing is sacred, nothing inviolable.
Capital Offences, or, of Dwarf and Leviathan
Sexby’s pamphlet, Holstun tells us, enjoyed a long and interesting life of re-editions, translations, adaptations and muted intertextual appropriations during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A 1792 edition celebrated the “assassination of Gustavus III and the death of Emperor Leopold III”, while a translation published in 1804 replaced Cromwell with Napoleon I and an 1856 version directed the threat against the target of Karl Marx’s vitriolic lampooning, Louis Napoleon. Marx himself, as Holstun recalls, was to evoke Sexby’s leaflet in the third volume of Capital (1894):
In October 1855 Leonard Horner was already complaining about the resistance that a very large number of factory-owners were placing to the legal provisions for safety devices on horizontal shafts, even though the danger was continually being demonstrated by accidents, often fatal ones, and this safety appliance is neither expensive nor in any way disturbs the work. […] The factory-owners were given open support in resisting these and other legal provisions by the unpaid Justices of the Peace who had to decide on the cases, and were generally factory-owners themselves, or friends of factory owners. […] The factory-owners of the time formed a ‘trade union’ to resist the factory legislation, the so-called ‘National Association for the Amendement of the Factory Laws’, based in Manchester, which collected a sum of more than 50,000 in March 1855 from contributions on the basis of 2 shillings per horse-power, to meet the legal costs of members prosecuted by the factory inspectors and conduct their cases on behalf of the Association. The object was to prove ‘killing no murder’ if done for the sake of profit.
There are a number of things deserving closer scrutiny in this passage: first, Marx discards the political content and historical context of Sexby’s pamphlet, preserving only its title and leaving the task of restoring its original significance to Engels’s dutiful editorial hand. Secondly, and in direct connection to his gesture of drastic decontextualization, Marx inverts the inversion that Sexby’s phrase originally embodied: killing without murder is no longer the name of a popular tradition aimed at curtailing the abuses of sovereign power but a designation of the violence visited on workers’ bodies by what Marx calls “economy in the use of constant capital”. Thirdly, and most importantly, the inversion does not amount to a repetition of Agamben’s own schema of complementarity between sovereign power and bare life. Even if the victims of industrial sacratio are reduced to “beasts of burden”, the perpetrator of their killing does not embody political sovereignty and does not authorize homicide by fiat of sovereign authority. The specter Marx conjures by speaking of a killing that does not amount to homicide is not, pace Schmitt or Agamben, that of the predication of the law on its own suspension. In Marx’s deployment, Sexby’s phrase obtains a new, thoroughly modern meaning: if killing is deemed no murder it is not because worker’s deaths are understood as affairs towards which the law and the state remain indifferent (on the contrary, the context of Marx’s discussion is precisely bourgeois legal reform); it is because the bourgeois state and the framework of penal law are in fact utterly impotent before the violence that is inscribed within the workaday sphere of civil society. Though this is a thesis explored in a number of works of the 1840s (“On the Jewish Question”, Contribution to Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, The German Ideology), it is perhaps most clearly put forth in one of Marx’s less-well known early works, the “Critical Notes on the Article ‘The King of Prussia and Social Reform’), from which it is worth quoting extensively:
Why did not Napoleon simply decree the abolition of beggary at a stroke? […] This question is just as valid as that of our ‘Prussian’ [Arnold Ruge] who asks: ‘Why does the King not decree the education of all deprived children at a stroke? […]The contradiction between the vocation and the good intentions of the administration on the one hand and the means and powers at its disposal on the other cannot be eliminated by the state, except by abolishing itself; for the state is based on this contradiction […] For this reason, the state must confine itself to formal, negative activities, since the scope of its own power comes to an end at the very point where civil life and work begin. Indeed, when we consider the consequences arising from the asocial nature of civil life, of private property, of trade, of industry, of the mutual plundering that goes on between the various groups in civil life, it becomes clear that the law of nature governing the administration is impotence. […] If the modern state desired to abolish the impotence of its administration it would have to abolish contemporary private life. And to abolish private life it would have to abolish itself, since it exists only as the antithesis of private life. However, no living person believes the defects of his existence to based on the principle, the essential nature of his own life […] Hence the state cannot believe in the intrinsic impotence of its administration, i.e. of itself. It can only perceive formal, contingent defects in it and try to remedy them. If these modifications are inadequate, well, that just shows that social ills are natural imperfections, independent of man, they are a law of God, or else, the will of private individuals is to degenerate to meet the good intentions of the administration halfway. […] The more powerful a state and hence the more political a nation, the less inclined it is to explain the general principle governing social ills and to seek out their causes by looking at the principle of the state, i.e at the actual organization of society of which the state is the active, self-conscious and official expression. Political understanding is just political understanding because its thought does not transcend the limits of politics. The sharper and livelier it is, the more incapable it is of comprehending social problems.
The passage is remarkably clear in unraveling the contradictions that render the meaningful reform of social conditions an impossibility for the state. Perhaps more striking, however, is the revelation of a hidden identity between the state’s social impotence and its political power: the more powerful the state, Marx says, the less able it is to address the general principle of social ills (i.e, the contradictions generated by the mode of production), and hence the more prone it is to seek solace in a reformist agenda that is intrinsically impotent, doomed to degenerate into the evocation of “formal, contingent defects”, or, worse, into appeals to the obstacles presented by natural imperfections, the laws of God, or the obstinacy of private individuals. In Marx’s use, the attribute “political” thus simultaneously evokes the presence of state power (“the more powerful a state and hence the more political a nation”) and the vacuity of such power in the face of the real, lived social inequalities that rift the space of civil society. “Politics”, to put it otherwise, is another name for the delusional prism that pictures the state as the locus of transcendent sovereignty, while missing the fact that this same sovereignty amounts to nothing when confronted with the violence that inundates the petty affairs of so-called private and contractual relations—of “private property, of trade, of industry, of the mutual plundering that goes on between the various groups in civil life”.
To return, then, to the passage in the third volume of Capital, killing that is no murder is, in its modern, industrial guise, subtracted from reference to sovereign violence just as it is also removed from the reach of what I have termed counter-sovereign violence. The violence which Marx makes visible—what “On the Jewish Question” calls civil society’s bellum omnium contra omnes—is in no respect something that concerns the drama of sovereign decision, the solemn theatrics of sacrifice, the Schmittian distinction between friend and enemy, or the dispensing of penal justice. If workers die (or are amputated, or are left without the means of subsistence, or remain what they “naturally” are, means toward the extraction of surplus value), they do not simply do so in a situation that lies beyond the edicts of law and religion alike, but in one that modern sovereignty does not quite comprehend, whether in the sense of perceiving it as a politically intelligible event or in that of subsuming it as its own prerogative. Violence that is so thoroughly mediated by the sphere of “objective conditions” as to escape from political intelligibility is a reality that cannot be addressed by a legal or political formalism and cannot be redressed via recourse to the realm of executive decision or to the ethico-juridical language of rights (and wrongs). The proletariat, Marx was to note, claims “no particular right because the wrong it suffers is not a particular wrong but wrong in general”. The violence of wrong is not simply contained in this or that empirically demonstrable damage inflicted on the worker—“crowding workers into confined and unhealthy premises”, “squeezing dangerous machines into the same premises and dispensing with means of protection against these dangers”, “neglect of precautionary measures in those production processes whose very nature is harmful to health or involves risk”—but pertains to the very separation of the bourgeois state from a civil society whose concrete life becomes illegible from the perspective of the law, even though it shapes the total life world of its members. As for the agent of that violence, it is certainly not an empirical individual either, nor even a class that could be conceived in ethical terms, as sovereign and autonomous from external determinations; it is the logic of capitalist accumulation, and capital, as we know, is neither a “thing” nor a “self-constituted subject” but a “definite social relationship”. In Marx’s carefully phrased take on the factory situation: “The contradictory and antithetical character of the capitalist mode of production leads it to count the squandering of life and health of the worker, and the depression of his conditions of existence, as […] a means for raising the rate of profit.”
It is a crucial consequence of Marx’s intervention that the rhetoric of moral outrage at the rapacity of capital and the evocations of the sanctity of legal right are exposed as pitifully inadequate lines of defense against the violent reduction of proletarian life to labor power. “Tyranny” can no longer name the power that is historically specific to capital, even though that power certainly remains a power over life and death, and even though it is demonstrably unchecked by customary or legal constraints. The prerogatives assigned to the market’s “invisible hand” trump not simply all law (as is testified by the recent onslaught of anti-constitutional measures in the IMF backwaters of modern Greece), but also all recourse to the language of political decision. As Marx was perhaps the first to notice, this fact drastically curtails the possibilities of finding in past struggles the means for responding to the predicaments of the present; faced with the abstractions of political economy, the legacy of premodern counter-sovereign violence is reduced to little more than a nostalgic rhetorical ploy, a fanciful poetic anachronism that reanimates past glories only at the expense of converting them into obstacles to critical understanding:
The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.
Marx’s own determination to learn to speak a new language by “forgetting” the “native tongue” of the tradition of counter-sovereign violence cannot be divorced from his understanding of the conceptual limits imposed by the political formalism of the “spirits of the past”. Sexby’s own regressive self-fashioning “in the guise of the Roman Republic” is a telling indication of why Marx remembers his text, relic of a revolution that devolved in the bourgeois political consolidation of 1688, only in order to forget it. In his own reading of Sexby’s pamphlet, Holstun rightly concedes that “the secular millennialism of the assassin”, the “obsessive dream” of a “single, carefully planned act of violence” that could “automatically inaugurate a new age” leads Sexby to “mystified individualism”, and hence to the inability to grasp the significance of the “transformation of productive relations” in the republic. That the consequences of this transformation involved the supercession of the premodern legacies of counter-sovereign violence that had made Sexby’s vision possible in the first place is precisely what Marx’s striking intertextual politics registers. And it is precisely this fact that those theorists who content themselves with registering the continuities between absolutist and democratic models of sovereignty consistently underestimate. Something fundamentally new does happen to the link between sovereignty and violence in the era of modern capitalism, but it does not in any way concern the space of formal politics; its nature cannot be accounted by reference to the imaginary of political theory, that is to say, by appealing to a discourse that reflexively confers analytical sovereignty on the idea that sovereignty is the absolute horizon and the state the final embodiment of social power. The lineaments of the novelty that is at stake in the Marxian intervention cannot be made to appear without taking critical stock of the violent abstractions of that species of modern discourse which neither Schmitt nor Agamben (and not quite Foucault, who is nonetheless virtually the only one to have insisted on the rupture between absolutist sovereignty and its modern counterparts, particularly those of disciplinary power and governmentality) seem to consider vital in the genealogy of our present: political economy, not simply as the so-called science dealing with the processes of extracting labor power and surplus value from living bodies, but also as the domain that thereby dramatizes the rise of a species of violence beyond political sovereignty. For if the violence involved in the translation of the abstractions of political economy into the realm of collective life is capable of legitimizing the production (and the destruction) of a life reduced to a mere “factor of production”, it also remains independent of the confines of the lethal heterocosm of the camp and of politically reducible forms of sovereign authority.
What does it mean to think the problem of bare life without the sovereign—without, in other words, conceding pride of place to Agamben’s (and Schmitt’s) gesture of restoring a consistently backward-looking discourse on sovereignty to the place from which Marx’s own understanding of capitalist biopolitics had uprooted it more than a century and a half ago? In his “Taming the Beast: The Other Tradition in Political Theory”, Michael Marder rightly remarks on “the subterranean development of capitalism as a historical economic form that depends on the bestialization of a significant portion of the population.” Reflecting on Joseph Townsend’s 1786 Dissertation on the Poor Laws, Marder concludes that its discussion of hunger as the prime mover and great disciplinarian of the human animal is vital in this respect, to the extend that it makes an impersonal, biological fact supplant “the tyrannical force of the sovereign […] with a more powerful despotism”, one that as Karl Polanyi was to remark, “dwarfed the Leviathan.” The historical sequence of the first years of the twenty-first century, one in which the Bush regime’s paradigm of a state on steroids was replaced by that of an anemic, impotent state that is hostage to its debt and beholden to the private interests of banking and big industry, is a dramatic reminder of the acuity of Marx’s insight into the paradoxical tendency of the modern state to appear as Leviathan when viewed from a juridico-political perspective centering on the entities of people, nation, and race (Hobbes, Schmitt, Agamben) and as a dwarf when viewed from the far less dignified lens of political economy: it is the same state Agamben and his followers hypostatized as a modern-day Leviathan that reveals its impotence, its inability to address or redress the violence inherent in spreading unemployment, in rising poverty, in the collapse of personal and family lives, in the disintegration of the public health or education system.
To the extent that capital is today the par excellence name of sovereign authority (not the King, of course, but also, as we all know, not the people as re-presented constituency either), sovereignty appears as an effect which, in being unable to refer back to a property or a subject, also appears to lack a thinkable cause. In being ever more abstracted from the sphere of subjective experience, its authority becomes ever more resistant to normative, juridically or ethically inflected forms of intervention and critique, far more so than historical, politically organized sovereignty ever was. The critical responsibility that the insistence of bare life—life exposed to the violence of de-personalized and inhuman processes, beyond the confines of what the modern state is inclined to view as its sphere of competent jurisdiction—confers on our own moment, then, far exceeds the scope of an Arendtian genealogy of the origins of totalitarianism or a retroactive derivation of political history from the standpoint of the exterminationist, racially predicated politics of the camp. What this responsibility involves is the task of developing a thought and a practice that lays hold of both the dwarf (the antagonistic realm of civil society) hidden in the Leviathan (the state) and the larger Leviathan (capital) nestled in the dwarf. Today, we are still lagging behind the challenge of facing up to the illimitable power vested on a state of the situation which has never cast itself in terms of a state of emergency or of exception; and which, perhaps for this very reason, continues to constitute political theory’s—and the Homo Sacer project’s—great unthought.
 I would like to thank my research assistant, Andriana Kossyva, for her help in locating a number of relevant sources for this essay. I also want to thank the audiences at the University of Cyprus, the University of California, Santa Cruz and Stanford University for their valuable feedback on earlier versions. My special thanks go to W.J. Veraart, whose work and input first alerted me to the problems posed by Roman legal tradition, and to Daniel L. Selden, who provided expert research advice on matters of Roman legal and poltical history.
 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998). A translated section of Homo Sacer (“The Camp as the Nomos of the Modern”) had already appeared in the previous year in Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber, ed., Violence, Identity and Self-Determination (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997).
 Stephen E. Lewis, Book review of Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Modernism/Modernity, 6.3 (1999): 163-166; and Davide Panagia, “The Sacredness of Life and Death: Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer and the Tasks of Political Thinking”, Theory & Event 3, no.1 (1999), http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/theory_and_event/v003/3.1r_panagia.html (accessed 10 June 2009).
 Steven D. DeCaroli, “Visibility and History: Giorgio Agamben and the Exemplary”, Philosophy Today 45, no. 5 (2001): 9-17; Brett Levinson, “Three Meditations on Our ‘Millennihilisms’: Accents, Racism, Anti-Semitism”, Nepantla: Views from South, 2, no.1 (2001): 41-62; Michael J. Shapiro, “Wanted, Dead or Alive”, Theory & Event 5.4 (2001), http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/theory_and_event/v005/5.4shapiro.html (accessed 7 June 2009).
 Begona Aretxaga, “Terror as Thrill: First Thoughts on the ‘War on Terrorism’” Anthropological Quarterly 75, no. 1 (Winter 2002): 139-150; Diana Taylor et al., “A Forum on Theatre and Tragedy: A Response to September 11, 2001”, Theatre Journal 54, no.1 (March 2002): 95-138.
 Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (Homo Sacer III), trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (New York: Zone Books, 2002); The Open: Man and Animal, trans. Kevin Attell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). Paradoxically, Leland de la Durantaye’s Anglophone review of The Open seems to have been published in 2003, before the book was published in English. See Durantaye, “The Suspended Substantive: On Animals and Men in Giorgio Agamben’s The Open”, Diacritics 33, no. 2 (Summer 2003): 3-9.
 Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005). The copyright page characterizes Homo Sacer as a “prequel” of State of Exception.
 Andrew Norris, ed., Politics, Metaphysics, and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); Matthew Calarco and Stephen DeCaroli, ed., Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty and Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007); Justin Clemens, Nicholas Heron and Alex Murray, ed., The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law, Literature, Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008).
 Susan Buck-Morss remarks that “Schmitt’s ideas have influenced critical analyses of the Bush administration”, adding parenthetically that Schmitt’s reception has been mediated “via Giorgio Agamben’s book, State of Exception”. See Susan Buck-Morss, “Sovereign Right and the Global Left”, Cultural Critique 69 (Spring 2008): 148, 166. Indeed, responses to the politics of the Bush regime involved a veritable Schmittian renaissance, unfolding in tandem with Agamben’s rapidly growing U.S. popularity: Poltical Theology was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2006; Telos Books published The Nomos of the Earth in 2006 and Theory of the Partisan 2007; The Concept of the Political was republished in an “expanded edition” by the University of Chicago Press in the same year; the same press published The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes in 2008; Duke published Constitutional Theory in the same year; Hamlet or Hecuba was published by Telos Books in 2009; and Dictatorship is due by Polity in 2010. In short, seven of Schmitt’s books have been translated in English in four years, while one was republished in an expanded edition.
 The publication in English of Foucault’s lectures from 1976-77 (‘Society Must Be Defended’, Picador, 2003), 1977-78 (Security, Territory, Population, Picador, 2008), and 1978-79 (The Birth of Biopolitics, 2008) has led to a number of critical forays into the questions of biopower, biopolitics and governmentality that involve comparative discussion of Foucault and Agamben. See, indicatively: Mika Ojankagas, “Impossible Dialogue on Bio-power: Agamben and Foucault”, Foucault Studies 2 (May 2005): 5-28; Maria Margaroni, “Care and Abandonment: A Response to Mika Ojankagas’ ‘Impossible Dialogue on Bio-power: Agamben and Foucault’, Foucault Studies 2 (May 2005): 29-36; Katia Genel, “The Question of Biopower: Foucault and Agamben”, trans. Craig Carson, Rethinking Marxism 18, no. 1 (January 2006): 43-62; Malcolm Bull, “Vectors of the Biopolitical”, New Left Review II 45 (May-June 2007): 7-19.
 See, for instance: Alasdair Cochrane, An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Matthew Calarco and Peter Atterton, ed., Animal Philosophy: Essential Readings in Continental Thought (Continuum, 2004); Jacques Derrida, The Animal that Therefore I am (Fordham University Press, 2008); Stanley Cavell et al, ed., Philosophy and Animal Life (Columbia University Press, 2009). I must omit reference to the voluminous literature dealing with bare life and the state of exception in the US context specifically.
 See Judy E. Gaughan, “Killing and the King: Numa’s Murder Law and the Nature of Monarchic Authority”, Continuity and Change 18, no. 3 (2003): 340.
 On Agamben’s place within postwar Italian leftism see Antonio Negri, “Giorgio Agamben: The Discreet Taste of the Dialectic”, trans. Matteo Mandarini, in Calarco and DeCaroli, ed. Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty and Life, 124. Timothy Brennan examines the issue of Agamben’s proximity to the “new Italians” (including Negri) in “Agamben and the New Italians” in Wars of Position: The Cultural Politics of Left and Right (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006) 188-195.
 As the publicity for his forthcoming The Sacrament of Language (Polity, 2010) puts it: “The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben is one of the mostly widely read and influential philosophers and cultural theorists of the last decade.” The Wiley-Blackwell Preview (Oct.-Dec. 2010), 3.
 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000). In the words of the website of the French journal Multitudes: “The book by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri can look back on sales figures like no other radical book could in decades” (http://multitudes.samizdat.net/The-discussion-about-Empire, accessed 10 May 2010).
 Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London and New York: Verso, 2004), 20. More recently, Butler has argued that “minimizing the condition of precariousness in egalitarian ways” is a vital task for Left politics. See her Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (London and New York: Verso, 2009), 54.
 Butler, Precarious Life, 61, 65 (emphasis mine).
 Jef Huysmans, “The Jargon of Exception: On Schmitt, Agamben and the Absence of Political Society”, International Political Sociology 2 (2008): 174-175.
 Huysmans, “The Jargon of Exception”, 175.
 Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, Vol. 1, trans. Geoffrey Bennington (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 316.
 Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, 316-317; emphasis mine.
 Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, 330. Shortly after, Derrida notes that “linear history” remains “in spite of all the protests they would no doubt raise against this image, the common temptation of both Foucault and Agamben” (333).
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 6.
 See, for instance: Homo Sacer, 90, 109.
 Andrew Norris, “Introduction: Giorgio Agamben and the Politics of the Living Dead”, in Norris, Politics, Metaphysics, and Death, 4. Derrida, on the other hand, remarks that “the fact that there is neither simple diachronic succession nor simple synchronic simultaneity (or that there is both at once […] requires us to rethink the figure of a threshold” and indeed “our irrepressible desire for the threshold” as such. See Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, 333.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 111; emphases mine.
 Negri, “The Discreet Taste of the Dialectic”, 118, 124.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 121.
 Andreas Kalyvas, “The Sovereign Weaver: Beyond the Camp”, in Norris, ed., Politics, Metaphysics and Death, 112-113.
 See Agamben, Homo Sacer, 168-170; and Remnants of Auschwitz, 49.
 See Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal, 37-38.
 Norris, “Giorgio Agamben and the Politics of the Living Dead”, 8.
 See Agamben, Homo Sacer, 83: “The sacredness of life, which is invoked today as an absolutely fundamental right in opposition to sovereign power, in fact originally expresses precisely both life’s subjection to a power over death and life’s irreparable exposure in the relation of abandonment”. See also Homo Sacer, 121-122, 124, 127, 133.
 Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, ed. and trans. Daniel Heller Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 256.
 See Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence”, trans. Edmund Jephcott, in Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, ed., Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol. 1, 1913-1926 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996): 236-253; Jef Huysmans, “The Jargon of Exception”, 172-173; and Brett Neilson, “Potenza Nuda? Sovereignty, Biopolitics, Capitalism”, Contretemps 5 (December 2004): 70-71.
 See Jef Huysmans, “The Jargon of Exception”, 176-177.
 Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz, 134; The Open, 91; and Potentialities, 253, 257.
 Brennan, Wars of Position, 148.
 Brennan, Wars of Position, 194.
 Negri, “The Discreet Taste of the Dialectic”, 123. Slavoj Žižek has similarly criticized Agamben by casting him as the contemporary embodiment of a Left which accepts “the futility of all struggle, since the framework is today all-encompassing, coinciding with its opposite”. See In Defense of Lost Causes (London and New York: Verso, 2007), 337-338. Yet both Negri and Žižek can be said to have outdone Agamben in making of Melville’s Bartleby a privileged instance of a contemporary politics of “refusal” (Hardt and Negri in fact come quite close to replicating the underpinnings Agamben’s analysis—which they cite—despite the otherwise vast differences of their respective conceptions of “biopolitics”). See Hardt and Negri, Empire, 203-204; and Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View (Cambridge, Mass., 2006), 381-385.
 Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, trans. Julie Rose (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 135; For other instances of Rancière’s trenchant critique of a discourse which elides the scandalous incalculability of political subjectivation by replacing the subject of politics with “the moan of naked suffering” of the victim, see Disagreement, 125-127, 133-134, 136-137. Like Rancière, Badiou strongly criticizes the reduction of philosophy to an instrument of the ethical thinking of genocidal catastrophe and the subsequent elevation of “animal humanism” into a norm. See Alain Badiou, Manifesto for Philosophy, trans. Norman Madarasz (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999), 27-32; The Century, trans. Alberto Toscano (Cambridge: Polity, 2007), 165-178; and Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (London and New York: Verso, 2001).
 Huysmans, “The Jargon of Exception”, 178-179.
 My understanding of this process derives from both Rancière, Disagreement; and from the work of Alain Badiou, particularly Theory of the Subject, trans. Bruno Bosteels (London and New York: Continuum, 2009), 243-274. This does not mean that there are no important disagreements between their views of its presuppositions and its consequences, particularly vis-à-vis the role of the State; on this, see Badiou’s critical remarks on Rancière in Metapolitics, trans. Jason Barker (London and New York: Verso, 2005), 107-123.
 Michel Serres, Rome: The Book of Foundations, trans. Felicia MacCarren (Stanford: Stanford University press, 1991), 160. Serres tends to read Roman violence in light of an ethics that effectively abolishes the Left-Right distinction itself, reducing rebellious negation to the familiar Nietzschean impulse of ressentiment: “Friend, enemy. A value on the left, an identical value on the right, as if in symmetry. Wolf, lamb. Nothing can equal the lamb’s hatred but the wolf’s, except that the lamb’s hatred also compensates for its lack of fangs” (197). His philosophical hypostatization of multiplicity—which is precisely that which in, his view, is threatened by the indifferentiating work of violence (199-200)—places him, I believe, squarely within the canon of “democratic materialism”: a discourse for which, as Badiou puts it, there are only bodies and languages, and hence no space for the subjectivizing process of a (political) truth. See Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, trans. Alberto Toscano (London and New York: Continuum, 2007), 1-9.
 I am thankful to W. J. Veraart for informally sharing with me the findings of his unpublished paper “Homo Sacer Reconsidered: An Alternative Genealogy?”, presented at Canterbury, Kent, in September 2005. A version of Veraart’s essay appeared in Dutch in Krisis: Tijdscrift voor Empirische Filosofie 2 (2004), 53-69.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 8.
 “Homo sacer is est quem populus iudicauit ob maleficium; neque fas est eum immlari, sed qui occidit parricidi non damnatur” (“The sacred man is the one whom the people have judged on account of a crime. It is not permitted to sacrifice this man, yet he who kills him will not be condemned for homicide”); quoted in Agamben, Homo Sacer, 71. Benveniste cites the same source in his entry on “the sacred”, noting both the “ambiguous character” of the term “sacer” and its difference from “sanctus”, which simply means “that which is defended and protected from human suffering”. See Émile Benveniste, Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européenes. 2. Pouvoir, droit, religion (Paris: Minuit, 1969), 187-192. Dumézil, finally, casts the meaning of sacer within the religious context, defining it as “that which is reserved and kept apart for the gods, whether by nature or by human agency”. Georges Dumézil, Archaic Roman Religion, Vol. 1, trans. Philip Krapp (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 130.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 82.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 83.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84; emphasis mine.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 8.
 Indicative of the difficulties created by these shifts is Harold Bennett’s remark concerning Marcus Verrius Flaccus, whom Pompeius Festus, Agamben’s main source on sacratio, later epitomized in De verborum siginificatu: “Verrius Flaccus […] “was not writing the whole history of the term sacer homo, but was merely defining its later, and current meaning”—one it had come to obtain after the separation of religious and legal practice, after, that is, executions with a ritual axe had ceased and the axe itself was symbolically removed from the fasces of the magistrate. See Harold Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 61 (1930), 10, 9.
 W.D. Aston suggests that “sacratio itself was extinct by the time of Verrius Flaccus” [55 BCE-20 AD], having been effectively replaced by the “aquae et ignis interdictio”, the prohibition against offering water or fire to a condemned outlaw. See W.D. Aston, “Problems of Roman Criminal Law”, Journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation, 13, no. 2 (1913), 215. Bennett’s later study disagrees, arguing that “sacratio capitis…was still possible in Rome in the last century of the republic” (the first century BCE). See Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 16.
 Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 5.
 See Nikolaos Dimaras, Historia tou Dēmosiou Rōmaikou Dikaiou kai tōn Pēgōn [History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources], 3rd ed. (Athens: Palligenesia, 1896), 75-76; Aston, “Problems of Roman Criminal Law”, 214-215; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 9; Alan Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”, The Journal of Roman Studies, 62 (1972), 101-103; Gaughan, “Killing and the King”, 336.
 Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Books I-II, trans. Earnest Cary (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001), II. 8. 2 (335-337) and II. 9.2 (339). Fustel de Coulanges differentiates the two groups, arguing that the plebeians were originally “below the clients themselves” in the Roman social hierarchy and adding that the plebeians who seceded to the Sacer Mons were “completely distinct from the clients.” See Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome, trans. Willard Small (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 221-222. Mommsen appears initially evasive on the matter, speaking of the “‘listeners’ (clientes)” in parallel with the “‘multitude’”. He later adds: “out of the clients arose the Plebs […] In law there is no difference between the client and the plebeian, the ‘dependent’ and the ‘man of the multitude.’” Theodore Mommsen, The History of Rome, Book I: The Period Anterior to the Abolition of Monarchy, trans. William Purdie Dickson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905), 106, 110.
 See Dimaras, History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources, 77, which cites a number of sources supporting this second interpretation.
 “Neither at Rome nor at Athens could a foreigner be a proprietor. He could not marry; or, if he married, his marriage was not recognized, and his children were reputed illegitimate. He could not make a contract with a citizen; at any rate, the law did not recognize such a contract as valid. At first he could take no part in commerce. The Roman law forbade him to inherit from a citizen, and even forbade a citizen to inherit from him.” Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 188-189. De Coulanges later describes the original plebs in terms of similar legal deprivations, including the lack of a right to marriage, property, paternal authority, citizenship, political rights, and even the right to a hearth, a domestic altar (224-225).
 See Plutarch, Plutarch’s Lives, trans. John and William Langhorne (Baltimore: William and Joseph Neal,1835), 18; Dimaras, History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources, 75.
 Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 108. On the responsibilities of clients towards patrons (contributing to the dowry of the patron’s daughters, paying fines for lawsuits relating to the patron, helping the patron pay ransom for family members), see Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”, 100.
 Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”, 102.
 See Aston, “Problems of Roman Criminal Law”, 214; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 6; and Dimaras, History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources, 76.
 Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, II.10.3 (343).
 See Dimaras, History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources, 76; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 5; Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”, 101-103.
 “The patron could take possession of the soil the client cultivated, and the money which he possessed, as the lord cold do in the case of the serf […] The patron was not only a master; he was a judge; he could condemn a client to death […] The client bent under this authority, at the same time material and moral, which held both body and soul.” Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 249.
 Discussing the Leges Valeriae et Horatiae, for instance, Livy notes that they “revived the sacrosanctity” of the plebs (“plebem […] sacrosancti viderentur”). He remarks, shortly after, that though the aediles were not regarded as sacrosanct, “the tribunes are sacrosanct in consequence of the ancient oath taken by the plebs, when they first created [the] magistracy”. See Livy, History of Rome, Books 3-4, trans. B.O. Foster, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), III. LV. 6; III. LV.10.
 See Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”; Gaughan, “Killing and the King”, 338.
 On the quite enigmatic and unrecorded character of the decline of the patron-client institution, see Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 247-248.
 On the class character of the conflict between patricians and plebs which led to the plebeian secession, see Theodore Mommsen, The History of Rome, Book II: From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy, trans. William Purdie Dickson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905), 26-42; and Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 261-270, 275-308.
 In her study of Ceres, Spaeth characterizes Ceres, Liber, and Libera as “the plebeian triad”, arguing for their strong connection to plebeian culture, particularly in the period of the Middle Republic. See Barbette Stanley Spaeth, The Roman Goddess Ceres (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), 15, 81-102.
 Livy, History of Rome, III. LV. 7. See also Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 6; William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1875), 701; Dumézil, Archaic Roman Religion I, 195.
 Livy, History of Rome, III. LIV. 5-6. Let us not forget that in his commentary on Livy’s discussion of the plebeian secession, Machiavelli praises the “multitude’s” taking up arms against tyrannical abusers of sovereignty and extols the role of class antagonism between plebs and patricians as “the primary cause of Rome’s retaining her freedom”. See Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses, trans. Leslie J. Walker and Brian Richardson (Hardmondsowrth: Penguin, 2003), 107, 111, 113, 115.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84.
 See Agamben, Homo Sacer, 71; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 10.
 Livy, History of Rome, Books 1-2, trans. B.O. Foster (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2002), II. VIII. 2; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 6. Spaeth argues for the existence of strong similarities between the law against the violation of tribunician sacrosanctitas and that against attempted tyranny, citing Plutarch’s remark on Valerius Publicola’s law “providing to kill without trial the person wishing to be a tyrant” and establishing “that the slayer be cleansed of murder”. See Spaeth, The Roman Goddess Ceres, 71.
 Appian, The Civil Wars, trans. John Carter (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996), II.128 (138); see also Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 17.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 6.
 James Holstun, Ehud’s Dagger: Class Struggle in the English Revolution (London and New York: Verso, 2000), xi.
 Of course, sacratio was not always limited to the protection or self-protection of the dispossessed. Anna J. Clark argues that there is significant evidence that the plebeian tribune Tiberius Gracchus was murdered by a faction of rich landowners who considered him to have violated his sacrosanctitas and consecrated him “to Jupiter as a homo sacer.” “Nasica and Fides”, Classical Quarterly 57, no. 1 (2007), 126. Significantly—given the earlier establishment of the sancrosanctity of fidelity to the client—the murder was performed by a group that inverted the customary procession to the shrine of Fides, by walking away from it. The reversal does not just seem to associate the act with death, as Clark observes (128), but also with the denunciation of the traditional link between sacratio and the protection of the clients and plebs. See also Spaeth, The Roman Goddess Ceres, 73-79.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 59.
 “Foucault’s plebs (political resistance) occupy the same place as Schmitt’s sovereign (political decision), who is ‘outside the normally valid legal order’, but ‘nevertheless belongs to it’ as a constitutive element […] the function of the plebs is exactly the same as Schmitt;s sovereign decision. They are ‘located in the break of the panoptic power in the same way as the Schmittian sovereign is located in the break of the valid legal order”. Mika Ojankagas, “Sovereign and Plebs: Michel Foucault Meets Carl Schmitt”, Telos 119 (Spring 2001): 39.
 “The [original] plebs were a despised and abject class, beyond the pale of religion, law, society, and the family.” Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 226.
 Derrida correctly suggests that “in a certain sense, there is no contrary of sovereignty”, and hence that “the choice is not between sovereignty and nonsovereignty, but among several forms of partings, partitions, divisions, conditions that come along to broach a sovereignty that is always supposed to be indivisible and unconditional.” See Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, 76. On “counter-sovereignty”—which should thus be understood not as the antithesis or “other” of sovereign power but as the figure of its internal political fracturing in the context of social struggles—see Craig McFarlane, “Counter-Sovereignty”, paper presented at Carleton University, March 31, 2006, http://theoria.ca/research/files/counter-sovereignty.pdf (accessed 10 January 2009). We should recall, finally, that George Bataille’s The Accursed Share involves extensive commentary on the complex relationship between sovereignty and communism, which the author describes as the “most active contradiction” of sovereignty, “the countermovement”, “that drew its strength from sovereignty only to overthrow it” and, at the same time, “that vast world where what is sovereign must come back to life”. See Bataille, The Accursed Share, Volumes II & III, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Zone Books, 1993), 261-262.
 “The exodus of the plebeians, going out of the city, beyond the boundaries of the city, means revealing the boundary of the patrician dominated power relations at the same time […] Without sufficient political rights and without any representation of interests, the plebeians invented themselves in a sense independently from the existing patrician order and rulership structures as capable of political action.” Isabell Lorey, “Attempt to Think the Plebeian Exodus and Constituting as Critique”, trans. Aileen Derieg, http://transform.eipcp.net/transversal/0808/lorey/en (accessed 3 January 2009).
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 94; emphasis mine.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 100-101.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 102.
 See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 3-6.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 102.
 See Agamben, Homo Sacer, 93-94.
 See Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), 4, 7.
 Aristotle, The Politics and the Constitution of Athens, ed. Stephen Everson, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 1253a27-29 (14); emphases mine. See also Aristotle, Politics, 1253a1-7: “And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the ‘Tribeless, lawless, hearthless one’ whom Homer denounces—the natural outcast is forthwith a liver of war; he may be compared to an isolated piece at draughts”. For a critical commentary on this paradoxical topology see Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign,16-17.
 “For man, when perfected, is the best of animals; but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all […] That is why, if he has not excellence, he is the most unholy and most savage of animals”. Aristotle, Politics, 1253a31-33, 1253a35-37. See also Georges Dumézil’s discussion of the double and contradictory figuration of the sovereign founder in Roman mythology—the wolf-raised, fratricidal, war-mongering Romulus and the law-abiding, law-giving, pious and pacific Numa—in Mitra-Varuna: An Essay on Two Indo-European Representations of Sovereignty (New York: Zone Books, 1988), 47-57, 60, 64, 114-116, 163.
 “In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other; for example, of male and female, so that the race may continue; and this is a union that is formed, not of deliberate purpose [ouk ek proeraiseōs], but because, in common with other animals and with plants [hōsper en tois allois zōois kai fytois], mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves. […] But when several families are united, and the association aims at something more than the supply of daily needs, then comes into existence the village. […] When several villages are united in a single community, perfect and large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life [zēn], and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life [eu zēn].” Aristotle, Politics, 1252a27-30, 1252b16-17, 1252b28-30. On sexuality as what is “most often held to be bestial in itself”, and on the lack of a consistent binary distinction between a supposedly properly political life [bios] and an animal life [zoē] in Aristotle, see Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, 86, 25-26, 315-316, 321, 326-327.
 “It would be the most dreadful disgrace for a shepherd to keep sheep-dogs so badly bred and trained, that disobedience or hunger or some bad trait or other led them to worry the sheep and behave more like wolves than dogs. […] We must therefore take every possible precaution to prevent our Auxiliaries treating our citizens like that because of their superior strength, and behaving more like savage tyrants than partners and friends.” Plato, The Republic, trans. Desmond Lee (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003), 416a2-7 416b1-4. (118).
 Socrates describes a dog’s ability to distinguish the sight of “friend and foe” [philēn kai ehthron] as sign of a “truly philosophical nature” [physeōs … alēthos philosofon]. Plato, The Republic, 376a2-10 (65). On the friend-enemy distinction as irreducible foundation of the political, see Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 26-27.
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Other Later Political Writings, ed. and trans. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 43.
 See Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, 18.
 Dumézil, Mitra-Varuna, 115.
 Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo: Resemblances between the Psychic Lives of Savages and Neurotics, trans. A.A. Brill (New York: Vintage, 1946), 59, 61, 67, 60. It’s interesting to compare Freud’s primarily “tribalist” account of with Jean Bodin’s description of a coronation in medieval Carinthia: “The person coming forward to be the duke walks amidst a great number of lords dressed in red, with ensigns carried in front of him, and everything in good order except for the duke, who is dressed like a poor shepherd and carries a crook. The man standing on the rock calls out in Slavic, ‘Who is this who walks so proudly?’ The people answer that he is their prince. Then the peasant asks, ‘Is he a [true] judge? Does he seek the welfare of the country? Is he of free status, worthy of honor, respectful of religion?’ They answer, ‘He is and will be.’ Then the peasant gives the duke a light blow, and the peasant now becomes exempt from all public burdens, while the duke climbs up on the rock brandishing his word and, speaking to the people, promises to be just.” Jean Bodin, On Sovereignty, ed. and trans. Julian H. Franklin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 8-9; emphases mine.
 Freud, Totem and Taboo, 68; emphases mine.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 75.
 See Agamben, Homo Sacer, 80: “Once placed in relation with the ethnographic concept of taboo, this ambivalence [of the sacred] is then used—with perfect circularity—to explain the figure of homo sacer. […] An assumed ambivalence of the generic religious category of the sacred cannot explain the juridico-political phenomenon to which the most ancient meaning of the term sacer refers […] It is important, in any case, that the originary juridico-political dimension that presents itself in homo sacer not be covered over by a scientific mythologeme that not only explains nothing but is itself in need of explanation.”
 “Because the victim is sacred, it is criminal to kill him—but the victim is sacred only because he is to be killed. Here is a circular line of reasoning that at a somewhat later date would be dignified by the sonorous term ambivalence. Persuasive and authoritative as that term still appears, it has been so extraordinarily abused in our century that perhaps we may now recognize how little light it sheds on the subject of sacrifice.” René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (London and New York: Continuum, 2005; orig. pub. 1972), 1.
 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 110-111, 319. It is instructive to compare these passages with a passage from Michel Serres’ book on Rome: “The death penalty is only required against royal power. The death penalty is required against the sovereign. […] The death penalty is a memory, a trace from the old stories of kings that it takes a long time to erase. The death penalty is left over from the time when spectacle was not a substitution but a reality. The body of the condemned is the second body of the king, his real flesh and blood, his real presence. […]The sovereign always has two bodies, but the second is in the dungeon. All universal suffrage hangs on this relationship.” Rome: The Book of Foundations, 134-135.
 Rousseau, The Social Contract, 43.
 Robert Zaller, “The Figure of the Tyrant in English Revolutionary Thought”, Journal of the History of Ideas 54, no. 4 (Oct. 1993): 585.
 “A Dog’s Elegy, or Rupert’s Tears”, quoted in Katharine MacDonogh, Reigning Cats and Dogs: A History of Pets at Court since the Renaissance (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 209.
 See MacDonogh, Reigning Cats and Dogs, 88-92.
 See Zaller, “The Figure of the Tyrant”, 586.
 Quoted in Zaller, “The Figure of the Tyrant”, 596.
 Quoted in Zaller, “The Figure of the Tyrant”, 607.
 On the “vexed” question of authorship of Killing Noe Murder (attributed by different sources to Sexby, William Allen, or Silius Titus), see James Holstun, Ehud’s Dagger, 332-333.
 Sexby’s response to the conservative, propertarian parliamentarianism of Ireton is quite revealing: “we have had little property in the kingdom as to our estates, yet we have had a birthright; but it seems now, except a man has a fixed estate in this kingdom, he has no right in this kingdom. I wonder we were so much deceived. If we had no right to the kingdom, were mere mercenary soldiers. […] I do think the poor and meaner of this kingdom, I speak as in that relation in which we are, have been the means of the preservation of this kingdom.” The Putney Debates, in Divine Right and Democracy: An Anthology of Political Writing in Stuart England, ed. David Wootton (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), 302.
 Holstun, Ehud’s Dagger, 334.
 William Allen (i.e. Edward Sexby), Killing Noe Murder, in Divine Right and Democracy, 364, 370-373.
 Holstun, Ehud’s Dagger, 359-360.
 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume III, trans. David Fernbach (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991), 183; emphasis mine.
 Engels’s relevant note reads: “Marx is alluding to the pamphlet Killing No Murder published in 1657 by the Leveller Sexby, calling with appropriate moral and religious justification for the assassination of Cromwell.” Capital, Vol. III, 183.
 Marx, Capital, Vol. III, 180.
 Karl Marx, “Critical Notes on the Article ‘The King of Prussia and Social Reform. By a Prussian”, in Karl Marx: Early Writings, trans. Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton (Hardondsworth: Penguin, 1992), 410-413.
 See Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question”, in Karl Marx: Early Writings, 221.
 See Kojin Karatani, “Revolution and Repetition”, trans. Hiroki Yoshikuni, Umbr(a): A Journal of the Unconscious (2008), 147: “The state begins when a community violently plunders and rules other communities. […] On the other hand, there is not necessarily an equal relationship of human beings in commodity exchange. […] In reality, commodity exchange takes place between money and commodities, which are not in a symmetrical relationship. While money has the ‘social pledge’ to the direct exchangeability of commodities, the commodity needs the salto mortale in order to be exchanged with money (Marx, Capital, 228). Those who have money can obtain others’ products and use others without recourse to violent measure. Namely, those who have money and those who have commodities are supposed to be in an equal relationship but effectively are not. It is possible to force others with money, and those with money become capitalists through the movement of M-C-M. Consequently, classes are formed not by violence but by modes of commodity exchange.”
 Karl Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction” in Karl Marx: Early Writings, 256.
 Marx, Capital, Vol. III, 180.
 See Marx, Capital, Vol. III, 182: “[Capitalist production] squanders human beings, living labour, more readily than does any other mode of production, squandering not only flesh and blood, but nerves and brain as well. In fact it is only through the most tremendous waste of individual development that the development of humanity in general is secured and pursued, in that epoch of history that directly precedes the conscious reconstruction of human society.”
 See Foucault, ‘Society Must Be Defended’, 44: “the theory of sovereignty presupposes the subject; its goal is to establish the essential unity of power and it is always deployed within the preexisting element of the law. It therefore assumes the existence of the three ‘primitive’ elements: a subject who has to be subjectified, the unity of the power that has to be founded, and the legitimacy that has to be respected.” As regards the fact that Marx does not view the bourgeoisie as sovereign inheritor of absolutist power, recall The Communist Manifesto’s characteristic emphasis on the former’s alienated subjection to the profit principle, its inability to control and contain the social processes it itself sets into motion (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Feuer [New York: Anchor Books, 1959], 10 and passim).
 See Werner Bonefeld, “Social Form, Critique and Human Dignity”, http://libcom.org/library/social-form-critique-and-human-dignity (accessed 30 August 2010).
 Marx, Capital, Vol. III, 179.
 See “Wage, benefit, and pension cuts are unconstitutional”, interview with professor of constitutional law Yiorgos Kasimatis, Dromos tēs Aristeras, 28 August 2010.
 Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, (New York: International Publishers, 1994), 15-16.
 Holstun, Ehud’s Dagger, 355.
 Of course, Marx does not derive the modern situation ex nihilo, without any reference to the historical role of sovereign violence; his concept of “primitive accumulation” is intended precisely as a link between the structures of feudal authority and the genesis of the capitalist mode of production. Indeed, primitive accumulation highlights the historically pivotal role of sovereign violence in furnishing the initial preconditions (the production of a property-less class forced to sell its labor for wages) for capitalist accumulation. See Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 713-774.
 See, for instance, Carl Schmitt: “All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because of their historical development […] but also because of their systematic structure” (Political Theology, 36); Michel Foucault: “At bottom, despite the differences in epochs and objectives, the representation of power has remained under the spell of monarchy. In political thought and analysis, we still have not cut the head of the king” (History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley [New York: Vintage Books, 1990], 88-89); Claude Lefort: “One cannot fail to see in certain of these formulae [of the image of the people in the discourse of popular sovereignty] a resurgence of the theologico-political myth of the double nature of the king […] Royalty and religion are reborn at the very moment when the revolutionaries lapse into the illusion that sustained them; namely the illusion that they were imprinted upon a real body” (Democracy and Political Theory, trans. David Macey [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988], 240-241, 247; Jacques Derrida: “the structure of this setup of knowing power, power-to-know, knowing-how-to-see, and sovereign being-able-to-see is not, fundamentally revolutionized by the French Revolution. It is not interrupted, and at the death of the king one can still say: ‘The King is dead, long live the King!’ One has simply changed sovereigns. The sovereignty of the people or of the nation merely inaugurates a new form of the same fundamental structure” (The Beast and the Sovereign, 282).
 Which is why a “Marxist political theory” is something like a contradiction in terms. As Bonefeld puts it, “the notion […] of a Marxist political theory amounts to the renewal of the aporias of bourgeois political thought and, because of its espousal of the state as a subject in its own right, the suppression of human emancipation. […] Political theory, the theory of the state, is fundamentally an affirmative theory of separation, and that is a theory of power as constituted power. It presupposes the existence of labour as object-less labour, as a labouring commodity and, because of this presupposition, contributes to the containment of labour as a human factor of production.” See Bonefeld, “The Capitalist State: Illusion and Critique”, http://libcom.org/library/capitalist-state-illusion-critique-werner-bonefeld (accessed 30 August 2010).
 Foucault argues emphatically that the present calls on us to “abandon the model of Leviathan”. He adds: “we have to study power outside the model of Leviathan, outside the field delineated by juridical sovereignty and the institution of the State. […] [the] theory of sovereignty […] is the great trap we are in danger of falling into when we try to analyze power” (‘Society Must Be Defended’, 34; see also 36-39, 40-49, 111, 241-243, 247-249). At the same time, however, Foucault does not quite argue that the configuration of discipline and biopower entirely supercedes the older structures of sovereignty: see his remarks on a confluence between the two through the mediation of racism (and its culmination in Nazism) in ‘Society Must Be Defended’, 36, 249, 254-260. Judith Butler elaborates on the complex temporal dynamics of sovereignty and governmentality in Foucault’s work in Precarious Life, 93-98. As regards, finally, my contention that Foucault, too, underestimates the impact of the abstractions of political economy on both sovereign and counter-sovereign configurations of violence, it is based on the fact that the dominant direction of his analysis tends to privilege the knowledge/power dyad over the analysis of the impact of the capitalist mode of production on understandings of sovereign violence and the possibilities for combating it. See, for instance, ‘Society Must Be Defended’, 35-36, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, 140-143.
 Thus, as Brett Nielson notes regarding Agamben, in “emphasizing bare life and the state of exception, the question of the historical process of the production of abstraction and abstraction of production disappears (and with it the development of class struggle)” See Nielson, “Potenza Nida?”, 76.
 Alongside Foucault’s at least partial concession of a shift from sovereignty to “nonsovereign” power (‘Society Must Be Defended’, 36)—what he terms “disciplinary power”—Bataille’s Accursed Share is one of the few non-Marxist works to concede the fact that modernity marks, at a certain level, the decline of sovereign experience and sovereign subjectivity—a decline that Bataille interestingly interprets in terms of the replacement of a sovereign economy based on expenditure by the capitalist regime of accumulation: “in the feudal world there was a preference for a sovereign use, for an unproductive use of wealth. The preference of the bourgeois world was reserved, quite on the contrary, for accumulation” (280).
 The qualitative difference and fundamental irreconcilability between Schmitt’s essentially Hobbesian frame of reference and Marx’s own self-consciously modern understanding of the problem of the state seems to escape Susan Buck-Morss, whose position that “[s]overeign power exists before and beside the state” (152) is simply incompatible with the Marxist perspective, despite her assertion that Schmitt fills a gap, “an otherwise absent dimension” in “Marxian preoccupations with the global economy” (148-149). In Buck-Morss’s reading, the necessity of “enriching” Marx through Schmitt lies in the fact that “political economy” consolidated the “relative importance of the economy versus the state”, thus reducing the state to an “epiphenomenon” (149-150). Yet as Werner Bonefeld points out, in Marx “the critique of political economy amounts to the critique of the form of the state” (“The Capitalist State”). Marx does not criticize the state in order to replace it analytically with the reified abstractions of political economy; he criticizes the (modern, capitalist) state as precisely the other side, the counterpart and complement of these abstractions. As to the assumption that the Schmittian hypostatization of sovereignty is the only available means of correcting the excesses of economism associated with Marx’s late work, Kojin Karatani demonstrates that it is possible to concede the importance of the relative autonomy of the state without thereby hypostatizing the principle of sovereignty. See “Revolution and Repetition”, esp. 138-143.
 Michael Marder, “Taming the Beast: The Other Tradition in Political Theory”, Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 39, no. 4 (December 2006): 55.
 Marder, “Taming the Beast”, 56.
 See Marx’s timely remarks on the transformation of the state into an impotent prisoner of the twin formations of pure private property and national debt: “In the case of the nations which grew out of the Middle Ages, tribal property evolved through various stages—feudal landed property, corporative movable property, capital invested in manufacture—to modern capital, determined by big industry and universal competition, i.e. pure private property which has cast off all semblance of a communal institution and has shut out the State from any influence on the development of property. To this modern private property corresponds the modern State, which, purchased gradually by the owners of property by means of taxation, has fallen entirely into their hands through the national debt, and its existence has become wholly dependent on the commercial credit which the owners of property, the bourgeois, extend to it, as reflected in the rise and fall of State funds on the stock exchange.” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, ed. C.J Arthur (New York: International Publishers, 1993), 79-80.
 Marx’s anti-identitarian critique of anti-Semitism in “On the Jewish Question”, reminds us, however, that the question of racial difference does not in itself prescribe an analytical focus on the workings of political sovereignty at the expense of an understanding of both social oppression and social emancipation.
 See Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (San Diego, New York and London: Harcourt, 1994).
 There is an interesting terminological shift in this regard in Agamben’s deployment of Foucault in the context of his own discussion of Nazi thanatopolitics. Foucault defines the shift from sovereignty to biopolitical power as a movement from the (always asymmetrical) right of the sovereign to “take life or let live” to biopower’s “new right” to “‘make’ live and ‘let’ die”” (‘Society Must Be Defended’, 241). In Agamben’s rendering of Foucault’s argument, however, letting die—a process whose violence is precisely defined on the basis of its indirectness, its configuration in terms of abandonment rather than the positive application of violent force—becomes making die, so it can fit in with Agamben’s own refusal to distinguish between biopolitical and sovereign power: “The ancient right to kill and let live gives to an inverse model, which defines modern biopolitics, and which can be expressed by the formula to make live and to let die. […] In Hitler’s Germany, an unprecedented absolutization of the biopower to make live intersects with an equally absolute generalization of the sovereign power to make die, such that biopolitics coincides immediately with thanatopolitics” (Remnants of Auschwitz, 83). Agamben thus “corrects” the language that had exposed Foucault to the problem of having to explain how a power to make live or let die had led to the Nazi state’s quite consciously exterminationist agenda. But he also thereby bypasses the vital tension Foucault’s analysis introduces, the irreducible difference between letting die and making die, the objectively mediated violence of political economy from Malthus onward and direct, intentional acts of killing, extra-sovereign and sovereign violence. The problem posed by contemporary violence, however, has never simply been how “letting die” can mutate into “making die”; it has also involved how it can furnish the grounds for a mutation in the very nature of sovereign violence itself.
 In Badiou’s own simultaneously ontologico-mathematical and historical weaving of “state” and “state of the situation”, what defines the political event and the truth procedure which it engenders is its ability to configure “the subjective errancy of the power of the State”, the indeterminate excess of power which allows the state to function as a “metastructure” that counts “over all the parts of the situation”. The (political) event forces this meta-structure of re-presentation (presupposed by the phenomenal disclosure of the inconsistent multiplicity of parts, their counting-as-one) to present itself by resorting to repressive violence. It thus configures or gives shape to “the state of the situation” by providing a measure to the power of the state, by fixing the otherwise paralyzing “errancy” of that power. The event, to put it otherwise, is what cuts the state Leviathan down to size, to the extent that it arrests the tendencies of mystification attendant upon the fact that every “state of the situation” always exceeds “the situation itself”. (“Politics as Truth Procedure”, in Metapolitics, 143-45).
 Compare Marx’s insights into the impotence of the state vis-à-vis the real, but also supposedly unremarkable inequalities of civil society with Schmitt’s typically German (at least for Marx) hypostatization of the superiority of state authority as embodied in the state of exception: “The existence of the state is undoubted proof of its superiority over the validity of the legal norm. The decision frees itself from all normative ties and becomes in the true sense absolute. […] The sovereign […] has the monopoly over this last decision. Therein resides the essence of the state’s sovereignty, which must be juridically defined correctly, not as the monopoly to coerce or to rule, but as the monopoly to decide” (Schmitt, Political Theology, 12-13). It is difficult to tell whether Schmitt is here simply expressing the inevitability of what he describes as “political theology”—the link between “the modern theory of the state” and “secularized theological concepts”—or promoting an active repression of Marx’s drastically secularizing critique of the state form. Given Agamben’s major debt to Schmitt, similar questions are posed as regards the stakes of the Homo Sacer project.