Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Van der Heiden, G.-J.
Exile, Use, and Form-of-Life: On the Conclusion of Agamben’s Homo Sacer series
(2020) Theory, Culture and Society, 37 (2), pp. 61-78.

DOI: 10.1177/0263276419867749

The last two volumes of Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer series are concerned with developing a theory of use. This article offers a critical assessment of the two concepts, use and form-of-life, that form the heart of this theory: how do these two notions offer a solution to the problem of bare life that forms the core of the Homo Sacer series? First, the author describes how the original problem of bare life is taken up in The Use of Bodies and how the notion of use offers an important additional characteristic of bare life. Second, inspired by Foucault’s analysis of ancient Cynicism, the author discusses in which sense the type of ‘solution’ Agamben offers to the problem of bare life might be seen as an heir to ancient Cynicism and how this interpretation clarifies his connection of form-of-life and exile. Third, the author critically assesses the different usages of use that we can find in Agamben, by comparing how Franciscan usus, Pauline chrēsis and Platonic chrēsis are taken up in his analysis. Fourth, following Foucault, the author deepens the Platonic sense of use and its relation to taking care of justice. The article concludes with a critical assessment of Agamben’s reading of Plato’s myth of Er, in which the motifs of use, exile, and care are gathered. © The Author(s) 2019.

Author Keywords
Agamben; care; exile; form-of-life; Foucault; Homo Sacer; use

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