Why do we think about politics the way we think? Agamben’s answer: Because of Christianity. Wheras theologians of old (20th century, I mean) asked ”Why do Christians worship the way the do” and answered ”Because of Roman Politics”, Agamben maintains that the relationship is more complex and the interesting aspect is the way theological debates about the Trinity and Christology has influnces worldly political theory.
I hesitate to write about what this book is about, beacuse as Agamben tend to do, that is revealed in the final few pages, murder myster style. I’d hate to give away the ending. But that much can be said that the central feature that politics has taken over from theology is that ”glory”, the manifest signs of power, are essentially used to cover up that the whole apparatus is empty at its core. Now, for theology, of course, everything depends on how this emptiness is interpreted – atheism is only one of the options and not a very interesting one. But, and one has to keep reminding oneself of this, is not what interests Agamben. If this is true for politics as well it means that government administration is more imporatant than sovereignity philosophically.
It is refreshing to read Agamben, because of the way he treats theology. He has no agenda for or against it, at least no discernable one. At no time does he sneak in some snide remarks against believers who are not smart enought to realize what this all really means, for example. We usually get that from these ateist philosphers that now find theology so interesting. Not from Agamben. This means that his reading of the theological debates about the central Christian doctrines is stimulating, even if his theological library seems to end rater abruptly at 1970, the one major weakness of the book. Especially in patristics there has been considrable development since the prewar classics he builds upon.
Agambens has continued his project with one book on the liturgical tradition and one on monastics. I’ll keep reading.