The structure of The Kingdom and the Glory

I have spent a lot of time with Agamben’s Kingdom and the Glory, but until this time through, I was always baffled by the structure — the whole thing seemed to jump around quite a bit, and the motivation for the investigation of glory seemed difficult to discern. Why not skip the glory and more fully develop the stuff in the appendix? As far as I can tell, I am not the only person who has had this problem, and so I thought I would share the structure I have gleaned from the very detailed reading I’ve been undertaking over the past few days.

First points:

  • This is a book about the debate between Carl Schmitt and Erik Peterson — but not on their own terms. Rather, it’s about what they both disavow (economy) and what they both unwittingly share (glory). This is a big source of misunderstanding, because it’s easy to think that Peterson is supposed to be the source of the economic paradigm Agamben is developing (particularly back before Peterson was actually translated into English).
  • While the analysis of economy takes up slightly more space, the goal is to get to glory. Angels provide the hinge between the two parts, as the chapter “Angelology and Bureaucracy” seems to establish that there is no redemptive possibility in economy, while there are hints that glory is at least pointing toward something beyond our destructive power structure.

So I’ll just go through the chapters one by one.

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Agamben Notes: Wrap-Up

I have now posted notes over all of Il Regno e la Gloria. An index to the individual posts can be found here.

I have also compiled the notes (with slight changes) into a printable PDF. Clicking on the table of content entries within the PDF will take you directly to the relevant section.

For easy reference, this post itself will henceforth be at the top of the category Il Regno e la Gloria, filed under “Agamben” in the sidebar.

Agamben Notes: Appendix 2, “The Invisible Hand”

This brief appendix points toward ways in which the modern concept of economy can be linked to the theological concept, though Agamben leaves the full genealogy to other scholars.

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Agamben Notes: Appendix 1, “Law and Miracle”

[My lack of inspiration on the dissertation-writing front and my belief in the non-fungibility of time have resulted in a major push to finish this book. Reading the first appendix, my impression is that this is actually a very important part of his genealogical argument, but he was not able to find a way to incorporate it smoothly into the structure of the book overall -- a structure that is in any case pretty weird. Rereading Negri's review once I am finished should be interesting.]

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Agamben Notes: “Threshold” to Ch. 8

[As I sat down to write these notes, my neighbors were setting off fireworks.]

Agamben believes that his inquiry can, at least provisionally, come to a stop here, because he has exposed “the machine that glory covers over with its splendor and its songs.” Yet it seems as though glory is in decline — public ceremonials still exist, but they are increasingly simplified and irrelevant. Though it was only within the last hundred years that “glory” made a major comeback in Nazism and Fascism — he asks whether any acclamation had ever been made as sincerely as the “Heil Hitler” or “Duce duce” — even that seems to be a distant world that is irrevocably gone.

Or is it?! Read the rest of this entry »

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Agamben Notes: Chapter 8, “Archeology of Glory”

[Since this chapter is very long, I am going to do the chapter and its threshold separately.]

Agamben begins by castigating Hans Urs von Balthasar, who has led astray all theologians by confining glory to the aesthetic realm rather than its properly political place — and this despite the obvious clue provided by the German word Herrlichkeit. By contrast, Agamben sets out to prove that the terms kabod and doxa (glory) are actually never used in an aesthetic sense in scripture, but only in a political one. Read the rest of this entry »

Agamben Notes: Ch. 7, “The power and the glory”

(Before beginning, I should note that I found the chapter difficult to follow. In some places, my eyes really glazed over. The final proper chapter, “Archeology of glory,” is much longer than previous chapters and appears to be something of a “payoff,” so perhaps the present chapter will turn out to be mainly a collection of evidence, like previous chapters going through where all the church fathers used the term oikonomia. In fact, now coming back to this parenthetical, I see that he was mainly trying to establish that previous scholarship on political pomp — which hasn’t even been very extensive, apparently — has never gotten at the core issue: Why does power need glory?)

In the relationship between glory and governance, the articulation between Reign and Governance reaches a point of maximum intelligibility and maximum opacity — on the one hand, it clarifies the difference between the two moments, but on the other hand, it leaves unclear what a purely “glorious,” liturgical politics really would be. In order to get at this question, we must of course look yet again to Peterson, in this case to his dissertation, Heis Theos: Epigraphische, formgeschichtliche un religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, which seeks to understand the relationship between political ceremonial and ecclesiastical liturgy — the liturgy being, as we have seen, the only truly “political” significance of the church. Read the rest of this entry »

Agamben Notes: Ch. 6, “Angelology and bureaucracy”

I noted on the table of contents — which incidentally doubles as a list of these posts in forward chronological order — that this chapter was the one I was most looking forward to. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was very interesting and even clarified the stakes of his argument somewhat. (I also note that this brings me up to almost two-thirds of the way through the text, so the end is in sight.)

If State of Exception is a book about Schmitt, then Il regno e la gloria is a book about Peterson. Agamben begins the chapter by noting that in the very year in which he published his argument against the possibility of a Christian political theology, Peterson also published a book in which he claimed that the heavenly city and the church are both “public” and “political” in character — and he establishes this by means of angelology. Read the rest of this entry »

Agamben Translation: “Threshold” to Ch. 5

[This translation stems from pp. 157-160 of Il Regno e la gloria. I am a beginner in Italian, but hopefully this will at least be serviceable. I have not thoroughly proof-read it, but will make corrections based on comments and my own sudden realizations, as appropriate. "Governance" renders the Italian governo, and "kingship" renders regno.]

We can now try to list in the form of theses the essential characteristics that our analysis of the providential paradigm have brought to light. These define something like an ontology of acts of governance:

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Agamben Notes: Ch. 5, “The providential machine”

I’ll begin by noting that it’s not clear to me what is motivating the use of the term “machine” in the title of this chapter, aside from Agamben’s general penchant for using it to refer to Western political arrangements.

This chapter finally includes a head-on discussion of Foucault, specifically the lecture course Security, Territory, Population (1977-78). Read the rest of this entry »

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