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Agamben and the Politics of Human Rights

Statelessness, Images, Violence

John Lechte, Saul Newman

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Can human rights protect the stateless? Or are they permanently excluded from politics and condemned to 'bare life'?

Human rights are in crisis today. Everywhere one looks, there is violence, deprivation, and oppression, which human rights norms seem powerless to prevent. This book investigates the roots of the current crisis through the thought of Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben. Human rights theory and practice must come to grips with key problems identified by Agamben – the violence of the sovereign state of exception and the reduction of humanity to ‘bare’ life. Any renewal of human rights today must involve breaking decisively with the traditional coordinates of Western political thought and instead affirm a new understanding of life and political action.


1. Human Rights and Statelessness Today
2. Human Rights in History
3. Agamben and the Rise of ‘Bare Life’
4. Language, the Human and Bare Life: from Ungroundedness to Inoperativity
5. Nihilism or Politics? An Interrogation of Agamben
6. Politics, Power and Violence in Agamben
7. Agamben, the Image and the Human
8. Living Human Rights

About the Author

John Lechte is Professor in Sociology at Macquarie University, Sydney. He is a specialist in French philosophy and culture and is currently working on the image, the sacred and politics. He is author of Julia Kristeva (1990); Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers (1994) (second edition, 2008); Writing and Psychoanalysis (1996); Key Contemporary Concepts (2003); Julia Kristeva: Live Theory (with Maria Margaroni) (2004) and has recently published Genealogy and Ontology of the Western Image and its Digital Future (2012).

Saul Newman is Professor in Political Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research is in continental and poststructuralist political and social theory, and contemporary radical politics. He is the author of: From Bakunin to Lacan (2001); Power and Politics in Poststructuralist Thought (2005); Unstable Universalities (2007); Politics Most Unusual (2008); The Politics of Postanarchism (2010); and Max Stirner (2011).

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