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The Figure of This World

Agamben and the Question of Political Ontology

Mathew Abbott

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A fundamental re-reading of Agamben that defends and develops his philosophy as post-Heideggerian political ontology

What if we’ve been wrong when reading Agamben? Mathew Abbott argues that Agamben’s thought is misunderstood when read in terms of critical theory or traditional political philosophy. He shows instead that it engages in political ontology: studying the political stakes of the question of being.

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Series Editor’s Preface
Introduction: The Figure of This World
1. The Question of Political Ontology
2. The Poetic Experience of the World
3. The Myth of the Earth
4. The Unbearable
5. The Creature before the Law
6. The Animal for which Animality is an Issue
7. Understanding the Happy
8. The Picture and its Captives
9. The Passing of the Figure of This World

About the Author

Mathew Abbott is Lecturer in Philosophy at Federation University Australia. He completed his PhD at in philosophy at the University of Sydney. He has taught philosophy, film, aesthetics and poetry at Sydney, the Australian National University and the University of Canberra. He researches modern European philosophy, political philosophy, critical theory and aesthetics.


Criticism of Giorgio Agamben’s work has tended to denigrate, or apologise for, its political dimensions. Where others have tried to isolate the 'political' in the homo sacer series, Mathew Abbott offers a brilliantly original reading of political ontology as the crux of Agamben’s work. Indispensable for anyone interested in Agamben, and contemporary continental thought more generally.

- Alex Murray, University of Exeter

Focusing on political ontology, The Figure of This World is one of the most intelligent readings of my thought and, insofar as it places it beyond any new epochal sending of being and any picture of this world, it is in some ways the most penetrating I could expect.

- Giorgio Agamben

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