Languages of Surprise. Towards a Political Poetics of Insecurity


As Giorgio Agamben wrote in 2001, security has been the Leitbegriff, guiding concept, of state politics since the birth of the modern state.1 Today, though, we are facing ‘extreme and most dangerous developments in the thought of security’. Referring to Foucault, Agamben argues that unlike disciplinary power, security creates open spaces and is therefore related to ideas of liberalism and globalisation, managing disorder rather than preventing it. It can constantly be provoked by terrorism to become itself terroristic, there are no clear boundaries between security and terror, and security leads to a gradual neutralisation of politics. Nevertheless, security ‘now becomes the sole criterion of political legitimation’. Measures of security require ‘constant reference to a state of exception’ and are therefore irreconcilable with democracy, leading to the danger of a ‘a world civil war which renders all civil coexistence impossible’, which is why ‘nothing is more important than a revision of the concept of security’ (Agamben 2001).
While eight years later we see the fallout of security as the guiding concept of politics all over the globe, we are far away from a better understanding of security.2 In this essay, I want to address some of the reasons for this that I consider important, and, in doing so, make an attempt to contribute to this revision …

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Published in Databrowser 04

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