Philosophy Today

Volume 68, Issue 1, Winter 2024

Special Topic: On Political Theology

Antonio CerellaOrcid-ID
Pages 71-89

Power’s Two Bodies
A Critique of Agamben’s Theory of Sovereignty

This article seeks to problematize Agamben’s interpretation of sovereignty in light of the “archaeological method” he uses in his Homo Sacer project. In contrast to Agamben’s exposition, which treats biopolitics as the original and ontological paradigm of Western politics, the essay discusses how, historically, sovereign power has been conceived as a “double body”—transcendent and immanent, sacred and sacrificial, absolute and perpetual—from whose tension conceptual and political metamorphoses of sovereignty arise. The first attribute of sovereignty—absoluteness, on which Agamben has often focused—should be seen as an ordering and essentially modern function of its second “body”: the perpetuity of power. The article illustrates, then, how the retrospective projections through which the Italian philosopher constructs his ontological reading of sovereignty depend on some logical and epistemological lacunae that characterize his “archaeological method,” which is based, essentially, on an arbitrary use of historical analogies.