The Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths University of London

Research Centre run jointly between the Departments of Sociology and English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths University, London

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Whither Topology. On structure and order in Homo Sacer.

A Contribution by Peter Fenves (external affiliate and recent guest at CPCT in April 2016) to Homo Sacer: A Blog Series at Stanford University Press. 


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Excerpt: As Agamben “abandons” the Homo Sacer project with the publication of The Use of Bodies, there arise a number of questions concerning the former’s seriality. What, for instance, governs the order and numbering of the volumes? And is the series ultimately convergent or divergent? Questions of this kind extend beyond the Homo Sacer project. As early as his first book, Stanzas, Agamben launches an inquiry into certain “zones of indetermination” that he would specify and develop under the “homo sacer” rubric. What first emerges from a retrospective glance at Stanzas, however, is not so much the intimation of a more expansive series as the surprising importance Agamben attributes to another term of mathematical modernity, namely topology, for, from the perspective of topology, the opening sections of the Homo Sacer project can be seen as a repetition of the Introduction to Stanzas.

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Against Fate

Alberto Toscano, talk delivered April 20 at the CPCT workshop ‘On Justice: Variations on a Theme from Walter Benjamin in 1916 (I)’:


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The following remarks are at a slight, but I hope illuminating, tangent from the ‘convolute’ of texts we’ve gathered to discuss. In brief, I want to sketch some thoughts starting from another text of Benjamin’s from 1916, namely the short unpublished reflection on ‘Trauerspiel and Tragedy’, and to do so in part by bringing into relief and into contrast the relation of Benjamin’s early reflections on tragedy to Georg Lukács’s 1910 essay ‘The Metaphysics of Tragedy’ from Soul & Form, a text which, by Scholem’s own recollection, was of considerable significance to his friend. I want to think through how the approach to justice as a concern of tragedy – perhaps as the concern of Attic tragedy, especially in Aeschylus’ Oresteia, an abiding reference for Benjamin – might inflect our considerations of the messianic or political-theological interrogation of justice.

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From a Radical Philosophy Dossier on Property, Power, Law, drawn from the Powers and Limits of Property workshop:

Patent as credit: When intellectual property becomes speculative

Hyo Yoon Kang

Intellectual properties, the various kinds of which are known as patents, copyright and trademarks, could be regarded as central techniques of accumulation in contemporary capitalism, if immaterial knowledge is indeed what now crucially drives accumulation in a ‘knowledge economy’ or ‘creative industries’. [1] In such a process of value generation and accumulation, it is precisely the law of intellectual property that allows certain kinds of knowledge to be repackaged and transformed into units of appropriation, transfer and commodification. But how exactly does this process occur?

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Disaggregating primitive accumulation

Robert Nichols

For nearly 150 years now, critical theorists of various stripes have attempted to explicate, correct and complement Marx’s discussion of the ‘so-called’ primitive accumulation of capital provided in Part Eight of the first volume of Capital. This is perhaps especially true of Marxism in the English-speaking world. Whereas French and German traditions have tended to focus more on the formal categories of Capital,anglophone debates have attended more closely to Marx’s historical-descriptive account, perhaps due to the privileged role that England plays in the historical drama staging the bourgeois revolt against feudalism, the early emergence of capitalist relations and subsequent industrial revolution. The enclosures of the English commons and transformation of the rural peasantry into an industrial workforce serve, after all, as the primary empirical referents from which Marx derives his conceptual tools. From Paul Sweezy and Maurice Dobb in the 1950s, to Christopher Hill, C.B. Macpherson and E.P. Thompson in the 1960s, to Perry Anderson and Robert Brenner in the 1970s, these ‘transition debates’ have focused on the accuracy and adequacy of Marx’s history of early modern England.

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Race, real estate and real abstraction

Brenna Bhandar and Alberto Toscano

The crises and mutations of contemporary capitalism have rendered palpable Marx’s observation according to which in bourgeois modernity human beings are ‘ruled by abstractions’. The processes of financialization animating the dynamics of the 2007–8 crisis involved the violent irruption into the everyday lives of millions of a panoply of ominous acronyms (ABSs, CDOs, SIVs, HFT, and so on), indices of highly mathematized strategies of profit extraction whose mechanics were often opaque to their own beneficiaries. At the same time, this process of financialization was articulated to the most seemingly ‘concrete’, ‘tangible’ and thus desirable use and exchange value available to the citizens of so-called advanced liberal democracies: the home. This is a site, a social relation, that as Ferreira da Silva and Chakravartty have noted encompasses the ‘juridical, political and economic’, thus serving as a lived material synthesis of the three main axes of modern thought.

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Giorgio Agamben’s Political Paradigm. Notes on Stasis.

A Contribution by Alberto Toscano (based on CPCT’s “The Ends of Homo Sacer” event from November 2015) to Homo Sacer: A Blog Series at Stanford University Press. 


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Excerpt: From the vantage of the overall montage of the Homo Sacer series, the slim volume Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm would appear to be at once peripheral and interstitial. Unlike any of the other volumes, it consists of two public lectures, rather than a newly crafted text. These lectures were delivered in October 2001 at Princeton, giving their reference to global terrorism a curiously diffracted and belated, though topical, echo. Stasis is situated between State of Exception (2.1) (a concept that is explicitly, if briefly, tied to civil war), and The Sacrament of Language (2.3) and a decimal point away from The Kingdom and the Glory (2.4), with which it entertains more tenuous links: its treatment of the thresholds between oikos and polis prepare possible interrogations on what becomes of these with the Patristic introduction of oikonomia, of divine management, while the tantalising foray into Hobbesian eschatology opens up a different avenue into a critique of the theocratic imagination, and resonates with a passing mention of Hobbes on the oath in Sacrament. Stasis was also published in Italian a few months after the final volume with which Agamben “abandons” the project, The Use of Bodies.

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The Ends of Homo Sacer.

A review in Postmodern Culture of a Roundtable discussion on the work of Giorgio Agamben.

By Christopher Law (CCS/CPCT, graduate affiliate) 


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Excerpt: On November 10, 2015 a group of four scholars of Giorgio Agamben’s work gathered at Goldsmiths, University of London for a roundtable organized by the college’s recently formed Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought (CPCT). Contributing to the event, and representing a diverse array of interests in Agamben’s work, were Jessica Whyte, Benjamin Noys, Jason E. Smith and Alberto Toscano (who, alongside the roundtable chair Julia Ng, acts as co-director of the CPCT). The event was dubbed “The Ends of Homo Sacer,” a title whose most obvious motivation was the recent publication of Agamben’s Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm and of L’uso dei corpi (recently published in English as The Use of Bodies). The former book, originally delivered as two lectures in October 2001, slots into an earlier position in Agamben’s nine-book Homo Sacer series, whilst the latter marks its ostensible termination, if not its completion. As is well known, the series has been published out of the order envisioned by Agamben himself (a confusion to which the delayed publication of Stasis adds, since it displaces a spot previously accorded to The Kingdom and the Glory). Both the elusive ordering of the project and the question of its conclusion provided food for thought throughout the evening; neither problem, needless to say, attained definitive closure.