I've been continuing to try and worry at questions of agency in contemporary theory, not least again in a recent paper on Agamben developed out of the notes of the image I posted previously. I'm not demanding a simple-minded solution because these limits seem to be imposed by the structures of capital / contemporary social forms. One theme that has previously interested me is where themes of passivity intersect with questions of theodicy and providence, which is to say how inadvertent forms of agency seems to be relied on to produce some final working out of radical change (rather than God's plan). In the form of theodicy this supposes that all current evil will actually turn out to be for the good. As Chrissus and Odotheus sarcastically remark on Hardt and Negri: 'In fact, it is this being [the multitude] that has power even when everything would seem to bear witness to the contrary. All that domination imposes is really what this being has desired and won.'
In terms of providence it is the undercurrent of determinism in orientations that would, at first sight, to be convinced of radical contingency. I'm not theologian enough to yet analyse the interlocking of theodicy and providence, although I am interested to hear form anyone on this, and will be doing some reading myself. Purely by chance (or providence?) I came across this quote from Gramsci on determinism in Marxism:
[determinism] has been made necessary and justified historically by the “subaltern character” of certain social strata…. When you don’t have the initiative in the struggle and the struggle itself comes eventually to be identified with a series of defeats, mechanical determinism becomes a tremendous force of moral resistance, of cohesion and of patient and obstinate perseverance…. Real will takes on the garments of an act of faith in a certain rationality of history and in a primitive and empirical form of impassioned finalism which appears in the role of a substitute for the Predestination or Providence of confessional religions. (Gramsci 1971, 336)
The cleverness of Gramsci's argument is propose the historical accounting for historical determinism. Perhaps then the kind of determinism that lurks in Hardt and Negri, for example, expresses this sense of a series of defeats?