Thursday, 22 January 2009


I want to propose that the Greek revolts, in their true immediacy, their generality, their break with the constraints of a securitised life, their destruction directed towards the state/power, instantiate Benjaminian divine violence - "a pure immediate violence" - that halts mythic, law-making violence. If mythic violence is "bloody", then divine violence is "lethal without spilling blood". The violence of the Greek revolt is immediate, it lacks bloodshed, it defies "mere life" - it is a "pure power over all life for the sake of the living". It involves destruction because "in the secular world, [divine violence] breathes destruction", whereas "in the world to come divine powerlessness is higher than divine violence."


Savonarola said...

Perhaps wary after Zizek's rather ineffective use of this trope in his writings on violence, I wonder whether, rather than engaging in the common activity of espying in the vicissitudes of politics the signs of theological or theo-political referents be vulgar and Feuerbachian and regard the theological in great part as an inversion of political powers (of insurrection, interruption, insurgency) that are not in need of the "divine". Isn't the divine in this regard a "counter-myth" - perhaps a useful one as in the millenarian revolts that the likes of Davis speak about, but one that dubiously depends on a monotheistic distinction between the pagan/cultic/mythical/idolatrous and the transcendent/ethical/sublime/ineffable/

The other danger of the divine violence "thesis" is that it runs the danger of aestheticising those moments of "social hysteria" (Badiou, in a positive vein) which demand rather painstaking and organized interpretation.

What strikes me as more useful in the Benjamin is the characterization of the police as dissolving the difference between law-making and law-abiding.

Benjamin said...

Yes I realised I too was treading the dread path of Zizek, but I was wondering not so much of seeing the events as theological as seeing the events materially instantiate and secularise a theological category? Hair splitting no doubt.
Perhaps you are right, and contra Benjamin, we don't need the theological, but I'm still interested in using theological categories to grasp politics - I will have to read Gramsci as well.
Well this was in substitute for interpretation, due to lack of knowledge / time, and I know the urgency of the political isn't an excuse either...
Benjamin also has a useful comment on police agents becoming indistinguishable from anarchists and vice versa, a la Debord of the Preface to the Italian edition of Society of the Spectacle (although typically I've now lost the reference...)