Agency and will in Agamben's coming politics Articles uri icon



publication date

  • November 2018

start page

  • 978

end page

  • 996


  • 9


  • 44

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0191-4537

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1461-734X


  • Those commentators who accept that Agamben offers an affirmative political project tend to hold that its realization depends upon pre-personal messianic or ontological alterations. I argue that there is another option based around the notion of individual agency that has received relatively little attention, but which clarifies whether or not Agamben holds that the transition is one that agents can participate in. By engaging with the texts "On Potentiality," "Bartleby, or On Contingency," and Opus Dei, I first show that he develops a notion of potentiality that he claims not only underpins willing, but is also defined by an indeterminate contingency between action and non-action that undermines the binary opposition between willed action and non-action that sustains biopolitics. I then turn to the discussions of praxis, work, and poiesis in The Man without Content to determine whether Agamben thinks that other non-will-based forms of activity can contribute to the deactivation of biopolitics and, indeed, highlight his apparent support for thought-as-poiesis. This, however, seems to establish a binary opposition between thought-as-poiesis and will that, by way of conclusion, I question by claiming that Agamben relies upon a reductionist conception of will that fails to distinguish between "will-as-instrument" and "will-as-impetus" and, as a consequence, is unable to recognize that whereas thought-as-poiesis breaks with the former sense of will, it depends on the latter. An act of will, therefore, contributes to the transition to the coming politics and given the intimate bond between thought-as-poiesis and the coming politics and, indeed, the diachronic nature of the latter, will, so I argue, be carried over into the coming politics.


  • agamben; biopolitics; coming politics; will; agency; destituent power; giorgio agamben; biopolitics; violence