Thought is the courage of hopelessness

Today, we have no other representation of reality than the operational, the effective. We no longer conceive of an existence without effect. What is not effective – workable, governable – is not real. Philosophy’s next task is to think of a politics and an ethics that are freed of the concepts of duty and effectiveness.

The insistence on work and production is a malign one. The Left went down the wrong path when it adopted these categories, which are at the centre of capitalism. But we should specify that inoperativeness, as I conceive it, is neither inertia nor idling. We must free ourselves from work, in an active sense – I very much like this French word désoeuvrer. This is an activity that makes all the social tasks of the economy, law and religion inoperative, thus freeing them up for other possible usages. For precisely this is proper to mankind: writing a poem that escapes the communicative function of language; or speaking or giving a kiss, thus changing the function of the mouth, which first and foremost serves for eating.

Only a powerful being has the capacity not to be powerful. Man can do everything but does not have to do anything.

interview with Giorgio Agamben by Juliette Cerf

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