Notes on Stasis.
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.
Over and above its specific thesis and position, Stasis also presents us with two miniatures or models of the theoretical archipelago of Homo Sacer as a whole. I will try to elucidate this point with special focus on the first essay, “Stasis.” In a gesture that is a veritable signature of Agamben’s thought, he identifies a tremendous lacuna in our thinking, one that he proceeds if not to fill at least to delineate, in a mix of problematizing modesty and forceful conviction (or, depending on your taste, conceit). A science is pronounced missing. Here, the science of civil war itself, a stasiology that contemporary polemology is incapable of producing but which becomes all the more urgent as civil war becomes more pervasive.
As Agamben asserts: “It is generally acknowledged that a theory of civil war is completely lacking today, yet this absence does not seem to concern jurists and political scientists too much. … There exists, today, both a ‘polemology,’ a theory of war, and an ‘irenology,’ a theory of peace, but there is no ‘stasiology,’ no theory of civil war.” With characteristic erudition, a related contention governs the second essay, “Leviathan and Behemoth”: