Giorgio Agamben's inclusive exclusion of Étienne De la Boétie

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This paper analyzes the significance of Étienne de La Boétie’s appearance and subsequent disappearance in the introduction to Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. The introduction to the first installment of the Homo Sacer-series is a significant document, which establishes the philosophical parameters of the entire project: the concepts and thinkers that his analysis revolves around are all presented in these few pages. Yet there is one strange anomaly: while all of the thinkers who figure in these pages (Plato, Aristotle, Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, etc.) are subsequently addressed at length, Boétie is completely abandoned. It is the argument of this paper, that this is a significant conceptual move, constituting an inclusive exclusion of Boétie and his reflections on the subjective foundations of power, which reveals the underlying structure of Agamben’s political thought to be that of the sovereign exception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-112
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Mikkel Flohr is a PhD-fellow in political theory at the Department of Social Science and Business at Roskilde University, Denmark. His thesis is a critique of political theology drawing on the conceptual resources of the early works of Karl Marx and G.W.F. Hegel. He also teaches and works on issues in contemporary continental philosophy and political economy.


  • Giorgio Agamben
  • Etienne de la Boetie
  • Sovereignty
  • sovereign power
  • subjective power
  • Michel Foucault
  • State of exception

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