TThe three essays collected in this book offer a succinct introduction to Agamben’s recent work through an investigation of Foucault’s notion of the apparatus, a meditation on the intimate link of philosophy to friendship, and a reflection on contemporariness, or the singular relation one may have to one’s own time.
“Apparatus” (dispositif in French) is at once a most ubiquitous and nebulous concept in Foucault’s later thought. In a text bearing the same name (“What is a dispositif?”) Deleuze managed to contribute its mystification, but Agamben’s leading essay illuminates the notion: “I will call an apparatus,” he writes, “literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings.” Seen from this perspective, Agamben’s work, like Foucault’s, may be described as the identification and investigation of apparatuses, together with incessant attempts to find new ways to dismantle them.
Though philosophy contains the notion of philos, or friend, in its very name, philosophers tend to be very skeptical about friendship. In his second essay, Agamben tries to dispel this skepticism by showing that at the heart of friendship and philosophy, but also at the core of politics, lies the same experience: the shared sensation of being.
Guided by the question, “What does it mean to be contemporary?” Agamben begins the third essay with a reading of Nietzsche’s philosophy and Mandelstam’s poetry, proceeding from these to an exploration of such diverse fields as fashion, neurophysiology, messianism and astrophysics.
“What is an Apparatus?” was originally published in Italian as Che cos’è un dispositivo?, Nottetempo, 2006
“The Friend” was originally published in Italian as L’amico, Nottetempo, 2007
“What Is the Contemporary?” was originally published in Italian as Che cos’è il contemporaneo?, Nottetempo, 2008
Translated by David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella
Publisher Stanford University Press, 2009
Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics series
ISBN 0804762309, 9780804762304
Che cos’è un dispositivo? (Italian, 2006)
L’amico (Italian, 2007)
Che cos’è il contemporaneo? e altri scritti (Italian, 2010)
What is an Apparatus? And Other Essays (English, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella, 2009)
O que é o contemporâneo. e outros ensaios (Portuguese, trans. Vinícius Nicastro Honesko, 2009)