Apr 272013
 

Here’s a link to a text by Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben whose theories about the contrary tendencies in states between supreme executive powers and legislative powers (the government vs the individual, more or less) are particularly apropos since the events of 9/11 created a fresh context for what he calls a “state of exception.” Something to think about.

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The place—both logical and pragmatic—of a theory of the state of exception in the American constitution is in the dialectic between the powers of the president and those of Congress. This dialectic has taken shape historically (and in an exemplary way already beginning with the Civil War) as a conflict over supreme authority in an emergency situation; or, in Schmittian terms (and this is surely significant in a country considered to be the cradle of democracy), as a conflict over sovereign decision.

The textual basis of the conflict lies first of all in Article 1 of the constitution, which establishes that “the Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it” but does not specify which authority has the jurisdiction to decide on the suspension (even though prevailing opinion and the context of the passage itself lead one to assume that the clause is directed at Congress and not the president). The second point of conflict lies in the relation between another passage of Article 1 (which declares that the power to declare war and to raise and support the army and navy rests with Congress) and Article 2, which states that “the President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”

via A Brief History of the State of Exception by Giorgio Agamben.

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