Handbook on the Geographies of Power
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Handbook on the Geographies of Power

Edited by Mat Coleman and John Agnew

The so-called spatial turn in the social sciences means that many researchers have become much more interested in what can be called the spatialities of power, or the ways in which power as a medium for achieving goals is related to where it takes place. Most famous authors on the subject, such as Machiavelli and Hobbes, saw power as entirely equivalent to domination exercised by some over others. Though this meaning is hardly redundant, understandings of power have become more multidimensional and nuanced as a result of the spatial turn. Much recent writing in human geography, for example, has rigorously extended use of the term power beyond its typical understanding as a resource that pools up in some hands and some places to a medium of agency that has different effects depending on how it is deployed across space and how actors cooperate, or not, to give it effect. To address this objective, the book is organized thematically into four sections that cover the main areas in which much of the contemporary work on geographies of power is concentrated: bodies, economy, environment and energy, and war.
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Chapter 16: Destituent power and common use: reading Agamben in the Anthropocene

Bruce Braun and Stephanie Wakefield

Abstract

Western political philosophy has focused much of its attention on the concept of “constituent” power, understood as a revolutionary power that both installs and preserves a new order. This chapter explores and evaluates an alternative to constituent power, drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben to imagine a “destituent” power that seeks not to knock down an existing order only to institute a new one, but instead to profane it so as to return it to “common” or “new” use. If the “work” of government is to transform reality in accordance with its telos, and to present that reality as the only possible reality, then, we argue, destituent power is that power which deactivates the governmental machine, depriving it of its metaphysical foundations and enabling an active and experimental elaboration of other possible worlds. We conclude by exploring the strengths and limits of the concept in the context of the Anthropocene, understood as a moment in which “being” is again a question, albeit one that surpasses and exceeds the sovereign figure of “man”.

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