Agamben describes his posture as a reader as one of seeking a text’s Entwicklungsfähigkeit, or capacity for elaboration.1 In examining Agamben’s practices of reading, we can attend to the opposite phenomenon: the counter-elaboration that a text, in having being read by the philosopher, performs upon Agamben’s own thought. This reciprocal elaboration might constitute a paradigm for Agamben’s use of reading, according to his own idiosyncratic definition of use as an event in the middle voice, in which (according to a definition of Benveniste) the subject ‘effects an action only in affecting itself (il effectue en s’affectant)’ (UB 28). With this definition in mind, we could say that Agamben effects a text (he writes) only to the extent that he is also affected by another text (he reads). This is why Agamben’s position as a reader proves particularly important to any assessment of his work, quite aside from the problem of influence or intellectual genealogy. For this same reason, however, assessing Agamben’s relation to Antonio Negri – a figure with whom, by most measures, he is at odds – poses an unexpected challenge: how can Agamben’s thought be a use of Negri? Answering this question means not only assessing the critical distance between the two thinkers, but also taking this distance as a measure, in the Spinozan sense, of mutual affection.
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