Poverty as an Everyday State of Exception
ACCUMULATING INSECURITY: VIOLENCE AND DISPOSSESSION IN THE MAKING OF EVERYDAY LIFE, pp. 67-110, Shelley Feldman, Charles Geisler, and Gayatri A. Menon, eds., University of Georgia Press, February 2011
45 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2011 Last revised: 9 Oct 2011
Date Written: January 1, 2011
This essay applies the provocative theory of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben to Poverty Law. It is forthcoming as a book chapter in a multidisciplinary volume of papers exploring the relations between accumulation and insecurity. Professor Nice distills Agamben's theory of the state of exception, that the dominant paradigm of modern democracy is founded on the state's power to exclude from rights those who are otherwise included within the political order. Professor Nice posits that the state's abandonment of poor people exemplifies an everyday example of the state of exception. She illustrates how poor people lack meaningful constitutional protection, legal entitlement, policy consideration, and political mobilization, and she argues they are left to eke out a meager subsistence that brings Agamben's image of the "bare life" into stark relief. While broadly summarizing the state of Poverty Law, Professor Nice offers specific details regarding how economic justice has been made "unintelligible," culling from constitutional jurisprudence, legislative and policy analysis, and law and society scholarship. She concludes that the bare life of poverty is the result of this overall dialogic default on the question of economic justice, and suggests that a demand for rights may be the only way out (or in).
Keywords: Poverty Law, Economic Justice, Giorgio Agamben
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