The idea of potentiality runs through Giorgio Agamben’s political philosophy. In his analysis of Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener, Agamben thoroughly interprets potentiality and bare life through Bartleby’s “I prefer not to”. Agamben believes that Bartleby’s inoperativeness is the highest form of resistance, which exists as pure potentiality against the power apparatuses in modern society. Agamben considers Bartleby’s inoperativeness as the exact way to redeem bare life in modern society, where the state of exception already becomes normality. This article starts with Agamben’s reading of Bartley, focuses on potentiality, resistance and bare life to analyze the pure and thorough way of redemption represented by Bartleby, and hopes to explore why Bartleby exemplifies Agamben’s bio-political thought.


Giorgio Agamben; Bartleby; potentiality; resistance; bare life

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