In ancient Rome, during times of crises or war, the republic of Rome would appoint one individual as leader, and he alone could create and dictate his own rules and laws. In our modern society we have similar measures during conflicts or distress where we can fall upon the “War Measures Act”. The state of exception can be roughly explained as being able to suspend the rule of law for certain individuals allowing for more efficiency to get a grasp of the conflict at hand.
A state of exception is needed when a conflict or crises arises to such a high point, where if normal channels were taken, the results would take too long and could even possibly do more overall harm then good. According to Agamben’s theory when a state ” increasingly suspend their democratic structures, laws, and principles, the very nature of governance changes as “the rule of law is routinely displaced by the state of exception” (Giroux, 2006, p. 180). When a state of exception is enacted the government can bypass certain channels and laws for the good of the majority of citizens.
In some cases, during the states of exception, individuals can be gathered up if they are seen to be a threat. Agamben sees “the state of exception exists as a potentiality underpinning all relations between individuals and the sate”. Individuals held under the state of exception lose their legal rights and are basically treated as prisoners by being told exactly what they are and aren’t allowed to do, or as Agamben had termed “bare life”. Agamben’s theory shows how the relationship between the state and its citizens ceases to exist however one could point out how his theory mainly revolves around the criticisms of initiatives such as the war measures act. Though his theory can be argued one cannot look past the fact that in name of fear the government appoints its self a tyrant and rules over its citizens with nothing more then an iron fist.
References: Giroux, Henry A. (2006). “Reading Hurricane Katrina: Race, Class, and the Biopolitics of Disposability”, College Literature 33(3): 171-196330
Crim 3305 Handout – Larsen: Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy