Inoperativity as the Real Truth

‘While for the ancients it was labour—negotium—that was defined negatively with respect to the contemplative life—otium—moderns seem unable to conceive of contemplation, inoperativity, and feast otherwise than as rest or negation of labour.’

Giorgio Agamben, Creation and Anarchy (trans. Adam Kotsko)

8 thoughts on “Inoperativity as the Real Truth

  1. I’ve written about otium a few times in the context of Horace Odes 2.16 and Catullus 51 (and Flaubert). For Horace it is the contemplative life but for Catullus otium (which he uses more as leisure) has caused the destruction of rulers and great cities. Horace’s Ode is a reaction to Catullus, I think. We have adopted the negative use of otium in modern life, as Agamben seems to be pointing out.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I understand Agamben’s point. An excellent one.

        I was trying to say, and phrased it badly, that even among ancient poets otium is a complex/complicated word they use differently and in different contexts.

        I will have to add this Agamben to my list. Looks like a good one for me!

        Liked by 1 person

      • “What sordid misery there is in the condition of a man who works and in a civilization based on men who work.”—Camus, Notebooks. April 1938

        Seemed like a relevant thought. His notebooks are wonderful, filled with similar ideas.

        Liked by 1 person

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