The Forecasts of the Witches:the State of Exception in Planning Practices

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Agamben argues that the state of exception is not a special kind of law, but it is a zone ofanomie, where all legal determinations are deactivated (Agamben, 2005: 50). Conditions ofexception do not just occur when a hegemonic power poses itself above the law; they alsooccur when laws are made in order to exercise control and subjection.Agamben’s state of exception theory describes those contexts where the circumvention oflaws and suspension of norms do occur, having as result the production and reproduction ofspatial areas as zones which are characterized by a void of law. These phenomena can be foundnot just in the case of occupying or hegemonic powers, but also in the Western Europeandemocratic countries. Many examples testify the ‘suspension of norms’ as a common practice,which affects in particular planning activities. According to the state of exception theory,planning quite often becomes an extension (and an efficient field of application) of the mechanismof suspension of the norm, due to the (rhetorical) justification of emergency reasons.This paper reorients this model from politics to spatial domain, illustrating that the conditionof exception is not confined into political arenas, but it is also deployed to produce zones ofexception (spaces of ‘void of law’), where people are excluded from the domain of the lawand are stripped of the rights of space. Through the model of exception, the discipline ofplanning is an extension of the mechanism of suspension of the law. Consequently, planningis one of the instruments that can be used to exercise power, manipulating technical skills andcircumventing rules and norms.Drawing on examples from many contexts around the world, this paper highlights othercontexts in which the paradigm of exception has been deployed. This study shows that thereare many examples of spaces of exception globally; the paper will consider the flow – andmultiple declinations - of the ‘state of exception’ model in different contexts.The rhetorical of a context of emergency (as a result of the inefficiency of planning tools andprocedures, as well as a consequence of the weakness of public institutions and officers) hasjustified the manipulation of the (planning) juridical system by circumventing constitutionalprinciples (eg. the safeguard of natural landscape) and by suspending the existing law (eg. theduty of taking into consideration planning norms and rules). Agamben (2005) highlights howthis ‘emptiness of law’ can be instrumentally used in order to legalize what cannot be legal inthe name of necessity: emergency, that is necessity, becomes the source of law and it is usedas a legitimate principle in order to suspend existing norms.Examining various examples from different contexts around the world, the paper shows thatthe model of exception is deployed to exercise power over space and to deprive citizens oftheir rights in the spatial dimension. Consequently, the concept of right collapses in the spaceof exception and in the name of necessity new laws and technicalities are instrumentallyinvented to exercise power over people and space. The metaphor of the forecasts of thewitches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth will be used in order to introduce these reflections.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Numero di pagine1
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2015


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