After the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001, and since the new wave of attacks in Europe in the recent past, urgency has motivated and justified some of the most important political decisions, even in countries that were not directly aggressed. The search for full security, which seems to have become a new utopia, explains certain extra-legal decisions and promotes the extension of the faculties of executive powers in a growing number of countries. Thus, urgency threatens today the basis of democracy: it undermines the guarantees for the exercise of freedom, it discourages citizens’ participation in public affairs, it hinders debate and it stands in the way of thought and of autonomous judgment. Using Hannah Arendt’s research on totalitarianism and Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of Security States, this paper will show that the recurrent recourse to ‘urgency’ can generate, today, oppressive conditions. These conditions are different from those linked to the rise of totalitarian regimes in the past but they have some common points, which demand citizens’ reflection, judgment and action.
State of emergency, totalitarianism, Security State, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben