From a beautiful blog, Form of Life, a review of Agamben's The Time that Remains (an excerpt is below):
Up to now, it is mainly the first, critical, or “pessimistic” aspect of Agamben’s philosophy that has created a powerful whirlpool in the stream of our thinking. But when we disregard the other, “redemptive,” aspect, we end up in a complete misunderstanding of his project.
The author suggests that a proper understanding of Agamben's project involves focusing on life itself:
Agamben is very clear about this point: “The concept of life must constitute the subject of the coming philosophy.” More precisely, it is what he calls “form of life,” which is “a life that cannot be separated from its form.” This form of life, he boldly claims, “must become the guiding concept and the unitary center of the coming politics.” It is therefore not a surprise to find that the last installment in the Homo Sacer series, which is not yet written, will be a book entitled Form of Life. Of course, it is rather difficult to read what Agamben has not yet written, but this must be our task, especially because his work so far is strewn with extremely helpful clues about the nature of this saving power. Here I would like to draw your attention to one of the most decisive passages in The Time That Remains, where Agamben discusses the two covenants – the old covenant with Abraham, and the new covenant in the messianic instance:
"The messianic instance, which takes place in historical time and renders Mosaic law inoperative, goes back genealogically before Mosaic law, towards the promise. The space that opens up between the two diathekai [covenants] is the space of grace. This is why the kaine diathekai [new covenant] cannot be something like a written text containing new and diverse precepts (which is how it ends up). As stated in the extraordinary passage right before the affirmation of the new covenant, it is not a letter written in ink on tables of stone; rather, it is written with the breath of God on hearts of the flesh. In other words, it is not a text, but the very life of the messianic community, not a writing, but a form of life: he epitole hemon hymeis este, “You are our letter” 2 Cor. 3:2)!"
The promise is not to be found in a text, or a writing, Agamben seems to tell the soldiers of deconstruction. The new promise is a form of life – the life in the coming community. To paraphrase Benjamin, we could say that this is the life that is lived at the foot of the hill on which the biopolitical castle stands. In this way, the power over life transforms into the power of life, in a way that turns biopolitics on its head. Naked life becomes a form of life, and the laws that govern our universe become inoperative.
It is difficult, indeed, to see what is here at stake. It is far from being clear how can we imagine a form of life. But let me offer one possible line of investigation, which seems like a proper continuation of Agamben’s work. It is interesting that when Agamben talks about the old and new covenants, he does not mention the fact that in the Torah one can already discern two distinct promises. As we all know, there is the covenant of God with Abraham, which consists of a very exclusive promise of a certain land to a certain race. But there is another covenant, less known, which precedes this promise. This is the covenant after the flood, between God and Noah. Interestingly enough, this covenant is far from being exclusive to a certain people or a certain place. It is, in fact, a covenant with all living creatures, the whole of the animal kingdom: “And the rainbow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living soul of all flesh that is upon the earth.”
It therefore seems worthwhile to analyze, with the kind of close philosophical scrutiny that Agamben exemplifies, not only the Pauline text, in which the law is deactivated, but also the law itself, the Torah. We need to ask ourselves, what does it mean to live in the time of the Torah, the time of the law? Could Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and their fellow men and women live according to the law, the law which is the very book in which their lives are being depicted? Do they live before the law, or within the law? But what is this Torah, this law, if not a multiplicity of lives, or biographies? Can we observe a law that is based on the lives of those who could not observe the law, because they are the law? And how such a life in the time of the law, in each moment it has been lived, can become a citation a l'ordre du jour, as Benjamin once put it?
“For the mystery of lawlessness,” Paul writes, “is already at work, but only until the person now restraining it gets out of the way.” In The Time That Remains, Agamben shows us that the messianic event is a crucial step on the way to reveal the mystery of lawlessness in all its terrifying glory. The cynics, the pessimists, and the unbelievers, who do not let this lawlessness become the law in which we live, may continue to write their learned tracts about mourning and about melancholia. We only ask them to do so on the side of the way.