“It is astounding that this century’s two most lucid observers of the incomparable horror that surrounded them – Kafka and Walser – both present us with a world from which evil in its traditional supreme expression, the demonic, has disappeared. Neither Klamm nor the Count nor Kafka’s clerks and judges, nor even less Walser’s creatures, despite their ambiguity, would ever figure in a demonological catalogue. If something like a demonic element survives in the world of these two authors, it is rather in the form Spinoza may have had in mind when he wrote that the devil is only the weakest of creatures and the most distant from God; as such – that is, insofar as the devil is essentially impotent – not only can it not do us harm, but on the contrary it is what most needs
our help and our prayers. It is, in every being that exists, the possibility of
not-being that silently calls for our help (or, if you wish, the devil is nothing other than divine impotence or the power of not-being in God). Evil is only our inadequate reaction when faced with this demonic element, our fearful retreat from it in order to exercise-founding ourselves in this flight-some power of being. Impotence or the power to not-be is the root of evil only in this secondary sense.
Fleeing from our own impotence, or rather trying to adopt it as a weapon, we construct the malevolent power that oppresses those who show us their weakness; and failing our innermost possibility of not-being, we fall away from the only thing that makes love possible. Creation – or existence – is not the victorious struggle of a power to be against a power to not-be; it is rather the impotence of God with respect to his own impotence, his allowing-being able to not not-be-a contingency to be. Or rather: It is the birth in God of love.
This is why it is not so much the natural innocence of creatures that Kafka and Walser allow to prevail against divine omnipotence as the natural innocence of temptation. Their demon is not a tempter, but a being infinitely susceptible to being tempted. Eichmann, an absolutely banal man who was tempted to evil precisely by the powers of right and law, is the terrible confirmation through which our era has revenged itself on their diagnosis.”
– Giorgio Agamben, “Demonic” in The Coming Community. Translated by Michael Hardt. Theory Out Of Bounds, Vol 1. University of Minnesota Press, 1993. pp. 32-33.