Awakening Lazarus: Forgotten Figures — Masses and Surplus?

  • Gal Kirn
Keywords: political subjectivation, awakening, resurrection, surplus population, Lumpenproletariat, Fanon, Foucault, Marx


The text aims to think through a figure largely forgotten in radical philosophy or communist theology discussions today: the Biblical figure(s) of Lazarus. The absence of this figure from current discussions might have to do with something that was pointed out by Balibar as the ongoing “fear of the masses,” and with their political awakening that is usually interpreted as violence, failure, riotous noise and absence of political program/ organization. I will perform a close reading of two stories of Lazarus from the Gospels in the first part of this article, tackling the question of the first Lazarus (from the Gospel of John) that can be seen not only as the prefiguration of the resurrection of Jesus, but also as the awakening of political “surplus” that shakes the old order and cannot be easily integrated into the new. The second Lazarus (from the Gospel of Luke) can often be seen as a somewhat stoic figure that remains outside the gates of political life and is only absolved in the afterlife. This oscillation between the figure of poor/excluded was taken up and transformed in the works of three radical thinkers: Foucault, Marx, and Fanon. A short panoramic view of the “legacy” of Lazarus shall be then explored in the second part of the article: from the early discussion of leprosy and the strategic spatial and sovereign separation of exterior and interior in Foucault and Marx’s oscillation between “surplus population” and “Lumpenproletariat,” and finally to Frantz Fanon, who predicted that political subject of Lumpenproletariat is supposed to become a spearhead of future revolutions.

Author Biography

Gal Kirn

PhD in Philosophy, Research fellow
TU Dresden, Institute of Slavonic Studies
Wiener Strasse 48, Dresden, Germany, 01062


Andreyev, Leonid (2018). “Lazarus. ” In The Abyss and Other Stories. Trans. Hugh Aplin. Richmond: Alma Classics.

Aquino, Thomas de (1895). “Summa Theologiæ secunda pars secundæ partis a quæstione XXV ad XXVI.” Corpus Thomisticum. sth3025.html.

Agamben, Giorgio (1998). Homo Sacer. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Althusser, Louis (1971). “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, 127–89. London: New Left Books.

Althusser, Louis (2005). For Marx. London: Verso.

Althusser, Louis (2006). Philosophy of the Encounter. Later Writings, 1978–1987, London: Verso.

Badiou, Alain (2003). Saint Paul. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Balibar, Etienne (1989). “Spinoza, the Anti-Orwell: The Fear of the Masses.” Rethinking Marxism 2.3: 104–39.

Bible (2018). “Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages.” Bible Hub.

Boer, Roland (2015). “Translating Politics and Religion: A New Model.” Stasis. 3.2: 10–28.

Buck-Morss, Susan (2002). Dreamworld and Catastrophe. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Bussard, Robert (1987). “The ’Dangerous Class’ of Marx and Engels: The Rise of the Idea of the Lumpenproletariat.” History of European Ideas 8.6: 675–92.

Clover, Joshua (2016). Riot. Strike. Riot. London: Verso.

Chrysostom, John (1978). A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. XIV: Chrysostom. Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Ed. Philip Schaff. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

Dean, Jodi (2012). Communist Horizon. New York: Verso.

Denning, Michael (2010). “Wageless Life.” New Left Review 66 (November–December): 79–97.

Dolar, Mladen (1993). “Beyond Interpellation.” Qui Parle 6.2: 73–96.

Fanon, Frantz, (1991). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press. Fanon, Frantz (2004). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.

Federici, Silvia (2004). Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. New York: Autonomedia.

Foucault, Michel (2006). History of Madness. New York: Routledge.

Gollwitzer, Helmut (1970). The Rich Christians and Poor Lazarus. Edinburgh: St. Andrews Press.

Habjan, Jernej (2014). “The Eighteen Brumaire of Jacques Derrida.” In (Mis)readings of Marx in Continental Philosophy, eds. Jessica Whyte and Jernej Habjan, 128–44. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri (2000). Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hegel, Friedrich (1991). Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Trans. H. B. Nisbet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lenin, Vladimir (1902). “What Is to Be Done?” Marxists Internet Archive.

Lih, Lars (2007). “Lenin and the Great Awakening,” in Lenin Reloaded: Toward a Politics of Truth, eds. Sebastian Budgen, Stathis Kouvelakis and Slavoj Žižek, 283–97. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Lih, Lars (2015). “The Shield of Aeneas: Narratives of World Historical Mission, Ancient and Modern.” Stasis 3.2: 160–80.

Little, Daniel (2009). “Marx and Taipings.” Understanding Society.

Lorey, Isabel (2008). “Identitary Immunity and Strategic Immunization.” Trans. Catherine Framm. Transversal Journal.

Löwy, Michael (1996). The War of Gods. Religion and Politics in Latin America. London: Verso.

Martin, Dominic (2017). “The Last Men before the Last: A Russian Messianic Revival in the Twilight of History.” In Beyond Neoliberalism. Approaches to Social Inequality and Difference, eds. Marian Burchardt and Gal Kirn, 155–90. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels (1975–2005). Marx and Engels Collected Works (MECW). New York: International Publishers.

Mastnak, Tomaž (2001). Crusading Peace: Christendom, the Muslim World, and Western Political Order. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Močnik, Rastko (1999). 3 teorije: ideologija, nacija, institucija [3 Theories: ideology, na- tion and institution]. Ljubljana: Založba.

Prosic, Tamara (2015). “Cultural Hegemony, Sobornost, and the 1917 Russian Revolution.” Stasis 3.2: 204–25.

Rancière, Jacques (1999). Disagreement. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Ruda, Frank (2011). Hegel’s Rabble. New York: Bloomsbury.

Tirkkonen, Sanna (2015). “Power, Religion, and Simulacrum — Foucault on the Cult of Dionysus.” Stasis 3.2: 302–22.

Walker, Gavin (2018). “Surplus Alongside Excess: Uno Kōzō, Imperialism, and the Theory of Crisis.” Viewpoint Magazine. surplus-alongside-excess-uno-kozo-imperialism-theory-crisis.

Whalen, Brett (2009). Dominion of God. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Worsley, Peter (1972). “Fanon and the ’Lumpenproletariat’.” Socialist Register 9: 193–230.

Žižek, Slavoj (2008). In Defense of Lost Causes. London: Verso.
How to Cite
Kirn, G. (2018). Awakening Lazarus: Forgotten Figures — Masses and Surplus?. Stasis, 6(2).
Thematic Articles