This article offers a rhetorical theory of what Giorgio Agamben has called the “state of exception” through a genealogy of the figure of Cincinnatus. In classical Rome, Cincinnatus was named dictator not once, but twice; first to save the city from invaders, and second to put down a popular, democratic uprising. Here we see the two sides of exception, or what I call the two faces of Cincinnatus: enemyship, and sovereign violence. These two faces are linked by an anti-democratic logic that is premised on the will of “the people,” as becomes clear in the counter-revolutionary writings of the founders of the United States.

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