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Title: Deconstruction as political practice : a study of Derrida's 'Politics of Friendship' and related texts
Author: Thomson, A. J. P.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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My thesis is a study of the question of politics in the work of Jacques Derrida. I focus in particular on Politics of Friendship together with those texts most closely related to it, including 'Force of Law', 'Passions', The Gift of Death, Spectres of Marx and Adieu: to Emmanuel Levinas. I describe the political development of Derrida's work from his seminar on Nationality and Philosophical Nationalism in 1983, to its culmination in the publication of the full-length text of Politics of Friendship in 1994. The increasing emphasis applied to the word deconstruction itself over this period, concluding in formulations such as 'no democracy without deconstruction' and 'deconstruction is justice' suggests Derrida's own increasing understanding of his work as a political practice and accompanies the development of Derrida's seminars from the question of philosophical nationality to the decisive issue of responsibility. By reading Politics of Friendship within the context of this movement within Derrida's work, I consider: (1) the relationship between deconstruction and democracy; (2) Derrida's concern with language, nationality and responsibility; (3) Derrida's performative problematization of the political status of his own texts. On the basis of this analysis of how Derrida understands 'deconstruction' to be a political practice I then proceed to answer two further questions: The first is whether Derrida's political practice can be interpreted in such a way as to generate a political theory. I argue that careful attention to Derrida's occasional references to 'depoliticization' and 'repoliticization', and in particular to his work on Carl Schmitt, makes available a theory of deconstruction as depoliticization. I develop this reading through a reading of Derrida's work on undecidability, and a comparison with his work on the 're-trait' before contrasting Derrida's work with that of Jean-Luc Nancy and Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe. The second question concerns the relationships between politics and ethics, and between Derrida's writings and those of Emmanuel Levinas. Through a close reading of Derrida's essays on Levinas I suggest that the difference between their work can be understood in terms of the distinction Levinas draws between the political and the ethical. I argue against Simon Critchley that while Derrida's work does share concerns with that of Levinas, it may also be read as a political problematization of his understanding of the ethical relation to the Other. Where Levinas places ethics before politics, Derrida's work opens up the possibility of a revaluation of politics itself, while from the perspective opened up by Politics of Friendship ethics itself becomes politically problematic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available