Monday, 2 August 2010

Derrida as Vanishing Mediator

This post is largely prompted by several conversation with Jernej, met in Rotterdam, and reflections on the conference Derrida Today (which I did not attend), but also dates back to something that has been floating around in my head for a while. Simply stated this is that many 'anti-Derrida' moves, especially around the return to Hegel, could equally be said to have internalised and required Derrida. In a sense the 'new Hegel', who may have always been there, is actuated through Derrida - a la Borges's remark that every writer creates his precursor. That's to say some of the best readings of Hegel are directly indebted to Derrida (Malabou / Nancy) or traversed by Derrida in the mode of antagonism (Zizek, Rose, or to a lesser extent Jameson). In a recent article in Critical Inquiry Zizek returns with more sympathy to Derrida, noting a 'belated gesture of solidarity' around the materialist potential of 'differance'.
Much the same argument could be made as regards Lacan, which is to say a certain reading of Lacan becomes possible via and through Derrida, even if it should result in a critique of Derrida. In fact in this case one could even unpick a subterranean dialogue at the time, with Lacan taking on and reworking terms like 'writing' (Derrida notes that Blanchot went back to all his earlier work and replaced 'presence' with 'writing...), while Derrida appears heavily indebted to Lacan if one reads the seminars (a problem like circumcision, for example, turning up much earlier in Lacan than Derrida). Lacan after Derrida after Lacan... and we could also add Badiou here, when he integrates Derrida to a 'tracking of the inexistent', i.e. a kind of subset of Badiou's more encompassing 'system'.
We could even add Paul de Man enacting this on Derrida, but arguing Rousseau was more deconstructive than Derrida, all the while ignoring the fact no one seemed to have noticed this until Derrida...

Of course a great deal turns on the 'vanishing'; is it simply necessary to traverse Derrida, so, as in Badiou, where difference simply becomes the everyday 'stuff' from which we have to extract the same, or Derrida offering some refinements of Lacan's analysis of the phallus. Here Derrida functions in a Wittgensteinian way as a 'ladder' that can be kicked away, or therapeutic corrective. Or, as I'd guess Derrideans might feel, is this 'vanishing' an act of repression or disavowal, leading to the hallucinatory return to Derridean positions shorn of Derrida? Having 'personally' traversed Derrida, although he hasn't vanished from my work, which could lead to the accusation this is all my projection, I don't think either of these responses are quite adequate. It's neither the case Derrida requires to be 'vanished', pending a better and more finally critique of his work than has yet appeared (and I include my critical remarks in this set) that might convince on this ground, nor that Derrida out-trumps all and every thinker.

Perhaps, instead we could start a more patient close reading, in the style of Derrida, that might analyse and be sensitive to this peculiar effects of reading that problematise priority / security and might help us re-think 'philosophy' as a practice.


As an addendum Jernej informs me Geoff Bennington (my DPhil supervisor) already said this in Interrupting Derrida, nice to know I repeat the master's words...

2 comments:

a.b.m.o. selim said...

hi, did you have a chance to read Sloterdijk's Derrida book? ('Derrida, An Egyptian' polity press, '09)

Benjamin said...

No, considering his dodgy politics, including tax boycotting, I didn't - any good? does he already make all these arguments?