DERRIDA’S DUALITY: pluralism as disinhibited deconstruction

Jon Cogburn cites a very interesting recent article on Derrida from Le Monde by Jean Birnbaum, which concerns Derrida’s philosophical import for today and raises the question of how to inherit his work. I think Birnbaum usefully brings out the positive and negative aspects of that heritage.

Since I first read Derrida in the late 70s I have always thought that his work was epistemological and ontological in scope. This is why I always preferred Feyerabend and Deleuze over Derrida, who seemed to me to embody a half-way house between a correlationist epistemology and ontology and the realist pluralism of Feyerabend and Deleuze. One of the reasons I left Sydney for Paris in 1980 was that a “Derridian” reading of Lacan, Althusser, and Foucault was gaining popularity, a reading that amounted to a new form of textual idealism. His critique of structuralism mobilised various themes of difference, non-foundationalism, semiotic turn, and deconstruction of dualism that seemed to promise liberation from monist metaphysical constraints, but that ultimately left us imprisoned. His half-hearted critique of psychoanalysis (compared to that of Deleuze and Guattari), his Heideggerian conceptual background, his avoidance of the questioning of the sciences, all led me to regard him more as a repressor of thought than as proposing an approach favouring conceptual creation, even if he was constantly creating concepts. So in the article you cite I find I am in agreement with Patrice Maniglier (whom I met at the final AIME conference in Paris 10 weeks ago).

In the first quote the article gives from Manigilier he says “Just as there is an uninhibited Right, there exists today a new uninhibited metaphysics, which refuses the critical posture and wants to return to forms of affirmation, by claiming for example the influence of Bruno Latour or of Alain Badiou … This is why Derrida functions as a sort of foil for young people who aspire to tell the truth echoing a form of political radicality. Derrida taught us to reflect, to slow down, he made the scrupulous, even inhibited, guy into a philosophical attitude, and that is very beautiful. But today many young people want to act”.

Maniglier reiterates here what was already Deleuze’s and Lyotard”s critique of Derridean deconstruction 40 years ago: that it inhibits more than it creates. There is an unresolved duality at the heart of Derrida’s work. I take this to be what Bernard Stiegler is referring to when he declares that there is something still “undeconstructed” inside deconstruction. This is also what Laruelle means when he opposes textual deconstruction to “quantum” deconstruction, meaning deconstruction in the real.

This series of oppositions between a disappointing Derrida and a more philosophically satisfying alternative is itself deconstructed by Maniglier, as he suggests that the more uninhibited speculative pluralist thought is already present in Derrida’s text, waiting to inspire us anew: “The tired Derrida is the sententious Derrida, always in mourning, the Derrida of justice and pardon … We need a Derrida in boots and spurs, a rock ‘n’rolll Derrida. Against today’s neorealist philosophy, which thinks it can separate out the real from reflection, this other Derrida teaches us that thinking is dangerous, that we do not know where the limit between thought and reality lies. For example, to rework with Derrida the concept of animal, is to begin to live in a world where we can no longer perceive meat in the same way. There is no more meat, there is only murdered flesh”.

I think this typology of the slow tired Derrida (forever talking about death and mourning) and the plastic pluralist Derrida nicely captures a distinction that was visible for many already in the 70s. There is an ontological struggle going on inside Derrida’s texts and to inherit from Derrida means to perceive more clearly the inhibitions he installed and the free play of speculation that he practiced and encouraged.

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3 Responses to DERRIDA’S DUALITY: pluralism as disinhibited deconstruction

  1. dmfant says:

    Reblogged this on synthetic_zero and commented:
    coming from science studies and post-phenomenology to the “practice” turn I end up more moving forward with the anthropologies of the contemporary than back to Deleuze&Co but the drive after Derrida is much the same.

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  2. Nae 2Real says:

    Although I cannot point to any specific statements in my reading of Of Grammatology, Derrida alludes to the future of deconstruction and how hopefully one day somebody will be able to properly critique his writings, the same way he does others, and carry his linguistic philosophical principles to the next level. I can see a duality where he wants the text to close but still be open to interpretation on a deconstructive continuum. It is as if Derrida wants his writing critiqued as he says ‘Language bears within itself the necessity of its own critique.’ He wants this critique to be done on his own deconstructive terms though. This is the theme and purpose of my blog, ‘Deconstructionally Insane’, which is intended to be a modest Derridian reading of Derrida’s own writings. My first posts admittedly have nothing to do with deconstruction, but the purpose in shaping the blog like this is to allow the reader to see my development from writing on rap and racial issues to writing issues related to deconstruction. In other words, how I became bored with popular topics and decided to focus on a relatively unpopular and difficult topic to analyze. This all stems from the many classes I have taken in college where my classmates seemed all but lost when the lessons turned to Derrida and his writings. I just don’t see what is so difficult about his writing and understanding the points he makes about the inefficiency of Classical Western thought in preserving humanity in our postmodern society.

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  3. landzek says:

    Some blog I suscibe to reposted this post. And I commented there, but it was meant for you — even though in hind sight of posting it there, it was for them also. It said “will you please stop being so cool! Just kidding; I know you can’t help it 😉”

    Liked by 1 person

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