Monstrosity of the Unnameable

Were all Derrieans now

That the style he has created to do just that can be almost unbearably circumspect and comically self-conscious is a matter of infinite frustration to his readers and Derrida alike. (Derrida, unlike Marx, Freud and Sartre, has never been interested in speaking to the masses.) Still, he soldiers on in language's dense thicket, producing more than 30 books and literally hundreds of articles, infuriatingly picky in his patient deconstruction of, well, everything, and as reliable a check on the swagger of the Western rational tradition as we're likely to get.

Lately, Derrida's work has gotten more overtly political—his work in the 1990s includes Specters of Marxand The Politics of Friendship—and he actually seems to defend rather than deconstruct such vital ideas as justice and democracy. Whether that constitutes a "turn" in his thought is something for the experts to argue about, but I find the conclusion to The Politics of Friendship, with its wistful tone about the promise of democracy, romantic and American in the best sense. "For democracy remains to come; this is its essence in so far as it remains: not only will it remain indefinitely perfectible, hence always insufficient and future, but, belonging to the time of the promise, it will always remain, in each of its future times, to come: even when there is democracy, it never exists."

I hear Thomas Jefferson in this, as well as Walt Whitman, William James, Martin Luther King Jr., the Thomas Pynchon of Mason & Dixon. Good company Derrida's keeping. Makes me glad he's here, keeping the company good.

Jacques Derrida and filmmaker Safaa Fathy host a screening and discussion ofD'Ailleurs, Derrida, at UCI Student Center, Monarch Bay Room B, Campus & W. Peltason drs., Irvine, (949) 824-4658. Tues., 6:30 p.m. Open seating; Early arrival is encouraged. Parking available in UCI parking structure 4. Free.
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