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October 31, 2004

Comments

Finnpundit

I've always been fascinated by how Derrida's work mirrors the stance taken by French foreign policy. The notion that multiple readings of any given political situation can be made often leads to French stasis and inaction, while any political action taken by others - such as the US - will be met with a torrent of criticism regarding the single "privileged" interpretation taken.

Abiola Lapite

Hmm, hadn't thought of that; an interesting take. Perhaps there's something about the French school system that facilitates this sort of thinking? I know that most of the French elite, like Derrida himself, passed through the Ecole Normale system.

Finnpundit

The French educational system certainly has some sort of a role in it. It makes me take a second look at the school voucher program in the US: diversity in primary education, while fraught with possible pitfalls (in terms of equal opportunities in education) certainly can lead to more multitudinous points-of-view than a centrally-planned educational system.

But to expand the original analogy even further, it seems that French foreign policy sees itself as the arbiter of what political readings are valid readings. This seems to mirror Derrida's curious position - in his constant retort to critics that he has been misunderstood - that only he is capable of interpreting what he means.

Abiola Lapite

"Derrida's curious position - in his constant retort to critics that he has been misunderstood - that only he is capable of interpreting what he means."

Right here we have the core contradiction in his program! If he is right, and we aren't supposed to privilege the author's stated intent in interpreting a work, where does he get off claiming to have been "misunderstood"? It's amazing that his followers are utterly unable to pick up on this contradiction - logic obviously isn't their strong-point.

J.Cassian

If he is right, and we aren't supposed to privilege the author's stated intent in interpreting a work, where does he get off claiming to have been "misunderstood"?

Nice one! Derrida has always taken full advantage of the general assumption that in philosophy, the "burden of understanding" is on the reader not the writer. Derrida's own political beliefs, when stated in reasonably straightforward language, have generally* amounted to nothing more than standard French leftist boilerplate (the evil of the hegemony of the American "hyperpuissance", the need for transnational institutions, the wonders of the European Union etc.). As far as I know, unlike his fellow French obscurantists, he never had a crush on dictators like Stalin, Mao or Khomeini.

*If you ignore things like his ludic(rous) musings on the meaning of the date September 11.

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