Assuming Responsibility: Or Derrida’s Disclaimer



Jacques Derrida’s ‘deconstructive method’ or ‘deconstructionism’ is renowned as a species of anarchic free play, an anti-foundationalism which can only end in a ruinous irrationalism, and thereby the denial of all possibility of discrimination or judgement. Some critics have sought to evaluate Derrida’s ‘political programme’ on the basis of what they perceive to be his ‘deconstructionism’, while others build their ethico-political assessment on a reading of deconstruction as an ‘arbitrary act’, ‘an uncontrollable happening of spontaneous text production’, which reveals Derrida’s ‘anarchist wish to explode the continuum of history’.1 That his private (because obscure) game of free play should lead merely to ethico-political ambiguity is a view some find utterly naive, for the real effect of such irresponsibility of thought is a thoroughgoing nihilism. Now Derrida himself resists the idea that deconstruction can be reduced to a set of rules or procedures, or that it amounts to anarchic free play.2 Indeed, he suggests that deconstruction’s political dimension, if it has one, consists ‘in the writing (or if you prefer, in the future production) of a language and of a political practice that can no longer be comprehended, judged, deciphered by [established political] codes’ (LI 1988a, 139). It is the stark discrepancy between Derrida’s declarations and the reception of his work that concerns me.


Philosophical Discourse Political Practice Political Responsibility Interpretive Context Absolute Singularity 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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