Crises of Derrida: Theodicy, Sacrifice and (Post-)deconstruction

Derrida Today 5 (2):264-282 (2012)
Abstract
The last few years have seen the emergence of a more political, ‘post-Derridean’ generation, critical of the impotent messianism of the politics of deconstruction. As Žižek would have it: ‘Derrida's notion of ‘deconstruction as ethics’ seems to rely on a utopian hope which sustains the spectre of ‘infinite justice’, forever postponed, always to come’ (Žižek 2008: 225). The promise of redemption, it follows, would reside in an insubstantial promissory value, in the writing of irredeemable cheques that, if cashed in, could only ever lead to default. With its ethos of play and over-investment in an empty promise, deconstruction starts to look symptomatic of the now-bankrupt age of excess. Does the current financial crisis not entail a crisis of Derrida? This reading contrives to elide what is genuinely political in Derrida, and thereby fails to recognise the deconstruction of economic theodicy implicit in his work. Jean-Luc Nancy has argued that the concept of sacrifice is irreducibly linked to the short-circuiting of the political. We see in Derrida, however, that sacrifice is at the heart of politics, a response to undecidability that is precisely opposed to the fantasy of economics without sacrifice. Furthermore, sacrificial politics is the condition of possibility of the promise, which is constructed and contingent, rather than a priori. If there is a problem with this, it is that Derrida does not sufficiently entertain the prospect of the promise becoming so distant as to be effectively meaningless. Drawing on Bernard Stiegler, this article argues for an expansion of Derrida's account, to show not only that politics is sacrifice, but moreover that the promise of redemption cannot live on in the absence of sacrifice
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