Derrida Today 7 (1):2-20 (2014)

David A. Wills
Open University (UK)
The notion of a ‘machinery of death’ not only underwrites abolitionist discourse but also informs what Derrida's Death Penalty refers to as an anesthesial drive that can be traced back at least as far as Guillotin. I read it here as a symptom of a more complex relation to the technological that functions across the line dividing life from death, and which is concentrated in the question of the instant that capital punishment requires. Further indications of such a relation include the forms of automatic machinism that regulate, on one hand, the generalisable certainty that death occurs, and on the other, the discursive contagion that the death penalty generates. But it can be analysed most productively in the way in which the putative instantaneity of an execution reveals how life is severed from, but also perhaps tethered to death by means of a machinery of time; how that machinery of time ‘abandons’ its indifference in order to decide the moment of death by execution, and at the same time, by contriving an instant at which death takes over from life, produces the uncanny result of having life and death meet on the same knife-edge.
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DOI 10.3366/drt.2014.0074
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Rogues: Two Essays on Reason.Jacques Derrida - 2005 - Stanford University Press.

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