Derrida and postmodernity: At the end(s) of history

Hart, S. (2007) Derrida and postmodernity: At the end(s) of history. Doctoral theses, University of Southampton; University of Chichester.

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This thesis erects and defends the proposition that Jacques Derrida's readings of 'metaphysics in deconstruction' and his raising to theoretical consciousness of the 'differential matrix', have the capacity to inaugurate a 'brave new world' in this postmodern 'age of the aporia'. Beginning with an examination of Derrida's readings of Husserl and Saussure, it is argued that the radical historicity uncovered here qua an originary synthesis of language, time and the other, opens the possibility for greatly more democratising and emancipating self-creations and human solidarities to be thought. In terms of 'self-creations', and borrowing from the work of Elizabeth Deeds Errnarth, Chapter Two follows Derrida as modernity's sovereign subject and its 'History' are dis-placed by an absolutely affirmative postmodern subjectivity whose axiom might be 'I inherit, therefore, I am ... yes, yes ... ' Construed through his deconstructive reading of Kant, Derrida shows the way in which this postmodern subjectivity without alibi, makes of us all (like it or not, know it or not) resistance fighters, so many singularities existing in constant tension with all normalising/totalising tendencies (social, economic, techno-scientific, political, legal etc ... ) which profess to know the secret. Turning to co-extensive 'human solidarities', Chapter Three subsequently demonstrates the way in which Derrida's call for a 'New International', orientated through a 'new figure of Europe', enables us to imagine new polysemic communities (local, national, international) founded on the 'aporia of the demos', a 'foundation' that construes its hyper-relativity as a positive (ethico-political) condition of decision in terms of a radical responsibility (on an individual and communal level) for the moral/aesthetic decisions we make. It is thus that I will argue that Derrida's vision for a 'new world order' is born out of an aporetic condition which is both a risk and a chance of both the best - and the worst - happening; as someone who shares Derrida's desire for a fairer, freer, more peaceful world, one respectful of difference and otherness, I believe this to be a 'poker like gamble' well worth taking. Chapter Four offers a comparative analysis between the work of Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard, two theorists counter-signing differently many of the 'same' discourses/ traditions/cultures/languages, etc ... to which they are both heirs. The chapter examines their respective 'quasi-philosophies of the limit', together with their differing conceptions of the issues surrounding globalisation and universalisation, as well as Baudrillard' s elevation of America (as opposed to Europe) as the exemplary site of resistance against the dangers of totalisation in 'postmodem' societies. The central argument here, in line with my previous remarks, is that Derrida's thought arguably remains 'the best' way to navigate the postmodem condition and the challenges it produces. The originality of this thesis lies in two main areas, the first having to do with my presentation and conception of Derrida's oeuvre and the second having to do with the comparisons made in this study between Derrida and Ermarth and Derrida and Baudrillard. In terms of the former, I offer what I consider to be a unique, sustained, in-depth analysis of the 'development' (on a theoretical and practical level) of the thematics of 'radical historicity' and of 'post-historical man' - effectively the development of Derrida's quasi-philosophy of history- from his earliest works so that they can be seen to inform his later intervention(s) in what are conventionally understood as ethical and political matters; transforming this understanding in the process and, after the end of history's ends (upper case, lower case and the totalising 'history of meaning' per se), quite literally and radically changing the way we see what we call 'the world'. For while in the conventional literature Derrida's politics come late, I argue here that his indeed later political work is but an emphasis of constant political thematics acting as a leitmotif from beginning to end. Turning to the latter, in terms of the comparisons I make - first between Derrida and Ermarth in Chapter Two and more especially between Derrida and Baudrillard in Chapter Four - the claim to originality lies in the fact that there is no comparison of any note or depth in the literature between these thinkers; nothing that compares Derrida's 'affirmative postmodem subjectivity' and its 'inheritance' with Ermarth's 'rhythmic time' and 'muIti-level consciousness', and nothing comparing Derrida's corpus - specifically his optimistic emancipating and democratizing hopes for the future - with Baudrillard's more pessimistic conceptualization of 'simulation society' and the loss of our European universal values under the hegemonic, globalising movement of the 'American model'. The aim of these two comparisons is to support my claim that Derrida's historico-political position is the 'best' way of essaying the quasi-ground of an in(different) politics in such a way that it keeps the future open to what he calls a 'better world' to come, a world without ends.

Publication Type: Theses (Doctoral)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Divisions: Academic Areas > Institute of Arts and Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Student Research > Doctoral
Depositing User: Debbie Bogard
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2013 13:53
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013 11:27

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