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GORDON, Gareth.- Horizons of Change: Deconstruction and the Evanescence of Authority. - Introduction.


Abstract and Contents

List of abbreviations used

When I read Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition for the first time, I was immediately struck by how much it resonated with my own personal orientation towards anarchism. Lyotard’s emphasis on the local and the provisional seemed to be largely gesturing in a positive direction for me. Yet even in Jameson’s introduction to the text, there was a warning that perhaps this was more about ‘a way of surviving under capitalism’. [1] Peter Brooker suggests that Lyotard’s views ‘appear to sponsor a romantic anarchism, large on rhetoric and low on concrete social transformation’. [2] These negative reactions certainly did not tally with my own experiences of having worked alongside other anarchists, and so the divergence between my ‘textual’ experiences and my ‘political’ experiences became the seedbed for this current study.

Lyotard may have been the (distant) motivation for this dissertation, but the question in hand is that of ‘deconstruction and the evanescence of authority’. Brooker seems happy to rank Lyotard ‘along with deconstruction generally’, but it is a reductive (and arguably incorrect) piece of categorising that I would be in no hurry to repeat. Time moves on and personal preferences with it, and so this dissertation is not focussed on Lyotard but on deconstruction, or, to be more precise (given the quite different inflections that this noun has on opposite sides of the Atlantic), on Derridean deconstruction. Derrida’s contemporaries, primarily Foucault, then Lyotard and Deleuze, all seem to lend themselves more readily to anarchist readings – Todd May, Andrew Koch and Randall Amster

have all written on the theoretical congruencies between postmodernism or poststructuralism and anarchism, but without much attention being given to Derrida’s work (May manages just two references in over 150 pages). This, perhaps, is not to be regretted. As discussed below, Derrida himself is not particularly disposed towards cheerfully accepting the handy tags of ‘postmodernism’ or ‘poststructuralism’ for his work. The task, then, for this investigation, is to trace the outline of a potentiality within Derrida’s work for the articulation of an anarchist politics.

Yet even this very sentence, never mind the larger project, is fraught with pitfalls. Firstly, what is ‘Derrida’? To be quite explicit, my use of the word ‘Derrida’ entirely follows Spivak’s example in the introduction to Of Grammatology, when she proposes that ‘Jacques Derrida is also this collection of texts’ (OG, p.ix). This is particularly pertinent in relation to my chapter three, which is structured around the (rhetorical) question of what Derrida might make of all this. The question is not intended to hint at a guided tour of the privileged recesses of a French philosopher’s mind, but rather is a manner of widening the debate to encompass different aspects of Derrida’s texts. Secondly, as I make clear at the beginning of chapter four, I am not claiming (nor do I want to) to represent some self-identical, homogeneous, easily defined theory that might be labelled anarchism. Regardless of how wide a historical sweep, or how broad a geographical overview, that any investigation might have, in the last instance it can only be one particular reading. This is my particular reading of anarchism, and I claim no greater ‘authority’ for it than that. Thirdly, ‘politics’ is already a term which in its conventional usage forecloses on precisely the issues that I wish to address here.

Derrida. Anarchism. Politics. Yawning chasms of pitfalls, yet hopefully this investigation can thread a way around them, and develop a productive articulation as a result. The path that I intend to follow on this exploration begins, in chapter one, with a consideration of leftist critiques of postmodernism, in order to set the scene in terms of the relation to a concept of authority. Chapter two then examines in detail some key Derridean texts that fundamentally challenge the concepts upon which the relationship to authority has been shown to be grounded. Chapter three examines the ‘political’ context in which Derrida has situated his own work, in order to clear the way for the final chapter, where the concerns of deconstruction (as identified in chapter two) are related to the central themes of anarchism.

Spivak has written that ‘it is not just that deconstruction cannot found a politics, while other ways of thinking can. It is that deconstruction can make founded political programs more useful by making their in-built problems more visible’. [3] The ambition of this dissertation is to move a step beyond Spivak’s formulation: it is not a question of founding a politics or reforming an already existing politics, but rather a deconstruction of the political as we know it.


Chapter 1. False Start

Chapter 2. Departures

Chapter 3. The Bridge: Where it Hinges

Chapter 4. Journey’s End/New Beginning

Conclusion and Bibliography

[1Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), p.xviii.

[2Modernism/Postmodernism, ed. by Peter Brooker (Harlow: Longman, 1992), p.140.

[3Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Feminism and Deconstruction, Again: Negotiating with Unacknowledged Masculinism’, in Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis, ed. by Teresa Brennan (London: Routledge, 1989), pp.206-223 (p.206).

Contribución de: CREAGH Ronald

Pour citer cet article :
GORDON, Gareth.- Horizons of Change: Deconstruction and the Evanescence of Authority. - Introduction.,
Últimas modificaciones: 26 abril 2015. [En ligne].
[Consulté le 25 de septiembre de 2017]

GORDON, Gareth
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