Derrida and the Ethics of Community
Postmodernism and deconstruction are usually associated with a destruction of
ethical values. Richard Rorty argues that while deconstruction is important on
a private level it is "pretty much useless when it comes to politics"
and is "largely irrelevant to public life and political questions". In a recent interview Ronald Dworkin expresses
the view that postmodernism "is silly, indeed incoherent".
I believe that Derrida's answer to his critics can be found in the afterward to
Limited Inc., entitled, "Toward an Ethic of Discussion", where
of course there is a right track, a better way, and let it be said in passing
how surprised I have been...by the use or abuse of the following argument:
Since the deconstructionist (which is to say, isn't it, the
skeptic-relativist-nihilist!) is supposed not to believe in truth,
stability...how can he demand of us that we read him with pertinence, precision,
rigor?.... The answer is simple enough: this definition of the
deconstructionist is false...it supposes a bad...and feeble reading of numerous
texts, first of all mine, which therefore must finally be read or reread. Then
perhaps it will be understood that the value of truth (and all those values
associated with it) is never contested or destroyed in my writings, but only
reinscribed in more powerful, larger, more stratified contexts...from the point
of view of ethics, "deconstruction" should never lead either to
relativism or to any sort of determinism".
Armour argues that the "application of metaphysics to social and political
philosophy theory is a necessity and not simply an option".
Derrida, however seems to be arguing the opposite, namely, that the overcoming
of a certain type of metaphysics is a necessary if there is to be genuine
essay which follows, has three parts and will proceed in several interrelated
transactions. In Section one, Derrida's critique of metaphysics as restricted
economy will be examined. In Section two, the postmodern approach to the
question of community will be explored in light of the debate between
Gadamerian Hermeneutics and Derridean Deconstruction. Section three, will
examine what type of community could emerge from the results of deconstruction.
Contrary to those critics who have equated postmodernism with a destruction of
ethical values, I will argue that Derrida has opened a space in
which the question of ethics and community, can be pursued in a productive
and the Critique of Metaphysics
have used Bataille's distinction between restricted and general economy as a
starting point from which to think about postmodern ethics and community. In The
Accursed Share, Bataille argues that: "Changing from the perspectives
of restrictive to those of general economy actually accomplishes a Copernican
transformation: a reversal of thinking-and of ethics". Construed in the light of its etymology, the word
economy means "law of the house". Derrida argues that "economy
is in a way an idea based on sameness, the oikos, that which
remains within the 'home' of the same".
An economy which is based on sameness is restricted. Derrida argues that a
general economy would "stress another dimension of differance, which is,
by contrast, that of absolute heterogeneity, and therefore of otherness, of
defines metaphysics as a system that depends on a first principle upon which a
hierarchy of meaning can be constructed. Metaphysical theories have created a
chain of source words that have acted either as a foundation or model. Some of
these source words include arche, form, soul, God, Truth. While these
metaphysical source words have thrived, the question of ethics has been
forgotten. As Bill Martin argues:
"Derrida wants to dispel the notion that it is imperative that we figure out "what came first", this identity-logic in the theoretical sense ( and as especially perfected by Kant and Hegel) or the practice of sequestering persons and social groups deemed "impure". This search for "first philosophy" regardless of whether it arrives at a materialist or an idealist starting point, is itself part of the problem".
in Derrida's view is logocentric because it based upon an Ultimate Authority or
source. Logocentrism posits a
Transcendental Signified that gives all other signs their meaning. The
metaphysical tradition, according to Derrida can be read as a history of binary
oppositions. Derrida's deconstructive strategy is to disrupt binary oppositions
such as truth/falsity, master/slave, presence/absence, etc. Deconstruction aims
to undo the history of binary oppositions in order to show that rigid and
restricted boundaries cannot be drawn. To cite Derrida:
a classical philosophical opposition we are not dealing with the peaceful
co-existence of a vis a vis, but a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms
governs the other, or has the upper hand. To deconstruct the opposition first
of all is to overturn the hierarchy at a given moment".
first movement of deconstruction consists in overturning the hierarchy. Many
critics of Derrida's work, have only focused on this first movement of
deconstruction. Thus, Derrida's authorship has been read as a privileging of
absence over presence, madness over reason, immorality over ethics. Of course,
Derrida realizes that simply overturning a hierarchy is not an overcoming.
Overturning the hierarchy still results in the continuation of metaphysics.
second movement of deconstruction consist of "the irruptive emergence"
of a new "concept", a concept that can no longer be, and never could
be, included in the previous regime."
Derrida offers the word differance as an example of a non- metaphysical
concept. Derrida argues:
only is there no kingdom of differance, but differance instigates the
subversion of every kingdom, which makes it obviously threatening and
infallibly dreaded by everything within us that desires a kingdom, the past or
future presence of a kingdom.
metaphysical ethic that has emerged from a restricted economy, has sought to
justify itself from an Archimedean point. Throughout the history of philosophy,
the Archimedean point has received various names, i.e. The Forms, The Good (Plato)
Arete (Aristotle), the Categorical Imperative (Kant). These Archimedean
theories have sketched a restricted metaphysical picture of what it means to be
human, and ethical, while outlining what kind of existence is essentially good
or virtuous for the human individual. The Archimedean ethic rests on a
conception of the human individual as a rational agent who must act within the
limits of reason alone. Anything outside of these restricted limits, is
immediately labeled as amoral or unethical.
economies reduce everything to one fixed center, or to what Derrida calls a
fixed point of presence. Derrida argues:
function of this center was not only to orientate, balance and organize the
structure – but above all to make sure that the organizing principle of the
structure would limit what we might call the play of the structure.
center provided stability and unity at the expense of arresting the
proliferation of differences. Derrida argues that the history of philosophy may
be read as the domination of stabilizing centers such as Truth, Being.. A
restricted metaphysical economy prevents the proliferation of differences in
order to insure itself against loss or instability.
Derrida makes it clear that the deconstruction of a restricted metaphysical economy does not lead to nihilism:
survives deconstruction should have new forms. It couldn't be a new system for
instance, because the idea of system is one of the targets of deconstruction...
But the fact that this form, this structure, has been deconstructed doesn't
mean that after deconstruction (if there is such a thing as 'after
deconstruction:) we will have nothing or chaos. We are in the process of
deconstruction and there are new things and things which fall apart...its not a
new order but its a permanent process of disordering order".
The deconstruction of Metaphysics, is an ethical task which facilitates "the necessity for a change of terrain". By focusing on the debate between Gadamerian Hermeneutics and Derridean Deconstruction, we will be in a position to explore the landscape of this new terrain.
Postmodern Charity and The Undecidable:
Gadamer and Derrida
the analytic and hermeneutic traditions, the concept of charity refers to the
stance adopted by the interpreter or critic. Charity as a basis for
interpretation would ask the question " How does a critic comprehend,
interpret or welcome a text"? Within a postmodern framework, charity
forces use to ask, "How do we welcome a friend or stranger into our
economy. Derrida would argue that the analytic and
hermeneutic traditions operate according to a restricted economy; that is to
say, they have called for a denial of Otherness. A restricted economy in
Derrida's words, "intends to know and to master its margins".
A restricted economy " watches over its margins as virgin, homogeneous,
and negative space, leaving its outside, outside".
proponents of the analytic and hermeneutic traditions, charity, in principle,
represents the quest for legitimacy and validity. But the word charity,
betrays the hermeneutic / analytic quest. Charity is a cognate of the Latin caritas,
suggesting dearness, costliness, high price(the cost of a gift), and carus
dear, valued, esteemed, beloved. The concept of charity is also affiliated with
the Sanskrit word kama(love), the Slavic kamata, suggesting a
place of exchange, or being indebted to the Other. Ironically, charity
construed in the light of its etymology, resonates with significations of
illegitimacy instead of the legitimacy and security of a fused hermeneutic
horizon. Charity reflects both a giving and taking; an open-heartedness and
cold-heartedness. In Derridean terminology, the word charity, is an
In other words, it cannot be comprehended solely on the basis of its
postmodern charity, does not give the Other gifts from a restricted reserve,
from which there will be " some return, redemption or gain".
A postmodern charity is not calculated in advance, like a modern business plan
or forecast. A postmodern charity forsakes profit and is "owed to the
Other before any contract".The
Derridean understanding of charity implements a shift to undecidability. It
accepts the imperative of decision-making, but immediately submits every
decision to the risk of deborderment.
in developing a postmodern approach to charity, asserts a minimum of three
distinct meanings for undecidablity. In Dissemination, Derrida notes
that initially he used the term undecidability as "that which resist
binarity or even triplicity. For the later Derrida, this determination of
undecidability was "too anti-dialectical, hence too dialectical".
Undecidability is used, in his subsequent work to mark " within the order
of the calculable, the limits of decidability, of calculability or of
formalizable completeness". Derrida also uses undecidablity in a sense
that remains heterogeneous both to the dialectic and to the calculable; a sense
that expresses a more lively interplay of the rival perspectives of Heraclitus'
flux and Parmenides' unity. This sense of undecidability is crucial for
opens the field of decision or of decideability. It calls for decision in the
order of ethical-political responsibility. It is even its necessary
condition... There can be no more or political responsibility without this
trial and this passage way of the undecidable.
strategies for containing undecidability, in Derrida's view, shelter us from
options that might otherwise appear. Hermeneuts, marked by an excessive fear of
incomprehensibility, choose to take a protected passage through the undecidable.
This guardedness invoked by hermeneutic questioning is not, in Derrida's view,
a prerequisite for making choices. There is no requirement to guarantee truth.
Decisions, at least by those with a higher tolerance for uncertainty, can be
made in the face of a set of equally compelling alternatives. Crossing
interpretative horizons, and introducing new perspectives, increase both the
difficulty and freedom involved in decision making. In giving decision makers
more options and no independent basis for ultimately selecting from these
options, the Derridean decision calls for "an increase in responsibility".
An ethics of community, recognizes a necessary level of calculability or programmability in generating options but places greater responsibility on the individual decision maker in choosing. To cite Derrida:
short, for a decision to be just and responsible it must... be both regulated
and without regulation... Each case is other, each decision is different and
requires an absolute unique interpretation, which no existing, coded rule can
or ought to guarantee absolutely".
hermeneutic text can only be analyzed along side a limited set of alternatives.
Positions which depart too far from the story that the tradition tells or
positions which simply fail to cohere with the hermeneutic horizon are excluded
from consideration. The hermeneutic and analytical thinker can always seek
refugee in the posited unity and certainty of the tradition or system.
notion of dissemination, in contrast, invokes a shifting or crossing of
interpretative spaces or contexts ( as opposed to no contexts). In Derrida's
undecidable is not merely the oscillation or tension between two decisions, it
is the experience of that which, through heterogeneous, foreign to the order of
the calculable and the rule, is still obliged- it is of this obligation that we
must speak- to give itself up to the impossible decision, while taking accounts
of laws and rules. A decision that didn't go through the ordeal of the
undecidable would not be a free decision, it would only be the programmable
application or unfolding of a calculable process.
result of udecideability, is a shifting interpretative topology where political,
philosophical or ethical positions can no longer be protected by the
exclusionary policy of a restricted economy.
allegations that Derrida's work is marred by wrongful confusion or
incomprehensibility is, from Derrida's perspective, a product of a lower
tolerance for uncertainty and shifting boundaries. Derrida argues that the
hermeneut, restricts the play of the understanding to the more familiar.
Gadamerian hermeneutics is flexible enough to view its interpretative processes
as a conversation in which we are played and under which " no one knows
what will come out".
But its play is curtailed by its commitment to a constrained or internal
horizon of interpretation. Hermeneutic philosophers acknowledge the value of a
skeptical mind, but declare that the only worthwhile skepticism is of the
engaged, internal kind. The internal skeptic accepts the demands of coherency
which requires that we all work with the same pre-interpretative data, the same
language or the same tradition( i.e. the same community of meaning). We cannot,
in Gadamer's view disagree on the basic order or horizon in which all
interpretation is conducted and from which all understanding is produced. To
proclaim that we can exceed the limits of the interpretative horizon is to step
out of our tradition, (i.e., into nihilism).
concurs with Gadamer that "no completeness is possible for undecideability".
The necessity and value of operating within a situation or context is never
denied. In fact, Derrida accepts the proposition that hermeneutic decision
making processes have value. Hermeneutic processes claim the importance of
maintaining the openness of the question. Derrida purports, however, to mark
out the limitations of the hermeneutic techniques. In the appropriate contexts,
these philosophical techniques continue to play a role in a variety of
decision-making structures. By claiming, however, to extend these processes to all
levels of decision making, hermeneutics arrests the necessary recoiling
movement of the undecidable.
Gadamer, a hermeneutic "discipline of questioning and research...
For the analytic thinker, the regulative principle of a restricted charity
ensures understanding. Derrida however offers no reassurance. For the
postmodern economist, understanding, like the currency of a vibrant political
community, is produced by a variety of competing internal and external economic
activities, rather than backed by a reductive internal gold standard. Within a
postmodern economy, one is indebted to the institution of the Other. As the
narrator of the Postcard tells us: "I am founding an entire
institution on counterfeit money by demonstrating that there is no other kind.
There is only one good institution, my love, it is us".
adhering to the insular limits, of the techniques of hermeneutic and analytic
thinkers, arrests the undecidable. Each of these schools of thought, places
greater emphasis upon obtaining the best fit with the tradition or the
prevailing paradigm, rather than cultivating vital questioning. The deference
to the demands of compatibility, violently excludes other world views and
reduces the "liberty of the question".
The liberty of the question, involves an interplay between self and Other.
How we question and how we respond reflects the tolerance we show toward the
Other. Our response towards any question can take the form of "yes"or
"no". As Derrida points out, "One always has, one always must
have, the right not to respond, and this liberty belongs to responsibility
itself, that is, to the liberty that one believes must be associated with it.
One must always be free not to respond to an appeal or to an invitation- and it
is worth remembering this, to remind oneself of the essence of this liberty".
argues that choices and decisions must be made, but they cannot be defended by
recourse to hermeneutic and analytic conceptions of truth and charity. The
postmodern economist is prepared to work with rival interpretative frames,
without the assistance of a comprehensive coordinate system. The instability of
undecideability produced by the crossing of contexts is valuable. This
destablizing approach, according to Derrida, " should never lead either to
relativism or any sort of indeterminism".
As Derrida argues in Limited Inc.,
be sure, in order for structures of undecidability to be possible (and hence
structures of decision and of responsibilities as well) there must be a certain
play, differance... Differance is not indeterminacy. It renders determinacy
both possible and necessary.
deploys the classical exegetical methods in order to open a reading, rather
than shield that same reading from further development.
contends that indecision is a product of rival semantic, ethical and political
paradigms or determined poles which are "on occasion terribly necessary"
and " always irreplaceably singular".
Far from being nihilistic, "undecideability is always a determinate
oscillation between possibilities" which are "themselves highly
determined in strictly defined situations ( for example... political, ethical,
etc) They are pragmatically determined".
The cultivation of the undecidable is not for everyone in a community to practice. Personal tolerance for uncertainty varies considerably within any political structure. For those with a limited tolerance for shifting boundaries, the protection afforded by secure objective rule structures is beneficial. Those who emerge as leaders in a community, that is, those who have a higher tolerance for uncertainty, must have the freedom and ability to resist the leveling forces of dominant conceptual schemes. These individuals, in Derrida's view, must be able to work the limits of divergent conceptual schemes, to integrate rival conceptual schemes with existing political structures, to regulate resulting non-coherencies, and in the process, to maintain a tension between the competing demands of comprehensibility and undecidability. There is no easy way of expressing this postmodern posture towards an ethics of community. It calls for a much more rigorous and multi-faceted charity. That there is no thematic unity to resolve rival interpretations, places greater responsibility on the decision-maker. In the next section, I want to examine what type of community could emerge from the results of our investigation.
Justice and the Prayer of the Other
injustice of a restricted economy is both passive and active. It is passive,
insofar as it oppresses the Other with certain codes and imperatives. It is
active to the extent that it uses force to enforce any violation of the code.
In The Use of Pleasure, Foucault writes that with code orientated
moralities: "the important thing is to focus on the instance of authority
that enforce the code, that require it to be learned and observed, that
An ethics that takes its position from the codes of metaphysics has placed its
trust in the principle of reason. This blind trust is connected to the violence
and repression that metaphysical authority exerts and exhibits. An ethics which
is reduced to the observance of codes cannot respond responsibly to the call of
within a restricted economy is reduced to the violence of the law which is
imposed as a safeguard against the Other. As Derrida argues, "justice as
law is not justice".
Justice is to be found in a general economy which is beyond mere calculation.
As Derrida argues: "Law is not justice. Law is the element of
calculation...but justice is incalculable, it requires us to calculate with the
Within a restricted economy, justice "will have been buried and repressed.
The deconstruction of a restricted economy provides a "maximum
intensification of a transformation in progress."
"Force of Law", Derrida maintains that deconstruction corresponds
"to a double-movement".
In very Kierkegaardian language, Derrida describes how deconstruction "operates
on the basis of an infinite idea of justice,"
which is beyond calculation. This deconstructive justice is "owed to the
Other before any contract."
Deconstructive justice annuls the restricted phenomena of injustice that has
oppressed, marginalized and excluded the Other.
deconstructive justice exposes the violence inherent in all restricted
economies. Within a restricted economy, a metaphysical blanket protected
dominant forces, while systematically smothering and threatening Otherness. To
borrow Lyotard's insights, a restricted economy has embraced a metaphysical
meta-narrative and has formulated laws in order to suppress Otherness.
In short, a restricted economy employs a resistance to Otherness, whose final
aim is the total elimination of Otherness.
justice consists of a double-movement. The first movement consists of "responsibility
before the very concept of responsibility."
In this movement, deconstructive justice calls for an increase in
responsibility. In Kierkegaardian terminology, this first movement suspends the
merely ethical sphere. This first movement goes beyond all calculable systems
of restricted and coded prescriptions. The second movement of deconstructive
justice embraces "a sense of responsibility without limit."
This second movement is attuned to the call of the Other. Situated in between
these two movements is an ever present anxiety. Derrida argues:
moment of suspense, this period of epoche, without which, in fact,
deconstruction is not possible is always full of anxiety...(But)...this anxiety
ridden moment of suspense is also the interval or space in which
transformations take place.
Kierkegaard, Derrida argues that deconstructive justice addresses itself with
responsibility to the single individual. Deconstructive justice "always
addresses itself to singularity, to the singularity of the Other."
Deconstructive justice is an affirmation of the value of the Other.
meditation on the call of the Other intersects with Heidegger's thinking
concerning the call of Being and Levinas' reflections on the face of the Other.
Throughout his dialogue with Heidegger, Derrida asks, if Being gives or sends
itself, what mechanisms or routing systems are in place, so that Dasein
can hear the call? Derrida argues that there cannot be a direct line to Being.
It would be impossible to calculate the trajectory of such a call. In
describing the call of Being, Heidegger writes:
call does not require us to search gropingly for him to whom it appeals... the
call undoubtedly does not come from someone else who is with me in the world.
emphasis on the call of Being short circuits the call of the Other, and thus
closes off the possibility for ethics. In Of Grammatology, Derrida makes
it clear that "there is no ethics without the presence of the Other."
Derrida's postmodern general economy, "one answers (responds) first to the
Other: to the request, the prayer...the appeal."
The appeal comes from the Other, and is "assigned to us by the Other." What is at stake here, is not responding to the
Other because of the duty imposed by a metaphysical theory. We should respond
to the Other, because we recognize our own vulnerability through the Other.
its restrictions and prescriptions, a metaphysical ethic, helped to perpetuate
the exclusion of the Other. The Other to borrow Levinasian insights is the
widow, the stranger and the orphan, the marginalized and the excluded.
call of the Other is a prayer which is addressed to me. The prayer of the Other
draws me out of my own selfish concerns . A prayer may also be called a
petition. To pray is also to invite. The prayer of the Other is an invitation
which calls one to make an expenditure without fear of loss.
there is to be a metaphysics within a postmodern community, then ethics must be
the basis of metaphysics. In other words, we should not ask "what the
final form of community is". The question to ask is "what
institutional structures will allow people to both reinvent community and to
continually postpone the question of the community's "final form".
ethics of community begins with what has been excluded. It moves beyond the
barriers of a restricted economy in order to recover community from the crisis
of its enclosure.
Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1989), p.83
Dworkin, "Tyranny at the Two Edges of Life: A Liberal View",New
Perspectives Quarterly, Winter 1994, p.17
Derrida, Limited Inc., translated by Samuel Weber (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1988),p.148-9. Hereafter cited as Limited.
In "Passions: An Oblique Offering" in Derrida: a critical
reader, edited by David Wood (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992),
pp.13-14. Derrida contends that "
Some minds believing themselves to have found in Deconstruction... as if
there were only one, a modern form of immorality, of amorality or of
irresponsibility(etc.: a discourse too well know, I do not need to continue),
while others, more serious, in less of a hurry, better disposed towards so
called Deconstruction today claim the opposite; they discern... increasingly
intense attention, to those things which one could identity under the fine
names of "ethics", "morality", "responsibility",
"subject", etc". Whether or not we should accept Derrida's
interpretation of his own work is an issue that needs to be explored. In
other words, can Derrida's work be subjected to the same critique which he
reserves for other writers ?
Armour, "The Metaphysics of Community", unpublished manuscript.
example, see John H. Elllis, Against Deconstruction, (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1989), Gillian Rose, Dialectics and Nihilism:
poststructuralism and law, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).
Bataille, The Accursed Share, Volume 1, translated by Robert Hurley,
(New York: Zone Books, 1988),p.25.
Raoul Mortley, French Philosophers in Conversation, (London: Routledge,
1991), p.99 (my emphasis).Hereafter cited as Conversation.
Martin, Matrix and Line: Derrida and the possibilities of postmodern
social theory (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992), p.175. Hereafter cited as
Jacques Derrida, Positions, translated by Alan Bass (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1984),p.41. Hereafter cited as Positions.
Jacques Derrida. Margins,
translated by Alan Bass ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982),p. 22.
Hereafter cited as Margins.
Derrida, Writing and Difference, translated by Alan Bass (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1978), p.99. Hereafter cited as Writing.
ICA Documents, edited by
Lisa Appignanesi (London: Free
Association Books 1989), p. 223.
The postmodern charity being articulated here shares an affinity with the
concept of potlach. Leslie Armour points out that the Haida and
Kwakiutl Indians in British Columbia "centered their concept of property
around the concept of the potlach. If one wanted to hold a public office or
take on a new name, one had to organize a potlach at which one gave away
property.... property was thus something whose power centered on its being
given away". "The Metaphysics of Community", unpublished
manuscript. The concept of potlach embraces another logic, whereby one gains
by losing. I would argue that economically the concept of potlach can
be interpreted as the giving away of property, ethically, potlach
exhibits generosity toward the other. For a detailed analysis see, Georges
Bataille, The Accursed Share, (New York: Zone Books, 1988), pp. 63-77.
Other undecidables would include, differance, which means both to
differ and to defer; pharmakon, which means both poison and remedy,
and supplement, which means both addition and substitute. For a
detailed exposition see Jacques Derrida, "Differance", in Margins,
"Plato's Pharmacy" in Dissemination and "Nature,
Culture, Writing", in Of Grammatology.
Derrida, Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles, translated by Barbara Harlow
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p.111.
Jacques Derrida, "Force of Law", Cardozo Law Review, Volume
II, 1990, p. 965. Hereafter cited as Force.
Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, translated by G. Barden and J.
Cumming (New York: Seabury, 1975), p.345. Hereafter cited as Truth.
Charles E. Scott, The Question of Ethics, Nietzsche, Foucault, Heidegger,
(Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990).
Derrida, The Postcard, translated by Alan Bass ( Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1987), p.178
Armour asks "For how does one reach into the possibilities of
individuality and come out with a particular life ? One chooses. But how? By
seizing the opportunities which one conceptualizes. But that in turn is done
through language, and language again requires a community to nurture and
shape it... I speak and you respond." The Metaphysics of
Community", unpublished manuscript. (my emphasis). In "Derrida and
the Ethics of Dialogue" Philosophy and Social Criticism, 19:1,
p.4, Richard Kearney develops a similar argument, he writes, " For an
ethical subject to respond, an ethical other must first have addressed
the subject in a language the subject can hear and (at least minimally)
Derrida, "Passions: An Oblique Offering" in Derrida: a critical
reader, edited by David Wood,( Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992), p.
Foucault, The Use of Pleasure, translated by Robert Hurley (New York:
See J. F. Lyotard, The Differend, translated by George Van Den Abbede,
(Minneapolis: Univeristy of Minnesota Press, 1988) and The Postmodern
Condition, translated by Geoff Bennington( Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1983).
Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, translated by Alphonso Lingis
(Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1983).
Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward
Robinson (New York: Harper and
Row 1962), pp.318,319,320. See also Avital Ronnell, The Telephone Book
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,1989).
Derrida, Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri C. Spivak (Baltimore:
John Hopkins Press,1976), pp. 140-141.
Derrida "The Politics of Friendship" The Journal of Philosophy,
Volume 85, Number 11,p.639.Hereafter cited as Friendship.
The invitation of the other which calls one to make an expenditure without
fear of loss shares an affinity with the concept of potlach. Leslie
Armour writes: "But to a Kwakiutl or a Haida, property was not just a
collection of blankets, fish oil and coppers. It was essentially a social
bond, and in giving it away one showed exactly how one was bound to the
recipients. In showing that one could give it away, one validated one's
social position by showing that one could care well for the community.
The Haida could certainly see the bundles of blankets and the buckets of oil.
But to him the community was as real as its members and to give was not to
part with the goods but to bring the community to tangible life. The
community was seen through its members". " The Metaphysics of
Community", Notes for March
14/1994, p. 16, my emphasis.