"Democracy to Come" in the Political Thought of Jacques Derrida
"Democracy to Come" in the Political Thought of Jacques DerridaAndrew KaufmannDirector: David J. Walsh, Ph.D.This dissertation is a study of Jacques Derrida's political theory as it develops in his later period. It focuses in particular on what Derrida calls the aporia, the experience of the possibility of the impossible. It is argued that Derrida uses aporia as a logical tool by which he views the world. He observes its operation in parallel sets of dualities: among others, he finds aporias at work between the measurable and immeasurable, the conditional and unconditional, the same and other, and the guest and host. In each of these cases, Derrida develops an analysis that does not seek to resolve dualities according to a Hegelian Aufhebung. Rather, aporias are impossible difficulties--paradoxes--that must be experienced and endured without resolution. Existence does not seek to transcend aporias; rather, aporias constitute our existence. The study takes special aim at several categories of thought that illuminate the aporias of his political theory: foundations, the event, sovereignty, hospitality, and democracy. In each of these areas, Derrida observes that instead of living in paradoxical opposition--a more conventional way of defining aporia--the categories of our thought contaminate and haunt each other. In particular, he shows that inside the sovereign self--whether in its personal or political forms--is always already the parasite of the other. After observing that we live upon a foundation of political authority that exceeds determination, we are then free to invent impossible new forms of political life. He argues that political sovereignty divides itself in an impossible gesture of hospitality toward the other, such that even political enemies receive a welcome. The study culminates in an examination of democracy, which is the best political regime precisely because within it is the aporia of measurable equality and immeasurable freedom.
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