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The God Who Deconstructs Himself

Sovereignty and Subjectivity Between Freud, Bataille, and Derrida

Nick Mansfield

Publication Year: 2010

No topic has caused more discussion in recent philosophy and political theory than sovereignty. From late Foucault to Agamben, and from Guantanamo Bay to the 'war on terror,' the issue of the extent and the nature of the sovereign has given theoretical debates their currency and urgency. New thinking on sovereignty has always imagined the styles of human selfhood that each regime involves. Each denomination of sovereignty requires a specific mode of subjectivity to explain its meaning and facilitate its operation. The aim of this book is to help outline Jacques Derrida's thinking on sovereignty - a theme which increasingly attracted Derrida towards the end of his career - in its relationship to subjectivity. It investigates the late work Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, as not only Derrida's fullest statement of his thinking on sovereignty, but also as the destination of his career-long interest in questions of politics and self-identity. The book argues that in Derrida's thinking of the relationship between sovereignty and subjectivity - and the related themes of unconditionality and ipseity - we can detect the outline of Bataille's adaptation of Freud. Freud completed his 'metapsychology,' by defining the 'economic' nature of subjectivity. In Bataille's hands, this economic theory became a key to the nature of inter-relationship in general, specifically the complex and shifting relationship between subjectivity and power. In playing with Bataille's legacy, Derrida connects not only with the irrepressibly outrageous thinking of philosophy's most self-consciously transgressive thinker, but with the early twentieth century scientific revolution through which 'energy' became ontology. As with so many of the forebears who influenced him, Derrida echoes and adapts Bataille's thinking while radically de-literalising it. The results are crucial for understanding Derrida's views on power, subjectivity and representation, as well as all of the other key themes in late Derrida: hospitality, justice, otherness and the gift.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. ix

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pp. 1-8

Would it now be possible to elaborate a thinking of the sovereign that was not at the same time a theory of the subject? Perhaps not. Certainly recent landmark discussions see sovereignty as inevitably entailing specific and contingent modes of subjectivity...

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1. Economies of Subjectivity: Bataille After Freud

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pp. 9-40

Bataille links subjectivity and sovereignty by way of a thinking of an economics of energy. Energy emerges as a universal term for matter, one that allows the quantification of all ontologies and events and thus of their ever open and ever motile interrelationship...

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2. Energy, Propriation, Mastery: Derrida on Freud

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pp. 41-67

Marked out, as we have seen in chapter 1, by its ability to stare down death, sovereignty is the imagined figure that mediates the limitless general economy while also putting forth subjectivity, the imagined instantiation of its essential logic...

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3. Sovereign Counter-Sovereignty: The Opening of the Gift

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pp. 68-105

We have seen how, in the economy of subjectivity, the sovereign is both the meaning and aspiration of the individual subject, on the one hand, and the cause of its frustration and failure, on the other. Sovereignty is both the exception that defies all conditions...

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4. Sovereign Counter-Sovereignty, Justice, and the Event

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pp. 106-133

Derrida’s work consistently restores the irreducible and irrepressible disorganization of all systems to the putative interior of their logic. All formations require the immanent opening on their own demise as the condition by which their formation is ever possible...

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pp. 134-138

Our aim has been to explain Derrida’s idea of a sovereignty turned against itself, and the relation of that idea to subjectivity, by seeing it through the prism of its antecedents in Freud’s discussion of prior mastery and in Bataille’s own discussion of the sovereign...


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pp. 139-143


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pp. 145-147

Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

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pp. 149-152

E-ISBN-13: 9780823249077
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823232413
Print-ISBN-10: 0823232417

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy
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OCLC Number: 659975245
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The God Who Deconstructs Himself

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Subject Headings

  • Derrida, Jacques. Voyous.
  • Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939.
  • Bataille, Georges, 1897-1962.
  • Sovereignty.
  • Legitimacy of governments.
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