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  • Eco-Deconstruction: Derrida and Environmental Philosophy by Matthais Fritsch
  • Cynthia R. Nielsen
FRITSCH, Matthais, Philippe Lynes, and David Wood, editors. Eco-Deconstruction: Derrida and Environmental Philosophy. New York: Fordham University Press, 2018. xii + 371 pp. Cloth, $125.00; paper $32.00

In the introduction to Eco-Deconstruction: Derrida and Environmental Philosophy, the editors state that the aim of the volume is to show the significance of deconstruction’s contribution to current reflections on the environmental crisis, which arguably is the crisis of our day. The term “eco-deconstruction” is introduced and situated in relation to eco-phenomenology, eco-hermeneutics, and eco-criticism. In each of these instances “eco” highlights the “significance of natural/environmental context.” Understood thusly, eco-deconstruction affirms the importance of context; however, it resists any hints of ultimate [End Page 600] or totalizing frames of reference and instead advocates both “methodological openness (and caution).” In addition, given deconstruction’s critical engagement with humanistic, nationalistic, and antisemitic currents in its Continental precursors, eco-deconstruction, which builds on the insights of Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, and others, is well situated to offer a “non-humanist philosophy of relational difference.” The editors highlight the connections between Derrida’s notion of textuality “as a texture of differentially related traces,” and his deconstruction of Husserl’s notion of the “living present” in relation to their current project of eco-deconstruction. In particular, ecodeconstruction calls us to reconceive not only presence and time but also the relationship between life and death, and the living being to its exteriority and the ways in which living beings appropriate and “exappropriate” (Toadvine’s term) their environments. Those interested in environmental philosophy will find this collection of essays invaluable. Those interested in Continental philosophy, posthumanism, and Derrida and deconstruction in particular will appreciate how the contributors masterfully show the latter’s relevance to one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time.

The book has four parts: Diagnosing the Present, Ecologies, Nuclear and Other Biodegradabilities, and Environmental Ethics. The aim of part 1, Diagnosing the Present, is to situate genealogically environmental degradation and its effects and to examine how such effects ought to challenge us to “reconceive our time and self-understanding.” For example, in chapter 1 David Wood argues that the global climate crisis requires that issues of violence, law, and social justice not be separated from ecological sustainability. In chapter 2 Ted Toadvine shows how the emptying of the present results from “a fast-paced, ever-accelerating time without meaningful goals independent of productivity increases and profit making.” Such an evacuated time levels all presents, robs places, persons, and moments of their singularity, and introduces a future as “there only for a calculative management seeking to maintain the status quo.” Given this situation, Toadvine urges us to learn to inhabit the present in its “singularity, futurity, and geomateriality.” In chapter 3 Timothy Clark interrogates various notions of scale as found in current research within environmental humanities and proposes what he calls a “scalar deconstruction.”

Part 2, Ecologies, deploys deconstruction’s spectral ontology in order to develop an “‘originary environmentality,’ the constitutive ecological embeddedness of mortal life.” Whereas Philippe Lynes (chapter 4) and Vicky Kirby (chapter 5) focus on ecology and the processes of individualization, Michael Marder (chapter 6) and John Llewelyn (chapter 7) examine economy. For instance, Marder claims that Derrida emphasized “the economical at the expense of the ecological.” Given Derrida’s lack of positive notions of ecology, Marder urges that we think “the ecological as a form of life that builds a home ‘without appropriation’ or securing of territory, the emergence of living singularity, ‘without [End Page 601] segregation’ . . . and thus without ‘pragmatic calculations’ of the appropriative subject.”

In part 3, Nuclear and Other Biodegradabilities, the authors examine “the remains, by-products, and disintegrations of human culture” and discuss the interweaving of material and cultural aspects in relation to notions of remaining and decomposition. Here “biodegrability comes to be a name for eco-deconstructive sustainability.” In chapter 8, Michael Naas provides a careful reading of Derrida’s essay “Biodegradables.” Naas argues that Derrida’s interest in “the interrelation of nature and culture” involves an innovative critical challenge to the (auto...


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pp. 600-602
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