Politics and Derrida
from “The Almost Nothing of the Unpresentable” pp. 86-88

Q.: As regards the political field, you have never taken up noisy positions there; you have even practiced what you call a sort of withdrawal.

J.D.: Ah, the “Political field”! But I could reply that I think of nothing else, however things might appear. Yes, of course, there are silences, and a certain withdrawal, but let’s not exaggerate things. Provided that one has an interest in this, it is very easy to know where my choices and my allegiances are, without the least ambiguity. No doubt I don’t manifest it enough, that’s certain, but where is the measure here and is there one? It often seems to me that I have only typical and common things to say, in which case I join my voice or my vote to that of others, without claiming some authority, credit, or privilege reserved to what is so vaguely called an “intellectual” or a “philosopher.”

I have always had trouble recognizing myself in the features of the intellectual (philosopher, writer, professor) playing his political role according to the screenplay that you are familiar with and whose heritage deserves to be questioned. Not that I disdain or critique it in itself; I think that, in certain situations, there is a classical function and responsibility there that must not be avoided, even if it is just to appeal to good sense and to what I consider to be the elementary political duty. But I am more and more aware of a transformation that renders this scene today somewhat tedious, sterile, and at times the crossroads of the worst procedures of intimidation (even when it is for the good cause), having no common measure with the structure of the political, with the new responsibilities required by the development of the media (when, that is, one is not trying to exploit the media for some small profit, a hypothesis not easily reconcilable with the classical typology of the intellectual).

This is one of the most serious problems today, this responsibility before the current forms of the mass media and especially before their monopolization, their framing, their axiomatics. For the withdrawal you spoke of does not at all mean in my view a protest against the media in general; on the contrary, I am resolutely for their development (there are never enough of them) and especially for their diversification, but also resolutely against their normalization, against the various takeovers to which the thing has given rise, which has in fact reduced to silence everything that does not conform to very determinate and very powerful frames or codes, or still yet to phantasms of what is “receivable.” But the first problem of the “media” is posed by what does not get translated, or even published in the dominant political languages, the ones that dictate the laws of receivability, precisely, on the left as much as on the right.

It is for this reason that what is most specific and most acute in the research, the questions, or the undertakings that interest me (along with a few others) may appear politically silent. Perhaps it is a matter there of a political thinking, of a culture, or a counter-culture that are almost inaudible in the codes that I have just mentioned. Perhaps, who knows, for one can only speak here of the chances or the risks to be run, with or without hope, always in dispersion and in the minority.

Q.: This brings us back to your political activity with the group GREPH, the Research Group on the Teaching of Philosophy.

J.D. : GREPH brings together teachers, high school and university students who, precisely, want to analyze and change the educational system, and in particular the philosophical institution, first of all through the extension of the teaching of philosophy to all grades where the other so-called basic disciplines are taught. François Mitterrand has made very precise commitments in this direction. We were delighted by that and will do everything possible to see that they do not get shelved, as we have begun in the last few months to fear they might. In any case, these problems will not go away and neither will those who are fully aware of their seriousness and who have to deal with them.

All of this calls for a profound transformation of the relations between the State, research or teaching institutions, at the university level and elsewhere, science, technics, and culture. The models that are now collapsing are roughly those that, at the dawn of industrial society, were discussed by Germany’s “great philosophers,” from Kant to Heidegger, passing by way of Hegel, Schelling, Humboldt, Schleiermacher, Nietzsche, before and after the founding of the University of Berlin. Why not reread them, think with them and against them, but while taking philosophy into account? This is indispensable if one wishes to invent other relations between the rationalization of the State and knowledge, technics, and thinking, if one wants to draw up new contractual forms among them or even to dissociate radically their duties, powers, and responsibilities. Perhaps it would be necessary now to try to invent places for teaching and research outside the university institutions?


~ by aikaterine on June 11, 2007.

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