The God Who Deconstructs Himself: Sovereignty and Subjectivity Between Freud, Bataille, and Derrida

The God Who Deconstructs Himself: Sovereignty and Subjectivity Between Freud, Bataille, and Derrida

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    The God Who Deconstructs Himself: Sovereignty and Subjectivity Between Freud, Bataille, and Derrida
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4907-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (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. Michel Foucault argued that the development of biopower as a counterweight to the traditional logic of sovereignty must be seen in terms of a radical reconfiguration of the subject. Giorgio Agamben’s attempt to advance the Foucauldean legacy inHomo Saceridentifies the figure of bare life—the individual who can be killed without being sacrificed—as the key object...

  4. 1 Economies of Subjectivity: Bataille After Freud
    (pp. 9-40)

    Bataille links subjectivity and sovereignty by way of a thinking of an economics of energy.Energyemerges 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. This generalization of energy as a description of both substance and transformation is part of a wider scientific revolution in the consideration of the order of things. This change not only reduces all things to a single quantifiable substance, but also allows the material and the spiritual to touch one another. Politics and subjectivity, the physical tendency...

  5. 2 Energy, Propriation, Mastery: Derrida on Freud
    (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 as livable. Sovereignty is impossible, then, even unthinkable, and can appear only in the form of an imitation, the individual turned in on itself in its failed aspiration. Sovereignty is thus the imagining of a hypothetical ideal human subjectivity and can exist only as a representation. It is the nonexistent original that the individual/metapsychological subjects of specific restricted economies claim to...

  6. 3 Sovereign Counter-Sovereignty: The Opening of the Gift
    (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 and accountability, and is thus an image of incontrovertible and unconditional authority, and the opening on wild dissipation that makes the substantiation and consolidation of that authority chimerical. It is an image of the pure stability of a self-identity guaranteed by a mastery antecedent to it and of the chaos of disorder, at one and...

  7. 4 Sovereign Counter-Sovereignty, Justice, and the Event
    (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. The gift is the economy’s unbecoming and, as such, is the economy’s becoming as well. The given thing must always arise in and with the giving of the conditions of giving. The given thing petrifies and thus seems to turn away from the logic of the conditions of giving which has made it possible. In order for any change to be...

  8. Conclusion
    (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. Derrida, in a move typical of his easy but still rigorous eclecticism, adopts these earlier versions of sovereignty by hollowing them out. This is the strategy that I have called at the outset de-literalization. In Freud, the unbinding and rebinding of identities are both prefigured and allowed by a prior disposition to binding, or “mastery,”...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 139-144)
  10. Index
    (pp. 145-148)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 149-152)