Deconstruction Ethics and PoliticsJune 27, 2021
Why and how did people start living together? Why did they establish a state? Who placed the law, which is the source of all legitimacy, how and with what authority? Where does the legitimacy of political sovereignty come from? According to Derrida, our ideas about human nature do not legitimize the state, law, political sovereignty. Derrida, who effectively interprets J. L. Austin’s performative acts that do something and create something through propositions in the field of political philosophy, approaches with general skepticism the discourses that legitimize and justify civil society, state and law.
Performative acts are acts that do a job. For example, “This ship is now called Titanic.”; “Sovereignty belongs to the nation unconditionally.” as. These propositions do not register a pre-existing situation, they create it.
In the 1980s, Derrida wrote an important article in the field of political philosophy: “The Declarations of Independence.” The American Declaration of Independence is the event of a people declaring itself independent on behalf of all humanity through the representative of its representatives. In this article, Derrida argues that the basis of law, which draws the general framework of politics, is nothing but the performance of a founding act. Examining the various paradoxes that this performance contains and conceals shows that the “foundation is unfounded”.
Derrida also criticizes liberal social contract theories: The acts that actually constitute the social contract, such as a transfer of rights (Hobbes), a renunciation of a right (Locke), a surrender to a whole (Rousseau), actually indicate events that never took place historically. Thanks to this declaration of what has not happened, an order that can legitimize what is emerges at the level of language. Social contract theories seek to legitimize class differences and inequalities arising from private property and capital accumulation; When we look at the legitimacy narrative they have established, it is possible for pre-existing subjects to approve of a new situation in one way or another, but in fact, this narrative produces those who will consent to this inequality.
According to Hegel, modern social contract theories have failed to understand what the state is. To understand the state, it is necessary to place it in history. The state is the embodiment of the spirit in history. In that case, the state established by the social contract is not yet a “nation state”. In order to establish a nation-state, it is not enough to rely on a contract, it is necessary to construct a mythical narrative that gives the people a historical identity. There is an origin and the present existence of society is connected to this origin in terms of language, culture and values. These, too, are performative acts, for Derrida, they bring into existence things that are not there, they produce man as a citizen. We can deduce from Derrida’s remarks on both contract theories and acts that create a nation-state: acts that create a political union from individuals with natural freedom, acts that historically build a people and establish a nation-state, and we can add to these acts that proclaim human rights. They are paradoxical in a way that cannot be explained by foundational logic. In such an act, the différance movement is at work, which can be seen not only in the declaration of the founding act, but also in the law-text it puts forth. This law-text does not make sense by resting on a pre-existing foundation, it makes sense thanks to the relationship of the differences in its discourse, contains traces that can be repeated and re-recorded in its discursive space, and therefore is always open to interpretation in different ways. The determinations regarding how each text makes sense will also be valid for the law-text: “The possibility of meaning is based on permission, keeping the other as the other within the same.”, “Meaning is woven from the relationship of differences”. Différance is a concept of non-dialectical movement that creates meaning. It simply argues that meaning is formed in the spatial and temporal movement of differences, eliminating the possibility of closure, that is, of univocity.
The Power of Law 1989: The Mystical Basis of Authority, the différance at the origin of the law; relates différance as a law to a discussion of justice. Along with the idea of justice, the “unconditional” also takes the stage. His reference to the unconditional has been interpreted as Derrida’s assuming the Kantian legacy. Kant found the unconditional in mind. The appearance of the unconditional also surprised the commentators who read Derrida’s early works with emphasis on the term “post-modern”. For if everything was text, if what gives norms their meaning was repetition (re-itéraiton), how could a justice that is not subject to deconstruction, unconditional, that is, other than the movement of differences, have a place on the horizon of Derrida’s thought? An appeal to unconditional justice is to claim that there is a hyper-validity above historical norms. The idea of justice that Derrida speaks of stands above all norms that can be historicized. Therefore, a metaphysical explanation for Derrida that misses temporality and historicity.