[irtheory] An Interview with Jacques Derrida

Tyler Durden camera_lumina at hotmail.com
Sun Sep 12 08:28:34 PDT 2004

Yo RAH... I don't see a big problem here. Derrida seems right on the money 
for the most part. Even this "Tribunal" has some Cypherpunk-friendly ideas 
behind it: namely, it's not particularly state-oriented and its 
reputation-based. Sure, he may be a little soft on a bunch of stuff, but 
he's captured the general flavor of things.


>From: "R. A. Hettinga" <rah at shipwright.com>
>To: cypherpunks at al-qaeda.net
>Subject: [irtheory] An Interview with Jacques Derrida
>Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2004 08:33:20 -0400
>For your Sunday morning's entertainment, boys and girls, I present the
>latest post-modernist circle-jerk. Put down your coffee, or you'll mess up
>your keyboard.
>Who remembers the "citizen's courts" that Mr. Bell was so fond of...
>--- begin forwarded text
>Thread-Topic: [irtheory] The World's Most Dangerous Ideas
>Thread-Index: AcSYdTPYwk995UZvTomvwcUpUJH1EgAGokIH
>To: <irtheory at yahoogroups.com>
>From: "Aaron Chen Angus" <medp0101 at nus.edu.sg>
>Mailing-List: list irtheory at yahoogroups.com; contact
>irtheory-owner at yahoogroups.com
>Delivered-To: mailing list irtheory at yahoogroups.com
>Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2004 14:14:48 +0800
>Subject: [irtheory] An Interview with Jacques Derrida
>Reply-To: irtheory at yahoogroups.com
>For A Justice To Come
>An Interview with Jacques Derrida
>Lieven De Cauter
>The BRussells Tribunal is a commission of inquiry into the "New Imperial
>Order", and more particularly into the "Project for A New American Century"
>(PNAC), the neo-conservative think tank that has inspired the Bush
>government's war logic. The co-signatories of the PNAC "mission statement"
>include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The programme of
>this Think tank is to promote planetary hegemony on the basis of a
>supertechnological army, to prevent the emergence of a rival super-power
>and to take pre-emptive action against all those who threaten American
>interests. The BRussells Tribunal will be held in Brussels from April 14
>through 17. One of the greatest living philosophers, Jacques Derrida, who
>suffers from cancer and is unable to attend the tribunal, has invited the
>project's initiator, Lieven De Cauter, to his house for an interview.
>   _____
>Lieven De Cauter: While thanking you for your generosity-why have you
>decided to grant us this interview on our initiative, the "BRussells
>Jacques Derrida: First of all I wanted to salute your initiative in its
>principle: to resuscitate the tradition of a Russell Tribunal is
>symbolically an important and necessary thing to do today. I believe that,
>in its principle, it is a good thing for the world, even if only in that it
>feeds the geopolitical reflection of all citizens of the world. I am even
>more convinced of this necessity in light of the fact that, for a number of
>years now, we have witnessed an increased interest in the working, in the
>constitution of international institutions, institutions of international
>law which, beyond the sovereignty of States, judge heads of State,
>generals. Not yet States as such, precisely, but persons responsible for,
>or suspected of being responsible for, war crimes, crimes against
>humanity-one could mention the case of Pinochet, despite its ambiguity, or
>of Milosevic. At any rate, heads of State have to appear as such before an
>International Criminal Court, for instance, which has a recognised status
>in international law, despite all the difficulties you know: the American,
>French, Israeli reservations. Nonetheless this tribunal exists, and even if
>it is still faltering, weak and problematic in the execution of its
>sanctions, it exists as a recognised phenomenon of international law.
>Your project, if I understand it correctly, is not of the same type, even
>if it is inspired by the same spirit. It does not have a juridical or
>judicial status recognised by any State, and it consequently remains a
>private initiative. Citizens of different countries have agreed among each
>other to conduct, as honestly as possible, an inquiry into a policy, into a
>political project and its execution. The point is not to reach a verdict
>resulting in sanctions but to raise or to sharpen the vigilance of the
>citizens of the world, in the first place that of the responsible parties
>you propose to judge. That can have a symbolic weight in which I believe,
>an exemplary symbolic weight.
>That is why, even though I do not feel involved in the actual experience
>you intend to set up, I think it is very important to underscore that the
>case you are about to examine-which is evidently a massive and extremely
>serious case-is only one case among many. In the logic of your project,
>other policies, other political or military staff, other countries, other
>statesmen can also be brought to be judged in the same manner, or to be
>associated with this case. Personally, I have a critical attitude towards
>the Bush administration and its project, its attack on Iraq, and the
>conditions in which this has come about in a unilateral fashion, in spite
>of official protestations from European countries including France, in
>violation of the rules of the United Nations and the Security Council...
>But notwithstanding this criticism - which I have expressed in public, by
>the way - I would not wish for the United States in general to have to
>appear before such a tribunal. I would want to distinguish a number of
>forces within the United States that have opposed the policy on Iraq as
>firmly as in Europe. This policy does not involve the American people in
>general, nor even the American State, but a phase in American politics
>which, for that matter, is about to be questioned again in the run-up to
>the presidential elections. Perhaps there will be a change, at least
>partially, in the United States itself, so I would encourage you to be
>prudent as regards the target of the accusation.
>LDC: That is why we have directed our attention not to the government in
>general but more particularly to the Project for the New American Century,
>the think tank which has issued all these extreme ideas of unilateralism,
>hegemony, militarisation of the world, ...
>JD: Where there is an explicit political project which declares its
>hegemonic intent and proposes to put everything into place to accomplish
>this, there one can, in effect, level accusations, protest in the name of
>international law and existing institutions, in their spirit and in their
>letter. I am thinking as much of the United Nations as of the Security
>Council, which are respectable institutions, but whose structure, charter,
>procedures need to be reformed, especially the Security Council. The crisis
>that has been unfolding confirms this: these international institutions
>really need to be reformed. And here I would naturally plead for a radical
>transformation - I don't know whether this will come about in the short run
>- which would call into question even the Charter, that is to say the
>respect for the sovereignties of the nation-states and the non-divisibility
>of sovereignties. There is a contradiction between the respect for human
>rights in general, also part of the Charter, and the respect for the
>sovereignty of the nation-state. The States are in effect represented as
>States in the United Nations and a fortiori in the Security Council, which
>gathers together the victors of the last war. All this calls for a profound
>transformation. I would insist that it should be a transformation and not a
>destruction, for I believe in the spirit of the United Nations.
>LDC: So you still remain within the vision of Kant
>JD: At least in the spirit of Kant, for I also have some questions
>concerning the Kantian concept of cosmopolitanism.1 It is in this
>perspective that I believe initiatives such as yours (or analogous
>initiatives) are symbolically very important to raise consciousness about
>these necessary transformations. This will have - at least that is what I
>hope - the symbolic value of a call to reflection we are in need of, and
>which the States are not taking care of, which not even institutions like
>the International Criminal Court are taking care of.
>LDC: If I may allow myself one specification: we are part of a whole
>network called "World Tribunal on Iraq". There will be sessions in
>Hiroshima, Tokyo, Mexico, New York, London, and Istambul. In London, and
>there the link between the International Criminal Court and the moral
>tribunal is very strong, those in charge of the Tribunal on Iraq have,
>together with specialists, assembled a dossier to investigate whether Blair
>(who has recognised the International Criminal Court) has broken
>international law. By all evidence, there is a considerable consensus among
>specialists to say that this war is a transgression, it is an "aggressive
>war" in the technical sense of the term as used in the charter of the UN,
>since there was no imminent threat to the territory of the countries
>involved. The upshot of this inquiry is that they have submitted a dossier
>to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Similarly in Copenhagen,
>since Denmark is part of the coalition. So it's possibile that our moral
>initiative may be transformed, in some of its components, into a juridical
>procedure strictly speaking.
>JD: That would be desirable, evidently! But the probability that this would
>come about seems low, for there would be too many States who would oppose
>your initiative becoming institutional and generally judicial, and not just
>the United States. Yet if this doesn't come about, that does not mean your
>project is destined to ineffectiveness. On the contrary. I believe in its
>considerable symbolic effectiveness in the public domain. The fact that it
>is said, published, even if it isn't followed by a judgement in the
>strictly judicial sense, let alone actual sanctions, can have considerable
>symbolical impact on the political consciousnes of the citizens, a relayed,
>deferred effect, but one that raises high expectations. I would hope that
>you would treat those you accuse justly, that yours would be an undertaking
>of true integrity, devoid of preliminary positioning, without
>preconditions, that everything would be done in serenity and justice, that
>the responsible parties would be accurately identified, that you would not
>go over the top and that you would not exclude other procedures of the same
>type in the future. I would not want this procedure to serve as an excuse
>for not conducting other procedures that are just as necessary concerning
>other countries, other policies, whether they be European or not. I would
>even wish that the exemplary character of your initiative would lead to a
>lasting, if not a permanent instance.
>I believe that it would be perceived as being more just if you didn't
>commit yourself to this target as if it were the only possible target,
>notably because, as you are aware, in this aggression against Iraq,
>American responsibility was naturally decisive but it didn't come about
>without complex complicities from many other quarters. We are dealing with
>a knot of nearly inextricable co-responsibilities. I would hope that this
>would be clearly taken into account and that it wouldn't be the accusation
>of one man only. Even if he is an ideologue, someone who has given the
>hegemony project a particularly readable form, he has not done it on his
>own, he cannot have imposed it on non-consenting people. So the contours of
>the accused, of the suspect or the suspects, are very hard to determine.
>LDC: Yes, that is one of the reasons why we have abandoned the strictly
>juridical format. One of the disadvantages of the juridical format is that
>you can only target persons. Whereas we want to take aim at a system, a
>systemic logic. We name the accused (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld) to show
>people we're not talking about phantoms, but we take aim at the PNAC as a
>set of performative discourses, that is to say plans to achieve something,
>intentions to be translated into action. Our difficulty is also one of
>communication: communicating to people that PNAC exists and that it is
>important to spread this knowledge, is already a job in itself.
>JD: Of course. And for that reason, it is important that matters are partly
>personalised and partly developed at the level of the system, of the
>principles, the concept, where this system, these principles, these
>concepts violate international laws which must be both respected and
>perhaps also changed. This is where you will not be able to avoid talking
>about sovereignty, about the crisis of sovereignty, about the necessary
>division or delimitation of sovereignty. Personally, when I have to take a
>position on this vast issue of sovereignty, of what I call its necessary
>deconstruction, I am very cautious. I believe it is necessary, by way of a
>philosophical, historical analysis, to deconstruct the political theology
>of sovereignty. It's an enormous philosophical task, requiring the
>re-reading of everything, from Kant to Bodin, from Hobbes to Schmitt. But
>at the same time you shouldn't think that you must fight for the
>dissolution pure and simple of all sovereignty: that is neither realistic
>nor desirable. There are effects of sovereignty which in my view are still
>politically useful in the fight against certain forces or international
>concentrations of forces that sneer at sovereignty.
>In the present case, we have precisely the convergence of the arrogant and
>hegemonic assertion of a sovereign Nation-State with a gathering of global
>economic forces, involving all kinds of transactions and complications in
>which China, Russia and many countries of the Middle East are equally mixed
>up. This is where matters become very hard to disentangle. I believe that
>sometimes the reclamation of sovereignty should not necessarily be
>denounced or criticised, it depends on the situation.
>LDC: As you have clearly demonstrated in Voyous [Rogues], in deconstructing
>the term, there is no democracy without "cracy": a certain power, and even
>force, is required.
>JD: Absolutely. You can also talk of the sovereignty of the citizen, who
>votes in a sovereign fashion, so you need to be very cautious. In my view,
>the interesting thing about your project is in taking up or pursuing this
>reflection starting from an actual case which takes a specific form:
>military, strategic, economic, etc. It is very important to develop such
>reflection on a case, but this reflection requires considerable time and
>must accompany the entire geopolitical process in decades to come. It is
>not just as a Frenchman, European or citizen of the world but also as a
>philosopher concerned to see these questions developed that I find your
>attempt interesting and necessary. It will provide an opportunity for
>others, many others I hope, to adopt a position with regard to your
>efforts, to reflect, possibly to oppose you, or to join you, but this can
>only be beneficial for the political reflection we are in need of.
>LDC: I was amazed by the definition you give in The Concept of September
>11: a philosopher, you say, is someone who deals with this transition
>towards political and international institutions to come. That is a very
>political definition of the philosopher.
>JD: What I wanted to convey is that it won't necessarily be the
>professional philosophers who will deal with this. The lawyer or the
>politician who takes charge of these questions will be the philosopher of
>tomorrow. Sometimes, politicians or lawyers are more able to
>philosophically think these questions through than professional academic
>philosophers, even though there are a few within the University dealing
>with this. At any rate, philosophy today, or the duty of philosophy, is to
>think this in action, by doing something.
>LDC: I would like to return to this notion of sovereignty. Is not the New
>Imperial Order which names "Rogue States" a State of exception? You speak
>in Voyous about the concept of the auto-immunity of democracy: democracy,
>at certain critical moments, believes it must suspend itself to defend
>democracy. This is what is happening in the United States now, both in its
>domestic policy and in its foreign policy. The ideology of the PNAC, and
>therefore of the Bush administration, is exactly that.
>JD: The exception is the translation, the criterion of sovereignty, as was
>noted by Carl Schmitt (whom I have also criticised, one must be very
>cautious when one talks about Carl Schmitt, I have written some chapters on
>Carl Schmitt in The Politics of Friendship where I take him seriously and
>where I criticise him and I would not want my reflection on Schmitt to be
>seen as an endorsement of either his theses or his history). Sovereign is
>he who decides on the exception. Exception and sovereignty go hand in hand
>here. In the same way that democracy, at times, threatens or suspends
>itself, so sovereignty consists in giving oneself the right to suspend the
>law. That is the definition of the sovereign: he makes the law, he is above
>the law, he can suspend the law. That is what the United States has done,
>on the one hand when they trespassed against their own commitments with
>regard to the UN and the Security Council, and on the other hand, within
>the country itself, by threatening American democracy to a certain extent,
>that is to say by introducing exceptional police and judicial procedures. I
>am not only thinking of the Guantanamo prisoners but also of the Patriot
>Act: from its introduction, the FBI has carried out inquisitorial
>procedures of intimidation which have been denounced by the Americans
>themselves, notably by lawyers, as being in breach of the Constitution and
>of democracy.
>Having said that, to be fair, we must recall that the United States is
>after all a democracy. Bush, who was elected with the narrowest of margins,
>risks losing the next elections: he is only sovereign for four years. It is
>a very legalistic country rich in displays of political liberty which would
>not be tolerated in a good many other countries. I am not only thinking of
>countries known to be non-democratic but also of our own Western European
>democracies. In the United States, when I saw those massive marches against
>the imminent war in Iraq, in front of the White House, right by Bush's
>offices, I said to myself that if in France protesters assembled in their
>thousands and marched in front of the Elysie in a similar situation, that
>would not be tolerated. To be fair, we must take into account this
>contradiction within American democracy - on the one hand, auto-immunity:
>democracy destroys itself in protecting itself; but on the other hand, we
>must take into account the fact that this hegemonic tendency is also a
>crisis of hegemony. The United States, to my mind, convulses upon its
>hegemony at a time when it is in crisis, precarious. There is no
>contradiction between the hegemonic drive and crisis. The United States
>realises all too well that within the next few years, both China and Russia
>will have begun to weigh in. The oil stories which have naturally
>determined the Iraq episode are linked to long-term forecasts notably
>concerning China: China's oil supply, control over oil in the Middle East
>all of this indicates that hegemony is as much under threat as it is
>manifest and arrogant.
>It is an extremely complex situation, which is why I am bound to say it
>should not be a matter of blanket accusations or denunciations levelled
>against the United States, but that we should take stock of all that is
>critical in American political life. There are forces in the United States
>that fight the Bush administration, alliances should be formed with these
>forces, their existence recognised. At times they express their criticism
>in ways much more radical than in Europe. But there is evidently - and I
>suppose you will discuss this in your commission of inquiry -the enormous
>problem of the media, of control of the media, of the media power which has
>accompanied this entire history in a decisive manner, from September 11 to
>the invasion of Iraq, an invasion which, by the way, in my opinion was
>already scheduled well before September 11.
>LDC: Yes, as a matter of fact that is one of the things that need to be
>proven. The PNAC, in 2000, writes: "the United States has for decades
>sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the
>unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the
>need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the
>issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." They write this in September 2000:
>it was already decided, all the rest was just an alibi.
>JD: I have had this debate in public with Baudrillard, who said that the
>aggression against Iraq - which was then being prepared- was a direct
>consequence of September 11. I opposed that thesis, I said that I thought
>it would take place anyway, that the premises had been in place for a long
>time already, and that the two sequences can be dissociated, to a certain
>extent. The day when this history will be written, when the documents are
>made public, it will become clear that September 11 was preceded by highly
>complicated underhand negotiations, often in Europe, on the subject of
>petrol pipe-line passage, at a time when the petrol clan was in power.
>There were intrigues and threats, and it is not impossible to think that
>one day it will be discovered that it was really the Bush clan that was
>targetted rather than the country, the America of Clinton. But we shouldn't
>stop at petrol: there are numerous other strategic geopolitical stakes,
>among them the tensions with China, Europe, Russia. Alliances with the
>United States, variable as ever, since it has attacked those who they have
>supported for a very long time. Iraq was an ally of the United States as of
>France: all of this is part of diplomatic inconstancy, hypocritical from
>end to end, and not only on the part of the United States. There are many
>more stakes than petrol alone, especially since petrol is a matter of only
>a few more decades: there won't be any oil left in 50 years! We must take
>the petrol question into acount, but we shouldn't devote all our attention
>and analysis to it. There are military questions, passing through
>territorial questions of occupation and control. But military power is not
>only a territorial power, we know that now, it also passes through
>non-territorialised controls, techno-communicational channels etc. All of
>this has to be taken into account.
>LDC: And Israel?
>JD: Many have said that the American-Israeli alliance or the support the
>United States give to Israel is not unrelated to this intervention in Iraq.
>I believe this is true to some extent. But here too matters are very
>complicated, because even if the current Israeli government-and here I
>would take the same precautions as for the United States: there are
>Israelis in Israel who fight Sharon - has indeed congratulated itself
>officially and in public on the aggression against Iraq, the freedom this
>may have apparently given Israel in its offensive initiatives of
>colonisation and repression is very ambiguous. Here too we could speak of
>auto-immunity: it's very contradictory, because at the same time this has
>aggravated Palestinian terrorism, intensified or reawakened symptoms of
>anti-semitism across Europe
>It's very complicated, for if it is true that the Americans support Israel
>- just like the majority of European countries, with different political
>modulations - , the best American allies of Sharon's policy, that is to say
>the most offensive policy of all Israeli governments, are not only the
>American Jewish community but also the Christian fundamentalists. These are
>often the most pro-Israeli of all Americans, at times even more so than
>certain American Jews. I'm not sure it will turn out to have been in
>Israel's best interest that this form of aggression against Iraq has come
>about. The future will tell. Even Sharon meets with opposition in his own
>government nowadays, in his own majority, because he claims to withdraw
>from the Gaza colonies. The difficulty of a project such as yours, however
>just and magnificent it may be in its principle, is that it must cautiously
>take this complexity into account, that it must try not to be unfair to any
>of the parties. That is one of the reasons why I insist in confirming my
>solidarity in principle. Unable to participate effectively in the inquiry
>and in the development of the judgement because of my illness, I prefer to
>restrict myself for now to this agreement in principle, but I will not
>hesitate to applaud you afterwards, if I find you have conducted matters
>LDC: Your statements are limpid and will serve as drink for many who are
>thirsty (for justice, for instance). Thank you very much. By way of
>post-script: let us speak of messianism for a minute or so. That is to say
>of "the weak force", which refers to Benjamin and which you evoke in the
>"Prihre d'insirer", the preface to Voyous. Allow me to quote from it: "This
>vulnerable force, this force without power exposes to what or who is
>coming, and coming to affect it (
>) What affirms itself here would be a
>messianic act of faith-irreligious and without messianism. (
>) This site is
>neither soil nor foundation. It is nonetheless there that the call for a
>thought of the event to come will take root: of democracy to come, of
>reason to come. All hopes will put their trust in this call, certainly, but
>the call will remain, in itself, without hope. Not desperate but alien to
>teleology, to the expectancy and the benefit [salut] of salvation. Not
>alien to the salavation [salut] of the other, nor alien to the farewell or
>to justice, but still rebellious towards the economy of redemption."
>  I
>thought this very beautiful. Almost a prayer to insert - into the everyday,
>into our project. What is it, this messianism without religion?
>JD: The weak force indeed refers to the interpretation of Benjamin, but it
>is not exactly mine. It is what I call "messianicity without messianism": I
>would say that today, one of the incarnations, one of the implementations
>of this messianicity, of this messianism without religion, may be found in
>the alter-globalisation movements. Movements that are still heterogeneous,
>still somewhat unformed, full of contradictions, but that gather together
>the weak of the earth, all those who feel themselves crushed by the
>economic hegemonies, by the liberal market, by sovereignism, etc. I believe
>it is these weak who will prove to be strongest in the end and who
>represent the future. Even though I am not a militant involved in these
>movements, I place my bet on the weak force of those alter-globalisation
>movements, who will have to explain themselves, to unravel their
>contradictions, but who march against all the hegemonic organisations of
>the world. Not just the United States, also the International Monetary
>Fund, the G8, all those organised hegemonies of the rich countries, the
>strong and powerful countries, of which Europe is part. It is these
>alter-globalisation movements that offer one of the best figures of what I
>would call messianicity without messianism, that is to say a messianicity
>that does not belong to any determined religion. The conflict with Iraq
>involved numerous religious elements, from all sides-from the Christian
>side as well as from the Muslim side. What I call messianicity without
>messianism is a call, a promise of an independent future for what is to
>come, and which comes like every messiah in the shape of peace and justice,
>a promise independent of religion, that is to say universal. A promise
>independent of the three religions when they oppose each other, since in
>fact it is a war between three Abrahamic religions. A promise beyond the
>Abrahamic religions, universal, without relation to revelations or to the
>history of religions. My intent here is not anti-religious, it is not a
>matter of waging war on the religious messianisms properly speaking, that
>is to say Judaic, Christian, Islamic. But it is a matter of marking a place
>where these messianisms are exceeded by messianicity, that is to say by
>that waiting without waiting, without horizon for the event to come, the
>democracy to come with all its contradictions. And I believe we must seek
>today, very cautiously, to give force and form to this messianicity,
>without giving in to the old concepts of politics (sovereignism,
>territorialised nation-state), without giving in to the Churches or to the
>religious powers, theologico-political or theocratic of all orders, whether
>they be the theocracies of the Islamic Middle East, or whether they be,
>disguised, the theocracies of the West. (In spite of everything, Europe,
>France especially, but also the United States are secular in principle in
>their Constiutions. I recently heard a journalist say to an American: "how
>do you explain that Bush always says 'God bless America', that the
>President swears on the Bible, etc." and the American replied: "don't
>lecture us on secularity for we put the separation of Church and State into
>our Constitution long before you did", that the State was not under the
>control of any religion whatsoever, which does not stop Christian
>domination from exerting itself, but there too it is imperative to be very
>cautious). Messianicity without messianism, that is: independence in
>respect of religion in general. A faith without religion in some sort.
>Transcribed by Maowenn Furic
>(Ris Orangis, Thursday February 19 2004)
>Translated by Ortwin de Graef
>1 Derrida alludes to his reflection on Kant and his idea of a 'Vvlkerbund'
>(alliance of peoples) in Voyous [Rogues], pp. 118-25.
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>R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
>The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
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>"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
>[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
>experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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