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Societies 2013, 3(1), 1-15; doi:10.3390/soc3010001
Article

Sovereignty without Mastery

Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, 5-21 HM Tory Building, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2H4, Canada
Received: 20 September 2012 / Revised: 13 December 2012 / Accepted: 13 December 2012 / Published: 27 December 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
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Abstract

In The Beast and the Sovereign v.1, Derrida argues that classical sovereignty is linked to the performative act of declaring oneself master. Thus, each sovereign asserts a distinction between the masterful self and the mastered other. Derrida contends that the sovereign distinction between self and other maps onto a distinction between sovereign autonomy and a mechanical determination said to characterize others of all kinds. This gives rise to a differentiated binary between responsibility, capacity and restraint on the one side against reaction, instinct and danger on the other, which, Derrida suggests, operates across traditional separations, such as man/animal, man/machine, mind/body and, of course, sovereign and beast. This paper argues that Derrida’s reading of Paul Celan and Georges Bataille may be understood as a pursuit of an alternative sovereignty. This alternative sovereignty would be without mastery and its binaries. I suggest that Derrida finds such an alternative sovereignty in the “majesty” of poetry, which, in his own poetic gesture, allows him to upset traditional distinctions.
Keywords: sovereignty; poetry; testimony; ‘The Animal’; Derrida; Bataille; Celan sovereignty; poetry; testimony; ‘The Animal’; Derrida; Bataille; Celan
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).
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McLane, P. Sovereignty without Mastery. Societies 2013, 3, 1-15.

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