Special Issue "Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies"

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A special issue of Societies (ISSN 2075-4698).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 October 2012)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. George Pavlich

Department of Sociology, 5-21 HM Tory Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2H4, Canada
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +1 780 492 7196
Interests: socio-legal studies; social theory; governmentality studies; law and society research; sociology of law; colonial and postcolonial criminal justice systems

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We invite contributors to author a short 6,000-8,000 word essay on Jacques Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign v. 1. or 2. Authors might choose to focus on the connection between Derrida’s work and other writers he takes up in the lectures (e.g. Agamben, Deleuze, Foucault, Hobbes, Lacan, DH Lawrence, Paul Valery), to analyze his deployment of key terms (e.g. bêtise, deferral, decision) and images (esp. wolves),  or consider Derrida’s text in relation to his other published writings on practices such as Law, Community, Testimony, Sovereignty, The Animal, Violence, society and Literature.  Authors should comment on ways Derrida’s work allows us to think differently about sovereignty politics and our relations to various forms of difference (across cultures, societies, between humans and other species, etc).

Prof. Dr. George Pavlich
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • sovereignty
  • law
  • responsibility
  • violence
  • performativity
  • "The Animal"
  • the social

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Fear, Sovereignty, and the Right to Die
Societies 2013, 3(1), 66-79; doi:10.3390/soc3010066
Received: 31 October 2012 / Revised: 4 January 2013 / Accepted: 5 January 2013 / Published: 16 January 2013
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Abstract
This paper addresses the “right to die” through the lens of Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume One. Specifically focusing on the case of Tony Nicklinson v. Ministry of Justice, 2012, the essay posits two things. First, Derrida’s insight helps us
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This paper addresses the “right to die” through the lens of Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume One. Specifically focusing on the case of Tony Nicklinson v. Ministry of Justice, 2012, the essay posits two things. First, Derrida’s insight helps us understand how a “fear of death” is a fundamental performative feature of sovereignty politics. Second, in order to maintain its performative role, sovereignty must perpetuate the belief that “man is wolf to man.” I argue that, in right-to-die cases, this has the effect of precluding compassionate reasons for taking the life of another. Thus, I posit that these two points, in part, explain how right-to-die cases fail on appeal. All is not lost, however, as this essay advances Derrida’s position that these performative workings of sovereignty, which currently preclude the right to die, are entirely deconstructable. As such, exploring how right-to-die cases are articulated in law permits a deconstruction of sovereignty politics and allows us to open up other ways of thinking about the relation between sovereignty, life, death, and our relationships with “others”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle Following Hegel’s Sovereign Beast: An Excursus on the Right of Heroes
Societies 2013, 3(1), 24-42; doi:10.3390/soc3010024
Received: 22 October 2012 / Revised: 25 December 2012 / Accepted: 25 December 2012 / Published: 4 January 2013
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Abstract
In The Beast and the Sovereign, Derrida addresses an association that is as paradoxical as it is common. On the one hand, it seems as if the sovereign is, or at least should be, the furthest from the beast. And yet, as
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In The Beast and the Sovereign, Derrida addresses an association that is as paradoxical as it is common. On the one hand, it seems as if the sovereign is, or at least should be, the furthest from the beast. And yet, as soon as we consult the various archives of political mythology––myth, theology, philosophy, art, etc.––we find them together, inseparable despite their distance. The seminar itself is a continuation of his previous explorations of the host concepts and figures that populate the political and philosophical history of sovereignty. The course takes him through a series of texts that stretches from Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes and Rousseau, to Freud, Heidegger, Lacan and Schmitt, among others, but his engagement with Hegel is limited. The few times that Hegel’s name does appear, it is almost exclusively a reference or aside within other more substantial engagements (Lacan and Heidegger, in particular). This absence is at least somewhat curious given the extent of Derrida’s previous engagements with Hegel’s corpus. I am not suggesting that this absence constitutes some essential oversight; rather, it is an opportunity to set out on an excursion from the course of The Beast and the Sovereign without leaving its territory. After all, Hegel also has an account of the origins of law. He, too, has a character that is set apart by his (almost) animal quality. This figure arrives on stage before history begins. His role––and indeed his “right”––is to found the most basic elements of the state. We are told that his “right” is absolute. He is no Lord. He is not driven by a desire for the recognition of the other. However, who confers this “absolute” right? If his actions are not bound by any measure or proportion, how do we distinguish between the hero and the criminal? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle ‘As Nobody I was Sovereign’: Reading Derrida Reading Blanchot
Societies 2013, 3(1), 43-51; doi:10.3390/soc3010043
Received: 1 October 2012 / Revised: 18 December 2012 / Accepted: 20 December 2012 / Published: 4 January 2013
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Abstract
In Session 7 (26 February 2003) of The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume II, Jacques Derrida engages again with Maurice Blanchot, two days after the latter’s cremation. This intervention also appears as a post-face to Derrida’s 2003 edition of Parages, his
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In Session 7 (26 February 2003) of The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume II, Jacques Derrida engages again with Maurice Blanchot, two days after the latter’s cremation. This intervention also appears as a post-face to Derrida’s 2003 edition of Parages, his collection of essays devoted to the work of Blanchot. In this article, I examine Derrida’s affinity to the work of Blanchot, as the one whose work ‘stood watch over and around what matters to me, for a long time behind me and forever still before me’ [The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume II, p. 176]. In doing so I look at the manner in which Derrida engaged with Blanchot in his work and how in examining this engagement another reading of sovereignty emerges, one which is not tethered to liberal models of sovereign will but one which eludes biopolitical ordering and may be seen as a form of disappearance. Through a reading of Derrida’s readings of Blanchot’s The Madness of the Day I emphasize the link of this alternative sovereignty to both writing and literature in order to demonstrate how a more radical thinking of sovereignty can be discovered in Derrida’s thought. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle Sovereignty without Mastery
Societies 2013, 3(1), 1-15; doi:10.3390/soc3010001
Received: 20 September 2012 / Revised: 13 December 2012 / Accepted: 13 December 2012 / Published: 27 December 2012
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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
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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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle “Nothing Exists Except an Earthenware Pot”: Resisting Sovereignty on Robinson’s Island
Societies 2012, 2(4), 372-387; doi:10.3390/soc2040372
Received: 16 September 2012 / Revised: 13 December 2012 / Accepted: 13 December 2012 / Published: 18 December 2012
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Abstract
In this essay I would like to focus on “The Beast and the Sovereign”—and especially the Second Volume—as being something of an exception to Derrida’s usual hesitations about sovereignty. In other works, such as “Rogues”, Derrida displays a deep ambivalence about sovereignty insofar
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In this essay I would like to focus on “The Beast and the Sovereign”—and especially the Second Volume—as being something of an exception to Derrida’s usual hesitations about sovereignty. In other works, such as “Rogues”, Derrida displays a deep ambivalence about sovereignty insofar as for all of his condemnation of sovereign authority, he fears that what might replace it could be even worse (and, to be fair, he also sees positive aspects of sovereignty as well). In “The Beast and the Sovereign,” we find evidence of this ambivalence as well but here, Derrida comes a bit closer to the kind of position advocated by Walter Benjamin wherein sovereignty is an idolatrous practice of politics one which must not be eliminated so much as subverted. In particular, I focus on Derrida’s reading in Volume II of “Robinson Crusoe” as a text that both founds the sovereign subject and subverts it (by revealing its vulnerability, its fictional nature). In looking at how the book disappoints as much as it answers sovereign phantasms of authority and unity, I argue that Derrida transfers his own ambivalence about sovereignty to sovereignty itself, subverting and rupturing its central tenets in the process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle Deconstructing the Leviathan: Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign
Societies 2012, 2(4), 357-371; doi:10.3390/soc2040357
Received: 17 September 2012 / Revised: 4 December 2012 / Accepted: 5 December 2012 / Published: 11 December 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (94 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Derrida’s The Beast & the Sovereign, volume I, explores the contradictory appearance of animals in political discourse. Sometimes, as he points out, political man and the sovereign state appear in the form of an animal and, at other times, as superior to
[...] Read more.
Derrida’s The Beast & the Sovereign, volume I, explores the contradictory appearance of animals in political discourse. Sometimes, as he points out, political man and the sovereign state appear in the form of an animal and, at other times, as superior to animals of which he is the master. In session two of the Seminar, the main focus of this essay, Derrida explores the ‘origin’ of this contradictory logic inter alia with reference to animal fables which he contends draw on unconscious forces in their invocation of images. They pretend to make known something that cannot be the object of knowledge. In the same vein, Derrida shows how Hobbes’s Leviathan and sovereignty itself are constructed and maintained through an uncanny fear, a fear not in the first place of one’s fellow man, but of the wolf within the self, i.e., the drive to self-destruction. It is the repression of this wolf, Derrida suggests, which leads to the further contradictory logic (in Hobbes) of excluding both beast and God from the covenant whilst maintaining God as the model of sovereignty. God, in other words, ‘is’ the beast repressed and can therefore hardly serve as the foundation of sovereignty. The self, and ultimately sovereignty, it can be said in view of Derrida’s analysis, is never purely present to itself but instead arrives at itself by way of the ‘binding’ of unconscious forces. Sovereignty in this way ultimately shows itself to be divisible. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle Derrida Contra Agamben: Sovereignty, Biopower, History
Societies 2012, 2(4), 345-356; doi:10.3390/soc2040345
Received: 30 September 2012 / Revised: 15 November 2012 / Accepted: 19 November 2012 / Published: 5 December 2012
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Abstract
This essay is concerned with criticisms of Giorgio Agamben’s biopolitical theory of sovereignty that are developed by Jacques Derrida in his final seminar titled The Beast and the Sovereign (2009). The implicit interlocutor for much of the seminar is theories of biopolitics. However,
[...] Read more.
This essay is concerned with criticisms of Giorgio Agamben’s biopolitical theory of sovereignty that are developed by Jacques Derrida in his final seminar titled The Beast and the Sovereign (2009). The implicit interlocutor for much of the seminar is theories of biopolitics. However, when these theories are addressed explicitly, it is through the work of Agamben. The article proceeds first with a brief account of the main issues that preoccupy Derrida in the seminar. In general, these relate to conceptualizing sovereignty and its relationship to the division between human and animal. The second section introduces the criticisms of Agamben, which are articulated initially in terms of the latter’s tendency to declare the origin of ideas and concepts. The third section outlines some central aspects of Agamben’s theory that are pertinent for evaluating Derrida’s criticisms. The fourth section turns to the conceptual and textual basis for the criticisms, which involve a way of thinking history and an interpretation of Aristotle. The final section of the paper extrapolates the implications of Derrida’s criticisms for thinking sovereignty and its future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle The Politics of Responsible Sovereigns
Societies 2012, 2(4), 332-344; doi:10.3390/soc2040332
Received: 23 September 2012 / Revised: 17 November 2012 / Accepted: 20 November 2012 / Published: 23 November 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (80 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
How might one read a collection of transcriptions—such as The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 1—that exemplifies how to read other texts deconstructively? In the spirit of Derrida’s text, a response to this question remains radically undecided; however, it certainly does not
[...] Read more.
How might one read a collection of transcriptions—such as The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 1—that exemplifies how to read other texts deconstructively? In the spirit of Derrida’s text, a response to this question remains radically undecided; however, it certainly does not imply the absence of exegesis through the course of a particular reading. On the contrary, the event of a reading fixes itself out of specific interpretative horizons and traces of past understandings. In what follows, my exegesis is contoured by past readings that have engaged diverse phenomenological and existential perspectives declining commonsense invitations to relay fixed, singular meanings that align with the purportedly real meanings and/or intentions of the author. Following a partial suspension of that familiar angle, I propose an epoche of sorts. Provoked by Derrida’s text, I shall reorder words into new assemblies that appear on the following pages, and that surface from my situated readings of Derrida’s deconstructive renderings of other writings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle To Die a Living Death: Phantasms of Burial and Cremation in Derrida’s Final Seminar
Societies 2012, 2(4), 317-331; doi:10.3390/soc2040317
Received: 8 October 2012 / Revised: 9 November 2012 / Accepted: 12 November 2012 / Published: 20 November 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (75 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In the Third Session of his seminar The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 2, Jacques Derrida turns from a close reading of Heidegger’s 1929–1930 seminar on The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe—the two books at the center
[...] Read more.
In the Third Session of his seminar The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 2, Jacques Derrida turns from a close reading of Heidegger’s 1929–1930 seminar on The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe—the two books at the center of the seminar—to the question of what it means for a large and growing number of people in the Western world to have to decide, in a seemingly sovereign fashion, about how their bodies are to be treated after their deaths, that is, whether they are to be buried or cremated. This question marks a rather surprising turn to the present—even the autobiographical—in the seminar. This essay follows Derrida’s treatment of the question in the rest of the seminar. It considers, first, what Derrida calls the phantasms attendant upon all speculations regarding this supposedly binary alternative between inhumation and creation and then what this alternative might tell us about Greco-European modernity and certain modern conceptions of the subject and the subject’s putative autonomy and sovereignty over its life, its body, and its remains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)

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