Publication: Arena Magazine
Publication Date: 01-DEC-04
Delivery: Immediate Online Access
Author: Cooper, Simon
To confirm the cultural significance of the recently deceased philosopher Jacques Derrida, you need go no further than register the number of jokes that have arisen questioning whether he had died at all--jokes which in their own way rely on the language and concepts of Derrida's work for their effect. Hence the use of quotation marks to sceptically announce Derrida's 'death', or statements that he finally seemed to have 'deconstructed' (but had he really?) and so on. The sheer number of these rather feeble lines on the Internet and in the newspapers represent the final shot for many of those who were at one time frustrated by efforts to grasp the significance of this influential but notoriously difficult thinker. Indeed, the rather mean-spirited quality of many of the obituaries for Derrida was perhaps motivated by the fact that, despite the best efforts of the 'culture wars' of the 80s and 90s to diminish Derrida (and more generally what has come to be known as 'theory'), he had a profound influence in virtually all fields of scholarship.
As supporters of Derrida have pointed out, it is important to distinguish the philosopher from caricatures of his work. Hence Derrida the cautious thinker engaged with the whole western tradition can be distinguished from the nihilist who sought to undermine the tenets of classical education and the...