THE BEAST AND THE SOVEREIGN
Translated by Geoffrey Bennington
293pp. University of Chicago Press. $35; distributed
in the UK by Wiley. 22.50 [pounds sterling].
978 0 226 14430 6
Reviewing the first volume of this seminar in the TLS two years ago (July 2, 2010), I found, beyond a fascinating exploration of the mutually contaminating motifs of bestiality and sovereignty, an exemplary introduction to the Derridean mode of reading. Across a notably eclectic range of authors including Hobbes, D. H. Lawrence, Carl Schmitt and Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida had traced the secret complicity at work in the apparent opposition between the abject beast and the absolute sovereign. The sovereign human, Derrida argued, in explicit dialogue with his Italian contemporary Giorgio Agamben in particular, differentiates himself most emphatically from the bestial animal at the very point they threaten to shade into one another.
The expansive approach of the first seminar helped illuminate some of the basic premisses of Derridean reading; its relentless performance of the temporal and spatial dispersion that conditions every text and prevents its gathering into a unified and transparent meaning; and most famously, its so-called deconstruction of binaries, demonstrating the text's secret dependence on the very term it purports to exclude.
The second volume of The Beast and the Sovereign, a meticulously edited transcript of the...