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Deconstructing the Leviathan: Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign

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  • Jacques de Ville

    () (Department of Public Law and Jurisprudence, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, 7535, South Africa)

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 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacques de Ville, 2012. "Deconstructing the Leviathan: Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(4), pages 1-15, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsoctx:v:2:y:2012:i:4:p:357-371:d:22117
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Harvey, David, 2007. "A Brief History of Neoliberalism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283279.
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    Keywords

    Derrida; Freud; Hobbes; fable; fear; God; beast; sovereignty;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • P - Economic Systems
    • P0 - Economic Systems - - General
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems
    • P2 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies
    • P3 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions
    • P4 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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