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The Secret, the Sovereign, and the Lie: Reading Derrida’s Last Seminar


  • Charles Barbour

    () (School of Humanities and Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2777, Australia)


This paper takes up the question of secrecy and sovereignty in Derrida’s final seminar on The Beast and the Sovereign . Focusing primarily on Derrida’s readings of Lacan and Celan in Volume I , it argues that, for Derrida, we should distinguish between the lie (or what Lacan calls ‘trickery’ or ‘feigning feint’), and the secret (or what Celan calls ‘the secret of an encounter’), and understand the sense in which the former implies an intentional and sovereign human subject, while the latter represents a limit to such a thing, and, arguably, to the concept of sovereignty as such. This explains, or helps explain, why, in his discussions of sovereignty, Derrida spends so much time examining the animal, on the one hand, and poetry, on the other. For, on his account, these both configure secrecy, and specifically what I refer to as the absolute secret.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Barbour, 2013. "The Secret, the Sovereign, and the Lie: Reading Derrida’s Last Seminar," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(1), pages 1-11, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsoctx:v:3:y:2013:i:1:p:117-127:d:23602

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harvey, David, 2007. "A Brief History of Neoliberalism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283279, June.
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    More about this item


    secrecy; sovereignty; lies; Derrida; Lacan; Celan; psychoanalysis; poetics; animals; Agamben;

    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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