Private irony vs. social hope: Derrida, Rorty and the political

Cultural Values 3 (3):263-290 (1999)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This article attempts to critically challenge Richard Rorty's view that the work of Jacques Derrida has no political utility. For Rorty, Derrida is a ‘private ironist’ whose quest for personal perfection renders him ineffectual as a ‘public liberal’. This view, I contend, is the consequence of looking at Derrida from the perspective of critics, such as Simon Critchley, who suggest that there is a strong ethico‐political strain in deconstruction on the basis of its Levinasian import. But to ally Derrida too closely with Levinas, I maintain, runs the risk of obfuscating the rich and powerful insights regarding the nature of justice and democracy which Derrida has been developing for some time now. By showing how the theme of justice in Derrida differs from that encountered in Levinas, it becomes possible for us to show how Derrida's political intuitions bear remarkable and surprising similarity to those forged by Rorty. Derrida, on this reading, appears as a Utopian liberal in the pragmatic mode, one for whom progress in the political sphere is engendered by attending to the suffering of those about us and not (pace Marx, Althusser, and Foucault) by way of large‐scale revolution. The notion that solidarity is ultimately founded on our mutual susceptibility to suffering, I argue finally, is what serves to link Rorty's idea of a ‘liberal utopia’ to Derrida's ‘new international’, a comparison which significantly undermines the contention that the latter is useful for exclusively private purposes.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,998

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The civic religion of social hope: A reply to Simon Critchley.Mark Dooley - 2001 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 27 (5):35-58.
Rorty’s Country, Rorty’s Empire.Chad Kautzer - 2003 - Radical Philosophy Review 6 (2):131-144.
The ethics of rortian redescription.Brad Frazier - 2006 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 32 (4):461-492.
'Hold the being': How to split Rorty between irony and finitude.Rudi Visker - 1999 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (2):27-45.
Gadamerian hermeneutics and irony: Between Strauss and Derrida.Robert Dostal - 2008 - Research in Phenomenology 38 (2):247-269.


Added to PP

18 (#833,659)

6 months
6 (#522,230)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.Richard Rorty - 1979 - Princeton University Press.
Writing and difference.Jacques Derrida - 1978 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.Richard Rorty - 1989 - The Personalist Forum 5 (2):149-152.
Of Grammatology.Jacques Derrida - 1982 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 15 (1):66-70.

View all 31 references / Add more references