The worst, the lesser violence and the politics of deconstruction

Continental Philosophy Review 55 (3):267-288 (2022)
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The characterisation of Derrida’s politics as a seeking for the “lesser violence” has become an almost paradigmatic interpretation. Yet the phrase _la moindre violence_ appears only in the early essay “Violence and Metaphysics” and its meaning is not as straightforward as might initially seem. I will argue that it is a mistake to take this expression to summarise the political import of this essay let alone of deconstruction more generally. What Derrida repeatedly concerns himself on that occasion is not “the lesser violence” but “worse violence” and “the worst violence,” terms that appears several times. This will be seen to be as a prefiguring of how, from the early 1980s on, following engagements with Plato and Lyotard, Derrida repeatedly names and elaborates “the worst” as that which we should seek to avoid. In order to uncover the politics of deconstruction, I will examine what Derrida has to say about “the worst” as well as what is said in the secondary literature, for it is also a term around which a number of unfortunate misinterpretations have arisen. In conclusion, it will be remarked that with the late coinage of the term _aimance_ Derrida makes clear his close proximity to the ethics of Levinas and his affirmation of an aspiration to nonviolence in the relationship with the other.



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Of Grammatology.Jacques Derrida - 1998 - Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961 - Distribution for the U.S. And Canada, Kluwer Boston.
Limited Inc.Jacques Derrida - 1988 - Northwestern University Press.
Of Grammatology.Jacques Derrida - 1982 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 15 (1):66-70.

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