Law’s Trace: From Hegel to Derrida

Law’s Trace argues for the political importance of deconstruction by taking Derrida’s reading of Hegel as its point of departure. While it is well established that seemingly neutral and inclusive legal and political categories and representations are always, in fact, partial and exclusive, among Derrida’s most potent arguments was that the exclusions at work in every representation are not accidental but constitutive. Indeed, one of the most significant ways that modern philosophy appears to having completed its task of accounting for everything is by claiming that its foundational concepts – representation, democracy, justice, and so on – are what will have always been. They display what Derrida has called a “fabulous retroactivity.”

This means that such forms of political life as liberal constitutional democracy, capitalism, the rule of law, or even the private nuclear family, appear to be the inevitable consequence of human development. Hegel’s thought is central to the argument of this book for this reason: the logic of this fabulous retroactivity was articulated most decisively for the modern era by the powerful idea of the Aufhebung – the temporal structure of the always-already. Deconstruction reveals the exclusions at work in the foundational political concepts of modernity by ‘re-tracing’ the path of their creation, revealing the ‘always-already’ at work in that path. Every representation, knowledge or law is more uncertain than it seems, and the central argument of Law’s Trace is that they are, therefore, always potential sites for political struggle.

Table of Contents

Introduction – Law’s Trace
Deconstruction Is Here, Now, in America
Between Politics and ‘philosophy
The Strategic Occupation of the Aufhebung
The Call of Deconstruction
Chapter Breakdown
Fetishism and Anxiety

1. Deconstruction and Representation: Tracing the Sign
The French Reception of Hegel
Kojeve’s Hegel: The Case of the Missing Body
Hyppolite’s Hegel: From the Phenomenology to the Logic
Derrida’s Hegel: From the Pit to the Pyramid and Back Again

2. Translating Deconstruction: Signing the Trace
Walter Benjamin and the Language of Names
Suspended Over the Abyss: The Task of the Translator
Signing the Trace

3. The Messianic Without Messianism
Marx and Justice
Aristotle and the “Now”
Hegel’s Version of Time: From “Now” ’til Eternity
An(Other) Time: of Ghosts, Messianism, and Singularity

4. Mourning Terminable and Interminable: Law and (Commodity) Fetishism
The Haunting of the (Qualitative?) Commodity
“Breaks in Gradualness, Leaps!”
The Dialectic of Capital and the Science of Logic
The Haunting of the Law

5. Justice and the Impossibility of Mourning: Antigone’s Singular Act
Glas and the Family
Hegel and Sophocles’ Antigone
The Law of Law
Antigone’s Singular Act
“The Law of Law, Always in Mourning”
Justice-Law and a Fantasy of Sexual Complementarity

6. Generalizing the Economy of Fetishism
Freud’s Fetish
Playing Two Scenes at Once
Feminism and Deconstruction

End of Metaphysics: “Who Is the Friend?”
Rogues, Democracy, and Autoimmunity

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