1

El futuro de las humanidades: Experimentación
*
Por: Samuel Weber
**
Northwestern University
raducción: !uan "anuel #uartas $estrepo
Universidad E%&'
$esumen
(ienen las )umanidades un futuro* ()ay lu+ar para el estudio de la literatura, el arte, el
len+ua-e y la filosof.a en un mundo pro+resivamente dominado por una ló+ica económica
de p/rdida y +anancia* (0u/ propósito pueden cumplir estas disciplinas frente a las
tecnolo+.as 1ue r2pidamente representan obsoleta la 1ue era acaso la m2s definida función
del 3hombre4 al menos desde el $enacimiento europeo: la función de la labor productiva*
Primero y ante todo, 1ui52s la noción de 3humanidad4 como una forma de vida es
privile+iada en cuando cumple su destino a trav/s de lo productivo, de la actividad
productora de ri1ue5a6
7escriptores: humanidades 8 futuro 9 universidad
%bstract
*
%rt.culo reco+ido en Culture Machine, :ol6 ; <;===>, he University #ulture "achine6 Edited by ?ary )all
and Simon Wortham6 'SSN @ABC9A;;@6 7erechos de traducción y publicación cedidos por el autor a la
$evista Co-Herencia6
**
Samuel Weber es profesor de la Northwestern UniversityD es una destacada autoridad en los escritos de
Walter Een-amin6 En su libro Mass Mediauras: Form, Technics, Media <@FFB>, Weber muestra la importancia
del aura para la est/tica de la edad media6 Weber ha traducido al in+l/s a Een-amin, as. como a heodor W6
%dorno y a !ac1ues 7errida6 En Eer+en <Norue+a>, Weber hi5o una amplia presentación y revisión de la
teor.a de la mediación de Een-amin6 El profesor Weber estudió con Paul de "an y heodor W6 %dorno, cuyo
libro, Prisms, co9tradu-o al in+l/s6 Ga traducción y la introducción del libro m2s importante de cr.tica cultural
de heodor W6 %dorno, 1ue hoy puede ser le.do y comprendido en el mundo an+lo parlante, ayudó a Weber a
definir el sentido en el 1ue traba-ó %dorno en la escuela de &ranHfurt6 El profesor Weber ha publicado
tambi/n libros sobre Eal5ac, Gacan y &reud, as. como sobre la relación de las instituciones y la mediación de
la interpretación6 En @FI= traba-ó en %lemania como Jdramatur+oK en producciones de teatro y ópera6
2
7o the )umanities have a future* 's there a place for the study of literature, of art, of
lan+ua+e and of philosophy in a world pro+ressively dominated by an economic lo+ic of
profit and loss* What possible purpose can such disciplines fulfill in the face of
technolo+ies that seem to be rapidly renderin+ obsolete what was perhaps the most definin+
function of LmanL at least since the European $enaissance: the function of productive labor*
&irst and foremost, perhaps, the notion of LhumanityL as a form of life that is privile+ed
insofar as it fulfills its destiny throu+h productive, wealth9producin+ activity6
Mey words: )umanities 8 future 8 university
(ienen las )umanidades un futuro* ()ay en ellas un lu+ar para el estudio de la literatura,
del arte, del len+ua-e y de la filosof.a en un mundo dominado pro+resivamente por una
ló+ica económica de p/rdida y +anancia* (0u/ propósito pueden cumplir estas disciplinas
frente a las tecnolo+.as 1ue r2pidamente representan como obsoleta la 1ue era acaso la m2s
definida función del 3hombre4 al menos desde el $enacimiento europeo: la función de la
labor productiva* Si los tres si+los pasados vieron un incremento en la tendencia a asi+nar
valor a la actividad humana en t/rminos de su habilidad para crear ri1ue5a a trav/s de la
or+ani5ación de la producción, por tanto al+o muy radical ha sucedido en el si+lo NN: la
separación de la labor productiva de la acumulación de ri1ue5a6 Se+uramente esta
separación ha existido siempre en diferentes +rados, pero en las pasadas d/cadas ha vuelto
con una intensidad alarmante6 0uienes tienen 1ue 3traba-ar para vivir4 han visto por s.
mismos el incremento de la mar+inali5ación en muchas partes del mundo, y en particular en
a1uellas 2reas en las 1ue se ha mirado la labor como un medio no precisamente de
supervivencia sino de salvación6 En los procesos, no es -ustamente el valor del traba-o el
1ue ha sido puesto en cuestión, sino el sistema entero de los valores 1ue ha crecido con /l6
Primero y ante todo, 1ui52s la noción de 3humanidad4 como una forma de vida se privile+ia
por cuanto cumple su destino a trav/s de lo productivo, de la actividad productora de
ri1ue5a6
Erevemente, desde el $enacimiento italiano la noción de lo 3humano4, 1ue est2 a la base de
las 3)umanidades4, ha sido entendida en +ran medida como la desi+nación de un modo de
ser 1ue ha sido visto como auto-producción6 %l final del per.odo moderno, ser 3humano4
viene a ser sinónimo del poder y la potencialidad de la auto-realización, y la labor
productiva fue vista como una manifestación de la posibilidad m2s definida6 En pocas
palabras, lo 3humano4 y las )umanidades fueron definidas en los t/rminos de una
capacidad de auto-determinación a trav/s de la labor 1ue la moderna tecnolo+.a y las
relaciones económicas a las cuales sirve debilitaron severamente6
3
(En 1u/ sentido 3debilitada4* Simplemente a trav/s del hecho de 1ue la 3producción4 y el
3s. mismo4 son, a lo lar+o del desarrollo de la tecnolo+.a, pro+resivamente separados uno
del otro6 Primero, debido a la introducción de la tecnolo+.a mec2nica, en la cual la
potencialidad productiva fue pro+resivamente transferida a la acción reiterativa de las
m21uinas6 El mecanicismo y la producción mecani5ada no obstante continuaban
funcionando en un espacio y en un tiempo 1ue eran compatibles con el del cuerpo humano
individual, tomado como un ór+ano entero, construido como la condición material y
contenedora de una psi1uis o un yo cuanto menos hol.sticos6 Pero desde el si+lo N:''', lo
auto9m2tico, la cualidad reiterativa de la operación mec2nica provee un modelo de a1uello
1ue puede ser me-or descrito como un sorprendente retorno a lo otro para asombro del Yo6
7ebe recordarse 1ue el moderno Oo del cual estoy hablando es el producto de una tradición
1ue en sus or.+enes fue espec.ficamente europea, pero 1ue ha extendido pro+resivamente
su influencia sobre +ran parte del +lobo, primero a trav/s de la con1uista militar y m2s
recientemente por de medios económicos y tecnoló+icos tambi/n6 Este moderno Oo
3occidental4 se define a s. mismo asumiendo una posición cara a cara frente al mundo y a su
ima+en en el espe-oD lo cual 1uiere decir, ne+ando al <a los> otro<s> la independencia 1ue
reclama para s.6 El cogito cartesiano, por e-emplo Py este es ciertamente un e-emplo
e-emplarP define el yo como el poder de representación, y el posicionamiento del yo,
como i+norando deliberadamente o alterando la realidad espec.fica o la cualidad de todas
las dem2s cosas6 Ga dimensión de alteridad fue por tanto condenada a servir como una
suerte de ima+en invertida del Oo en el espe-oD como res extensa, por e-emplo, como
opuesto a la res intensa de la auto9conciencia6 Pero aQn m2s de lo 1ue las met2foras
espaciales pueden su+erir, el privile+io del Oo pensante sobre el mundo 3externo4 fue
construido como inherente, no a un estado del ser, sino a un poder de realización de la
acción de representación: esto es, de llevar a los otros primero el Oo6 %l de-ar el yo libre de
las cadenas de las autoridades <reli+iosas> tradicionales, este despla5amiento esc/ptico,
nominalista, esencialmente protestante afirmaba el privile+io fundacional del Su-eto
indivisible de auto9conciencia, precisamente en y a trav/s de su separación del mundo y de
los otros6 7escartes ar+umenta en esencia 1ue 3todos los contenidos de mis
representaciones pueden ser ilusorios, pero no el hecho de 1ue tales representaciones,
incluso como ilusiones, demuestren la existencia cierta y se+ura de un su-eto subyacente
consistente en el poder de representación de s. mismo4: no precisamente un ego cogitans,
sino un cogito me cogitare, como propuso )eide++er: un pensador9de9mi9yo9pensante6
En esta definición cartesiana y europea de lo 3humano4, pueden distin+uirse dos aspectos
interrelacionados 1ue han fundado la expresión institucional en la universidad moderna6
Primero, el esfuer5o por demarcar una posición segura y cierta, fiable y auto9contenida, a
trav/s de un +esto de separación de un mundo <espacial> y de una tradición <temporal>
caracteri5ada por ser en+aRosa y poco confiable6 Se+undo, ya implicada en el primer
esfuer5o de demarcación: la tendencia a construir la posición del Oo como prioritaria al
tiempo y al espacio, en cuanto 1ue, como /stos, conlleva la posibilidad de alteración y de
alteridad6 Por tanto, la certe5a asi+nada al cogito cartesiano re1uiere ser concebida como
no siendo nunca esencialmente temporal ni espacial en su estructura6 7ebe ser en cambio
4
concebida como un instante anterior al espacio y al tiempo <se tiene noticia de 1ue es
dif.cil, si no imposible, articular una posición independientemente de las formas del habla
temporales y espaciales: 3superior a4, 3anterior a4, etc6>6 Estas dos caracter.sticas Ptomando
posición a trav/s de la demarcación y separación, y posicion2ndose como un instante
anterior a la alteración temporal y espacialP pueden ser atribuidas tambi/n a las
universidades desde el $enacimiento6 Primero, las universidades buscan establecer por s.
mismas, con m2s o menos se+uridad, distancia de los conflictos de la vida social6 Ga
declaración 1ue hace 7escartes de su 3retirada4 de la vida activa con el propósito de tener la
pa5 y tran1uilidad necesarias para la reflexión, puede servir tambi/n como una descripción,
en cierto tipo, de la carrera acad/mica, aun1ue /sta sufre hoy transformaciones radicales6
Se+undo, las universidades demandan una distancia seme-ante en cuanto a las esperan5as
de un me-or acercamiento al conocimiento, con fiabilidad y se+uridad6 %dicionalmente, las
universidades tienden a concebir las bases de dicha se+uridad y fiabilidad del
conocimiento, como sustentadas en sus propios poderes y procedimientos de representación
y co+nición6
En estas tres caracter.sticas, 1ue se pueden llamar, en una frase de al+una manera
paradó-ica, la universidad 3moderna tradicional4 Pla universidad, como se desarrolló en
Europa desde @I==P se demuestra su profunda afinidad con el cogito cartesiano, y a trav/s
de este, con una dimensión esencial de las humanitas modernas6 En este contexto, (cu2l fue
la función desarrollada por la Universidad )uman.stica* Primero, la de proveer cierta
seguridad y certeza de cara a un mundo lleno de incertidumbres, como de oportunidades6
Se+undo, la de proveer se+uridad en la producción de conocimiento, entendido no
precisamente como el descubrimiento de una realidad externa, sino como la producción de
t/cnicas por medio de las cuales dicha externalidad puede ser dominada6 En esta
perspectiva, la producción y transmisión de conocimiento no ha sido nunca simplemente un
proceso neutralD /stas comportan siempre el esfuer5o por vencer la incertidumbre y proveer
se+uridad <dos lados de la misma moneda>6 O esto fue llevado a cabo a trav/s de una
tercera función, unida a las dos 1ue he mencionado: espec.ficamente, proveyendo un
modelo de uniicación9le+itimación de la pol!tica de contención de la diversidad
conflictual, as. como de las relaciones sociales, o involucrado /stas en las transformaciones
históricas6
Ga institución pol.tica 1ue estuvo fundamentalmente asociada con la Universidad moderna,
ya directamente, como en Europa, a trav/s del soporte de sus fuentes de financiamiento, o
indirectamente, como en los Estados Unidos o en 'n+laterra, fue en consecuencia la nación-
estado6 Para la nación9estado, la universidad es una manifestación institucional de la
unidad e inte+ralidad de una determinada sociedad, por encima de y antes de la diversidad,
as. como a la desunión de los +rupos 1ue la componen, ya sea 1ue estos +rupos se definan
/tnica, económica, re+ional o reli+iosamente, o como sucede Qltimamente a menudo, en
t/rminos de +/nero, 3ra5a4 o preferencia sexual6 El modo como, incluso la m2s estable de
las 3sociedades4 se individuali5a y define los l.mites es, por e-emplo, a trav/s de las leyes de
inmi+ración y de naturali5ación, 1ue conllevan siempre un proceso m2s o menos
conflictivo6
5
O es precisamente en este conflicto 1ue las universidades en +eneral, y la idea de
)umanidades en particular, intervienen tradicionalmente6 Ga noción de humanitas, como el
"xord #nglish $ictionary nos recuerda, comporta una referencia clara a escritores latinos
como #icerón y %ulus ?ellius, y a partir de /stos al tipo de educación 3apropiada a un
hombre46 7esde el si+lo N'N esto ha sido +eneralmente entendido como lo 1ue todav.a hoy
podemos llamar 3cultura literaria46 )ablar de las )umanidades implica entonces un modelo
de unidad basado en una cierta idea de lo humano, ya sea como opuesto a lo di%ino
<humanismo medieval escol2stico> o al mundo animal no9humano6 Pero como he su+erido,
esta noción relativamente estable de lo humano ha sido despla5ada desde el $enacimiento
por una concepción m2s din2mica, m2s auto9referencial, en la cual, precisamente, las
din2micas desestabili5adoras de la producción han creado una necesidad incluso m2s
apremiante por un modelo de unificación6
&ormular el problema de este modo es, con toda se+uridad, su+erir 1ue un aspecto mayor
de las )umanidades ha sido siempre el 1ue provee el Estado con un modelo universal,
3antropoló+ico4 y cultural, en orden a le+itimar la violencia y las ine1uidades 1ue
constituyen la dimensión in1uietante de la interacción pol.tica y social6 O esta verdad
permanece aQn hoy, me propon+o ar+umentarlo, cuando el modelo 3cultural4 mismo ha sido
moderni5ado en t/rminos descaradamente 3multiculturales46 Una universidad
3multicultural4, como en la 1ue yo enseRo <U#G%>, responde inevitablemente, en orden a
-ustificar su existencia, al llamado impl.cito a una unidad m2s o menos transcendental6
Ga unidad de la universidad continQa li+ada profundamente a la noción de una esencia
v2lida universal de lo 3humano4, la cual es antropoló+icamente correlativa al universalismo
epistemoló+ico 1ue reside en el nQcleo de la universidad como institución6 Ga tensión, 1ue
ha sido exacerbada por lo 1ue se conoce como 3+lobali5ación4, en todos sus sentidos, es el
resultado de un conflicto entre los problemas locales, particulares e incluso nacionales y
una vocación universalista 1ue busca responder a /stos, o incluso, trascenderlos6 En este
conflicto, una perspectiva ostensiblemente universalista Pla de lo 3+lobal4P ha sido usada
para -ustificar un proceso 1ue puede ser cual1uier cosa excepto simplemente universal en
sus efectos: por e-emplo, en la redistribución de la ri1ue5a en las pasadas d/cadas6
3?lobali5ación4 es el nombre 1ue sucede al binarismo de la ?uerra &r.a6 (0u/ espiar detr2s
de este ostensible universalismo*, es el mensa-e 1ue no est2 le-os de todas las alternativas
del sistema de dominación pol.tico9económico6 % pesar de los muchos efectos adversos 1ue
las tendencias neo9liberales de este sistema produce, y ha producido, en la or+ani5ación de
la educación superior, pervive una afinidad fundamental en las bases tradicionales de la
universidad y en la evidente perspectiva universalista de la 3+lobali5ación46 #omo la
institución cartesiana por excelencia, la universidad moderna se concibe a s. misma como
un lu+ar donde universalmente P4+lobalmente4P el conocimiento v2lido es descubierto,
conservado y transmitido6 Esta v.a universalista de la universidad moderna no se refiere a
un contenido co+nitivo o a una disciplina espec.fica sino a los resultados 1ue se desprenden
de la premisa 1ue subraya la actividad co+nitiva en +eneral: espec.ficamente, esto es
6
uni%ersalmente %&lido6 Seme-ante universalismo es inherente entonces a la noción
tradicional de verdad, 1ue est2 en la base de la noción de no9conocimiento6 3#onocimiento
inencontrable4 es un ox.moron, toda ve5 1ue +eneralmente el conocimiento no encontrable
no es considerado como conocimiento en absoluto6 O del valor9de9verdad de las
proposiciones se espera, de manera similar, 1ue ten+a universalidad6
Es esta premisa la 1ue da a los valores id/nticos y asociados de 3verdad4 y 3conocimiento4
la consolidación de su fuer5a, incluso si sus contenidos son reprehensibles en s. mismos o
de al+una manera intolerables6 Es esta misma premisa la 1ue tradicionalmente proporciona
a la universidad su definición de calidad: ya sea como un lu+ar de enseRan5a o de
investi+ación, la unidad y universalidad de la universidad han dependido de cierta noción
de conocimiento, uniicador y totalizador, lo 1ue 1uiere decir, como comprehensivo y
abarcante6
#on toda se+uridad, la división de la labor intelectual en los dos Qltimos si+los ha estado
encantada por este ideal de lo comprehensivo, de la totalidad del conocimiento, de la
ampliación de la distancia entre las diferentes divisiones y disciplinas6 #iertamente, las
formulaciones m2s elocuentes de este ideal, 1ue viene de dos si+los atr2s, est2n siempre
marcadas por este cambio6 En @I=S, Schellin+ publicó las lecturas 1ue hab.a hecho el aRo
anterior en Eerl.n con el t.tulo: 'ecciones sobre el m(todo de los estudios acad(micos6 En
las p2+inas introductorias de este texto, Schellin+ hace un retrato de los estudios
universitarios 1ue, mutatis mutandis, podr.a haber sido escrito hoy, al menos en lo 1ue
concierne a muchas universidades estatales europeas6 Schellin+ comien5a definiendo a su
destinatario como un 3-oven estudiante4 de +/nero masculino, m2s exactamente <den
studierenden )*ngling>, cuya impresión inicial de los estudios universitarios describe as.:
JEl -oven, cuando al comien5o de la carrera acad/mica, penetra por primera ve5 en
el mundo de las ciencias, cuanto m2s sentido y afición tiene por el odo, tanto m2s
obtiene la impresión de un caos en el 1ue no diferencia nada todav.a, o la de un
vasto oc/ano al 1ue /l se ve trasladado sin brQ-ula y sin estrella polarK <Schellin+,
@FF=: C>
El resultado, continQa Schellin+, es +eneralmente en el me-or de los casos la bQs1ueda
desorientada y m2s a menudo, la resi+nación y la preparación c.nica para una carrera
pr2ctica6 O esta discoformidad es todav.a mayor, como hemos acabado de ver, en el alcance
1ue el estudiante Jha dado y deseado a lo completoK6 Por tanto, es precisamente lo
completo lo 1ue es deficiente en las industriosas pero caóticas actividades 1ue confrontan al
estudiante principiante6 7e a1u. 1ue Schellin+ esbo5a su primera y decisiva conclusión:
JEs necesario, en consecuencia, 1ue las universidades ofre5can instrucción pQblica y
+eneral sobre el propósito y la naturale5a del estudio acad/mico, en la medida en
1ue ambos propósitos, como sus ob-etos particulares, est2n concernidos como un
todoK <Schellin+, @FF=: B>
7
El problema, para Schellin+ Py probablemente todav.a hoyP es reconciliar la
particularidad de los estudios universitarios, del conocimiento y la pr2ctica con los 1ue se
imparte e investi+a, cuyo enfo1ue es necesariamente limitado, con una dimensión m2s
+eneral, 1ue apunta a lo completo, a la totalidad, y 1ue conlleva la universalidad del
conocimiento y de la verdad6 Gas habilidades particulares pueden ser aprendidas y
descubiertas en instituciones y en situaciones 1ue no necesitan hacer nada para ser llamadas
3universidades4: la especificidad de la universidad como una institución, paradó-icamente
tal ve5, o tal ve5 dial/cticamente, tiene 1ue ver con el hecho de 1ue en ella el conocimiento
de-a de ser exclusivamente directo en relación con los ob-etos espec.ficos, o 1ue en
ocasiones Py esta es una caracter.stica paralela, m2s 1ue una alternativaP est2 relacionada
tambi/n con la habilidad m2s general de los seres humanos estudiar y conocer,
independientemente del uso espec.fico 1ue de dicho conocimiento puede hacerse6
En este sentido, la universidad puede ser llamada la institución 1ue provee, a una escala
colectiva, las condiciones privile+iadas para la bQs1ueda de la noción cartesiana de hombre
como res cogitans, preferible a la de res extensa6 No por nada recurre Schellin+ en su t.tulo
a la noción cartesiana de 3"/todo46 !ustamente como 7escartes ar+umenta 1ue la Qnica v.a
posible a la certe5a es abstraer los contenidos ob-etivos de todas nuestras representaciones
y en ve5 de volver atr2s, re9fle-ar el acto de representación en s. mismo P refle-o 1ue
revela por s. mismo ser el acto de representación del YoP Schellin+ ar+umenta adem2s 1ue
la unidad indispensable y la totalidad absolutamente perdida del estudiante principiante
sólo pueden ser prove.das por la universidad, en virtud del rele+o de las condiciones
+enerales para 1ue el conocimiento espec.fico sea posible6 'ncluso el tipo de verdad
emp.rica caracter.stica del conocimiento particular, ar+umenta Schellin+, no puede nunca
derivar de una relación con al+o llamado un ob-eto, (cómo puede lle+ar uno por tanto a una
cosa, como no sea a trav/s del conocimiento*
Go 1ue Schellin+ est2 su+iriendo a1u. es 1ue muchos procesos de producción o ad1uisición
de conocimiento pueden ser particularmente cie+os a sus propias condiciones de
posibilidad, o imposibilidad, puesto 1ue tienden a dar por +aranti5ado el estatus del
conocimiento 1ue producen6 (Por 1u/ puede esto ser un problema* Perm.tanme formular
una respuesta en t/rminos muy diferentes a los 1ue Schellin+ pudo haber usado, pero 1ue
creo est2n cercanos a su preocupación fundamental6 odo conocimiento comporta el
contacto con lo no conocido, as. como el esfuer5o por comprenderlo6 Es decir, el esfuer5o
por asimilarlo6 Ga asimilación, como el nombre lo su+iere, supone un proceso de 3+ustar4 o
3parecerse a46 (#ómo es posible 3conocer4 con se+uridad al+o asimilado al 3ob-eto4 1ue es
familiar* (No estamos abandonando o perdiendo precisamente a1uello 1ue lo hace
diferente, otro* $esumiendo, a1uello 1ue lo hace un potencial ob-+eto de conocimiento6
7ebido a 1ue el conocimiento se distin+ue en s. mismo de la alucinación, la proyección o el
mero fantasma, se debe +uardar una relación con a1uello 1ue resiste la subsunción ba-o lo
familiar6 7e este modo, el proceso del descubrimiento y la producción de conocimiento
puede conllevar siempre una transformación de lo 1ue hasta el momento ha sido tendo
8
como familiar, tom2ndolo como +arant.a o consider2ndolo como 3conocimiento4 frente a
al+o menos auto9evidente Pde i+ual manera se transforma lo desconocido hasta el
momento en al+o m2s familiar6
Ga solución de Schellin+ a este problema probablemente suene hoy muy anticuada para la
mayor.a de las personas6 Se trata de afirmar simplemente 1ue nin+Qn 3conocimiento finito4
puede ser comprensible <begreilich>, donde no hay nada anterior a Ja1uella unidad esencial
de incondicionalidad 'deal y a lo incondicionalmente $ealT a1uello 1ue es uno, es lo
mismo 1ue lo 1ue es otroK <Schellin+, @FF=: @=>6 Erevemente, sólo en la medida en 1ue
pensar y ser son finalmente uno y lo mismo, cada cosa puede ser conocimiento se+uro y
cierto6 Esta unión ori+inal y Qltima, Schellin+ la desi+na como 3el %bsoluto4, y de la
insistencia con la cual utili5a este t/rmino deviene su desi+nación como un 3idealista
absoluto46 Ga primera caracter.stica de este 3absoluto4 est2 ya indicada por la etimolo+.a de
la palabra: se des9prende y al mismo tiempo se auto9contiene6 En este sentido, puede ser
visto como una continuación del co+ito cartesiano, 1ue est2 constituido precisamente por el
abandono, el re9fle-o hacia atr&s y hacia adelante de su involucramiento con la alteridad,
desde el mundo externo de las cosas externas, hasta su propia acti%idad, 1ue no es
precisamente la una res intensa, sino de una intensidad, una tendencia6
Ga parado-a es, sin embar+o, 1ue con esta separación y exclusión de toda exterioridad en
nombre de una interioridad auto9contenida, los l.mites posibles de lo 3interior4 no se fi-an
m2s y por tanto, obviamente, no est2n m2s 3auto9contenidos46 Es por esto 1ue el
pensamiento occidental puede no estar m2s 1ue satisfecho con la solución propuesta por
7escartes: la de un #go como la instancia uniicada e indi%isible 1ue declara +aranti5ar la
inte+ridad del pensamiento6 Una inspección m2s cercana revela 1ue un e+o por s. mismo
presupone una relación con al+o otro, por lo menos en la forma inmediata de un recuerdo6
O por tanto, 1ue el 3e+o4, pese a su apariencia inmediata, no es menos 3extenso4 1ue los
3ob-etos4 1ue 7escartes buscaba excluir de /l6
En s.ntesis, el proceso de separación fue tan radical 1ue llevó a debilitar la esfera 1ue /l
hab.a introducido para prote+er: la del su-eto indivisible, auto9contenido6 &ue esto lo 1ue
movió a Schellin+ a buscar construir el proceso mismo de separación como uno de
totali5ación6 El ,bsoluto incondicional, en el cual lo 'deal y lo $eal, pensar y ser, son Uno
y el "ismo, es precisamente lo 1ue est2 radicalmente -eparado, pero es lo 1ue, a trav/s de
esta separación, tambi/n reclama ser lo otal6 En este %bsoluto otal, 3conocimiento4 y
3naturale5a4, ciencia y acción son manifestaciones complementarias 3de Un Universo46
3'nfinitud4 y 3&initud4, 3necesidad4 y 3libertad4 est2n -untas en esta esfera6 Pero (cómo* Es
a1u., en la tentativa de explicación de la conexión o con-unción de tales opuestos
fundamentes, 1ue la referencia a los 3seres humanos4 se impone:
El hombre, como ser racional por excelencia, est2 posicionado para ser una extensión y
complemento <#rg.nzung> del mudo9aparente: fuera de /l, de su actividad puede emer+er
9
a1uello 1ue est2 perdido en la revelación divina, por1ue la naturale5a recibe completa la
esencia divina, pero sólo en lo $ealD el ser racional </ernut0esen> puede expresar la
imagen de la misma naturale5a divina tal como /sta es en /l mismo, y por tanto en lo 'deal
<Schellin+, @FF=: @;>6
El hombre es creado a imagen de 7ios: el valor de lo 3humano4 en esta perspectiva, 1ue es
obviamente la especulación filosófica heredera de una tradición teoló+ica de lar+o aliento,
es por tanto proveer una s!ntesis fenomenal, manifiesta, visible y sensible de lo 1ue de otra
manera permanece radicalmente separado del mundo y confinado al 2mbito de lo 'deal, al
Pensamiento tanto como al #onocimiento6 Por #onocimiento se presupone una correlación
entre el pensamiento y el fenómeno, mundo sensible, y es la accesibilidad a esta relación,
trayendo con-untamente lo particular y lo universal, 1ue lo 3humano4, y su estudio, las
)umanidades, est2n le-os de +aranti5ar6
&ormulado en este sentido, es claro 1ue el primer +ran cambio de esta función de
mediación, unificación y totali5ación de las )umanidades proviene de las ciencias
modernas, y sobre todo, de a1uello 1ue le da a /stas su unidad y distinción interna: el
m(todo experimental6 En lu+ar de las interpretaciones sint/ticas y hol.sticas, el
conocimiento elaborado por las ciencias era limitado en alcance pero con sus propias
limitaciones, ilimitado en +eneralidad6 Ga valide5 del conocimiento ad1uirido
experimentalmente era sin embar+o de un tipo radicalmente diferente de a1uel 1ue
reclamaban para las )umanidades6 Por1ue lo 1ue el experimento sacrifica en extensión, lo
recobra en fuer5a intensiva6 El poder y presti+io del conocimiento cient.fico era en +ran
parte basado en esta habilidad de establecer secuencias reproducibles de procedimientos
ba-o condiciones cuidadosamente controladas6 Esta perspectiva, entonces, estaba orientada
menos hacia el pasado, hacia la noción de un ori+en constitutivo de una esencia 3humana4
universal, y m2s hacia el futuro6 7esarrollando determinados procedimientos ba-o
condiciones cuidadosamente controladas, la ciencia experimental pudo extenderse
proyectando las bases del movimiento hacia un dominio del futuro6 Para estar se+uros, se
atend.a a los l.mites de la naturale5a local del experimento cient.fico, como un movimiento
1ue contemplaba siempre, m2s una aproximación 1ue el cumplimiento de un lo+ro6 Ga
ciencia estaba adaptada entonces a un sentido del mundo como abierto, con infinitas
posibilidades6 Pero al mismo tiempo la ciencia ofrec.a el m/todo experimental como un
modelo acorde a lo 1ue en el futuro pod.a ser pro+resivamente dominado y sus
incertidumbres +radualmente reducidas, si no eliminadas6
Si la ciencia puede ser desi+nada entonces como el primer oponente histórico de las
)umanidades, un se+undo oponente m2s reciente de las afirmaciones sint/ticas y
totali5adoras tradicionalmente asociadas a las )umanidades procede de un con-unto de
discursos 1ue es dif.cil clasificar o nombrar un.vocamente, debido a 1ue una de las cosas
1ue las )umanidades comparten es, precisamente, el cuestionamiento radical de toda suerte
de univocidad6 Es casi tan dif.cil situar estos discursos cronoló+icamente como lo es
locali5arlos en t/rminos de división acad/mica de la labor intelectual dentro de las
disciplinas6 %un1ue /stos est2n, de un lado, asociados con la filosof.a, o m2s aQn con una
10
respuesta cr.tica a las afirmaciones sistem2ticas, totali5adoras de la filosof.aD y de otro lado,
con el estudio de la literatura y del len+ua-e como el medio al cual apela tal respuesta
cr.tica6 Esta cr.tica radicali5a el movimiento cartesiano de la separación a un punto 1ue
puede perfectamente servir de base para la auto9contención del su-eto, Cogito o e+o6 En
lu+ar de 1ue el proceso de demarcación tienda a inau+urar, o reafirmar un movimiento de
substitución, cambio y sobre todo, de repetición y recurrencia 1ue vuelve todo s.ntesis, todo
unificación, todo determinación problem2tica, si bien ineluctable6 El modelo de
conocimiento se despla5a por tanto de una concepción en t/rminos de auto9expresión y
auto9producción Pentendido como constitución 3humana4 de forma muy particularP a una
concepción 1ue ne+ocia con una noción de posibilidad no ya construida como un modelo
provisional de auto9complementación, sino m2s bien como una din2mica radical y apor/tica
de diferenciación6
Es claro 1ue el movimiento de pensamiento conocido como 3deconstrucción4 se inscribe en
esta tradición problem2tico9apor/tica del pensamiento6 Se puede ar+umentar 1ue su
3doctrina4 fundamental, si puedo usar esta palabra 1ue obviamente no es por completo
apropiada, reside en la noción semi9transcendental de 3iterabilidad4, una noción introducida
por primera ve5 por 7errida en el ensayo USi+nature, Event, #ontextV, y lue+o elaborada en
'imited 1nc6, @FF=6 Esta noción, 1ue est2 ya en el traba-o cr.tico de 7errida de la noción
husserliana de idealidad <en 'a /oix et le Ph(nom2ne, @FBW>, puede situarse en una
tradición 1ue nos remite al libro 'a 3epetición, un ensayo de psicolog!a experimental <por
#onstantin #onstantius, octubre de @IAS>, de MierHe+aard, y cuya recurrencia est2 presente
en pensadores como Niet5sche <#terno retorno>, &reud <3epetición Compulsión>,
)eide++er, y por supuesto ?illes 7eleu5e <$i(rence et 3(p(tition, @FBI>6 En todos estos
pensadores, la noción de repetición o uno de sus avatares re9impone por s. mismo un
sentido 1ue confunde la ló+ica tradicional de la identidad Pla cual, al mismo tiempo, se
puede notar, confirma la a+ude5a de lo 1ue en un uso no especiali5ado puede ser llamado
3ordinario4 en espaRol6 En in+les no se habla en +eneral de 3co+nición4 sino m2s bien de
recognición o de reconocimiento6 Este uso puede ser bastante irritante para lo 1ue
concierne a la precisión ló+ica y la consistencia del len+ua-e6 Pero precisamente este
cambio de cierta ló+ica puede ser mirado tambi/n como exposición de un conocimiento
excluido de discursos m2s especiali5ados, como por e-emplo, de la filosof.a y la 3psicolo+.a
co+nitiva46 #on toda se+uridad, este conocimiento no est2 nada a-eno al esc2ndalo: procede
de la sospecha de 1ue el se+undo en una serie resulta de ser anterior a cual1uier
identificación o constitución del primero6 (#ómo puede el se+undo 3preceder4 al primero*
Es a1u. donde la noción de iterabilidad de 7errida es Qtil6 1terabilidad irritante: lo 1ue
1uiere decir, ex9cita, impele a uno a de-ar los confines de lo familiar y confortableD
dificulta, desconcierta y confunde, produciendo precisamente el efecto 1ue el m/todo
cartesiano recomendaba eliminar6 #omo plantea 7errida:
Ga estructura de iteraciónT implica con+untamente identidad y diferencia6 'teración
en su forma 3pura4 Py esta es siempre impuraP contiene en s! misma la
discrepancia de una diferencia 1ue la constituye como iteración6 Ga iterabilidad de
un elemento divide su propia identidad a prioriT fra+menta cada elemento
11
mientras lo constituyeT Es una estructura diferencial escapando de la ló+ica de la
presencia o de la <simple o dial/ctica> oposición de presencia y ausencia6 <7errida,
@FII: CS>
Ga iterabilidad es debida necesariamente a 1ue nada pude ser reconocido como id/ntico a s.
mismo Pnada puede ser 3conocido4P sin ser primero re9conocido: es decir, sin ser
repetido, comparado con su primera instancia, y a trav/s de esta comparación ser
constituido como s.9mismo6 Go 1ue 7escartes, olvidando, 1uiso excluir del Cogito,
espec.fica y temporalmente, la memoria, retorna en todas las formas de repetición y
recurrencia en las 1ue aparece el su-eto cartesiano, moderno, bur+u/s: el otro como
excluido, pero necesariamente duplicación del Oo6 Es un modo similar de pensamiento el
1ue lleva a &reud a discutir lo 1ue /l llama 3prueba de realidad4, la habilidad de la psi1uis
de distin+uir 1u/ es ob-etivamente real, de lo 1ue es meramente alucinación, poniendo en
primer plano el proceso de repetición: determinar al+o como real no es simplemente
confirmar su existencia de una ve5 por todas, sino confirmar 1ue /ste est2 3siempre4 all.,
all. una se+unda ve5, como /l era, el resultado de una repetición6 'dentidad, brevemente, es
una relación 1ue presupone repetición, presupone un proceso 1ue inevitablemente implica
alteración, diferencia, transformación tanto como similitud6 No obstante, para construir la
realidad en los t/rminos de la ló+ica de la identidad, lo 1ue debemos hacer es abstraer,
i+norar o excluir Pseparar por nosotros mismosP la dimensión de hetero+eneidad
contenida en toda repetición6 O es esta dimensión 1ue retorna, como un movimiento de
retorno, de Eterno $etorno, la 1ue aparece tanto en el su-eto moderno, como en su
+enerali5ación: la esencia universal del 3hombre4, de lo 3humano46
Go opuesto a las )umanidades es entonces, desde esta perspectiva, repensar lo 3humano4 en
t/rminos de iterabilidadD lo 1ue 1uiere decir, como en efecto sucede, 1ue es necesariamente
mQltiple, dividido, y nunca reducible a una esencia sin+ular, al mismo yo6 Ga tarea de las
)umanidades puede comen5ar por tanto, nada m2s ni nada menos, de repensar lo singular,
1ue es al+o diferente a subsumir lo individual en lo +eneral o lo particular en lo completo6
Go singular no es lo indi%idual, precisamente, por virtud de su modo de ser, 1ue no puede
ser nunca un desde9y9por9todo, sino m2s bien, paradó-icamente, un efecto posterior de
iterabilidad6 Go sin+ular es a1uello 1ue emer+e, 1ue excede despu/s de 1ue el proceso de
iteración lle+a a ser un c.rculo completo: es el remanente o el resto, 1ue Gevinas y despu/s
de /l 7errida, han llamado el trazo6 ra5o de una diferencia 1ue nunca puede ser reducida a
seme-an5a o similitud6
)ablar acerca de la situación de las )umanidades 3despu/s de la deconstrucción4 conlleva,
como espero haber sentado claridad en lo 1ue he venido diciendo, no precisamente la
definición de una situación alcan5ada despu/s del traba-o de un autor sin+ular, aun1ue
+enial, sino mucho despu/s, si+uiendo los pasos, y como continuación de una tradición 1ue
involucra muchos 3nombres m2s o menos apropiados4, al+o a lo cual he aludido ya
pasa-eramente6 0uiero volver a una de las primeras tesis de al+uien 1ue he mencionado ya,
12
MierHe+aard, y en particular de su texto 'a 3epetición, con el fin de articular de manera un
poco m2s concreta la dif.cil y tal ve5 apor/tica relación de la sin+ularidad y la repetición,
1ue determina lo 1ue he planteado como la situación de las )umanidades 3despu/s de la
deconstrucción46 Estoy pensando en el traba-o ya mencionado, en el cual mucho de lo 1ue
he descrito recibe su articulación inicial e inici2tica: 3epetición6 %ntes de disponer la
escena, perm.tanme re9citar una declaración del narrador, un tal #onstantin #onstantius,
uno de los 3autores seudónimos4 de MierHe+aard, ya 1ue por ra5ones 1ue /l considera
esenciales, a menudo sus textos son firmados por los 3seudónimos4:
J7.+ase lo 1ue se 1uiera sobre el mismo, lle+ar2 a -u+ar un papel muy importante en
la nueva filosof.a6 Por1ue la repetición viene a expresar de un modo decisivo lo 1ue
la reminiscencia representaba para los +rie+os6 7e la misma manera 1ue /stos
enseRaban 1ue todo conocimiento era una reminiscencia, as. enseRar2 tambi/n la
nueva filosof.a 1ue toda la vida es una repeticiónK <MierHe+aard, ;==F: ;B9;W>
$epetición, como MierHe+aard plantea con exactitud, es ciertamente 3una expresión
crucial4 y ha -u+ado un rol decisivo en la filosof.a moderna, por lo menos para al+unas de
sus tendencias, as. como ha -u+ado un rol crucial en el desarrollo de la tecnolo+.a y en los
efectos de /sta en la sociedad6 Pero (1u/ est2 implicado en esta 3expresión crucial4* (Es
evidente 1ue no necesitamos preocuparnos m2s all2 de sus implicaciones sem2ntica y
conceptual, emp.rica y dem2s* En dan/s, la palabra usada por MierHe+aard no es
exactamente 3re/tición4, 1ue existe en dan/s como una palabra extran-era6 "2s bien, como
su vocero #onstantin dice, 3repetición es una buena palabra danesa, como opuesta a su
alternativa he+eliana, 3mediación4 </ermittlung>, la cual aparentemente no es una buena
palabra danesa6 Es como puede ser, m2s de lo 1ue es en este texto seminal es, creo, en +ran
medida incomprensible, si no se hace referencia al si+nificado de la palabra danesa
utili5ada: la palabra 4+entagelse6 El si+uiente decisivo pasa-e, por e-emplo, en el cual
#onstantin #onstantios a+radece el fracaso de sus esfuer5os por determinar si 3es posible4 o
no la repetición, permanece ininteli+ible si sólo se conf.a en las traducciones:
JEsto hi5o 1ue me sintiera muy aver+on5ado por haber dado conse-os tan se+uros a
mi -oven ami+o, el enamorado melancólico de 1ue os habl/ al principio6 7e hecho
me encontraba en la misma situación de perple-idad en 1ue /l se encontraba
entonces, de tal suerte 1ue me parec.a 1ue yo era a1uel mismo -oven y 1ue las
solemnes palabras con 1ue le aconse-/ en a1uella ocasión Ppalabras 1ue por nada
del mundo le repetir.a a nadie una se+unda ve5P eran solamente un sueRo y una
pesadilla, de los cuales me despertaba ahora para de-ar 1ue la vida, de un modo
incesante y despiadado, si+a tomando de nue%o todo lo 1ue nos ha dado antes, sin
1ue por eso nos conceda nunca una repetición <4+entagelse>6 (%caso no es esto en
definitiva lo 1ue acontece con la vida* #uanto m2s vie-o se es, m2s y m2s en+aRosa
se nos muestra la vidaK <MierHe+aard, ;==F: @@S9@@A>6
13
(Por 1u/, o en 1u/ sentido, est2 #onstantin #onstantius tan decepcionado de la repetición*
Go 1ue le ha permitido a /l poner sus esperan5as en este 3mundo4 como desi+nando un
movimiento del 1ue no ha supuesto 1ue sea lo opuesto al 3recuerdo4, pero 1ue conlleva una
promesa de felicidad: 3$epetición, entonces4, expresa brevemente al inicio, despu/s de citar
el primer pasa-e, 3Ga aut/ntica repetición, suponiendo 1ue sea posible, hace al hombre feli5,
mientras 1ue el recuerdo lo hace des+raciadoT4 <MierHe+aard, ;==F: ;W>6 Pienso 1ue sólo
cuando recordamos o descubrimos cómo es usada a1u. la 3buena palabra danesa4, se da en
efecto 1ue comen5amos a darnos cuenta 1u/ es interesante en la cuestión de la 3posibilidad4
de la repetición6 4+entagelse, en dan/s, est2 compuesta por dos palabras 1ue se han
co+nado en in+l/s: 3g+en4 se refiere en in+l/s a 3a+ain4 <en espaRol, 3otra ve54>D y 3tagelse4 a
la palabra 3taHe4 <en espaRol, 3tomar4>6 3$epetir4, por tanto, como en 4+entagelse, es 3tomar
otra ve546 Ga promesa de repetición es 1ue a trav/s de ella el su-eto ser2 capa5 de 3tomar
otra ve54, de recobrar, de reapropiar lo 1ue se ha perdido con el paso del tiempo, y
finalmente, por efecto de la finitud6 7e ah. la amar+ura de #onstantin #onstantius: cuyo
nombre ya expresa su deseo, de 3constancia4 de frente a la mortalidad6 Go 1ue #onstantin
descubre es 1ue a trav/s de la 4+entagelse, es la vida la 1ue retorna otra %ez, 3vuelven
todas las cosas 1ue se han dado, sin proveer una repetición4, es decir, sin alber+ar la
posibilidad de nuestro volver atr2s, retomar, recobrar y reapropiar lo 1ue ha pasado6 Ga
repetición, por tanto, como la promesa de felicidad, en el sentido de la reapropiación 1ue
puede constituir al su-eto P es lo 1ue lo revela a s. mismo como imposible6 'mposible, y
adem2s en otro sentido, excesivamente real:
JUno de mis seudónimos ha escrito un pe1ueRo libro llamado 'a 3epetición, en el
cual nie+a 1ue haya repetición6 Sin estar muy en desacuerdo con /l en el sentido
profundo, puedo muy bien ser de la opinión de 1ue hay sin embar+o una
repeticiónT #uando al+o es dicho a personas 1ue no 1uieren o.rlo, al+o verdadero,
usualmente el camino 1ue si+uen buscando eludir al+o 1ue se opone esencialmente
a ellos, eludirlo reba-ando la verdad 1ue e-erce decisivamente su poder sobre ellos y
sobre las condiciones Pel sentido usual es tratar el discurso de verdad como la
noticia del d.a y entonces dicen: )emos escuchado esto una ve5 Pcomo si fuera la
noticia del d.a 1ue ellos han escuchado cuando fue dicha por primera ve5 y ahora
ellos 1uieren estar de acuerdo con ello, de la misma manera como uno i+nora la
noticia del d.a, 1ue no puede ser o.da una se+unda ve5TK <MierHe+aard, @FIS: SS=>
#ual1uier intento de proveer una simple respuesta a la pre+unta de si la repetición es
3posible4 o no, si 3hay4 o no 3repetición4, presupone 1ue la noción de lo 3posible4 y del
3hay4 es simple y sincera6 Es precisamente como simple5a y sinceridad, sin embar+o, 1ue la
problem2tica del movimiento de la repetición llama a interro+ación6 No es accidental 1ue el
t.tulo de la sección de USi+nature, Event, #ontextV con el cual 7errida introduce el t/rmino
3iterabilidad4 ha+a una fuerte alusión a MierHe+aard: 3Gos par2sitos6 'ter, en la escritura: tal
ve5 esto no existe4 <3'es parasites6 1ter, de l5(criture: 6u5elle n5existe peut-7tre pas4>6 No
es un accidente 1ue la primera sección de ese ensayo se titule 3Escritura y
14
elecomunicación46 7e cual1uier manera es una cuestión de repetición, de la 1ue
tecnolo+.a y telecomunicación no est2n le-os6 (Por 1u/* 7ebido, como lo plantea Walter
Een-amin, 1ue ha sido 1ui52s uno de los primeros en sentar claridad sobre esto, a 1ue el
modo de ser de la moderna tecnolo+.a es repetiti%o y reproducti%o6 Ga 3obra de arte4, como
insiste Een-amin, puede de a1u. en adelante ser discutida con respecto a su
3reproductibilidad4 intr.nseca6 O como la reproductibilidad implica inscripción: el tra5ado
de los tra5os: foto+raf.a, cinemato+raf.a y ahora, se puede decir, video+raf.a6
Es contra este trasfondo 1ue las observaciones de MierHe+aard sobre la 3noticia del d.a4
pueden ser le.das6 Ga 3noticia del d.a4 es llevada a sus lectores, escuchas, espectadores, por
y a trav/s de una tecnolo+.a 1ue instala repetición, o m2s bien: repetiti%idad, en el centro de
la realidad, en el centro del 3una ve5 y para siempre46 Ga virtuali5ación, una de las mayores
tendencias de los medios electrónicos modernos, redefine 3el a1u. y el ahora4 en t/rminos
de 3esto y a1uello46 #onlleva lo 1ue en el estructuralismo y en el postestructuralismo se
llamó 3procesos de si+nificación4 de la realidad perceptual del centro mismo de cada d.a
Pes decir, el centro mismo de lo 1ue, para muchas personas, parece hasta el momento
existir sin el beneficio del pensamiento comple-o o la interpretación6 Es esto lo 1ue da a la
3televisión4 su enorme poder: controla el sentido en el 1ue las personas ven y oyen el
mundo, y por tanto el sentido en el 1ue conciben la realidad, sin importar 1ue sea el mundo
de afuera o el de ellos mismos6 Pero Py es a1u. 1ue la sospecha de MierHe+aard de la
3noticia del d.a4 est2 m2s 1ue -ustificadaP los medios no sólo plantean la pre+unta, a trav/s
de sus intervenciones, de si, como MierHe+aard planteó mucho antes de la televisión, 3(no
es la existencia visible, en cierto sentido, una repetición* <MierHe+aard, @FIS: ;WC> P los
mismos medios ofrecen asimismo una respuesta inmediata a su propia pre+unta, una y otra
ve5: la respuesta de una repetición 1ue se presenta a s. misma como el retorno de lo mismo,
como finalmente lo mismo9contenido, y en este sentido, como la Qnica separación auto9
contenida por la 1ue, en cierto sentido, el su-eto moderno ha anhelado siempre: el espacio
auto9contenido de lo 3in9dividual46 Walter Een-amin, una ve5 m2s, estuvo atento a esto en
su ensayo UGa obra de arte en la /poca de su reproductividad t/cnicaV <@FSB>, cuando
seRala a la representación del 3rostro4 como el refu+io contempor2neo, en medio de la
reproductividad de los medios, de lo 1ue /l llama el 3culto al valor4 de lo ori+inal6 O con
respecto a la importancia de los retratos de rostros, /sta no ha cambiado mucho con la
lle+ada de la televisión en los aRos sesenta, desde 1ue Een-amin escribió su ensayo6
(#u2l es la alternativa, sin embar+o, frente a esta decepción* Principalmente, la respuesta
m2s expl.cita de MierHe+aard en el ensayo de 'a repetición, reside en su interpretación de
la historia de !ob del 3-oven ami+o4, 1ue es el alter ego de #onstantin #onstantius6 En otras
palabras, en cierto recha5o del sentido ló+ico, de la e1uivalencia, del si+nificado, y de otro
lado, en cierta apertura a lo absurdo6 No ten+o tiempo a1u., no es mi propósito, creo, entrar
en una detallada discusión de esa 3solución46 En su lu+ar, 1uiero seRalar otros dos
elementos, dos casos en los 1ue la decepción por los efectos propios de la 4+entagelse, de
la repetición, 1ue sin volver atr2s tiene lu+ar otra ve5, son definidos no simplemente en
t/rminos ne+ativos, privativos, como p/rdida o falta, sino como una posibilidad de libertad:
no obstante, de una liberad 1ue no es definida ya en t/rminos de autonom.a individual y
15
auto9reali5ación6 (#u2l es la esencia de esta libertad entonces* Esta implica la posibilidad
apor/tica de mantenerse abierto al tra5ado de lo otro en la repetición, incluso cuando se
confronta lo mismo6 Ga posibilidad es apor/tica toda ve5 1ue, como apertura a lo otro no
puede ser libre en un +rado de clausura, de asimilación y de apropiación6
7onde hay apor.a, no hay camino de vuelta, no hay solución simple o resolución6 El texto
de MierHe+aard nos propone dos modelos posibles para ne+ociar este impase de una manera
pr2ctica6 El primero tiene 1ue ver con la noción de 3experimento4, o m2s precisamente, con
la 3experimentación46 MierHe+aard aRade esta palabra al subt.tulo de su estudio de la
$epetición 3en el Qltimo momento4, como sus editores y traductores, )oward y Edna )on+,
escriben en su extenso prefacio informativo de esta obra
@
6 O la decisión de MierHe+aard
para usar esta palabra es notable, a+re+an ellos, por la si+uiente ra5ón:
JNo sólo era el t/rmino #xperiment <3Experimento4> poco comQn en dan/s en a1uel
tiempo, sino 1ue la forma usada en el subt.tulo, el participio presente,
experimenterende <3experimental4> era aQn m2s inusualT El car2cter activo del
participio es aQn m2s pronunciado en el uso posterior de 3experimento4 del )ermano
aciturno como un verbo transitivo cuando /l dice 1ue 3experimentere en Figur4
<3experimentar2 en &i+ura4>K <)on+ X )on+, en MierHe+aard, @FIS: xxii>6
Seleccionando esta inusual palabra, y llev2ndola incluso a la forma m2s inusual del
participio presente, es notable 1ue MierHe+aard eli-a definir su propio proyecto refiri/ndolo
a a1uello de lo cual se distin+ue claramente, y adem2s es, en otro sentido, tambi/n
3repetido4: el m/todo experimental de las ciencias6 3Experimentar en fi+ura4 su+iere 1ue se
estaba en la estacada6 Gas 3fi+uras4 al ser 3pasado4 <mi traducción su+iere el uso transitivo
de 3experimentar4> tienen dos dimensiones distintas pero interrelacionadas6 7e un lado, se
refiere a individuos o cosas ostensiblemente autónomos, pero ficticios, como #onstantin
#onstantius y el !oven %mi+o, cuya situación articula el textoD y se refiere al mismo tiempo
al uso fi+urativo del len+ua-e, a la necesidad de la 3comunicación indirecta4, como plantean
los )on+6 Erevemente, lo 1ue 3experimentar4 comparte con el m/todo cient.fico es, de un
lado, la dependencia en cuanto a cierta repetición, y de otro lado, su naturale5a
fra+mentaria, no total6 Sin embar+o, si la experimentación cient.fica si+ue buscando
subsumir el caso particular en el +eneral, y si continQa situ2ndose ella misma en los
confines de un sistema o al menos con respecto al conocimiento sistemati5able, el
experimento de MierHe+aard es un intento, una 3aventura4, un ensayo <F8rsog> para
articular lo sin+ular <#n9elte> sin disolver completamente sus diferencias en la similitud de
lo universal6 Esta aventura re1uiere, sin embar+o, 1ue la estabilidad aparente de lo
sustantivo, del nombre 3experimento4, sea tra.do a colación y al mismo tiempo se separe de
/l6 O es por esto 1ue MierHe+aard recurre a la forma inusual del participio presente para
desi+nar su traba-o: no es /ste tanto un 3experimento4 como experimentación, experimental6
El participio presente involucra un movimiento 1ue es, primero 1ue todo, repetitivo,
1
7icho subt.tulo re5a: 'a 3epetición, un ensayo de psicolog!a experimental6 N6 del 6
16
se+undo, nunca conclusivo o contenido, tercero, en proceso y futuro, y cuarto y Qltimo,
actual e inmediato6 Sea cual sea el modelo de todo conocimiento, incluido el cient.fico, el
conocimiento experimental, el resultado est2 basado en el participio pasado, el participio
presente se mueve en un sentido muy diferente, m2s transicional6
odas estas cosas son permitidas en un libro 1ue no necesita en absoluto reclamar ser un
traba-o cient.fico y cuyo autor, sublevado de la manera no cient.fica en la cual se proclama
la cientificidad, prefiere permanecer fuera de este embrollo YTZ #uando el movimiento es
puesto en relación con la repetición en la esfera de la libertad, el desarrollo difiere en
consecuencia del desarrollo ló+ico, en el 1ue la transición %iene a ser Yl!miteZ6 En ló+ica, la
transición del movimiento est2 en silencio, mientras 1ue en la esfera de la libertad lle+a a
serlo6 Por tanto, en ló+ica, cuando la posibilidad, en el sentido de la inmanencia del
conocimiento, se determina a s. misma como actualidad, sólo saltera el silencio auto9
contendido del proceso ló+ico hablando acerca de movimiento y transición6 En la esfera de
la libertad, sin embar+o, la posibilidad permanece y realmente emer+e como trascendencia6
<MierHe+aard, @FIS: S=F9S@=>
(#u2l es la forma m2s inmediata de una 3realidad4 1ue 3emer+e como trascendencia4, sino
es a1uella del participio presente* Es 3transcendente4 no siendo nunca indentificable
consi+o misma, siempre abierta, siendo, pero tambi/n apart2ndose siempre de s. misma en
el proceso mismo de lle+ar a ser6 %nte esto, el participio presente articula un fenómeno 1ue
asume un papel central en el esfuer5o de #onstantin #onstantius de descubrir si hay o no
repetición6 Esto nos lleva a la se+unda dimensión de la ne+ociación HierHe+aardiana con la
alteridad, la sin+ularidad y la repetición: una dimensión de teatralidad6 [, para plantearlo
de manera m2s precisa, la dimensión de lo 1ue, en alem2n como en dan/s, se llama la posse
<3pose4>, y de la cual la 3comedia4 es una burda traducción6 Ga posse P1ue desi+na el
+/nero de lo popular, teatro del absurdoP no es fundamentalmente representacional o
atada a la historia narrativa6 Esta difiere radicalmente de la corriente principal del
respetable teatro occidental, el cual, incluso desde %ristóteles, es definido en t/rminos
3m.ticos4, lo 1ue 1uiere decir, en t/rminos de historia y ar+umento6 Para la posse, por el
contrario, la 3acción4 teatral no es esencialmente un asunto de representación o de
contemplación, es performativa, toma lu+ar en el escenario6 Esto es, por tanto, de un lado
le-ano a lo m2s inmediato y actual de la representación teatral tradicional, en la cual
cual1uier cosa 1ue suceda en el escenario es tomada o vista como desi+nando al+o cuyo
si+nificado es +eneralmente entendido como derivado de su estructura y propiedades no
teatrales6 Ga posse, por el contrario, es toda performance6 %l mismo tiempo, sin embar+o,
en su misma inmediate5 viola las re+las de la buena forma, de la buena 4estalt: no es auto9
contenida ni son sus l.neas continuas o harmoniosas6 El ori+en de la palabra es su+estivo en
este sentido, toda ve5 1ue deriva de las palabras 1ue implican tanto la constitución de las
fi+uras Ppor e-emplo, los 3ba-o9relieves4 saliendo afuera de su soporte para exponer su
verdadera fi+uratividadP pero tambi/n la misma 3deformación4 de la fi+ura, su
desfi+uración6 Posse se refiere entonces a la palabra francesa para 3diente4: bosse6 Ga
palabra misma desi+na por tanto a1uel 3experimentar con fi+uras4 1ue marca el estilo de
MierHe+aard, pero tambi/n su pensamiento6
17
odo esto conver+e en la descripción de una de las Poses del actor m2s destacado de la
actualidad, EecHmann, 1uien predomina en la descripción de #onstantin a su re+reso de
Eerl.n Py con ello, encuentra una respuesta a su pre+unta, 3hay repetición4 s. o no6 Go 1ue
distin+ue el estilo de actuación de EecHmann, como #onstantin lo recuerda, es ni m2s ni
menos el modo como entra en escena6 En in+l/s, la frase clave es traslada en un sentido 1ue
oculta su verdadera intensidad: EecHmann, cuyo talento miente no 3en lo conmensurable
del ob-eto art.stico YTZ en lo inconmensurable de lo sin+ular4, 3viene caminando4 por el
escenario6 O #onstantin comenta:
JEn los teatros de presti+io pocas veces se ve a un actor 1ue sea realmente capa5 de
andar y estar plantado al mismo tiempo6 Solamente he conocido a uno, pero con
todo no era de la cate+or.a de EecHmann, en este aspecto, se entiende6 Go 1ue yo le
he visto hacer a EecHmann nunca antes se lo hab.a visto hacer a nadie6 Este actor no
entra o se mueve en escena como lo hacen los dem2s actores, sino 1ue lo hace
precisamente caminando6 Este moverse como 1uien camina es al+o Qnico de
EecHmann y con esta +enialidad suya improvisa adem2s todo el ambiente esc/nicoK
<MierHe+aard, ;==F: FB>
Go 1ue es distintivo en EecHmann es 1ue /l entra y se mueve de una manera tal 1ue es
capa5 no de retratar tal o tal fi+ura Pexperimentar en fi+uras4P sino:
JEste artista no sólo es capa5 de representar a un artista ambulante, casi siempre de
camino de pueblo en pueblo, sino 1ue aparece en escena como si fuera ese mismo
artista en persona, caminando exactamente como /l, caminando por el mismo
sendero, de tal suerte 1ue a trav/s del polvo de /sta contemplamos la sonriente
aldea, o.mos sus ruidos apacibles y bucólicos, vemos el sendero 1ue se precipita
hasta la po5a de la fra+uaT, por el 1ue desciende lentamente EecHmann, sereno e
infati+able, con su atadillo a las espaldas y su bastón en la manoK <MierHe+aard,
;==F: FB>
EecHmann, precursor de #haplin, parece, no el -usto retrato de la persona, sino tambi/n los
lu+ares y las cosas: la sonriente aldea, sus ruidos apacibles, su sendero6 Pero sobre todo, Jel
incó+nito en 1ue se esconde el demonio fren/tico y alocado de la comicidad, 1ue en un
santiam/n desple+ar2 sus alas y los arrastrar2 a todos en el v/rti+o sublime de la carca-adaK6
Gos movimientos de EecHmann r2pidamente se transforman en dan5a, y de la dan5a en
piruetas: JEntonces nos parece un lun2tico, totalmente fuera de s. y como transportado a
otro mundo6 Ga locura de la risa le domina por completo y ya no puede ser contenida dentro
de los l.mites peculiares de la m.mica y las r/plicasK6 Ga experimentación en fi+uras rompe
la fi+ura, dobl2ndola y contorsion2ndola, distorsion2ndola en una posse 1ue nunca volver2
18
a ser6 Ga transformación de la posse, no como farsa sino como posibilidad, en el ser, como
seRala MierHe+aard en otra parte, incluso desde %ristóteles, ha sido definida como la tarea
del historiador
;
6 No obstante, esta es precisamente la asimilación 1ue el 3poeta4, escritor y
pensador 1ue es MierHe+aard recha5a6
O MierHe+aard recha5a esta asimilación a nombre de una 3actualidad4 y una 3inmediate54,
esto es, no mediante la pertenencia histórica a una corriente de pensamiento, 1ue puede
insertarse sin mayor ries+o ba-o el nombre de 3Existencialismo46 MierHe+aard fue, 1ui52s, el
primero y principal pensador de lo 1ue caracteri5a precisamente la tecnolo+.a de los medios
de hoy, 1ue se impone sobre lo 1ue se continQa llamando 3realidad4: espec.ficamente, la
caracter.stica de la %irtualización, a la cual nos hemos referido ya6 Ga 3transcendencia de lo
actual4 es -ustamente lo 1ue define lo virtual: el a1u. y el ahora no cesan de ser, pero
comien5an a ser al mismo tiempo un esto y a6uello6 3Esto y a1uello4, por cierto, puede
tomarse como mi su+erencia de interpretación en in+l/s de lo 1ue )eide++er seRalaba con
el t/rmino alem2n, $asein6
ratar/ de llevar lo 1ue han sido, obviamente, las observaciones bastante preliminares de
un abrumador tópico ur+ente a una conclusión tentativa6 El futuro de las humanidades en
un mundo de virtuali5ación y de +lobali5ación no puede residir en la propa+ación continua
de un modelo de unidad y totalidad para las sociedades o naciones6 7icho futuro no puede
consistir m2s en una continuación del proyecto de la modernidad occidental: el de la
separación y demarcación como los medios de constitución de entidades se+uras y auto9
contenidas, sean individuales, colectivas o incluso la 3humanidad4 misma6 7ebido a 1ue si
este puede ser un sentido distintivo de lo 3humano4, cual1uier cosa 1ue no sea por los
medios certeros o ase+urados, no podr2 ir por tanto en dirección a la unidad, totalidad y
autonom.a6 Ello puede consistir, m2s bien, en la apertura de y hacia la hetero+eneidad6
Nin+Qn otro ha sido y es el inter/s en el pensamiento de la repetición 1ue ha corrido de
MierHe+aard a 7eleu5e y a 7errida6 MierHe+aard funda una palabra y una noción 1ue 1ui52s
lleve todas estas tendencias -untas: la excepción6 Esta es la manera como lo describe
#onstantin:
J% la lar+a uno no puede por menos 1ue sentirse fastidiado con tantas ch2charas y
discursos interminables sobre lo +eneral, los cuales, a pesar de su interminable
extensión, no hacen m2s 1ue repetirse una y mil veces de la manera m2s ins.pida y
aburrida6 ambi/n hay excepciones, y ya va siendo tiempo 1ue se empiece a hablar
de ellas6 Si no se pueden explicar las excepciones, entonces tampoco se puede
explicar lo +eneral6 Esta dificultad no puede notarse de ordinario, por la sencilla
ra5ón de 1ue no se piensa con pasión en lo +eneral, sino con una indolente
superficialidad6 Ga excepción, en cambio, piensa lo +eneral con todas las ener+.as
de su apasionamientoK <MierHe+aard, ;==F: ;@@>6
2
JGo histórico es siempre materia cruda 1ue la persona 1ue la ad1uiere sabe cómo disolverla en una posse y
asimilarla como un serK <MierHe+aard, @FIS: SCF>6
19
Ga noción de excepción puede continuar por tanto el proyecto de separación, mientras 6ue
desplaza al mismo tiempo su :ltima meta: la de la seguridad del Yo, el se-parar 1ue puede
reducir distancia, diferencia y alteridad a las funciones de un su-eto id/ntico y constituido, a
sus l.mites exteriores6 Ga noción de excepción, por el contrario, repite la separación pero
haciendo transformaciones y deformaciones: repensar esto como un mo%imiento de
resistencia 1ue define y determina lo 1ue resiste, la 3norma4, sin ser asimilado por o dentro
de ella6 Una tarea para las )umanidades puede ser repensar no precisamente lo 3humano4
sino todas las cosas conectadas con ello, no como hasta ahora, estrictamente desde la
perspectiva de lo universal, del concepto, sino desde la excepciónD lo 1ue 1uiere decir,
desde la perspectiva de a1uello en lo 1ue recha5a in+resar, lo 1ue resiste la asimilación,
pero 1ue haciendo esto, pone al descubierto los l.mites posibles de todo sistema, s.ntesis y
auto9contención6 J#uando se obra as. Pobserva #onstantinP, nos encontramos ante un
nuevo orden de cosas y la pobre excepción, si tiene br.os para combatir, sale al fin
victoriosa y todos son parabienes y felicitaciones, como en el cuento de a1uella cenicienta
humillada y maltratada por su madrastraK <MierHe+aard, ;==F: ;@@>6
(Un cuento de hadas para las )umanidades* (Un -ue+o apasionado* (Una posse*
Probablemente los tres6 #omo MierHe+aard al+una ve5 escribió, 3una persona puede ser
cautelosa sobre adónde ponerse seriaK6
Eiblio+raf.a
7errida, !6 <@FII> 'imited 1nc6 Evanston, 'llinois: Northwestern University Press6
MierHe+aard, S6 <@FIS> Fear and Trembling: 3epetition <editada por )6 )on+ X E6 )on+>6
Princeton: Princeton University Press6
\\\\\\\\\\\\6 <;==F> 'a repetición, un ensayo de psicolog!a experimental6 'ntroducción
de !or+e Palacio 8 traducción directa del dan/s y notas de 7emetrio ?uti/rre5 $ivero6
%lian5a editorial6 "adrid6
Schellin+, &6 W6 !6 <@FF=> /orlesungen uber die Methode des a9ademischen -tudium6
)ambur+: "einer6
20
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\6 <;==I> 'ecciones sobre el m(todo de los estudios acad(micos6
Editorial Gosada6 Euenos %ires6
21
Culture Machine, InterZone

Responding: A Discussion with Samuel Weber
Samuel Weber, Simon Morgan Wortham and Gary Hall
The following interview was conducted by email correspondence during September 200! "n
September th, the World Trade #enter in $ew %or& was destroyed and the 'entagon badly damaged
by a series of attac&s! (lthough the interview had initially been conceived as a contribution to a
collection of essays on the wor& of Samuel Weber which would concern itself with the discussion of his
wor& in general, the participants felt compelled to respond to these events! )n what follows immediate
reactions to the attac&s and subse*uent developments as they unfolded therefore contend + perhaps
uneasily, but also perhaps productively + with a series of reflections on Weber,s thin&ing, writing and
critical practice over a number of years! What characterises the discussion overall, in terms both of its
,content, and its very ,ta&ing place,, is the *uestion of a critical or ,theoretical, discourse acting itself
out in relation to a series of phenomena, acts or events to which it is bound to respond! )t is a matter
of -udgement whether this distinctive and distinguishing trait of the discussion pulls it apart, or
whether in some way it pulls it together! .ut such a characteristic trait nevertheless engages a whole
set of *uestions and problems /to do with repetition, singularity, the uncanny, and so forth0 which in
turn might be ta&en as characteristic of the wor& of Samuel Weber! 1uestions and responses have
been dated to preserve and to highlight the temporal dimension of the ,event, + both of the interview
ta&ing place, and of the occurrences happening on an international scale that the discussion could not
help but address!
Simon Morgan Wortham and Gary Hall (10.9.2001)
Samuel Weber, ta&ing into account a large body of wor& written over a number of years, the range
and scope of your interests is obviously very varied and broad! 2or instance, you write on
psychoanalysis, literature, philosophy, aesthetics, the media, technics and technology, institutions,
and theater! (nd yet what is stri&ing is the e3tent to which certain te3ts, readings, and critical moves
tend to be revisited or replayed on a variety of different occasions! To ta&e -ust one e3ample4 you
return more than once to the *uestion of aesthetic and reflective -udgement in 5ant, to show how, in
this part of 5ant,s critical philosophy, cognition and -udgement ta&e place on condition of an other!
2rom this point onwards, you are able to discuss problems of aesthetic form, of parergon and
institution, and of the ,fateful and ambiguous legacy, that 5ant be*ueaths to the institution of the
humanities! .ut this reading also allows you to suggest that such processes or operations of cognition
tend to theatricali6e &nowledge, to transform the grounds of &nowledge into a rather more unsteady +
or, even, comedic + platform upon which we witness certain styles of mimicry being performed or
staged! Here, then, the ambivalence that attends humanistic &nowledge seems to rest upon a
*uestion of theater! 2urthermore, in Mass Mediauras, the 5antian problem of aesthetic -udgement
would in turn appear to set off your wor& on Heidegger and his account of the ,goings+on, of technics!
)n this conte3t, technological understanding, activity and development depend on very ambivalent
processes of securing and unsecuring that begin to unravel as man endeavours to ,gain a stand, and
to ,establish himself, by means of the &nowledge of beings that Heidegger calls techn7. Technological
man thus orients himself in a way that begins to look rather theatrical and, to go further, perhaps
even spectacularly comedic. Such a problem of orientation, then, connects a discussion of technics
and technology to problems of cognition and judgement, to questions of aesthetics and form, to the
matter of theater and, indeed, to the problematics of institution.
In returning to a particular tet or reading, then, such connections, reorientations or transformations
obviously emerge in a way that powerfully assumes and replays the problematics of repetition and
iteration that are discussed in a number of places in your work. !ere, the relationship between what is
singular and what is universal becomes very complicated, to say the least. "ut perhaps you might
care to say something more eplicit about the conceptual grounds of the key #terminology# you
deploy$ for eample, #technics#, #ambivalence#, #institution#, #theater#. Is it at all possible that the re%
readings or repetitions that characterise your work rest upon any kind of quasi%transcendental term or
terms& 'ould this be a source of orientation& !ow else might you describe what is going on when one
begins to have the % perhaps uncanny % eperience of going over #familiar ground# in your writing&
22
Samuel Weber (10.09.2001)
%our *uestion, which addresses the ,uncanny,, is itself not a little uncanny, at least for me! 8specially
since ),m sure that however ) respond, ) won,t be able to avoid a certain repetition, and hence,
doubtless a certain ,familiarity,! 9et,s hope it,s an uncanny one!
$iet6sche, who together with 5ier&egaard placed the *uestion of repetition, recurrence, 'iederkehr on
the agenda ++: $iet6sche writes somewhere that with passing years one finds oneself returning to
certain *uestions that seem to change very little over time! These *uestions, which function as a &ind
of bedroc& of identity, are more difficult to ,lose, than to retain! Whether this ,bedroc&, becomes a
source of strength and discovery, or a prison, depends on how those *uestions ,return,4 whether they
primarily only ,determine,, in the simply restrictive sense of setting limits, or, whether, the limits they
trace gesture towards a space not simply contained within the area they demarcate! This is one of the
reasons why a sense of the ,uncanny, ++: indeed an openness to it ++: is indispensable, if one is to
avoid the &ind of entropy that a purely obsessive recurrence would entail!
There certainly is a dimension of ,familiarity, in my writings, but ) try to thin& of it, to relate to it, as
something other than a simple ground! (lthough ) hesitate to limit it to a single name, if ) were forced
to, ) would ta&e the one, or rather, the series you have mentioned and ) have begun to e3tend4
,repetition,, ,iterability,, as ,uncanny, *uestions, and as the *uestion of the uncanny!
This set, or series of related /but not identical0 terms mar&s a certain discovery, an ,e3perience, in the
sense of (rfahrung, traversal or tra-ectory, ,peripeteia without anagnoresis, to vary the (ristotelian
formula! "r perhaps, thin&ing of .ec&ett, ,anagnoresis as peripeteia,, a formula for the uncanny
recognition of something that, in being the same, reveals itself to be different!
)n the course of my thin&ing, that tra-ectory begins with (dorno,s condemnation of the ,Immergleiche,
++ of that which is ,ever+the+same, ++ as a form of repetition, through 2reud,s ,repetition compulsion,
that is both ,always the same, and yet never entirely appropriable, to ;errida,s use of repetition to
deconstruct the Husserlian notion of ,ideality, as the monological /and prelinguistic0 discourse of the
soul with itself /in Speech and )henomenon0, ,<epetition, has, it seems, haunted me for a long time,
first in the guise of a polemical ob-ect of criticism /(dorno, Marcuse0, then as a problematic discovery
/2reud0 leading to an even more problematic hypothesis /,the death+drive,0: and finally ++ but of
course, there is no finality here, only finitude ++ finally, to ;errida,s compelling formulation of
,iterability, /in ,Signature 8vent #onte3t, and *imited Inc.0 and to 5ier&egaard,s theatricali6ation
of +jentagelsen %% ,ta&ing again, /,reprise, is the provocative rendering of a recent 2rench translation0!
,(gain,,against ++ this recurrence of the motif of ,repetition, has been more than a *uestion ++ rather, a
challenge to which ) have had little choice but to respond!
( challenge, in the sense of defying whatever ) thought ) understood by the word, or set of words! "f
this challenge, let me -ust mention two interrelated aspects! ,irst, that, as 5ier&egaard ++ or rather, as
#onstantin #onstantius, the narrative figure who fictionali6es authorship in +jentagelse ++ states,
repetition, in contrast to recollection /anamnesis0, is directed towards the future, not towards the
past! That certainly doesn,t ma&e sense, not at first sight at least! Which is why it is interesting, and
challenges one to thin& further! Second, the difference, on which ;errida in his debate with Searle
insists, between ,iterability, and ,iteration, /or, if you will, between ,repeatability, and ,repetition,04 The
difference between something that simply ,is,, whose mode of being can be ade*uately articulated in
the present indicative ++ iteration ++ as an act or occurrence that is present+to+itself, and something
that ,e3ists,, if it e3ists at all, as a &ind of possibility /in *imited Inc. ;errida calls it a ,structural
possibility,0! ( ,&ind of possibility, in the sense of one that is no longer defined by the oppositional logic
of identity, which is to say, as being the opposite of ,reality, or ,actuality, /the difference between
these two terms can be ignored in our conte3t0! 2or what distinguishes iterability from iteration is that
it does not necessarily imply or entail the possibility of its enactment4 it entails a possibility that is not
a sub+species or dialectical other of ,reality, as self+fulfilment, actuali6ation or self+presence! "r, to use
a category that has proved useful for me over the years, as a form of self%containment! Hence, for
;errida, iterability, far from designating a possible reali6ation, is ,actually, much closer to
,impossibility,, inasmuch as its mode of being is such that it never fully ,ta&es place,, a process that
;errida early on associated with a certain ,theatricality, /my term, not necessarily his04 for instance, in
his reading of Mallarm7,s short te3t, Mimique /in *a double s-ance, the ,;ouble Session,0!
23
This con-ugation of ,possibility, and ,impossibility, as non+e3clusive, and indeed as convergent
/although again, not simply identical0, is one of the traits or tendencies that ) find e3emplified in a
certain &ind of ,theatricality,! $ot necessarily in ,theater,, and not necessarily in everything that one
would call ,theatrical,, but in the *uestions and problems, challenges and in-unctions that distinguish
the history of ,theatricality, ++ if one can spea& of such a history in the singular! "ne of the things that
has struc& me, in rethin&ing this history, certain parts of it at least, is the lin& between ,iterability,, in
8nglish at least, and various forms of the present participle, including the ,gerund,! )t is as if the
con-ugation of possibility with impossibility can be e3emplified in what we call ,acting,, as distinct from
,action,, ,act, or ,actual/ity0,4 acting lac&s the &ind of reality usually associated with the present
indicative, and yet it is bound up with ,indication, ++ although it is one that is never simply ,present,
inasmuch as it is repetitive! (t the same time, its ,repetition, is a rehearsal that is directed not -ust
towards the past but above all towards the future ++ which, however, it will never fully ,attain, /i!e!
render present, actuali6e0! This is why it is important to distinguish such iterative theatricality from
,performance, and ,performative,, which often /if not always0 imply the reali6ation of an intention, of a
purpose!
=nderstood in this way, you can see how such theatricali6ation could be situated in a series going
bac&, at least, to 5ant,s definition of the beautiful as ,purposiveness without purpose,! The aesthetic
-udgement of beauty is addressed at something that is so immediately present that it can never be
self+present, never identified! )t remains purely indicative, a pointing+towards, a.weckm/ssigkeit
ohne .weck! .ut this ,pointing towards, turns out, in 5ant at least, to be even more a ,pointing away,
++ away from wherever it is at, and what it seems to be! 5ant tries to synthesi6e this double
movement in his notion of ,reflective -udgement,, but the notion only reproduces the split, since it
designates a refle3ivity that never arrives at its destination4 a refle3ivity without reflection, one could
say, although ),m not at all sure that 5ant would have been very happy with that formulation! .ut if
one reads the Third #riti*ue closely, one discovers that what 5ant is describing, or rather trying to
describe, is not a self+contained state but rather closer to the unstable aporia of a unity so self+
contained that it tends to dissolve before our very eyes! This is why the ,as if, has to intervene so
constantly, indeed so obsessively in that te3t, creating one parenthetic *ualification after another, as
5ant literally /or rather syntactically0 ties himself into &nots trying to articulate something according to
a logic of identity it tends to undo! 5ant,s account of the aesthetic -udgment of taste is a latter+day
version of another of $iet6sche,s favourite anecdotes4 that of #ratylus outdoing his teacher,
Heraclitus, when he notes that one cannot step into the same river ,even once,! "nly 5ant doesn,t
thin& that he is telling stories! ! ! or does he>
) haven,t touched on the ,technical, part of your *uestion! 9et me -ust say that the presentation of
iterability that distinguishes theatrical ,representation, puts a particular spin on the *uestion of
,technics,! )f one remembers the earliest, pre+Heideggerian definitions of techn- as involving a
prosthetic supplement of an internal lac&, then theatrical iterability locates that ,lac&, in and as the
,act, of an ,actuality, that must be repeatable in order to be enacted! The ,en+, of ,enactment, is thus
inseparable from the ,e3+, of an iterability that can never be self+contained! ,Theatricality, is what
results when the impossibility of self+containment is e3posed by iterability as a scene which is
inevitably a ,stage,, but which, as such, is determined by that which surrounds it, by what we call a
,theater,! More affirmatively formulated, the impossibility of closure opens the scene to a space of
alterity that is always provisionally embodied in and, even more, eposed as an ,audience, ++ singular
noun for an irreducibly heteroclite stand+in! The ,audience, stands in for the others, those who were
and those who will be ++ and perhaps even more, for those who will never come to be! "f course, it is
in the nature of our socio+economic system, in an age of ,globali6ation,, to do everything possible to
appropriate and domesticate such ,standing+in, so that it see&s to fulfil itself in and as actual
consumption! The audience is thus considered by the commercial media predominantly, if not
e3clusively, as potential consumers!
Simon Morgan Wortham and Gary Hall (10.09.2001)
)resumably, then, the #age of #globali0ation# % as your work itself would indicate, and as you#ve
perhaps hinted just now % is not and cannot be merely opposed to the issue and effects of
#theatricality#, in which case the problem of, for want of a better term, the parergon which seems to
re%emerge in the description you#ve just given of theatricali0ed space would also impose itself in any
analysis of the globali0ed, technological age of today&
24
Samuel Weber (12.09.2001)
2rom the point of view ) have begun to outline, ,theatricality, can provide a particular interesting way
of approaching ,globali6ation,! )f one thin&s about the word itself4 the notion of the world as ,globe,
suggests two things! 2irst, something visible! Second, as a sphere, something self+contained! ( ,world,
is not necessarily visible4 a ,globe, is, at least potentially! )t is a visible+estalt! (s such, it implies a
viewer! .ut this is no ordinary ,globe,4 it is, as -ust mentioned, a globe that contains everything! )t is
planetary, the site of all life as we &now it, and in particular, of all human life! ,Globali6ation, in this
sense implies totality /although not, in the literal sense, ,universality,04 it defines the space or site of
all options open to life in general, and to human life in particular! (s a sphere, it is self+contained,
even if it is not all+inclusive! Self+contained also suggests self+sufficient4 the globe is the site of a life
that can, and must, ta&e care of itself!
(nd yet, as a visible +estalt, anything that is ,global, is also an ob-ect of perception and of
understanding! (n ob-ect of consciousness and of cognition! .ut as the site of all life as we &now it ++
and it is hardly an accident that ,globali6ation, coe3ists with, and perhaps encourages, a heightened
fascination with the ,e3traterrestrial, ++ ,globali6ation, names not so much an ob-ect as the conditions
for all ob-ectification, the conditions of cognition and of action! This is why we spea& of ,globali0ation,
and not -ust of the ,globe, or the ,global,! ,Global war,, for instance, is a term that antedates the age of
,globali6ation,! ,Globali0ation, is aprocess by which the world of possibilities is at the same
time totali0ed and restricted! This is why it serves as an appropriate figure to name a certain vision of
the world in the post+#old+War period! The term, ,globali6ation, does not merely emphasise the
transnational interdependence of different parts of the world4 it implies that there is no longer
any alternative to the not so new world order of ,late, capitalism, and to the relations of power and
hierarchies of sub-ugation that this order entails!
)t implies this in a message that may often be transmitted subliminally, but that see&s to eliminate all
ambiguity! $evertheless, ,globali6ation, remains highly ambiguous, as a term and as a process, not so
much in its message as in its means of address! 2or ,globali6ation, does not merely name a world+
wide, socio+economic process4 it also constitutes an address and an in-unction, one that demands a
response, which can vary between enthusiastic acceptance, and passionate re-ection! "r also,
resigned indifference, since the primary message conveyed by the word is that there can be no
alternative! 83cept ,fanaticism,, ,terrorism,, and other forms of brutal irrationality! Globali6ation, as
embodied in ,the media, ++ television above all, but also to a large e3tent in the print media ++ is
presented as the only game in town, or rather, in the world! (nd this message is reinforced by the
very e3istence and manifestation of media which themselves are part and parcel of its structure! Since
there is ostensibly no alternative to ,globali6ation,, in a world where ostentation and media are
inseparable, the only response reserved for the audience is that of fundamental ac*uiescence, if not
legitimation, in relation to the process, which in any case is presented as inevitable! $evertheless, the
media re*uire this response in order that the process, which claims to be total and yet self+contained,
can find its enabling limit! That limit is the ac*uiescence of the audience, by which the other, and
alterity, is placed in the position of the consumer! 8verything that globali6ation is not and cannot be is
thus concentrated in and as its audience, which it produces as the limit that a capitalism+without+
alternative strives both to produce and to appropriate!
)n ;erridean terms, one might say that the problem of the ,parergon, returns today in the form of the
theatricali6ed audience4 does it ,belong, to the ,wor&, as its intrinsic other, the way the consumer
belongs to the process of production as its inner edge> "r does it split and dislocate such a dialectic by
relating that which it delimits to what is irreducibly other> "r does it do both, and if so, in what
proportions>
???
To ta&e a horrific instance, one that is all too current at the time we are discussing this, but which will
have become a more distant memory by the time our discussion reaches its ,audience,, or rather
readers4 %esterday, September th, 200, was the day on which the World Trade #enter was
destroyed and the 'entagon badly damaged by what is called, understandably, a ,terrorist, attac&! The
destruction was transmitted, ,in real time,, by television throughout the world, provo&ing in the ,West,
reactions of horror, and in parts of the $ear 8ast /and perhaps elsewhere0, spontaneous e3pressions
of -oy! These two very different responses seem to have nothing in common! (nd yet they share at
25
least one interpretation of the destruction, which was presumably at the core both of the horror and of
the -oy4 the discovery that no place on the globe could any longer consider itself safe, which is to
say, immune to the violent effects of ,globali6ation,! (mong the images of the destruction which
returned incessantly on the television screen, one seemed to sum up one of the lessons of the horror4
a pla*ue which was all that was left of one of the destroyed buildings, upon which was written4 ,"ne
World #enter,! (nd among the countless associations provo&ed by this remaining inscription, one that
occurred to me, was that in today,s ,"ne World,, the ,#enter, was no longer safe from the ,periphery,!
The sight of the two enormous towers not -ust collapsing, but imploding and disappearing into
themselves, producing a huge cloud of dust and rubble, racing towards the camera, and implicitly,
towards the millions of viewers all over the world who sat in disbelief riveted to their screens ++ all of
this e3posed the ,"ne World #enter, to be as vulnerable as the peripheries! Was ) the only viewer who
was reminded of the chilling television depiction of The 1ay 2fter, the white dust which coated
everything in the ,nuclear winter, that followed a nuclear war between West and 8ast> Was ) the only
one for whom the billowing clouds that rose from the collapsing towers recalled the mushroom clouds
of previous nuclear e3plosions> (nd who then had to ac&nowledge that the spectacular destruction of
September th was the result not of a high tech e3plosion, but of a low tech collision ++ one that was
clearly highly organi6ed and carefully planned, and e3ecuted with military precision, but apparently
with the technology of the ,periphery,, rather than that of the center!
2rom this standpoint, at least, September th has revealed the vulnerability of the most powerful
political and economic structures, both in the literal and figurative sense! (nd in doing this it mar&s
the end of an illusion ++ that of a locus amoenuse3isting at the center of the world+system! .ut at the
same time, the bad tidings of this revelation are probably also e3perienced by many as a confirmation
of their most deeply rooted fears, as well a confirmation of the sense of powerlessness which is also
one of the primary conditions of docile spectatordom!
The notion of ,theatricali6ation, includes this possibility ++ that of the docile, reactive, passive and
an3ious ,beholder, ++ but it can also reinscribe it in a space that e3ceeds the frame of spectacle and
spectator! The danger is that such ,e3cess, will be e3perienced only as a source of an3iety and panic,
and will thus be re-ected and foreclosed by the &ind of paranoiac spiral that words such as ,terrorism,
and ,fanaticism, are designed to -ustify and promote!
Simon Morgan Wortham and Gary Hall (15.09.2001)
2n initial reaction concerning what you#ve just said about recent events in the 3nited States would be
that the value of your remarks at this time is certain, even if, as you seem to hint, they are bound
inevitably to become an historical artefact$ in a sense, a part, however small, of the #events#
themselves. 2nd this, in turn, might prompt us to wonder about the complicated processes or
relationships of partaking, participation and apartness upon which such a response % perhaps any sort
of response % to these #events# inevitably rests. 4f course, the terms being used here deliberately
recall, recite or replay key themes and issues within your own work, not least with regard to a whole
range of questions having to do with criticism, spectatorship, viewpoint or standpoint, knowledge,
judgement, etc. These questions installthemselves, one might say, in philosophy and aesthetics, in
literary, cultural and media studies, but also in the realms of politics, technologi0ation, globali0ation.
4f course, some might find such reflections, or rather such self%refleivity concerning the place or
standpoint of any such critical response, to move in a direction that becomes rather self%regarding
and, ultimately, a bit detached. 4n the other hand, by invoking the unstable dynamics of participation
and apartness, as part of an appeal or injunction which in turn raises once more the question of
parergon, limit, boundary or frame, such concerns could surely be viewed as entirely inseparable from
what is most pressing among current international, political issues. 2nd here again, in the very
determination of the value or import of the question, the ambivalent interplay of apartness and
participation imposes itself once more.
That said, it is also striking that there would seem to be a % perhaps uncanny % link between the
question with which we began, concerning the uncanny, the response on your part, and subsequent
events that have interrupted or imposed themselves upon this discussion. ,or instance, there is, in
the first place, your awareness that what occurred on September 55th, 6775 #will have become a
more distant memory by the time our discussion reaches its 8audience8, or rather readers# %
presumably because this is what has happened to similar events in the past. Immediate responses
26
soon become reconsidered, mediated, overwritten, transformed. There are already claims on the 9et
that the images which you refer to, of people in the 9ear (ast celebrating the attacks on the 3S, are
in fact from old :99 footage dating from 5;;5.5 4n top of which is the fact that the events
themselves resembled the #theatrical# spectacles provided by any number of 2merican films
<)ndependence ;ay, Mars (ttac&s, which themselves link to the #heightened fascination with the
#8etraterrestrial### you speak of= % and one might note reports in the press that the release dates of a
number of forthcoming films have been cancelled or postponed due to such similarities <2rnold
Schwar0enegger#s #ollateral ;amage, for eample, which contains scenes of a building in *2 being
blown up, Swordfish, which has a city block being bombed, or .ig Trouble, which involves a bomb on
a plane=. 2ll this seems to add up to an uncanny sense, even when watching the events live on
Tuesday and being acutely aware of their singularity, that we have been here before> that we are
being haunted by a certain repetition which is both ##always the same# and yet never entirely
appropriable# % presenting us with a #challenge# to which we have, as you have said, #little choice but
to respond#.
Samuel Weber (16.09.2001)
9et me respond, first, to the end of your comment, about the deprogramming of Hollywood
catastrophe films, either new ones scheduled to come out in the near future, or older ones, which
were to be shown on television /several such films will not be shown in the coming wee&s as planned
on 2rench television0! (lthough ) assume that such deprogramming is a fairly general phenomenon,
there is perhaps an additional development here in 2rance that is e*ually significant! The wee& or so
before the destruction of the World Trade #enter and the attac& on the 'entagon, television viewers in
2rance were treated to a rather unusual advertisement! )t showed a wor&er cleaning the window of a
s&yscraper, when suddenly a glaring light coming from a mirror far below, in the street, blinds him but
also the viewers themselves! Then, the wor&er loses his balance, and falls to certain death! .ut
instead of stri&ing the pavement, his body miraculously hits the roof of a car, a 2rench car traditionally
&nown for the spongy comfort of its suspension! The wor&er is saved!
"n September th, that ad disappeared, presumably forever, from television and cinema screens! )t
was replaced by the sight of other bodies, this time ,real ones,, falling to their death from far greater
heights! "ne of the effects of this, e3pected and feared, is a very different &ind of ,fall, tomorrow,
when the (merican stoc&+e3changes open, for the first time in almost a wee&! ,#onsumer confidence,,
already badly sha&en, is e3pected to be not the least significant of the ,collateral damage, caused by
the attac&s! .ut was not at least one of the underlying conditions of this ,catastrophe, already
,mirrored,, as it were, in the ad that ran during the wee& preceding the attac&s> )f only the miraculous
presence of the automobile below ,saved, the falling body from the fate visited upon the thousands
caught in the upper stories of the two towers of the World Trade #enter Towers on September th,
what can be said about ,the fear of falling, to which the advertisement appealed, -ust prior to the
catastrophe> This ad, li&e all good advertising, struc& a chord, was attuned to the e3pectations of its
audience, even and especially those that are not necessarily conscious or avowed! 2or instance, the
danger that provo&ed /,triggered,0 the fall of the window+washer, also affected the spectators
watching it4 they, li&e he, were momentarily blinded by the glare! Where did the glare come from>
Watching that ad, one could hardly avoid thin&ing of a deliberate, malicious, malevolent act4 someone
manipulating a mirror in order to blind the victim! .ut the ,victim, who is blinded also includes the
beholder of the ad, to whom it is addressed! This puts the spectators, as potential consumers, in an
,analogous, position to the victim, who is saved by the potential ob-ect of consumption, the car!
The spectators watching the ad are of course the ,commodity, that commercial television sells to its
clients, the advertisers! Their sight, and hence their status as spectators, are both ,struc&, by the
same glare that causes the ,wor&er, ++ the ,sight, they are given to see ++ to fall to an almost certain
death! "nly the automobile, a specific, distinct automobile, ,saves, the wor&er! .y implication ++
however ,ironic, and even silly it may seem ++ only consumption of the commodity in *uestion can
,save, the spectator! ,;atsun Saves@, A2rom what> 2rom the 2all, which, in the tradition of the
religions of the .oo&, at least, means guilt and death!
This is not the place to develop the lin&s between commodity consumption, on the one hand, and the
notion of salvation on the other! )t may therefore suffice to note that in both, what is at sta&e
is guilt on the one hand, and survival on the other! (nd not -ust survival, but survival of
an individual who, otherwise, qua individual is condemned to perish! This is also what lin&s the ad )
27
have -ust discussed to the Hollywood catastrophe films to which you refer, in which, almost always,
the threat of disaster is averted or surmounted by the action of a single heroic individual! )ndividuals,
as a ,class,, category or collective, are vulnerable to ,terrorists,, and only a heroic individual or, less
fre*uently, a small group of individuals, can ,save, them! The action of anisolated individual redeems
individual passivity and vulnerability, in the Hollywood scenarios at least!
That scenario is above all what September th has rendered obsolete! $o .ruce Willis, (rnold
Schwar6enegger, Harrison 2ord could ,save, that day! Whether active or passive, the main role
assigned to individuals on that day was that of perishing, or running from a danger that could hardly
be circumscribed, much less effectively countered4 billowing clouds of white smo&e sowing panic
before their advance /towards the cameras! ! !0! (nd the main role assigned to the political
embodiment of that sort of individualism was confusion and flight, symboli6ed by a 'resident of the
=nited States who is warned not to return ,home, but instead ,flies, ++ or rather, is flown ++ from
military base to military base, in an effort to avoid the invisible dangers!
The spectre of invisibility persists in the aftermath of the attac&s! (ll ma-or figures of the (merican
government, together with .ritish 'rime Minister Tony .lair, insist that a ,war, has bro&en out! .ut this
war is haunted by enemies who, in the words of 'resident .ush, ,believe they are invisible! %et they
are mista&en! They will be e3posed and they will discover what others in the past have learned4 Those
who ma&e war against the =nited States have chosen their own destruction, /<adio (ddress,
September B, 2000!
However, such enemies must first be located in order to be destroyed! (nd in order to be located, they
must be ,seen,! With astonishing rapidity, an automobile is found with the 5oran, flight manuals,
maps, and other unmista&able indications! Within two days, pictures and names of the hi-ac&ers are
flashed across the screens, their whereabouts and histories described in detail! .ut the direct
perpetrators themselves can no longer be sei6ed, much less punished! (ll the more important, then,
to be able to name and depict ++ i!e! see ++ and thus to call to account the mastermind of the
destruction! The importance attached to the figure of the individual ++ above all, to the face, but also
to the body once again, as previously in the Gulf War ++ culminates in the identification of a new,
Satanic /)slamic0 (nti+#hrist! Within hours of the attac&s, the bearded figure of ,"sama bin 9aden,
appears on television and computer screens throughout the world as ,prime suspect,! Somewhat less
prominence is given to his writings, with the notable e3ception of the fatwa of CCD, signed by "sama
bin 9aden but also by a number of other persons, proclaiming that ,The ruling to &ill the (mericans
and their allies ++ civilians and military ++ is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any
country in which it is possible to do it,! This phrase is *uoted again and again, without any indication
that it is part of a larger statement, the remainder of which is almost never cited4 ,! ! !in order to
liberate the al+(*sa Mos*ue and the holy mos*ue EMeccaF from their grip, and in order for their
armies to move out of all the lands of )slam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim,! The
amputation of the arguments upon which the fatwa is based, as well as the focus on a single individual
or group, provides the groundwor& for the preparation of the #rusade against the (nti+#hrist, if not for
the War of #ivili6ations between the Gudaeo+#hristian and Moslem worlds long prophesi6ed by Samuel
Huntington!
The notion of a ,War of #ivili6ation, ++ or rather, of #ivili6ation against the .arbarians ++ strives to
promote the sense of ,distance, between friend and enemy so necessary to the detached positioning of
the omniscient and secure observer! )t also prepares those observers to embrace a solution of the
conflict through military intervention! What you refer to as ,participation, is ac&nowledged, but few
conse*uences are drawn from it that might disturb this ,friend+enemy, dichotomy! The fact that
Western governments, and in particular the =5 and =S, have historically sought to defend their
interests in the (rab world by supporting authoritarian and often conservative, theological, and
political forms of )slam ++ the Saudi (rabian Wahhabi )slam is probably the most visible instance, but
by no means the only one ++ while often, and concomitantly, wea&ening secular political governments
and groups ++ this history is, of course, ,ac&nowledged, but also ,isolated,, in the 2reudian sense, which
is to say, cut off from its conse*uences, the most terrible of which we have -ust e3perienced, but
whose conse*uences may prove to be even more destructive!
This is -ust one crass instance of how the systematic denial of ,participation, in the name of a
Manichean dualism of friend and enemy can contribute to the dangerous situation in which we now
find ourselves! The same forces that participated in fostering the conditions and promoting the rise of
28
,)slamic 2undamentalism, are now obliged to destroy those parts of it that have escaped their control!
(n old story, but with new and terrifying conse*uences, since the ,center, can no longer ta&e for
granted that it will be protected from the events of ,the periphery,! (nd it is li&ely that this all too
-ustified fear will now be e3ploited to strengthen the very forces and situations that brought it about in
the first place!
Simon Morgan Wortham and Gary Hall (17.09.2001)
'ith regard to events of #the periphery# returning to haunt the #centre#, and concerning also the idea
of decentered networks of opposition which are often hard to locate and see, we might come back, a
little differently perhaps, to the issue of #globali0ation#. 'hat do you make of a different form of
asymmetrical attack on the #'est#$ what might be said of the anti%globali0ation protestors <of Seattle,
)rague, +enoa, the anti%sweatshop campaigns directed at the likes of +ap by some students in some
universities in the 3nited States, and so forth=& In particular, how do these protestors fit into your
analysis of 2merican liberal society, for eample in )nstitution and )nterpretation& 4ne thinks
specifically of the chapter on #:apitali0ing !istory#, which includes an analysis that is based on a
reading of !art0#s The 9iberal Tradition in (merica. 2re these #protests# <one is wary of terming
something so decentred a #movement#= just introducing conflict into a pluralist, non%conflictual space&
4r is this space being revealed as conflictual by these protests&
2nd if so, is there any etent to which this is a result or an effect of what, for shorthand, might be
termed #theory# <in its very broadest conceptuali0ation= %%> despite and for all of 9aomi ?lein#s indirect
critique of the latter in her book $o 9ogo %%> given that it was #theory# which #relegitimi0ed# such
#conflict#, not just #within# fields and institutions, but #of# fields and institutions, for you there& ?lein
interestingly sees what she labels as #identity politics#, and with which she associates #postmodern
academics# and the #theory# of +ayatri Spivak, as the immediate precursor of the anti%globali0ation
protestors$ it is against such #identity politics# that the current generation is in part re%acting,
apparently. ?lein is thus just one of those who have recently chastised #theory# <among other things=
for #not being political enough#, in favour of a concern for the #real#, the material and the economic.
"ut isn#t the idea precisely of a re%action to #theory#, as well as your notion of theory relegitimi0ing a
certain kind of conflict, bound to create problems for this kind of approach&
Samuel Weber (17.09.2001)
To create a bridge from our previous discussion to your *uestions, an article in today,s International
!erald Tribune describes al%@a#ida /the ,.ase,0, the organi6ation founded by "sama bin 9aden and
accused by =S authorities of being responsible for last wee&,s attac&s, as an ,e3ample of globali6ation,
/5aren ;e%oung and Michael ;obbs, I!T, C!H!00! The comparison could be illuminating! What the
authors have in mind is not -ust the international scope of the organi6ation, but its mode of operation,
the relation of the individual, relatively autonomous groups, operating all over the world, to the chain
of command, its ,base,, presumably situated in the Middle 8ast and very li&ely in (fghanistan! The
very notion of ,base, seems to change, given that it seems to include alliances of different sorts
/tactical, strategic0 with other groups, not directly lin&ed to "sama bin 9aden! The notion of
,globali6ation, thus is associated not -ust with world+wide reach, but with an organi6ational structure in
which the relation of ,parts, to ,whole, is very different from traditional ,organic, structures, be they of
a traditional military sort, or a traditional political+conspiratorial sort /i!e! the ,democratic centralism,
of revolutionary #ommunist parties0! Such a transformed structure, which permits what is probably an
even greater autonomy to the individual units than in conspiratorial groups of the past, is probably
itself a response to the changed needs of such groups, faced with the technology of globali6ation and
the new means of surveillance and repression it has developed! Such surveillance is epitomi6ed on the
one hand by the spy satellites that are capable literally of surveying the ,globe,, and on the other hand
by the networ& ,8chelon, based mainly in the (nglophone countries of the world4 the =S, Great .ritain,
(ustralia, $ew Iealand and their possessions!
.ut the comparison becomes truly suggestive when, against this bac&ground of commonality, one
begins to discern some of the differences between the global *uality of an organi6ation such as al%
@a#ida and what is generally understood, and practised, as ,globali6ation,! $ot for nothing was the
prime target in the attac&s of the past wee&s two buildings &nown as ,The World Trade #enter,! (s )
already have suggested, the ,fundamentalists, are not *uite as ,fundamental, as this label might
suggest! They targeted, and destroyed, the symbol of World Trade4 i!e! not -ust of Globali6ation, and
29
not -ust of (merican or Western or of Gudaeo+#hristian #ivili6ation, but of World 2inance #apitalism!
This is a point that is being studiously obscured in the (merican media, although obviously it cannot
be entirely ignored! However, there is a rather *uic& generali6ation that ta&es place in this discourse,
in which ,finance, and ,trade, are replaced by ,freedom, and ,civili6ation,, in order to portray the
attac&ers as ,fanatics, and ,fundamentalists,!
To stri&e at the World Trade #enter, and then at the 'entagon /with either the White House or the
#apitol as the third intended target0 is thus to use certain aspects of ,globali6ation, ++ the dispersed,
decentered, portable and transportable aspects of its technology ++ against the primary aim of
Globali6ation as it dominates the world today, which is the e3traction and appropriation of profit
through the production and circulation of commodities! The ,religious, program to e3pel Western
infidels from the holy areas of )slam is inseparable from a socio+economic situation caused by a
historically specific political relation of forces!2
The symbolic significance of the attac& on the symbol of global finance, The World Trade #enter,
together with the symbol of the state institution that maintain the present relation of forces
throughout the world, namely, the 'entagon ++ all of this is, in the words of a 2rench specialist on
international law, 'rofessor .rigitte 5lein, ,breathta&ing, in its precision! )t is ,real, and ,symbolic,, and
the ,symbolic, element contributes and adds to the ,real,!
So if the attac&s on these symbols were made possible by an organi6ation that shared certain traits
with ,globali6ation,, and in this sense was indeed ,part, of it, they were also clearly intended to call
attention to and discredit certain other aspects of the very same process! (nd yet, there is another
constituent of this ,action, that clearly distinguishes it from the capitalist mainstream of Globali6ation!
)t is what is referred to, not accidentally, as its ,&ami&a6e, element4 the readiness to give one,s life to
accomplish one,s goal! This is a dimension which, unless ) am sorely mista&en, is fundamentally
missing from what might be called the mainstream ,culture, of Globali6ation, inasmuch at least as the
dominant aim of that culture ++ that which determines the primary directions in which it moves ++ is
that of the private appropriation of profit and the increased level of consumption which that
appropriation ma&es possible! This is the point where what has been called a ,war of civili6ations, may
not be an entirely ideological phrase ++ although it is clearly one that is being used to obscure more
than to enlighten!
9et me illustrate what ) have in mind by pointing to another ad, this time a full+page ad published in
the September Jth issue of the International !erald Tribune /and doubtless elsewhere as well0! The
entire bac&ground of the page is blue+grey, HB per cent is s&y, 2B per cent is fro6en tundra! "n what
appears to be the fro6en surface of a la&e, not far from one of the poles, three tiny figures can be
seen, two children and one adult! "ne of the tiny child+figures appears to be bent forward, s&ating or
s&iing perhaps, in any event poised for something, balancing! SKhe is observed, a few feet away, by
an adult! ( second child is wal&ing towards the two others from the side! High above this scene, two
words stand out in large, white type4 ,We,re out,! 2our inches lower, in much smaller white type, the
message4 ,Lodafone Loicemail! Get away from it all! Well, for an hour or two,! 2urther down still, the
line4 ,How are you>,! (nd finally, not far from the three small figures, who are enclosed in a bubble,
li&e those in which comic+strip characters spea&, the message4 ,The people you need are only a touch
away,!
)n the immediate aftermath of September th, nothing, of course, loo&s or is the same as it might
have seemed before! The poignant appeals coming from the cell+phones of those trapped in the
burning towers, were cries of goodbye, of leave+ta&ing from ,the people, who were ,only a touch
away,! .ut this touch did fulfil the ad,s promise4 To ,get away from it all! Well, for an hour or two,!
Scarcely an hour was granted those caught in the planes or the towers! Those who were able to get
out of the towers may have survived, but none, it is fairly certain, will ever be able to ,get away from
it all,, not even ,for an hour or two,! (nd yet, this is precisely what the ad proclaims4 ,We,re out,! Who,
we> The events of September th suggest that it is getting harder and harder ,to get out,!
83cept perhaps for the hi-ac&ers themselves! "r the suicide bombers! They are, or will be, ,out, and
,away from it all, ++ but not -ust ,for an hour or two,! We want to ,get away from it all,, ,get out,, for an
hour or two ++ but only before going bac& ,in,, presumably refreshed! Those who perpetrate such
attac&s are ready to go ,out, without coming bac&!! 'erhaps because they were never ,in,, or at any
rate couldn,t stay in! This difference is perhaps one reason why the horrific vision of the towers
30
collapsing inward into themselves, imploding rather than eploding, is so haunting4 the nightmare
vision of an immanence disappearing into itself! The attac&s were also against the &ind of secular
,immanence, that those towers both represented and also implemented!
This is, of course, a very different re-ection from that which led protestors to the streets of Seattle,
'rague and Genoa! 9i&e the conspirators, these protestors were also ,decentered, but at the same time
for the most part not organi6ed in secret organi6ations and obviously in their ma-ority with very
different aims! These were informed by notions such as ,sustainability of resources, and other
,ecological, considerations as well as the more traditional political values of social and economic
-ustice! .eyond that, given the heterogeneity of the different components participating in the protests,
it would be precipitous to relate them to the &ind of analysis ) s&etched out in ,#apitali6ing History,,
since we are doubtless dealing with considerable diversity, and hence, with very different political and
moral perspectives! 2or instance, the differences among the different ,Green, movements, their
similarities and divergences with respect to the group ,(TT(#,, comprise a vast spectrum of opposition
to the reigning form of Globali6ation /but not necessarily to all of its aspects, as (TT(# constantly
insists0! Some of this opposition could no doubt be shown to depend upon the &inds of ,naturali6ing,
that Hart6 attributes to the (merican liberal tradition ++ but certainly not all of it! )t is not, after all, a
uni*uely (merican phenomenon! Much would depend upon the way in which these different protests
articulate or define their relation to the ,future,! .ut this would re*uire very minute and detailed
analyses, which ) can,t even begin to attempt here!
(s to the ,chastising, of ,theory, for not being ,political enough,, it,s an all too familiar ,logo,: an easy
enough e3ercise especially if one limits oneself to pointing at the distance that separates thin&ing, of
whatever &ind, and ,action,, which is usually considered the sine qua non of the ,political,! .ut to do
this in the name of something called ,the real,, ,the material, or even ,the economic, /and it should be
obvious that ) much prefer the latter to the former0, can also open the door to the worst &ind of
dogmatism! )f ,the real, is what resists, or, as 2reud writes about ,reality testing,, what returns,
remains, then access to it will always be immensely difficult, comple3 and never entirely attainable!
#onceptual formations such as ,the real,, which claim both singularity and generality, can even
become pernicious when they claim, e3plicitly or implicitly, to bridge the gap between the two!
Suspicion directed at conceptual generality is one of the leitmotifs of modern thought, going bac& at
least to the Scholastics, and the struggle of $ominalists against <ealists! This assumes a distinctly
contemporary cast with the criti*ue of Hegel by 5ier&egaard and Mar3! #riti*ue of course is never
enough, and if ,theory, means the self+contained study of theoretical utterances, then it should be
,critici6ed,! .ut clearly this is not what most thin&ers identified with critical and deconstructive thought
of the past decades have done! (lmost all have been concerned with the political dimensions,
conse*uences and conditions of their thin&ing, and of their writing, and the shift from the one to the
other is precisely an articulation of this concern! What ) have tried to develop concerning the theatrical
dimension of inscription, of its propagation and transformation, is an attempt to elaborate this
dimension!
)t is perhaps worth recalling that there is a difference in being ,political, at the level of propositional
statements /i!e! ma&ing declarations, signing petitions etc!0 and being political at the level of the
established codes of articulation to which one is necessarily submitted, but which are also susceptible
to change! This is why a certain thin&ing of virtuality, possibility, potentiality ++ what in a study of
.en-amin ) call his ,+abilities, ++ a certain virtuali6ation of conceptuali6ation itself, of ,meaning, ++ can
be politically effective, even if it never gets its act together! This doesn,t dispense with more
conventional forms of ,political, analysis and interpretation, much less with ,political action,, but it does
affect and possibly transform the grids within which such actions and interpretations have to be
situated!
Simon Morgan Wortham and Gary Hall (1.09.2001)
It is interesting that you draw to a close the comment you#ve just made by saying #there is a
difference in being #political# at the level of propositional statements <i.e. making declarations, signing
petitions etc.= and being political at the level of the established codes of articulation to which one is
necessarily submitted, but which are also susceptible to change#. )resumably, this statement could be
taken to re%mark at least one of the borders or crossroads in our discussion so far. It could be seen as
installing itselfinor as one of the places where we find ourselves situated between problems and
questions that are ostensibly #philosophical# or #theoretical# in nature, and others that are normally
31
designated as #political#. 1oubtless our echange has tried to trace, and evenassume, the very
comple traits that tangle or tear together the conflictually riven territory of these supposedly
different concerns, #fields# or #disciplines#. It is in this contet that we#d risk introducing % in however
jarring a way % a question we#d been thinking of asking you beforehand, to see whether it is as far
removed as it might seem from the question of #politics# % and, indeed, from the politics of
#theatricali0ation#, of #propositional statements# and of #codes of articulation#.
In your recent work on theatricality as medium, you comment on the way in which the writing of
Aacques 1errida eplores its own #theatrical quality as a #staging##. "ut what of the performance or
performativity that attends your own writing& 'hat of its own #taking place#& 1oes this open up or
open on to a different sort of #theatricalBtheoretical# space or <dis%=location& 'hile it can be argued
that the tracing out of certain effects of iterability or performativity in % and between % your tets is an
indispensable element in the reading of them, some might say that, unlike the 1erridean tets which
you perhaps tend to privilege in your work <in the more recent material on theatricality, it#s 1errida#s
#The 1ouble Session#, while elsewhere, at the end of )nstitution and )nterpretation, it#s his #(nvois#=
you yourself don#t seem to #theatrically stage# the tets you write about. 2t least, not quite so
eplicitly. That is, you don#t seem to perform or act them out in quite the same way that, say, 1errida
does with Mallarm-. Cather, you might appear, to some readers, to remain uncannily the same
throughout much of your writing. "ut do you stop short of retaining your own authorial identity
throughout, and, if so, how& ,or eample, would the uncanny eperience of the #familiar# in your
writing in fact involve a certain theatricali0ation, in that we find there <to borrow your own words=$
#not the communication of something new in the sense of content, but the variation of something
familiar through its repetition#& Is your very recogni0able style % if we might call it that % the effect of a
deliberate strategy on your part& 4r is it, as you say in Mass Mediauras, in response to a question on
the #clarity# of your writing, the result, not of #making or taking decisions but of being taken %%> even
overtakenD %%> by them#&
This, at any rate, was the question we had in mind. 9ot for the first time in our discussion, such
questions or issues risk seeming quite remote from % and even discontinuous with % the current events
with which we are all preoccupied. 2t first glance, they seem to stand apart and refuse to participate.
"ut the last part of your previous set of remarks, on theatricality and on action and articulation in
particular, would seem to allow such concerns to partake of the #political# which otherwise might
eclude them. ,or instance, would you be able, at this time, to reflect further on the <political&=
relationship, if there is any, between the kind of acts or #events# with which we are very much
concerned now, today, and the kind of act we are engaged in, now, over a number of days, this
discussion taking place&
2nother, perhaps related question that we#d send you at the same time. 4nce more concerning
#politics#, assuming we can even begin to know what that term means today. The emphasis on
institutions and instituting in your work has been presented as a way of making deconstruction
#political#. <+od0ich offers a reading along these lines in his #2fterword# to )nstitution and
)nterpretation.= 2nd, indeed, you yourself have argued <in #The *imits of )rofessionalism#= that
deconstruction, in what you call #its orthodo form#, downplays the forces and powers that maintain
certain sets of paradigms, certain authorities and systems. "ut doesn#t this reading <of both your work
and deconstruction= rather imply$ a. that other #deconstructions# % those that are not concerned with
questions of the institution and instituting, force and power % are not political, and b. that the question
of the political is decided in advance %%> this constituting a limiting of the political, an acceptance of
the political as it is institutionally defined, of the sort you elsewhere argue against& In addition, does
the supposed affiliation between #instituting#, #institutions# and #the political# as outlined above % and
indeed the decision as to what these terms mean % need to be rethought in light of some of the effects
of #globali0ation# witnessed in the events of the past week&
Samuel Weber (1.09.2001)
.oth of your *uestions presuppose a consensual understanding of -ust what is meant by ,political,!
=nderpinning such an understanding, ) see further *uestions4 )s the political necessarily tied to the
state> To society> )s it primarily a *uestion of 'ower> "f the #ommon Good> The General Will>
#ommunity> )s it manifest primarily in ,action,> )n strategies> )n policies> )s it necessarily bound up
with ,sub-ects,, in either the philosophical, grammatical or social sense of the word> What is its
32
relation to spatial and temporal factors4 to the organi6ation of space through the assigning of places,
and to the organi6ation of time through the regulation of past, present and future>
Ta&e, once again, the events of September th! ) call them ,events, because this word seems best to
condense and to complicate the two meanings of the term with which ) am familiar! 2irst, the usual
use of the term in 8nglish, to designate a spatio+temporally locali6able occurrence! (nd second, the
Heideggerian meaning of (reignis, designating an unpredictable, uncontrollable outbreak that disrupts
spatial and temporal continuities and dislocates and transforms frames of reference! What happened
on September th was an event in both senses! )t involved the destruction of specific buildings and
the more or less immediate after+effects of that destruction, all of which can and was represented in
unforgettable images that will haunt most of us for many years to come! (nd at the same time, these
events also involved a far less visible networ&, not intangible, but this time more difficult to locali6e ++
the problem of the (merican ,response, ++ and thus to reduce to a single, identifiable ob-ect or set of
ob-ects! "rgani6ationally there is ,the base,, but it is at the same time a &ind of ,superstructure,! "r
rather, sub+ and infrastructure! The ,base, is not identical with those structures, but is also not simply
their foundation! That is the problem of the ,war, or ,crusade, against ,terrorism,4 finding the proper
target or targets! #olin 'owell and others have compared "sama bin 9aden,s organi6ation it to a
,holding,: others, to a ,multinational, ++ but those terms serve more to describe the perspective of
those who use them than the very different situation of their adversaries!
Were the events of September th ,political,> ;id they involve ,politics,> Much of the official discourse
of the (merican government, and much /although certainly not all0 of (merican media, tends to deny
this, at least implicitly! (ccording to this perspective, September th was the wor& of religious
fanatics, of resentment, of ,evil, in its purest form! )t is to be combated morally, in a ,crusade,
/'resident .ush0 that will e3tirpate its perpetrators! (t the same time, the same discourse insists on
the term ,war, to describe what has happened, as well as the proper response to it! ,(merica,s $ew
War, is #$$,s heading or title for #hapter Two of its ,story,! ,War, is generally considered a ,political,
phenomenon, but is a ,crusade, a ,war,> )t is true that the two words have been used as e*uivalents in
(merican discourse of the past few decades4 ,War against ;rugs,, ,War against 'overty,, ,War against
#rime, and today, ,War against Terrorism,! .ut such a use employs the word to designate a general
mobili6ation of a nation against an enemy that is not necessarily identifiable with a state, and hence
which is not ,political, in the most familiar sense of this word!
The problem in doing ,-ustice, to ,the political, is the ,cut, re*uired to define the term! ,State,, ,power,,
,action, ++ the triad presupposed in most consensual definitions of the term ++ are notions that operate
li&e ,free6e+frame photographs,,Momentaufnahmen as one says in German, literally, in%stantaneous4
bringing to a halt an ongoing and highly comple3 and dynamic network of relations that is constantly
evolving and therefore only provisionallydelimitable! The dilemma of the (merican response to the
attac&s of last wee& illustrates this problem all too well4 The ,culprits,, li&e many of their victims, are
dead! They therefore cannot be brought to -ustice4 only identified, which was accomplished with a
speed that is all the more surprising given the apparent lac& of preparedness! (t the same time, the
problem of ,terrorism, cannot be limited to 2l%@aeda, "sama bin 9aden or even to Muslim
2undamentalism, as the last great attac& on (merican soil in "&lahoma #ity clearly demonstrated! .ut
how then can it be sufficiently delimited to serve as a target of effective action> (re the roots of this
,terrorism, ,political,> <eligious> 8conomic> #ultural>
To be sure, the discourses of the media, and that of the (merican government, in no way e3haust the
phenomenon of ,the political,, but they do manifest certain widely held attitudes and conceptions that
are by no means foreign to the (cademy /at least in the =nited States0! #harlotte <aven, writing in
the .ritish +uardian, touched a nerve when she observed4
(t the root of this /official discourse0 is an overwhelming need to control meaning! (merica can,t let
the world spea& for itself! )t was ta&en unawares last Tuesday and part of the trauma of that event
was the shoc& of being forced to listen to a message that it hadn,t had time to translate! The
subse*uent roar of anger was, amongst other things, the sound of the =S struggling to regain the
right to control its own narrative! )t did this by declaring war! .y this means, .ush ensured that
(merica only had to sit with the ine3plicable for a couple of an3ious days! (fter that, the sense, so
unfamiliar to them, of not &nowing what had happened or what it meant was replaced by the
reassuring certainties of Gohn .rown,s body and calls for national unity! .y turning what should have
been a criminal manhunt into an all+out war, .ush was asserting his right to define (merica,s reality!
33
)nstead of submitting to the reality, he created the situation he wanted, fashioning a plausible,
beatable enemy! ! ! /The +uardian, Sept! D, 2000!
Translating the traumatic into the elements of an all too familiar narrative ++ .ush describing the
,-ustice, he see&s in terms of the Hollywood Western4 ,Wanted, ;ead or (live, ++ condenses a certain
conception of ,the political,4 the State, represented by the Sheriff, leading the 'osse, locates the
outlaw, neutrali6es him, ,dead or alive, ++ and presumably collects the reward! <aven is correct, )
believe, in emphasi6ing that a certain narrative is crucial for framing this conception! 2or only a certain
form of narrative allows time and space to be subordinated to meaning as media of self+fulfilment
rather than of self+destruction!
The belief that this self+contained narrative, consisting of a continuum of beginning, middle and end,
providing the sole paradigm of meaning, reality and identity ++ a belief that is not limited to the
practice or study of literature, but that rather sustains and informs the practices and institutions, the
perceptual and conceptual grids of the very ,civilisation, that erected the twin towers to celebrate, and
concentrate, World Trade ++ is as much if not more a part of ,politics, as is the triad
of state, power and action that constitutes its most obvious and traditional manifestation!
)t is the self+evidence, the self+contained ,reality, of this narrative scheme that is challenged,
disrupted, dislocated by many if not all of what are called ,deconstructive, te3ts! "bviously, such
dislocation operates in very different ways and to very different degrees! What ) have called
,theatricali6ation, is one part of it4 by foregrounding the ,stage,, it resituates familiar narratives so that
their framing function is no longer ta&en for granted! The ,scene, is what e3ceeds but also enables any
single, self+contained narrative to ta&e place! Such staging has become fairly evident in the later
writings of ;errida, as it also did in the later writings of 9acan! .ut it can be operative without being
as obvious or manifest! )t is ,at wor&, wherever the e3pected, established e3pectations of readers
/viewers, listeners0 find themselves challenged and in some way forced to ad-ust, to move, to change!
This is obviously a long way from what is generally recogni6ed as effective ,political action,! .ut the
determination of what is ,effective, is never a simple given, -ust as it is never a simple *uestion of
personal preference, never simply aleatory!
With respect to my own writing, it is certainly less ,theatrical, than that of either 9acan or ;errida,
even if theatricality is more ,themati6ed,, more e3plicitly discussed in my wor&! 'erhaps one reason for
the difference is that my writing is less rooted in a single discourse and tradition than is ;errida,s or
9acan,s, or .en-amin,s for that matter! #ertain ma-or impulses have come to me precisely from the
encounter of different cultures and languages4 first, German, then 2rench, both always interacting
with a certain /(merican0 8nglish! 'erhaps this is one reason why a certain ,intensity, did not develop
in the way it has in ;errida,s writing, an aspect he has described as his ,monolinguism,!
)f you are as&ing about this &ind of difference, then it is surely not simply a ,deliberate strategy, on my
part, but something that my e3perience ++ tra-ectory ++ has imposed upon me! Which doesn,t mean
that it couldn,t change in the future! .ut certainly that change will never be absolute4 it will always be,
) fear, more or less recogni6able! .ut with luc&, it will not -ust be ,more of the same,!
'erhaps this is why one of my ne3t pro-ects, which is already MNmired, in repetition, and in a certain
sense is therefore anything but entirely ,new,, involves a ,return, to the *uestion of the uncanny, which
) began studying some thirty five years ago, but which only fairly recently ) have tried to rethin& in
terms of a certain theatricality! )t is curious that such a significant notion should have received so little
attention over the past years! ;errida, once again, seems to be almost alone is his sustained concern
for this strangely familiar topic! .ut even he has published relatively little sustained analysis of it so
far, although he has discussed it at length in several of his unpublished seminars! My suspicion is that
at least part of the e3planation for this benign neglect has to do with the singularly elusive character
of the uncanny4 )s it a concept, an e3perience, a feeling> )s it historically conditioned or trans+
historical> (t any rate, it seems profoundly lin&ed to the end of an epoch obsessed with refle3ivity and
self+consciousness, while also announcing things to come in an as yet undecipherable language!
Simon Morgan Wortham and Gary Hall (20.09.2001)
34
2 final question which, given its nature, you may feel unable to answer without referring once more to
events of a contemporary nature. In #,orce of *aw#, 1errida names #justice# as the one thing that
cannot be deconstructed. In #The 1ebts of 1econstruction# you seem to add to the list of things that
cannot be deconstructed deconstruction#s own debts, and furthermore the #question of debt in
general#. 4ne might wonder where this leaves the question of your own relationship and debts to
1errida and to deconstruction& "ut, beyond this, what then becomes of the relationship of #justice# to
#debt#& Is this of special relevance today&
Samuel Weber (21.09.2001)
"ne of the te3ts ) discuss in ,The ;ebts of ;econstruction, was from $iet6sche,s +enealogy of
Morals, where he speculates that the stronger a group or ,tribe, becomes, the greater its sense of
indebtedness to its antecedents! This in turn results in a ,fear, of ,forefathers, who have become
,divinely uncanny and unimaginable,! )n the end, says $iet6sche, the fear produced by this sense of
unre*uitable debt transfigures the ancestor into a god! The origin of the gods, then, would ,perhaps,
be this fear!
.ut such a birth of the gods out of fear is itself based on the presupposition of an
originary equivalence, and therefore of a debt that is held to subvene upon a relation that would
otherwise be balanced! )t is this balance+sheet of identity, of commensurability, that ;errida,s notion
of ,-ustice, unbalances! The scales of this -ustice are not balanced, they are always already tipped, one
way or the other, and indeed only thin&able from this situation of imbalance!
$iet6sche,s account here profoundly modifies our usual conception of debt, and its relation to a
debtor! We usually thin& of a debt as something that can and must be ,had, ++ one ,has, a debt, it is
assignable to a debtor! This debtor in turn is defined by this negative property, ,his, /or ,her,0 debt!
.ut the debt as ;errida negotiates it, is not -ust a debt to another /ego, self04 it is that which indebts
the self itself to the other! )t is therefore never something that you can ,have,, or that can be assigned
to you in an une*uivocal manner! )t is both yours and not yours, part of you and that
which parts with you, or rather, causes you to ta&e leave from, and of, yourself!
There is a word, difficult if not impossible to translate into 8nglish, which ;errida uses to describe such
a movement, in its irreducibility! )n a very long footnote, running across several pages of 1e l#esprit,
;errida demonstrates that Heidegger,s notion of thin&ing as *uestioning in turn presupposes
something that Heidegger calls .uspruch or .usage, a &ind of call or appeal, for which the closest
nominal e*uivalent in 8nglish seems to be ,appeal, but which corresponds more closely, perhaps, with
the idiomatic phrase ,spea& to,! Thin&ing as *uestioning thus never constitutes an absolute beginning
or origin, but rather responds to an appeal! This appeal, as it is formulated in German by Heidegger
/based on the roots, Spruch and Sage0, is inseparable from language, understood as a practice or
movement, a heightened receptivity, an opening to the other, a disposition to listen,discern, respond,
rather than as an entity or system ++ understood, in short, as a saying rather than as a statement or
proposition! .ut at the same time it antedates, precedes the constitution and ac*uisition of language
as a positive entity! (nd such a disposition, ;errida argues, involves not simply the assumption of a
,debt, but the giving of what he calls ++ and here we come to that untranslatable word ++ a gage! )n
8nglish, we would probably have to translate this as a ,deposit,, or possibly wager! The gage is thus
both a sort of guarantee for the repayment of a debt, and a gamble, a promise, an engagement! .ut
there is a difference4 the deposit is deposited somewhere, in a safe place! )t is a form of placement!
2or ;errida, by contrast, the gage whose appeal precedes and permits all *uestioning, says ,yes,,
affirms, but without positing any thing! )t *uite literally, but not idiomatically, de+posits! (nd it does so
by responding to ,an event, the memory /m-moire0 of which precedes all remembrance /souvenir0
and to which we are bound by a faith that defies all narrative, /1e l#esprit0!
To be sure, ;errida here is reading, interpreting Heidegger! .ut at the same time, on the margins of
the main te3t, in this long footnote, he is also writing, commenting in the most literal sense4
thin&ing with, which means also translating, re+mar&ing, doingjustice not to ,Heidegger, as author,
philosopher or sub-ect, but as a te3t that is anything but self+identical, harmonious or self+contained!
;erridaOs te3t engages Heidegger by doing -ustice not to the spirit but to the letters of his te3ts, by
ta&ing up their challenge, their ,gage,, without the security of an original, underlying or overriding
meaning! .y remar&ing Heidegger,s assertion, that ,language must have already appeal or have
appealed to us, ++ muss sich die Sprache 0uvor uns 0usagen oder gar schon 0ugesagt haben %% 1e
35
l#esprit reshuffles the dec& of our usual reading of Heidegger, and of much more, by foregrounding the
condition of all engagement, political or other, as residing in a certain disposition to assume and
respond to the gage! There must be a disposition to engage that presupposes every organi6ation of
space and time into places, ob-ects and above all, narratives, ,in, which one could place, or deposit,
one,s engagement! There must be an acceptance of ,faith, that antedates everything ,in, which one
could have faith! The ,gage, that doesn,t secure is this faith that de%fies all narrative!
(nother word for this faith is, perhaps, ,-ustice,! .ut not ,infinite -ustice, as the unending triumph of
Good over 8vil! This is precisely the &ind of narrative that -ustice must ,de+fy,!
Today, more than ever, -ustice demands the de+fiance of all narratives, especially those that seem the
most self+evident, the most compelling, and that are therefore perhaps the most dangerous!
Endnotes
! This claim has since been retracted!
The reference to the original claim on the web is4
http4KKindymedia!orgKfront!phpJ>articlePidQRJ2DDSgroupQwebcast
The retraction is at4 http4KKwww!indymedia!orgKfront!phpJ>articlePidQRTJRR
2!The remar& of 'rofessor <obert 'recht is worth noting in his conte3t! 'rof! 'recht served as public
defender of one of those accused in the CCJ bombing of the World Trade #enter! His conclusion
about the state of mind and motivations of those involved in this attac& can serve as a valuable
warning against easy stereotypes4
,The things that struc& me were the very complicated feelings the people who commit these acts have
for (merica,, he said! ,"ur leaders describe them as evildoers and say they hate everything our
country stands for! !!! That was not my e3perience!,
He said several of the defendants admired the =S system of government and law and had a real
&nowledge of (merican history! .ut they resented =S policies! The dispute terrorists have with
(merica is really more a political one and has nothing to do with )slamic beliefs, 'recht said! )nstead,
he said, ,these are simply people who develop political agendas and then dress them up in a cloa& of
righteousness!, /5athy .arr Hoffmann, ,(ttac&s <emind 'rofessor of CCJ,, 2), "ct! , 2000!
Samuel Weber is (valon 2oundation 'rofessor of Humanities, $orthwestern =niversity, =S(! He is
the author of a number of boo&s and articles on .al6ac, Saussure, 9acan, 2reud, .en-amin, Heidegger
and ;errida, including The *egend of ,reud/Minneapolis4 =niversity of Minnesota 'ress,
CD20, Institution and Interpretation /Minneapolis4 =niversity of Minnesota 'ress, CDH0, Ceturn to
,reud$ Aacques *acan#s 1islocation of )sychoanalysis /#ambridge4 #ambridge =niversity 'ress, CC0
and Mass Mediauras$ ,orm, Technics, Media /#alifornia4 Stanford =niversity 'ress, CCR0! He has -ust
completed Theatricality as Medium/#alifornia4 Stanford =niversity 'ress, 20020!
Simon Morgan Wortham is 'rincipal 9ecturer in 8nglish 9iterature at the =niversity of 'ortsmouth,
8ngland! His wor& has appeared in the -ournals 9ew *iterary !istory, (conomy and Society and 9ew
,ormations! He is the co+editor of the EF2uthori0ing :ulture, edition of the -ournal 2ngelaki, and author
of Cethinking the 3niversity$ *everage and 1econstruction/Manchester4Manchester =niversity 'ress,
CCC0!
Gary Hall is Senior 9ecturer in Media and #ultural Studies at Middlese3 =niversity, 8ngland! He is the
author of :ulture in "its/(thloneK#ontinuum, 20020! His wor& has appeared in a number of -ournals
including paralla, Surfaces and The 4ford *iterary Ceview, as well as the anthology )sycho%)olitics
and :ultural 1esires, eds Gan #ampbell and Ganet Harbord /9ondon and $ew %or&4 Taylor and 2rancis,
CCD0! He is the co+editor of the 2uthori0ing :ulture edition of the -ournal 2ngelaki, and
36
ofTechnologies, a new series of boo&s in cultural studies, critical and cultural theory, and continental
philosophy from (thloneK#ontinuum!
)SS$ TRB+T2 U 'art of
37
SAMUEL WEBER - BIOGRAPHY
Samuel Weber, Ph.D., is an American philosopher and professor. Professor Weber is the Paul de
Man Chair at the European Graduate School (EGS), the Avalon Professor of umanities at
!orth"estern #niversit$, and one of the leadin% American thin&ers across the disciplines of literar$
theor$, philosoph$, and ps$choanal$sis. Samuel Weber "as born in !e" 'or&. Samuel Weber has
been a Professor of En%lish and Comparative (iterature at the #niversit$ of California, (os An%eles,
and the )irector of their Paris Pro%ram in Critical *heor$.
Samuel Weber obtained his doctorate from Cornell #niversit$ in +,-., "or&in% "ith Paul de Man.
e then pursued %raduate education in Europe, primaril$ in German$, and has been a professor in
German$, /rance and the #nited States since. 0t "as durin% his studies abroad that he first
encountered the "or& of the /ran&furt School of critical theor$. e "as stron%l$ influenced b$ the
"or& of*heodor W. Adorno, eventuall$ comin% to translate his ma1or "or& of his critical theor$
2 Prisms 2 into En%lish. *his translation, includin% an introduction b$ "ritten b$ him, "as of crucial
importance in the reception of the "or& of *heodor W. Adorno in the An%lophone "orld.
Samuel Weber is not onl$ distin%uished for havin% introduced ma1or elements of the /ran&furt
School to En%lish spea&ers3 he also brou%ht the 4ha&tin circle and deconstruction to the attention of
man$ in America, both throu%h his "or& as co5founder and editor of the 1ournal Glyph and his
scholarl$ translations of ori%inal te6ts. 0n the 7.s and 8.s he became a prominent fi%ure as he
helped introduce and comment, primaril$ in the #nited States and German$, on the "or& of
the 9ac:ues )errida and 9ac:ues (acan. 0n fact, he translated 9ac:ues )errida;s ;Si%nature Event
Conte6t; (+,77) and ;(imited, 0nc.; (+,88).
!ot bein% limited to the sphere of academia, ho"ever, Samuel Weber also served as a dramatur%e
to German opera houses and theaters in /ran&furt, Stutt%art, )<sseldorf, and (ud"i%sbur% durin%
the +,8.s. Samuel Weber has studied the /reudian concept of the uncanny e6tensivel$. Weber is
also heavil$ influenced b$ Walter 4en1amin. Samuel Weber is "or&in% in "hat he refers to
astheatricality in his scholarship. *heatricalit$ can be defined in Samuel;s "ord from an intervie"
"ith culture machine=
;*heatricalit$; is "hat results "hen the impossibilit$ of self5containment is e6posed b$ iterabilit$ as a
scene "hich is inevitabl$ a ;sta%e;, but "hich, as such, is determined b$ that "hich surrounds
it...;theater;. More affirmativel$ formulated, the impossibilit$ of closure opens the scene to a space of
alterit$ that is al"a$s provisionall$ embodied...e6posed as an ;audience; 55 sin%ular noun for an
irreducibl$ heteroclite stand5in. *he ;audience; stands in for the others, ... and perhaps even more,
for those "ho "ill never come to be. >f course, it is in the nature of our socio5economic s$stem, in
an a%e of ;%lobali?ation;, to do ever$thin% possible to appropriate and domesticate such ;standin%5in;
so that it see&s to fulfil...actual consumption. *he audience is thus considered b$ the commercial
media predominantl$, if not e6clusivel$, as potential consumers.
is boo& Return to Freud: Jacques Lacan's Dislocation of Psychoanalysis (+,78, +,,+), ori%inall$
"ritten in German, has been %roundbrea&in% in the fields of ps$choanal$sis and literar$ theor$.
Several of his boo&s are bein% brou%ht out b$ 4ei1in% #niversit$ Press in Chinese translation.
Samuel Weber comments on the relationship bet"een politics and philosoph$=
0t is perhaps "orth recallin% that there is a difference in bein% ;political; at the level of propositional
statements (i.e. ma&in% declarations, si%nin% petitions etc.) and bein% political at the level of the
established codes of articulation to "hich one is necessaril$ submitted, but "hich are also
susceptible to chan%e. *his is "h$ a certain thin&in% of virtualit$, possibilit$, potentialit$ 55 "hat in a
stud$ of 4en1amin 0 call his ;5abilities; 55 a certain virtuali?ation of conceptuali?ation itself, of
;meanin%; 55 can be politicall$ effective, even if it never %ets its act to%ether. *his doesn;t dispense
"ith more conventional forms of ;political; anal$sis and interpretation, much less "ith ;political
action;, but it does affect and possibl$ transform the %rids "ithin "hich such actions and
interpretations have to be situated.
A fe" of the boo&s "hich Samuel Weber has published include= Unwrapping al!ac (+,7,)3 "ass
"ediaurus: Form# $echnics# "edia (+,,-)3 $he Legend of Freud (@...)3 %nstitution and
%nterpretation (@..+, @nd edition) of "hich several positive revie"s "ere "ritten, includin% that
of Paul de Man, his mentor, "ho %enerousl$ and deservin%l$ had "ritten the follo"in% bac& "hen it
"as first published in +,8A=
38
A te6t of ma1or importance and remar&able ori%inalit$. /or the first time, the antecedents and the
comple6ities of the :uestion are clearl$ defined and understood.
ere in %nstitutions and %nterpretation Professor Weber :uestions the po"ers that form and delimit
practices of interpretations. /or instance, "hile the more traditional "a$ of usin% the "ord
BinstitutionsC reduce their meanin% to the maintainin% of the e6istin% state of affairs, Samuel Weber
ar%ues instead that institutions are actuall$ in need of consolidatin% their po"er throu%h a process
in "hich interpretation is &e$.
0n $heatricality as "edium (@..D) Professor Weber e6amines "ritin%s in drama that challen%e the
traditional conception of the theater. e does so in order to be able to "or& directl$ "ith
Btheatricalit$C as a medium itself. ere Weber mana%es to brin% to%ether the relations bet"een
philosoph$, ethics and drama from fi%ures datin% bac& as Aristotle to toda$Es critical dramatur%es.
is thesis is that toda$Es media for theater (throu%h films, the internet etc). is not fundamentall$
different from that of the old live performances in that ambivalences of identities and places are
perhaps even more prominent toda$ than the$ alread$ "ere in Gree& theater.
$argets of &pportunity: &n the "ilitari!ation of $hin'ing (@..F)3 (cts of Reading(@..-)
and en)amin's *a+ilities (@..8). 0n the latter, Weber considers 4en1aminEs theories and their latent
potential, and he does so especiall$ b$ focusin% on 4en1aminEs famous use of the suffi6 Babilit$C "ith
such concepts as iterabilit$, &no"abilit$, impartabilit$ etc.
Samuel Weber has also "ritten man$ chapter in boo&s, includin%= B*he 0ndefinite Article of the (ove
of a PhraseC in Reading Ronell (@..,). B4en1aminEs 2abilities= Medialit$ and Concept /ormation in
4en1aminEs Earl$ Writin%sC inen)amin*,tudien (German), @..8. BGeadin% over a Globali?ed WorldC
in-ncountering Derrida (@..8). B*he Politics of Protection and Pro1ectionC inReligion eyond a
.oncept (@..7). BGeplacin% the 4od$= An Approach to the Huestion of )i%ital )emocrac$C in Pu+lic
,pace and Democracy (@..+). B4en1amin;s St$leC in -ncyclopedia of (esthetics. Iol. 0. (+,,8).

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