Le desert de la critique: deconstruction et politique.

Author:Gemie, Sharif
Position:Book review

Renaud Garcia, Le desert de la critique: deconstruction et politique

Paris: L'Echappee, 2015; 219pp; ISBN 9782915830989

There's probably a nice little debate to be had concerning how to translate the title of this work. While it flows quite neatly in French, it's hard to render into fluent English: probably something along the lines of 'the wilderness of criticism: the politics of deconstruction' gets close, although I'm sure that others will suggest possible variants.

Le desert is an unusual and distinctive work. It is a thorough, well-informed, tightly argued criticism of the political implications of deconstructionist thought. On occasion, some of the examples chosen relate specifically to French politics, but in most cases their global implications are obvious.

Garcia begins by noting the strange popularity of the term 'deconstruction': where once writers would have spoken of analysing, refuting, demystifying, criticising, today they speak of 'deconstructing' (p 7). Leading French politicians will refer to the need to 'deconstruct' Islamism. A new concept, devised by left-wing philosophers, has now entered the daily speech of politics. In part, this is due to Michel Foucault's lasting influence on French and even global culture. While the deaths of Christopher Lasch and Guy Debord were largely ignored, Foucault's demise was marked across the media.

Le desert summarises Derrida's initial idea of deconstruction, and considers how, when allied to Foucault's thinking, it has profoundly affected left-wing thinking. The work includes a detailed analysis of Foucault's concept of power as a positive, formative force. For Garcia, the key shift has been away from the concept of a central, united struggle, and towards ideas concerning a host of tactics drawn from local and specific forms of...

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