Alienation after Derrida: an investigation into the concept of alienation in the light of Derrida’s deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Skempton, Simon

This investigation rearticulates the Hegelian-Marxist theory of alienation in the light of Derrida's deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence. It aims to demonstrate in what way Derridian deconstruction can itself be said to be a critique of alienation. In so doing, it argues that the acceptance of Derrida's deconstructive concepts does not necessarily entail the acceptance of his interpretations of Hegel and Marx.\ud \ud Derrida is shown to be a representative of a tendency in contemporary thought that is thought to have long since discredited the concept of alienation. He determines the\ud characteristics of alienation as constitutive and those of de-alienation as involving the metaphysical myth of the plenitude and identity of presence and 'the proper'. The guiding question of the investigation is whether the notion of de-alienation necessarily depends on such 'metaphysical' conceptions.\ud \ud It is argued in the first chapter that notions of de-alienation to be found in German Idealism and its derivatives largely involve a concept of 'determinability' that is closer to Derrida's deconstructive concept of differance than to presence. There then follows a detailed discussion of Hegel's conceptions of alienation and de-alienation, where it is argued, in contrast\ud to Derrida' s interpretation, that the latter is not the return of the logos to itself in its full presence, but is rather the actuality of infinity whereby the exclusionary identity of present determinacy transcends itself. The following chapter on Marx argues that Marxian de-alienation does not involve, as Derrida claims, the 'exorcism' of the 'spectrality' of the commodity form through the establishment of the fullness of presence, but rather involves the reabsorption of humanity's\ud generic determinability into the life of the individual.\ud \ud The last two chapters involve a reassessment of the implications of Heideggerian and post-Heideggerian (Derridian) deconstruction with regard to its relationship to alienation. It is argued that Heidegger's deconstruction of metaphysics, despite claiming to be antithetical to the\ud German Idealist tradition, is actually a critique of ontological alienation. It is then argued that Derrida's deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence is itself a critique of alienation, in that presence is itself the givenness of an objectified phenomenality.\ud \ud The investigation involves both the claim that the conceptions of de-alienation to be found in, among others, the works of Hegel, Marx, and Heidegger involve manifestations of differance rather than presence and the claim that the deconstruction of presence opens up the conceptual possibility of a genuine de-alienation.
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