I have expressed some reservations about Hägglund’s book in the past, but I do think it is a rather refreshing read, even if I disagree for the most part with its primary argument – here’s take on the book by Brian Rajski:
“[T]he openness to the other cannot be an ethical principle since it is not a matter of choice. Openness to the other answers to the openness to the unpredictable coming of time and is thus the condition for whatever there is. . . . Furthermore, nothing can guarantee that it is better to be more open than to be less open to the other (or vice versa). . . . The decision concerning how one should relate to the other can therefore not be dictated by an ethical injunction, but must be reinvented from time to time. Far from providing an ethical ground, the deconstructive thinking of alterity thus politicizes even the most elementary relation to the other.” In this explosive little book on Derrida, Martin Hagglund rejects the appropriation over the last twenty years of deconstruction as an ethical, political, or religious project. He denies that there is an “ethical turn” in Derrida’s thought (usually located around the publication of Specters of Marx), arguing Derrida’s work is informed by a single logic from start to end.
UPDATE II (1/12): For those who are possibly reading this trying to decide whether to read Hägglund’s book on Derrida (as is stated in the somewhat disingenuously existential title of this post) should regard this blog post and its subsequent comments as a certain singular perspective on the issue – this comment is, of course, always already arrogant and pretentious since it assumes that someone will be making a decision regarding a book based on this post. I have since finished reading the book, therefore it was ultimately “to be”; I found it seriously lacking at certain points and somewhat insightful at others. It is not purely derridalogical in that it does propose an interesting (even if almost entirely familiar) reading, it does not engage Derrida’s ideas very much, simply creatively restates them while mainly ignoring the large body of secondary literature on the issues discussed in the book. If you are interested in the issue of “time” and “temporality” in Derrida, I think that Joanna Hodge’s excellent study Derrida on Time would be a much better choice…
UPDATE I (12/27): Just started chapter 2 and already I am discovering things: the opening paragraph and a half from this chapter on Derrida and Husserl is a word for word the same as the opening two paragraphs of Hägglund’s essay on Nabokov mentioned below that I’ve read this afternoon. No, it’s not a self-citation, it’s the same text only in New Literary History Hägglund goes on to discuss Nabokov and in Radical Atheism the transition is to Derrida – can you do that?
Just got Martin Hägglund’s book on Derrida – Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life – several days ago and having finished the introduction and the first chapter on Derrida and Kant, I am having doubts about whether I should continue with the book. There are several reason I read as much as I did so far: Continue reading