Guide Genesis and Trace: Derrida Reading Husserl and Heidegger (Cultural Memory in the Present)

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It seems that the only possible answer to this question is to be found in a metaphysical assumption of something already constituted , which can help explain the genesis of all phenomena, that is, the process of the constituting. It escapes into the abyss of time and through the constant differing and deferral of all presence.

In order to recover the lost object, a return to structure becomes inevitable. Turned towards the lost or impossible presence of the absent origin, this structuralist thematic of broken immediacy is therefore the saddened, negative , nostalgic, guilty, Rousseauistic side of the thinking of play whose other side would be the Nietzschean affirmation , that is the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and of the innocence of becoming, the affirmation of a world of signs without fault, without truth, and without origin which is offered to an active interpretation [emphases in original].

Derrida, a : In this light, the return to structure can also be seen as a move that is far from objective or neutral. It expresses a deeply held normative view of the necessity of securing our belief in the impossible presence of absent origins. However, the return to structure cannot provide full closure to history. Structure, just like history, is an aporia , the possibility of which relies on a simultaneous impossibility: the impossibility of a closed structure without an opening or a void. Just like history, structure expresses an idealistic and normative commitment to what has already been lost, a desperate attempt to hold on to the impossible presence of things.

It has to be inscribed or produced, moreover, on the basis of an underlying normative commitment, whereby history and structure are combined for a particular purpose. If Reason is but the essential structure of the transcendental ego and the transcendental we , it is , like them, historical through and through. Conversely, historicity, as such, is rational through and through. The attempt to satisfy both a historicist and a structuralist demand expresses a certain idealism, which seeks to hold on to the unity , as well as the telos , of the Living Present. As such, this attempt can also be analysed in a more political light.

In brief, it highlights a politics of inscribing or producing the presence of a ground against the backdrop of its simultaneous absence. The next section of this article explores some of the possible implications of thinking about historical sociology in relation to this politics of grounding. As was noted in the previous section, for Derrida, there can be no ground that exists independently of the processes of producing or inscribing such a ground.

This process can also be said to play a key role in HSIR, especially in its early development. In seeking to advance a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between history and structure, HSIR has to rely on the notion of an already-constituted ground. To think of historical sociology in relation to a process of grounding is a useful way of analysing the deep sense of anthropocentrism underpinning this particular form of knowledge production.

Just like literature and poetry, history plays an important part in creating an awareness of ourselves as human individuals with a specific purpose and meaning. In a similar vein, Fred Halliday : has argued that:. Historical sociology is, above all, a part of the attempt by human beings to take mastery of their own surroundings, their past and their present, to better to emancipate themselves from it and determine, within the constraints of structure of course, their future.

As such, it also illustrates the limits of historical sociology as a critical approach to historicizing the human subject. The relationship between history and the search for individual autonomy and freedom is intimately linked to a sovereign politics of time, which makes it possible to decide on the proper passage of time and the relationship between past, present and future.

Perhaps most of all, the narrative structures of history help us deal with the profound mysteries of time and the uncertainty of singular events, which, without these structures, would open up to an endless series of questions and puzzles with no obvious answers. While never succeeding in fully capturing the latter, narrative representation and narrative identity come closest to refiguring temporal experience and thereby responding to the mysteries or aporias of time. One of the main strengths of the HSIR literature has been to call this precise line or distinction into question by painting a much more complex picture of the historical origins of the modern states-system see Teschke, Draw a line between past and present, push someone over the edge and claim to speak with the authoritative voice of the historian, the voice that effectively determines who belongs to the past and who is fitted for the contemporary present, ready to join us on our journey into the future.

With the help of the temporal borders of history, it is possible to declare the conditions under which modern political subjects and modern sovereign states can claim their freedom in time, as well as in space. On the other, this ground can also be used in order to tie these origins to long-term processes and large-scale patterns. Indeed, the combination of history and sociology seems to offer an ideal combination of historicist and structuralist modes of explanation — a combination that makes it possible to study the origins of structure, as well as the structure of origins.

In other words, it rests on the metaphysical assumption of a separate and already-constituted ground, which exists independently of the process of grounding. There are different ways of addressing this question. One way of doing so is to think of historical sociology as an expression of a certain desire to hold on to an ontological commitment.

As was noted in the first section of this article, the basis of historical sociology, irrespective of the theoretical direction in which it is taken, has to do with tracing different chains of events. Even constructivist HSIR seeks to study such chains when tracing how an idea, belief or value led to another within a particular context or structure of events see Reus-Smit, : Without the existence of such a structure, their interpretations or explanations of individual cases or events would not make any sense. The structure makes it possible to determine, along constructivist or Marxist lines, how the present is an effect of past events.

It enables, moreover, a stronger sense of ontological certainty about who we really are in the contemporary present. A structure, whether material or ideational, has the magical quality of subordinating all those uncertain points that would otherwise seem totally random and meaningless.

The structure gives the points meaning and transforms them into points of origins, which are indispensable when trying to establish how we became what we supposedly are. The chains of being rely on the existence of chains of events, which, in turn, are inseparable from a deep sense of nostalgia permeating any attempt to hold on to the lost presence of absent origins.

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Genesis and Trace: Derrida Reading Husserl and Heidegger by Paola Marrati

As soon as a chain is broken, there is an urge to fix it. The contingent must be resolved and made into a necessity, a necessary link in a chain that continues to be built whenever the cause of one event is linked to the effect of another see Hobson and Lawson, : We reach into the past, reconstruct the past in the present and construct visions of our collective future.

We master time with the sovereign voice of reason, a voice that belongs to the historian, as well as the sociologist, a voice that enables us to structure time in ways that can satisfy what seems like a never-ending desire to determine who we really are and who we wish to become as we leave the past behind and enter the future. These borders play a key role in the historical sociological project, which is also an anthropocentric project, designed to reaffirm the ontological presence of human individuals by guiding them with the help of the sovereign voice of history and reason.

This voice has the capacity not only to determine the connections between individual events and thereby show how we became what we are, but also to shape the future that lies ahead. When answering this question, care must be taken not to ignore the differences within the historical sociology literature. As Kamran Matin : puts it:. Rather, it is a universally operational causal context whose ontic fabric is heterogeneous and radically open to, in fact constantly shaped and reshaped by, alterity, which generates emergent forms that overdetermine their own context of emergence.


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Hobson, , it does not question the general assumption that there is , indeed, a middle ground to be found somewhere in-between historicist and structuralist modes of explanation, a ground on which meaningful knowledge can be built. The problem relates, more precisely, to how this approach continues to rely on the sovereign voice of reason that is located outside and independently of the narratives that this voice is trying to master.

Rather than standing outside these narratives, it can be argued that the narrating subject is always and inevitably a part of them, defined by the same boundaries that the narrative form imposes on our ability to think about time, temporality and events. The inseparability of the narrating subject and the limits of the narrative is something that poststructuralist thinkers like Derrida and Michel Foucault are acutely aware of.

As soon as the narrating subject assumes that a complete mastery of such a course is possible, we return to the problem of the sovereign voice of reason. Hobson thus seeks to counter the violence of Eurocentrism with the reconstruction of a non-Eurocentric foundation.

The problem, however, is that there can be no pre-given answers to how these borders should be inscribed, or how we should interrupt the continuous flow of time by declaring the end of one period and the birth of another. To do this, we cannot put our trust in cause and effect. Nor can we rely on the grand narratives that tie singular events to the long-term processes and large-scale patterns that historical sociology is concerned with. In order to take seriously moments of rupture, attention should be given to the singular event, which lacks reference to an overarching structure.

As a singularity, the event is impersonal and pre-individual, eluding the grasp of the sovereign voice of reason.

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The singular event is not, therefore, an event that can be placed in a chain or narrative structure of events. It can only emerge as something absolutely singular, other and incomprehensible, which does not fit any particular system of knowledge, representation and anticipation Derrida, b : The passing of time and the coming of the event cannot be calculated or predicted on the basis of what has happened in the past or what is happening in the present.

Teschke, In contrast to historical sociology, however, the busting of this myth from a poststructuralist perspective does not depend on providing an alternative account based on long-term processes and large-scale patterns. The study of history, just like the study of structure, requires the notion of a prior ground on which meaningful knowledge can be built. Hence, the study of history, as well as of structure, cannot be separated from certain assumptions about the nature of this ground, what it consists of and who has the legitimate authority to stand on it and claim its presence and meaning.

Greater historical sophistication does not bring us out of the politics of relying on such a ground; rather, it can be said to conceal this politics in a more sophisticated way. This is why this article sought to engage critically with attempts to develop a more nuanced understanding of the historical dimension of IR and its main categories: the state and the international. In order to avoid such reification, it is important to demonstrate greater awareness of the limits of historical sociology as a particular mode of knowledge for studying and trying to make sense of the world.

If so, it is important to remember that there are other ways of engaging critically with time and events. Crucially, in order to move beyond the latter, the event cannot be placed under the control of an autonomous subject, who is assumed to master the event by filling it with a certain content and meaning.

The event must be grasped in its singularity, as something that emerges and exists only insofar as it does not rely on the interpretation and explanation of a pre-given autonomous subject. The event, in its non-historical existence, is singular, impersonal and pre-individual.

To think of events along these lines opens up a different perspective on time and politics. It opens up not only a strong critique of the narrative structures that subordinate the mysteries of time to specific notions of historical change, but also disrupts previous notions of what is possible and impossible.

It opens up to the radically other, which does not fit previous models of interpretation and explanation. It highlights ruptures in time that cannot be categorized, named or placed within a narrative structure, but only emerge as something wholly other, which is yet to receive a name and be responded to by a narrating and historicizing subject. What the implications of such ruptures are can never be known in advance. I would like to thank John M. His research centres on theories of security and international relations, with a special focus on the role of time for studying and analysing global and international politics.

See, especially, Derrida a. A deconstructive analysis of the history—structure dichotomy can, in many respects, be said to mirror a deconstructive analysis of the agency—structure debate. For an example of the latter, see Doty For an example of using the state as the primary object of investigation in historical sociology and IR, see Hobson See also Linklater See, especially, the groundbreaking work of Fabian For postcolonial critiques of such attempts, see, especially, Chakrabarty and Guha See Derrida , , a.

On the relationship between history, poetry and imaginations, see, especially, White : 6—7. See, for example, Hobson , Matin , Rosenberg and Shilliam I analyse this transformation in greater detail in Lundborg National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.

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European Journal of International Relations. Eur J Int Relat. Tom Lundborg. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Sweden. Email: es. Abstract This article develops a poststructuralist critique of the historical sociology of International Relations project. Keywords: Derrida, history, poststructuralism, sociology, sovereignty, time.

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From the ground to the grounding of history A confusion of value and existence, and more generally, of all types of realities and all types of idealities is sheltered beneath the equivocal category of the historical. The crucial task — again, very similar to historical sociology — must therefore be to find a way of reconciling: the structuralist demand which leads to the comprehensive description of a totality, of a form or a function organized according to an internal legality in which elements have meaning only in the solidarity of their correlation or their opposition , with the genetic demand that is the search for the origin and foundation of the structure [emphases in original].

Derrida, a : In this light, the return to structure can also be seen as a move that is far from objective or neutral.

In a similar vein, Fred Halliday : has argued that: Historical sociology is, above all, a part of the attempt by human beings to take mastery of their own surroundings, their past and their present, to better to emancipate themselves from it and determine, within the constraints of structure of course, their future. As Kamran Matin : puts it: in the idea of uneven and combined development, the conception of the universal is not the a priori property of an immanently conceived homogeneous entity.

Acknowledgments I would like to thank John M. Notes 1. References Anievas A, Nisancioglu K. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 42 1 : 78— Ashley R. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 17 2 : — Massachusetts, MA: Lexington, pp. Bhabha HK. London: Routledge. Buzan B, Little R. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Callinicos A. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 20 4 : — Campbell D. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Cassirer E. Please view eBay estimated delivery times at the top of the listing. We are unable to deliver faster than stated. NOTE: We are unable to offer combined shipping for multiple items purchased.

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