As other "Theory"-literate and serious denizens of the blogosphere duly note, Specters of Marx is a book that continues to look better with each passing year. Generous, intricate and faithful expositions of Derrida's later political thought, meanwhile, are so few and far between that a recent article by Ross Benjamin and Heesok Chang (ProjectMuse) is most welcome, and also conveniently works as a rather natural continuation of our Spivak (and Europe, and technology, and democracy) discussions.
Suffice to say that many familiar themes make an appearance. I provide some brief excerpts and comment below the fold, as the authors are friends and were kind enough to share a copy. (Those interested and without Muse access may I suppose ask very nicely via email.) The excerpts are by no means generous enough, as indeed the article covers quite a lot of ground, including responsible forays into anonymous internationalism (composed of "no one" who is , nevertheless, "not just anyone" – cf. Thomas Keenan; recalling also Blanchot's communism), Spivak's (partly just) criticisms in Ghostwriting, Derrida's distinctly atheist transformation of Benjamin's 'weak messianism' and Roland Barthes' reflections on the photograph among other things. The bold and truly excellent SUBSTANCE Magazine was once kind enough to grant us a generous "fair use" permission to quote from its "Counter-Obituaries" issue on Derrida from some time ago...so consider this too a first step, if you will, toward a more precise engagement there.
From the key orienting and introductory 'graph (or rather, a bit of graft on my part, as the framing, justifying work performed by introductions certainly is important to get right):
As admirable as [their] aims may be, Habermas and Derrida’s proclamation inevitably raises the question of their global bias. Although their article closes by “renounc[ing] Eurocentrism,” it seems nonetheless to reassert a particular European obligation to act on behalf of the world. American political philosopher Iris Marion Young objects to the publication’s premise in an essay for the web-based journal openDemocracy. She asserts, “Europe needs not globalism but a provincialism that will enable a dialogue of equals with the rest of the world.” Young points out that the anti-war rallies of February 15, 2003 were planned at a World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre in January 2003 and, moreover, took place in hundreds of cities throughout the world. Such a “coordination may signal the emergence of a global public sphere, of which European publics are wings, but whose heart may lie in the southern hemisphere.” Though [Iris Marion] Young correctly calls into question their geopolitical assumptions, a closer evaluation of Derrida’s key statements makes clear that his position on Europe is distinct from the one Habermas sketches in their jointly signed text* [...]
Contrary to his press, Derrida never made a secret of his allegiance to the European Enlightenment. Our title, “the last European,” is meant as a tribute and a provocation, a corrective to the idée fixe that “deconstructionism” seeks to corrode Enlightenment ideals. The allusion to Blanchot’s Le dernier homme notwithstanding, it is unlikely Derrida himself would have recognized the descriptive pertinence of the phrase or accepted its eschatological pathos. We certainly do not wish to suggest that he clung to the Continent. On the contrary, the globe-trotting itineraries of his teaching and lecturing – in particular his numerous visiting professorships in the US – imparted a decisively non-European competence and tonality to his numerous public stances. The topic of European identity, he admitted, is predictably tired: “Old Europe seems to have exhausted all the possibilities of discourse and counter-discourse about its own identification” (Other Heading 26). And yet, paradoxically, European identity has never really been taken up in the promise that it holds for the future. For Derrida, this at one and the same time old and young identity is a fine example of Hamlet’s famous declaration that “the time is out of joint.” In the following, we argue that this temporal rift is precisely what compelled him to speak in the name of Europe.
The authors proceed to engage first with Derrida-Valéry in a manner that deserves to be quoted at some length, though again I will limit myself:
Valéry’s texts figure in The Other Heading, then, as telling, modernist examples of the Eurocentric idealism that continues (in a somewhat threadbare mode) to animate the West’s cultural politics. To Jameson’s account of Derrida’s strategic use of Valéry we would only add that Valéry does not simply function as the object of an ideology critique. His outmoded Eurocentrism also serves, paradoxically, to advance Derrida’s deliberation on the future of Europe. Valéry forcefully elucidates the expansive limits of a high cultural European self-understanding, and thereby, points a way out from within....
* [Sadly and rather inexcusably, the actual Habermas statement co-signed by Derrida appears to be unavailable online...or at least eluding my night's efforts.]