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Journal Article

Derrida and the Autoimmunity of Democracy

Fred Evans
The Journal of Speculative Philosophy
Vol. 30, No. 3, Special Issue with The Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (2016), pp. 303-315
DOI: 10.5325/jspecphil.30.3.0303
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Page Count: 13
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Derrida and the Autoimmunity of Democracy
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Derrida argues that the idea of democracy suffers from a fatal “autoimmunity”: its freedom and equality requirements cancel each other out. But he also feels that because of this malady democracy can enjoy a form of “reasonableness” and “possibility as impossible” that favors it over all other kinds of polity. In particular, recognition of the inherent limitations of this autoimmunity might help counter harmful policies arrogantly carried out in democracy's name. While approving of Derrida's admonitions, I question the guiding role he assigns to an unconditional “democracy to come.” I argue that his characterization of this idea immanently undoes his argument for the autoimmunity of conditional democracies. But I also claim that the promise he finds in autoimmunity is derivable from a different and overlooked aspect of his thinking—his philosophical use of “voice” throughout his work and its implications for three political virtues that he also favors: solidarity, heterogeneity, and fecundity or the creation of new voices.

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