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Derridean Europe from Pakistan

Ruminations of Jacques Derrida (on Europe) understood by a Pakistani

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Derrida’s Democracy to Come  

In the backdrop of fall of Berlin wall, Francis Fukuyama foresaw the culmination of history in the heart of Europe. He averred that the times have reached their epitome and that was the end of man’s ideological evolution. Giving his view on the development of different states around the world he said that there would be some countries that might not be able to reach to the high standard of liberal democracy even if they try to, and other countries may inadvertently have despotism and theocracy as state of rule, but the model of liberal democracy is the best and it cannot be further perfected.”

Jacques Derrida felt that it was naive to assert that the ideal of democracy is the idealist of all. He alleged that failure to democracy is not only potent in primordial kinds of rule or theocracy or despotism but this failure and breach also distinguish from the description and by definition, all democracies, which includes the most ancient and continuing  western democracies especially of Europe. Giving a totalitarian picture of democracy –stating that this is the highest one can achieve in name of democratization –damages the ideal of democracy as promise. Promise can only be a promise when it is hit back by a failure or dis-junction. This is the sole reason that Derrida focused on ‘democracy to come.’ Not of some democracy to happen in future but a democracy in continual making. So that the promise of a better democracy and better future keeps alive.

Derrida also showed us an inherent problem in the argument of Fukuyama. Fukuyama on one hand said that democracy has attained its epitome and on the other he asserted that democracy guarantees that it will be triumphant in the long run. Additionally, Fukuyama mentioned Hegel and Marx who said that when a society attains the final position of development, that moment is called the ‘end of history’. Derrida argued that when that event has already happened how come it has the possibility of betterment in the long run.

Derrida also maintained that the assured-ness Fukuyama felt about the present and future of democracy is similar to what he himself has thought when he was jailed in Prague in 1981. While in jail he would say to himself that “this barbarism could last for centuries.” Derrida added that such assuming that there will be similar conditions for endless future, or thinking on such terms is bad for policy making, state and even for democracy.

At that time people were jubilant about the triumph of democracy and capitalism, even then Derrida pointed out that the ongoing civil wars around the world, poverty, starvation  undermines the so called triumph of democracy. Moreover, there were wars happening on basis of nationalism, ethnicity and religion at that moment, even in the midst of Europe. The war of Serbia Herzegovina is one such example. Democracy wasn’t even triumphant when it was deemed as such.

Europe seemed plagued with, namely: unemployment; abandonment of people from democratic process if they do not own a home; fierce economic wars among west and east European states, Europe and US and US and Japan; ills of free market, tension between West protecting its citizens from cheap labor and availing cheap labor from rest of the world; foreign debt affecting people; dilemma of arms industry whose illegal transport is more than drugs and this industry cannot be halted because a lot of money and employed citizens are involved; the countries which are against nuclear weapons are the ones spreading them; inter-ethnic wars; growth of phantom states which are mafia and drug cartels like Sicily and Italy; the international law’s incompetency because its charter is only from a certain background and it is overrun by handful countries.

Mentioning the disjointedness in Fukuyama’s argument and present state of affairs, Derrida proposed a ‘democracy to come’ for Europe and rest of the world.  He did not simply rejected democracy but was hopeful for it. He outlined the attributes of democracy to come which should be along a certain spirit of Marxism –the spirit that has the ability to self-critique its own self and oversee its own transformation. But this spirit of Marxism will be taken only on its own while leaving away the other attributes of Marxism like its “supposed systemic, metaphysical, or ontological totality” and basic tenets of Marxism like social class, labor, mode of production etc.

Derrida felt that only the ability of self-critique is enough for the project of democracy to come, and it gives it a state of promise not a promise only in terms of speaking but one which gives results in positive event.

Derrida saw future only as an expected forthcoming endangerment, which is fragmented from normal events and future can only be explained as an impending horror. To enable ourselves to comprehend what democracy to come is or anything forthcoming in future should only be expected as an unknown event with quality of an impending danger or even monster.

Similarly, unlike giving a totalitarian idea of democracy, Alex Thompson thought that Derrida emphasized a play to the concept of democracy which is open to varied interpretations and in the form of ‘new international’ will enclose every nation instead of some mighty states like today.

The usage of term democracy to come according to Samir Haddad opens up chances for democracy excelling itself for a better place. This term also redirects toward the fact that democracy by default is the only system that is open to critique through its system and constitutionally it gives right to question even the democracy. This process of self-questioning can enable democracy to analyze itself and evolve certain parts of it to be more democratic.

Derrida does not simply define democracy in terms of a political regime like that of Plato and Aristotle. He elaborately delineated democracy as space where there is equality for all its residents each having different individualities, with irreducible otherness. Democracy for him is a community of friends, where majority is calculated. And such democracy has subjects which are stabilized, distinguished and equal. Derrida incessantly in his various works tried to relate democracy to nationality, cultural inheritance and a place where sexual differences are relegated to none.

Derrida hailed that democracy to come opens up possibility of deconstruction of democracy and related concepts of rule about birth, nationality, aboriginality, laws and attributes concerning equality of people and their ability to assimilate with each other and law relating the birth right of aristocracy and unconditional authority to certain race or class in a state. Probably such deconstruction can withdraw democracy from “autochtonic and homophyliac rootedness.” This kind of democracy is more and more important for today’s Europe as Europe is engrossed in homophobia against aliens particularly towards the Muslims of Asian origin. Ironically, these Muslims are present in Europe in millions.

Moreover, in an interview given to Giovanna Borradori, Derrida reminisced that from all the concepts of rule of politics, democracy is the only one that has an auto-immune property, which by unfurling this property can attain its perfection.

Derrida underscored that there is still yet no democracy in the world and this is the reason Derrida wants us to be hopeful for a democracy to come. In this sense, democracy to come is highly dependent on unconditional hospitality and friendship, which gives right to the receiver to refuse whatever constraints and restricts him.

Derrida also emphasized that there is “no deconstruction without democracy and no democracy without deconstruction.” The best quality of democracy is its auto deconstructive force that delimits itself and questions it’s each and every move. In his work Rogues; he gave examples of rogue states where with the very usage of democratic tools they have voted democracy out of existence. So democracy has this capability of being used against itself. Accordingly, Derrida emphasized on a notion of developing democracy which keeps getting better.

Derrida acquired democracy as a complete philosophical idea, the one which will be in perpetual state of ‘to come’. While reading Walter Benjamin’s The Origin of German Tragic Drama, Derrida mentioned how in democratic states the state allows police to use violence although it is completely illegal. Or the police violence is just another name of law [Not to mention Jan Patocka, on whose work Derrida outlined his book The Gift of Death, died of a brain hemorrhage after eleven hours of police interrogation]. Or the act of democratic governments, spying their own citizen for the sake of their protection, like tapping phones or putting in electronic chips. The states misuse their powers, sabotaging the citizen’s private space, in the name of law. Looking at these attributes, Derrida outlined that the real democracy will lead to a disintegration of “law, of the violence, the authority and the power of law.” He also stated that there has not been even single democratic government that comes to the standard of the proper noun democracy. “Democracy remains to come: to engender or to regenerate.”

Derrida’s positions his democracy to come against every other democracy where there is rhetoric on greatness of democracy but yet there are scores of people being affected by malnutrition, diseases and humiliation and are even deprived of the basic right of freedom. Democracy has an auto immune property because it allows the opposition against itself and democracy to come is intrinsically related to it. Also, democracy to come will redefine the inflow of people coming in a nation after passing border police today.

Julie Candler Hayes, calls democracy to come most pregnant phrases of Derrida’s writings which later infested into his critique of enlightenment, turning it into enlightenment to come. She also mentioned Marie Louise Mallet who said that as we take up any form of democracy in Europe and the rest of the world any representation of sorts of democratic norms, none is up to the ideal of democracy. But despite that no one should stop trying to fulfill that ideal.

Answering to the allegation that Derrida’s a-venir is not any abstract ideal or a datable proportion of future, Hayes asserted that every form of a-venir “remains recognizable attached to a real exigency, a real practice or a historical moment (as) enlightenment propels enlightenment to come.”

As mentioned in the beginning of the section Derrida condoned Fukuyama’s jubilation over the triumph of democracy. Jotting down various flaws in today’s democracy he declared that the democracy we talk about today is still to come, on that time Derrida shocked everyone by reminding about Marxism and stressing the Marxist quality of self-critique should be used for democracy.

In words of Carolyn D’Cruz Derrida’s work assured a hauntology that phantoms of Marxism/Communism will always haunt the process of democracy-to-come. But this hauntology does not only preoccupy the concept of democracy but covers what can be called ontology.

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