Derrida’s Democracy to Come

Matthias Fritsch, ‘Derrida’s Democracy to Come,’ Constellations 9:4 (2002): pp. 574-93.


To assess the contribution of recent French thought to democratic theory, this paper discusses Derrida’s ‘democracy to come’ in relation to a quasi-transcendental account of the constitution of meaning and identity in terms of an excess of time named the future to come. This re-conceptualization of democracy cannot escape the affirmation of normative commitments, a commitment to futural openness that stands in need of justification. Derrida’s intent to expose ineluctable aporias and contradictions of democratic decision-making disallows what Habermas calls a transcendental-pragmatic argument to the effect that we ought to be open to the future because the openness of the future is always necessarily presupposed by our symbolic practices. However, Derrida’s insistence on unavoidable contradictions and aporias can provide a weak normativity if this insistence is viewed as aiming at the reduction of violence. I conclude by showing that Derrida tends to overreach the normativity he can justify, in particular in regard to the relatively neglected democratic values of economic and political equality.

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