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Fables of Responsibility: Aberrations and Predicaments in Ethics and Politics (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics) [Paperback]

Thomas Keenan


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Nov 1997 Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics
This is an analysis of the ways a linked set of ethico-political concepts responsibility, rights, freedom, equality, and justice might be re-thought, not simply jettisoned or reactively defended, in view of the linguistic deconstruction of their underlying principle, the individual human subject. In a series of readings of contemporary thinkers (notably Foucault and Derrida) and their philosophical antecedents (Marx, Nietzsche, Sade), the author argues that an encounter with the difficulties of reading (literary) language, precisely what resists the immediate comprehension or mastery of a subject, enables in turn a new thought of rights and responsibility. What literature teaches us about politics is that the absence of foundations, whether in the world or in the subject, far from being its downfall, is its very condition of possibility: because a foundation or a final resolution is lacking, we have politics and ethics and their predicaments. Like the reading of a text, which is never quite done, any responsibility worthy of the name cannot rest in the good conscience of its certain accomplishment; likewise, the assertion of rights can never be circumscribed or guaranteed hence the ongoing necessity of the ethical and the political.

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"This brilliant and lucid book, impeccably documented, begins with a theory of reading and ends with a stunning analysis of the conditions for political action. On the way it relates deconstructive ethical thinking to literature and politics in an unprecedented manner, illuminating all three."--Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University

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