39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 1999
Derrida's latest book continues what has been pecieved as an 'ethical turn' in deconstruction, intiated with 1994's "Spectres of Marx," and the subesquent rich contribution of 'deconstructionists' to political and moral thinking. However, Derrida himself contends that his entire project would have been unthinkable without some form of Marxism, and I share emphatically the view of Critchley, Laclau et al that questions of ethics and politics lie at the heart of the deconstructive enterprise. It is such a reading that gives this latest text a crucial location in the most contempoarary of politics. And those who contend that Derrida's (and the continental tradtion's legacy in general) has nothing 'practical,' 'useful' to say about the conduct of states and peoples in something called the 'real world,' need only refer to the Middle East situation, and the endlessly shifting notions of 'friends' and 'enemies' in that region to begin to grasp the paradoxical importance of Aristotle's strange address, inverted by Nietzsche, "O my friends, there are no friends," around which Derrida constructs his arguments. Where do the boundairies of friendship lie - is not our closest friend also, as Nietzsche suggested long ago, also our greatest enemy? Throughout the years of the Cold War, such questions may have seemed irrelevant, facticious. For those of us in the West, it was US and them, the USSR, the Warsaw Pact. Complicated though the transactions may have been, it was between two concretely opposed and finished blocs. Today the questions are rarley so simple - is the US a friend, to those in Britain? But which US - for it is surely now not an homogenous entity if it ever was. And which Russia do we hold dear? The collsape of stable relasionships between states of the world precipates a collaspe of recognition and identification within these states, via which we exist as political beings. Derrida's book is not the truth of friends, but in myraid different ways explores the legacy in various philosophical traditions of the dicotomy friend / enemey, and opens new and vital interpretations of our contempoarary state.