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Jacques Derrida’s The Beast & The Sovereign

Jacques Derrida at home in Ris-Orangis, near Paris, January 6, 2001. Photo: Joel Robine/AFP/Getty Images.

The Beast & The Sovereign, Vol. 2, by Jacques Derrida. Edited by Michel Lisse, Marie-Louise Mallet, and Ginette Michaud, Translated by Geoffrey Bennington. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. 320 pages. $35.

JACQUES DERRIDA was buried in the cemetery at Ris-Orangis, near Paris, on October 12, 2004. But in this newly translated seminar, presented to students in Paris in 2002–2003, he already seems to speak from the grave. The book is a prolonged engagement with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), ostensibly considering its unlikely conjunction with Martin Heidegger’s 1929–30 lectures The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, as a way to explain what Derrida in the first volume calls the “obscure and fascinating complicity” of the beast and the sovereign. But although Derrida also mentions Marx’s interpretation of Crusoe’s solitude in terms of the individualism of bourgeois

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