Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Derrida, Schmitt and French Nationalism

I've addressed nationalist undertones in Derrida before. I'm reminded of this topic by teaching Politics of Friendship in an MA class.

Derrida deals with Carl Schmitt at length there, including Theory of the Partisan, the sequel to Concept of the Political. Derrida gets quite indignant on a few issues which touch French national pride

1. Schmitt's emphasis on the origin of the 'partisan' (a soldier defending territory without regard to membership of a recognised state army) in Spanish resistance to French occupation under Napolean Bonaparte and then in Prussian resitance to Bonaparte is not well received.

2. Derrida refers to Schmitt's failure to mention French women participating in the Resistance to Nazi occupation.

3. Schmitt's emphasis on General Salan who opposed De Gaulle after the independence of Algeria as the example of a partisan and of Catholic thinking.

Derrida does not make nationalistic comments about Schmitt's choice of the Bonaparatist wars as the context for defining the solider who defends territory without fıyndation in the law of war, but with justice, however, his anxiety is clear.

Derrida wishes to emphasise a feminine French Republicanism against Schmitt's invocation of friendship and emnity both modelled on fraternity.

In bringing up Salan, Schmitt brşings up a very awkaward moment in French Republicanism. The generals who opposed de Gaulle for giving independence could claim to be defending Republican ideals with regard to the integration of Algeria into France. As Derrida was a colonial in Algeria in origin, there is a lot of unexpressed anxity and ambiguity at stake here. De Gaulle versus the anti-Gaullist generals, not the most comfortable of territory for many left wing Republicans support de Gaulle the conservative or his conservative enemies. De Gaulle himself was an oddly ambiguous figure, half defender and creator of post-colonial republican democratic France independent of the USA and half ultra-conservative aristocrat and autocratic president.

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