The Beast and the Sovereign, Vol. 1: summary project

As I’m currently reading The Beast and the Sovereign Vol 1, I’ll write up some summaries of the individual seminars. These were published in 2009, and took place 2-3 years before Derrida’s death. Much of the thinking behind the published book Rogues (2004) is evident in the seminar. The general topic is a kind of dynamic mapping of the history and functioning of the logic of political sovereignty. The title, the reference to the beast and the sovereign alludes to a kind of upper and lower limit to human society. Sovereignty refers to an exception, something defines a law, without being subject to that law. Beasthood, likewise, falls below the realm of law. Derrida makes explicit a theme that is clear in Of Grammatology, that man is a self-defining creature, and that God, and the beast, have been two of the most stable defining limits through our political and philosophical history.

I’m late on the bandwagon with this book. It’s now 6 years old, and plenty of research on it has rushed into print. I have no current plans to write more systematically about this book; I’m simply keeping tabs on the general development. But I’m also interested in a broader viewpoint to see the evolution of earlier themes into Derrida’s final works.


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