Refusing defeatism: Derrida, decision and absolute risk

Nick Mansfield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper attempts to show how Derrida's thinking on contemporary politics insists on several key themes indispensable to a renewal of democracy. These themes are, firstly, the issue of competence. Technical calculation in the military sphere-what Virilio calls logistics-aims to reduce the subjectivity and responsibility of human decision to zero. This denial of the problem of human competence removes decision-making from the democratic sphere by attempting to automatise it. Secondly, Derrida insists that politics requires decision-making that is accountable to the Other, that acknowledges its own impossibility, and that is thus subject to absolute risk. In an era when the population feels increasingly disenfranchised and political decision is consistently presented as inevitable and necessary calculation, these insights re-introduce into politics an insistence on difficulty, discourse, danger and responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-483
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006


  • Decision
  • Derrida
  • Negotiation
  • Politics
  • Post-structuralism

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