Introduction: Fabled Thought: On Jacques Derrida’s The Beast & the Sovereign


Jacques Derrida’s lectures on La bête et le souverain, given at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales from 2001-2003, comprise a remarkable set of reflections on sovereignty and its opposition and overlap with bestiality. Published in two volumes by Éditions Galilée, and in English translation by the University of Chicago Press, they touch on familiar themes and concepts from Derrida’s broader work, such as sexual difference, the nature of reason, decision and responsibility, the religious basis of humanism and fraternalism and the community of fellows. Yet most centrally, they revolve around the question of the bête in Western thinking about sovereignty and humanity, making use of the discourse of the beast and of fabulous animals to deconstruct the “onto-theologico-political structure of sovereignty” (B&S I 46).

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