The Will for Self-Preservation: Locke and Derrida on Dominion, Property and Animals


Despite the strong growth of animal studies within the academy, fundamental critiques of human utilization of animals remain, arguably, on the margins. Classic analytic approaches, such as that advanced by Peter Singer (1975) and Tom Regan (1983), while having a powerful shaping effect on the language of animal advocacy, have been slow to dent academic endeavor, and have failed to significantly impact the research questions posed by some disciplines. Political philosophy is one example of this. Although recently we have seen the emergence of new work in this area from the liberal tradition, including from Robert Garner (2013), Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka (2011), Siobhan O’Sullivan (2011) and Alasdair Cochrane (2010), political philosophy has been slow to respond to the problems presented by human utilization of animals, and social justice debates have largely excluded consideration of the non-human. In many respects this is unfortunate. Our relationships with animals reflect deeply structural forms of social and political organization, and responses to systematic human violence towards animals requires wholesale thinking about the nature of “just” societies, and a political strategy of response. And it is likely that these challenges will continue to grow more pressing. As Donalson and Kymlicka frankly observe: “for the foreseeable future, we can expect more and more animals every year to be bred, confined, tortured, exploited, and killed to satisfy human desires” (2).

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