Texts and tactics: an indirect approach to violence

by Stephen Carter

15 Jun 2020
Journal of the British Academy
22 (pp. 111-132)

Abstract: This essay examines the adaptation of thought forms initially geared toward the management of violence – tactical or strategic paradigms, for instance – as conceptual tools within social and cultural analysis, providing a case study that tracks the instrumental value and attractive power of violence-laden modes of thought. The argument focuses on the early work of Jacques Derrida, placing it into conversation with concurrent military theories of the indirect approach outlined by B. H. Liddell Hart, in order to argue for the presence of martial forms in the paradigm that would become deconstruction, if not more broadly in what Fredric Jameson has called ‘the idea of textuality’. The argument establishes the problematic of critical theory and violence, elaborates this intersection through the study of Derrida, and closes by outlining the stakes of the analysis, touching in particular upon contemporary debates around postcritique.

Keywords: Jacques Derrida, B. H. Liddell Hart, deconstruction, indirect approach, military thought, strategy, tactics, textuality, critical theory, postcritique.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 8, supplementary issue 3 (Memories of Violence).

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