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Deconstructing the Death PenaltyDerrida's Seminars and the New Abolitionism$
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Kelly Oliver and Stephanie Straub

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823280100

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823280100.001.0001

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“Bidding Up” on the Question of Sovereignty

“Bidding Up” on the Question of Sovereignty

Derrida between Kant and Benjamin

(p.119) Chapter 6“Bidding Up” on the Question of Sovereignty
Deconstructing the Death Penalty

Kir Kuiken

Fordham University Press

This chapter interrogates the logic that Derrida identifies in the Death Penalty seminars and elsewhere as a logic of “surenchère” or “bidding-up.” This logic characterizes the development of the death penalty out of its relation to the unconditional ground of sovereignty. Focusing on Derrida’s strategy of multiplying and interrogating figures of hyperbolic sovereignty, including the death penalty itself, this essay explores how the logic of “bidding up” governs both Kant and Benjamin’s very different understanding of the relation between the self-founding of law, and the death penalty’s application. Turning towards Derrida’s earlier reading of Benjamin, this chapter goes on to articulate how the motif of “divine violence” becomes a figure without figure for a different form of “bidding up” that introduces an alternative logic of the unconditional. It also introduces the possibility of a genuine philosophical opposition to the death penalty as the imbrication of law making and law-preserving violence.

Keywords:   Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, Deconstruction, Exception, Immanuel Kant, Jacques Derrida, Sovereignty, Walter Benjamin

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