The Lucid Vigil: Deconstruction, Desire and the Politics of Critique, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Lucid Vigil

Deconstruction, Desire and the Politics of Critique, 1st Edition

By Stella Gaon


278 pages

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pub: 2019-02-11
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Stella Gaon provides the first fully philosophical account of the critical nature of deconstruction, and she does so by turning in an original way to psychoanalysis. Drawing on close readings of Freud and Laplanche, Gaon argues that Derridean deconstruction is driven by a normative investment in reason’s psychological force. Indeed, deconstruction is more faithful to the principle of reason than the various forms of critical theory prevalent today. For if one pursues the classical demand for rational grounds vigilantly, one finds that claims to ethical or political legitimacy cannot be rationally justified, because they are undone by logical undecidability. Gaon’s argument is borne out in the cases of Kantian deontology, Deweyan pragmatism, progressive pedagogy, Habermasian moral theory, Levinasian ethics and others. What emerges is the groundbreaking demonstration that deconstruction is impelled by a quasi-ethical critical drive, and that to read deconstructively is to radicalize the emancipatory practice of reason as self-critique.

This important volume will be of great value to critical theorists as well as to Derrida scholars and researchers in social and political thought.


"Stella Gaon explores how the radicality of Derridean deconstruction lies in its unwavering fidelity to the very conditions of reason. This is what drives deconstruction to uncover the irreducible violence at the heart of every law, but also every moral claim, with far-reaching consequences for political and pedagogical theory and practice. For Gaon, deconstruction exemplifies critical thinking: the unflinching interrogation of the categories through which good and evil, fact and fiction, the righteous and the reprehensible are established. With admirable conceptual clarity Gaon’s captivating book explores the pivotal ramifications of a deconstructive mode of analysis for pedagogy, politics and ethics."Elisabeth Weber, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Anyone still in doubt about the political and ethical relevance or force of deconstruction will have to read Stella Gaon’s brilliant new work The Lucid Vigil. Gaon demonstrates with a stunning lucidity and attentiveness of her own that Derridean deconstruction was never a nihilistic attack on Enlightenment values but a relentless questioning of the foundations of ethical and political legitimacy in line with the most exacting demands of reason and self-critique. This work should set the record straight once and for all and should cause anyone interested in questions of ethics and politics to return to Derrida’s work, both early and late, with renewed attention, passion, and urgency."Michael Naas, DePaul University, Chicago

"Gaon’s The Lucid Vigil: Deconstruction, Desire and the Politics of Critique is evidently the culmination of an extended period of reading and reflection on Derrida’s texts. It shows remarkable insight into Derrida’s texts, as well as of those he reads, of those who read him, and of other, related texts. The rigorous analyses contained in these pages deserve to be read and re-read as they elucidate Derrida’s thinking in a manner that has not as yet been undertaken before."Jacques de Ville, Professor and Dean of Law, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Table of Contents


Part 1: Naming the Stakes

1. The Danger of Rhetoric

2. The Apocalyptic Tone of Philosophy

3. Redefining the "Postmodern"

4. Deconstructing Kantian Critique

Part 2: The Ends of Education

5. From "Neo" to "Post": Strategies in Theory

6. Neomodernist Critical Pedagogies

7. Pedagogy without Foundations: Feminism and Anti-Racism

8. The Habermasian Gambit: A Critique of Discourse Ethics

Part 3: On Deconstruction and Justice

9. Responsibility as Messianic Injunction

10. Derrida Contra Levinas

11. Conscience and the Aporia of Subjectivity

12. The Desire for Reason

Conclusion: The Risk of a Certain Critique

About the Author

Stella Gaon is Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of Women and Gender Studies at Saint Mary’s University. She is the editor of Democracy in Crisis: Violence, Alterity, Community.

About the Series

Psychoanalytic Political Theory

The Psychoanalytic Political Theory series is dedicated to providing a publishing space for the highest quality scholarship at the intersection of psychoanalysis and normative political theory. In sum, the series offers a forum for texts that deepen our understanding of the complex relationships between the world of politics and the inner world of the psyche.

As we hope to broaden, rather than to narrow, the range and reach of this field, the series welcomes contributions from all foci within political theory (classical, contemporary, democratic, etc.). Similarly, the series is not beholden to a particular psychoanalytic orientation, such that projects rooted in a variety of approaches (Lacanian, object relations, self psychology, etc.) are welcome.

We are particularly interested in proposals that demonstrate potential to advance both political and psychoanalytic theory while remaining accessible to scholarly audiences of diverse backgrounds. Although the series is devoted to works of theory, works informed by qualitative analyses, case studies, or related methodologies may also be appropriate.

The series will publish individual and co-authored scholarly monographs, collaborative edited volumes, and texts appropriate for advanced university courses.

To submit book proposals, please contact the Editor, Natalja Mortensen ([email protected]) or the Series Editors, Matthew H. Bowker ([email protected]) and David W. McIvor ([email protected]). 

We look forward to hearing from you!

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis