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Jacques Derrida on American attitude


If I find Derrida a little longwinded does that make me American? According to the man himself, it probably does. Below we find the philosopher talking about directness that Americans have that doesn’t seem to allow for the contextual complexity that seems so important to French thinking. “It happens in radio or televised interviews with hurried, manipulative journalists who think that because someone is a philosopher, you can suddenly ask them about Being. As if you can push a button and there’s a readymade discussion.” Derrida says that cinema, as nurtured by Americans, is a good example of this–that you can say “action” and people will start talking and moving. Watch in full via Youtube below.


this is so clear, and turns my American mind on itself in a way both painful and liberating.


Increasingly I feel that this America extends beyond its physical borders. Painfully as an Australian his insights increasingly apply to us


Yeah, I agree. I think he says that a bit in the video, that even pushy French journalists can “act American” and ask someone to explain Being point-blank, as if a director saying “action!”. As an American (and a fairly introverted one at that) I’m somewhat resistant to the idea that this really does represent American society–maybe because what he’s describing seems so alpha male to me.


I think what he says sounds both meaningful, because the “action” metaphor resonates with me; and simplistic, because it is a generalization.


Haha yeah, I think you’ve hit it on the head. It’s an interesting generalization but it is a generalization.


Definitely a generalization, but perhaps he is getting at something more subtle here - something about ways American Exceptionalism is exhibited in personal behavior. We may not even be able to see these tendencies in ourselves, being steeped in our culture of striving. In fact, could it be something about a lack of subtlety of thought or a lack of collaborative discourse? Impatience? or is it the striving itself that he is describing?