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For a future to come: Derrida's democracy and the right to literature

Reflecting on the political nature of literature and its relation to modern democracy, the essay begins by problematizing any notion of commitment in literature. However, irresponsibility found in literature, far from undermining the political process, is what animates the political field seen as an endless contestability of our social practice. The way our notion of modern democracy informs our understanding of literary practice is explored through a selection of Derrida’s writings where democracy emerges as the possibility of imagining alternatives to the world and “of thinking life otherwise,” as Derrida (2004) says, which is to say that democracy cannot be thought without the possibility of literature. Democracy implies not political stability but a continuous call for unrest that prevents its atrophy, and literature, in its unconditional right to call everything to account, is its rearguard work as it were, keeping democracy forever open, for better or for worse.

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