Play and Presence

The next important thing in this essay is the discussion of "play" on 93. Stability - fixity caused by centre - is what Derrida calls "presence." Something is fully present when it's stable and fixed, not provisional and mobile. Play is the disruption of presence. There can be two attitudes toward the idea of play as disruption of system / structure: nostalgia and disapproval or approval. You can be nostalgic for fixed systems, and long for a return to simple beliefs (say, in God), and can mourn the loss of fixity of meaning. Or you can play along, rejoice in multiplicity and affirm the provisional nature of all meaning. This latter attitude doesn't look for full presence, which would be rest and stability, but revels in flux, in impermanence, in play. Think of the kindergarten teacher who either weeps in frustration because her kids won't behave or who gets down on the floor and starts playing with them. Obviously, Derrida thinks enjoying play is better (and there are political ideas attached to this; they will come up later on).

It is perfectly acceptable to despise these ideas (so long as you understand them, of course). Many people lament the decline of the humanist model, and the rise of post- structuralism, because post- structuralism throws out ideas of God, truth, self, and meaning and replaces them with relativism, ambiguity, and multiplicity. According to some people, this is exactly what's wrong with the world today. If only we could return to the old-fashioned values of humanism, and believe in absolute truth, fixed meaning, and permanence, everything would be okay - or at least a lot better than it is now. Whatever your belief on this topic, the important thing is to understand what the post-structuralists are saying, and why they say that. Whether you ultimately want to agree with them or disagree with them is up to you.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark  
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.