‘Tarrying with the Negative’: Bataille and Derrida’s Reading of Negation in Hegel’s Phenomenology

Heythrop Journal 43 (3):295–310 (2002)
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Central to Bataille’s critique of Hegel is his reading in ‘Hegel, Death, and Sacrifice’ of ‘negation’ and of ‘lordship and bondage’ in the Phenomenology of Spirit. Whereas Hegel invokes negation as inclusive of death, Bataille points out that negation in the dynamic of lordship and bondage must of necessity be representational rather than actual. Derrida, in ‘From Restricted to General Economy’ sees in Bataille’s perspective an undercutting of the overall Hegelian project consonant with his own ongoing deconstruction of Hegelian sublation. I argue that not only does Hegel fail to adequately pursue his own best advice to ‘tarry with the negative,’ but Bataille and Derrida’s critique misconstrues the relation between sublation and dialectic in Hegel’s work. I explicate Adorno’s ‘negative dialectic’ by way of alternative both to Hegelian speculative dialectic and to its Bataillean–Derridean deconstruction
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