The Right to Narcissism: A Case for an Impossible Self-Love

The Right to Narcissism: A Case for an Impossible Self-Love

The Right to Narcissism: A Case for an Impossible Self-Love

The Right to Narcissism: A Case for an Impossible Self-Love

Synopsis

This book aims to wrest the concept of narcissism from its common and pejorative meanings egoism and vanity by revealing its complexity and importance. DeArmitt undertakes the work of rehabilitating "narcissism" by patiently reexamining the terms and figures that have been associated with it, especially in the writings of Rousseau, Kristeva, and Derrida. These thinkers are known for incisively exposing a certain (traditional) narcissism that has been operative in Western thought and culture and for revealing the violence it has wrought from the dangers of amour-propre and the pathology of a collective "one's own" to the phantasm of the sovereign One. Nonetheless, each of these thinkers denounces the naive denunciation of "narcissism," as the dangers of a non-negotiation with narcissism are more perilous. By rethinking "narcissism" as a complex structure of self-relation through the Other, the book reveals the necessity of an im-possible self-love.

Excerpt

The right to narcissism must be rehabilitated, it needs the time and the means.
[Le droit au narcissisme doit être rehabilité, il y faut le temps et les moyens.]

—Jacques Derrida, Right of Inspection

The right to narcissism? Any claim to a right to narcissism would raise more than a few eyebrows. Is not narcissism problematic enough, but to call for its legitimation, to openly declare, as Derrida does in the above epigraph, that narcissism should be “rehabilitated,” as if it has ever been neglected and fallen into disrepair? Have not our contemporary phi losophers, cultural theorists, theologians, and even literary scholars spilled much ink over the pervasive egoism of our time and, with it, the troubling disregard for the other—each and every other? Have not ethical discourses proliferated as correctives to this seemingly intractable problem? In fact, is not Derrida one of those who has addressed this very problem and done so in the most trenchant manner by exposing that the whole of the Western tradition is fueled by a powerful narcissistic fantasy of self- return, whether it goes by the name “presence,” “auto- affection,” “phallogocentrism,” or, most recently, “sovereignty”? What, then, are we to make of Derrida’s seemingly anomalous positive invocation of narcissism and his provocative appeal to rehabilitate the right to it?

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