How do relational subjects act? That is, can a dispersed “who” originate action? This question first arose with Nietzsche who, as Alan Schriŕt points out, self-deconstructs his own literary authority. Nietzsche writes in Ecce Homo: “I am one thing, my writings are another,” phrases that Schrift takes as an interrogation of “the privileged position of the author within the space of interpretation” (Schrift 1995, 27).
Foucault and Derrida have also taken up this question of authorship. Derrida, along with Nietzsche, thinks the tendency to fix subjectivity as something static interrupts the fluidity and relationships that can occur between people and their works. To counter this tendency, Derrida decenters the subject from the position of author of a text to one who becomes part of a web of writing. As Derrida writes, “The ‘subject’ of writing does not exist if we mean by that some sovereign solitude of the author. The subject of writing is a system of relations between strata: the Mystic Pad, the psyche, society, the world” (Derrida 1978, 226–27). So, as Schrift notes, Derrida does not try to do away with the subject; rather, he situates and decenters it (Schrift 1995, 27).
In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche raises the matter of how our grammar leads us to think that there is an author, an ego, behind our thoughts. Criticizing Descartes’s cogito, Nietzsche writes,