Derrida's Justice and Foucault's Freedom: Ethics, History, and Social Movements

<i>In thinking about justice in a pluralistic world, there are a number of potential theoretical resources. Derrida's thoughts on justice provide some tools with which to support social movements while avoiding the political and theoretical problems of identity politics, I argue; but the antihistorical frame’work of the philosophical ethics used and refined by Derrida is unhelpful to anyone working in social movements. By contrast, Foucault's later work on the ethics of freedom offers tools useful for thinking about embodiment, desire, and the historical specificity of ethical life. And yet, by remaining focused almost solely on liberté-backgrounding égalité, fraternité, and solidarité-Foucault's ethical reflections also remain open to supplementation. Thus, both thinkers’reflections on justice, freedom, and history have elements that are potentially very useful to those social movements that are unhappy with essentialist identities; but along the way we will have to invent our own additional, site-specific tools, in particular insofar as we are interested in building networks of solidarity</i>.