Hautology : Past in the Present Searching a Future

Derrida contests totalitarian and essentialist thinking. His method of contestation is famously called deconstruction. Closed meanings are opened through textual deconstruction. Time is also deconstructed and rendered unfixed through the notion of hauntology. Derrida seems to indicate that we are ill-adjusted to the present or the contemporary. Derrida calls is a disjuncture or dischronia of the present. The present cannot be fully present. It is under these conditions that there is an intermingling of the specter of the past and sprit of the future producing a disjointed experience of time. Time being disjointed does not allow present to be fully present as well as is impeded by a overwhelming sense that future is cancelled. Hence, haunting becomes the return of the past which simultaneously becomes a new beginning . The specter of the past meets the spirit of future producing a present as work of giving future to the comfortable past. But this renders the present tensive, eerie, and haunted.

‘The future belong to the ghosts’ , says Derrida. Ghosts belong to the future. They are part of the future. They open a closed future. Kill our hope in several ways and haunt us. Haunting closes us as we try to respond to the closed future. It is a return of ghost that casts out our hope or reorients it . It makes us fear that our tomorrow is doomed. Hence, we then, take up a hopeless remedial action. This action is also hopeful but it is a choiceless choice. We seem to runout of options and, therefore, the action we choose is hopelessly desperate. Mark Fisher tells us that lost futures come to haunt our present. It is an eerie zone where time collapses and our past returns to haunt us. Under this condition life is put on slow cancellation of the future. It seems that life continues but future does not seem possible. Our plight is best described by Slavok Zizek with imagery of light at the end of the tunnel. He says although we can see light at the end of the tunnel, it is the headlight of an engine that is coming to crush us.

Derrida developed his philosophy of hauntology in response to claim of Francis Fukuyama who declared that history came to an end with the rise of liberal democracy. There is no more higher political formation to come. With democracy, we have reached the pinnacle of development. In proclaiming the end of history, Fukuyama had effectively declared the death of Marxism and other alternate forms of political organizations. It was thought to be the final victory of liberalism. Derrida responds to this claim, with his book, Specters of Marx where he says, we are still haunted by the ghosts of Marx. Derrida claimed that deconstruction is the radicalization of Marxism. Spectrality is said to the result of the ethical turn of deconstruction . Specters or ghosts may not really exist but they do affect our present. When like the Hamlet of Shakespeare, we have sense of time being out of joint, we experience haunting as the future appears to be lost and leads to erasure of hope.

Certain future has an ability to haunt us before it comes to pass. Derrida links being and haunting together. That is why ,he claims that ontology is marked by hauntology. Being is becoming, hence, remains always in the coming. This opens us to that future as a work in progress and is not closed or determined. This indicates that there is always another future possible. Thus what haunting offers is a glimmer of hope. Hauntology is also a Eloizology ( science of hope). No condition is really hopeless , even the erasure of hope offers a hope. There is a silver lining in every Cloud. Although, hauntology is triggered by a perception of a failure of the future, it becomes a way of hoping against hope by the recasting of the past. The past is gone by and has a way of living in the present and haunting it. To set us free , we have the challenge to let past be past and open future that is not determined by the past.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao