Environmental Philosophy

Volume 16, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Reading Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign

David Baumeister
Pages 161-180

The Human/Animal Logic of Sovereignty
Derrida on Robinson Crusoe

This essay offers an analysis of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe read in concert with Derrida’s treatment of the novel in the second volume of The Beast and the Sovereign. Drawing from Derrida while developing insights of my own, I assemble the elements of a unique account and critique of the logic of human sovereignty. Focusing on a crucial moment in both the novel and in Derrida’s reading of it, I argue the thesis that human sovereignty rests upon a logically prior mastery of both non-human animals and subordinated human beings—a relation of mastery I call the human/animal logic of sovereignty.