How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectua
by Francois Cusset
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If two mirrors are turned face-to-face, each will reflect the other’s reflection of itself, and so on. Thus is generated (at least in theory) an image that resembles a tunnel going on forever—albeit to nowhere in particular. In practice, of course, there are limits to just how far this regress reaches. The mirrors have to be absolutely parallel, and any distortions on their surfaces ruin the effect. But even a glimpse of this virtual abyss can be sublime. Either that or queasy-making.
Precisely that range of affective response was common in the early days of what François Cusset calls French Theory. (That term subsumes everyone from Althusser to Žižek.) The labors of an inexhaustible perspectivism—the patient yet manic picking apart of established structures of thought—opened up an abyss that could induce
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