"The Force of the Event": Performative Failures and Queer Repetitions in Austin, Butler, and Derrida

Thomas Clément Mercier


DOI: https://doi.org/10.15691/0718-5448Vol5Iss1a374
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Resumen

Much has been written on Derrida’s and Butler's discussions of Austin’s speech act theory, but one thing at least remains unclear: why does performativity hinge on the notion of “force,” and what “force” are we here talking about? For Austin, the force of the performative signals a performative enforcement, a validating repetition of prior conditions of legitimation: it testifies to the “felicity” or “success” of the performative event.According to Derrida, this articulation between force and success closes off the eventness of the event; it implies an ontological reduction and reconstruction, that is, an appropriation of the event in the form of performative power. However, the performative, if it is to truly produce an event, must exceed prior conditions of validation and transform, in its performance, the conditions of validity it was meant to repeat. Eventness must remain beyond and without power. In this perspective, the article explores the “force” which Derrida describes as “force of the event”: an excessive force in the face of which “performative force” must fail. At bottom undecidable, “the force of the event” suggests the fallibility of force and the force of fallibility. I compare this self-deconstructive notion of force with Butler’s subversive politics of the performative, which theorizes “performative force” as the force of a failure – but a successful failure – to comply with the norm: a non-normative repetition and a reappropriation that forces change, and of which “queer” is at once the example, the model, and the very name. While Derrida’s is an attempt to think the uncanny force of a strange, non-appropriable, non-ontologizable, and perhaps “queer” event or quasi-event, characterized by fallibility and undecidability, Butler’s theory of power and her notion of “performative force” reverse, but fundamentally maintain, Austin’s ontological oppositions between success and failure, legitimacy and illegitimacy, repetition and change.


Mercier T. "The Force of the Event": Performative Failures and Queer Repetitions in Austin, Butler, and Derrida. Síntesis, Rev filos.. 2022;5(1): 1-34. Disponible en: doi:10.15691/0718-5448Vol5Iss1a374 [Accessed 2 Dec. 2022].
Mercier, T. (2022). "The Force of the Event": Performative Failures and Queer Repetitions in Austin, Butler, and Derrida. Síntesis. Revista de Filosofía, 5(1), 1-34. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.15691/0718-5448Vol5Iss1a374

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