chapter  9
19 Pages

Performativities

Derrida concentrates on language as language, Austin on language as collective enactment of reality; one emphasizes locution, the other illocution. This distinction has had major impact on deconstructionists' understanding of verbal performativity. For Austin, speech acts and illocution are synonyms, performative locution a contradiction in terms. The concept Austin introduced to designate the force constituted by language's social position has thus been converted into a description of language without social positioning. There is as a result a certain ambiguity when performative appears in deconstructive criticism. Derrida's misleading suggestion that speech-act theory peacefully distinguishes performative from constative can therefore be seen as another instance of his determination to address locution alone. Performative and constative interpenetration, for Austin the consequence of language's function in collective life, is for deconstruction one of the means by which language gets away from collective life and everything else except itself.