CO M M U N ICATIO N AN D ITE RAB I LITY
such only in virtue of its iterability – and hence is irreducible to an identity that can simply be present in the present (see, e.g., Derrida, 1985, p. 88). As this point makes clear, the conceptual field of the classical model is fundamentally disrupted by Derrida’s generalisation of writing. Derrida describes his deconstructive argument as practising ‘a reversal of the classical opposition [of speech and writing] and a general displacement’ of the instituted field of interpretation of communication (LI, p. 21). However, in a certain respect, this deconstruction of the classical model is simply an inflected repetition or ‘iteration’ of it. That is, Derrida’s reading aims to put to work acknowledged (but marginalised) predicates against the dominant motif of the classical model. This ‘active reading’ of the classical model is not negative: it affirms what in the classical model itself ‘has always resisted the prior organization of forces’ (ibid.). As we have seen, this involves ‘liberating’ the ‘force of generality’ (ibid.) of certain predicates of writing which are recognised but cannot be done justice to by the classical (phonocentric) model. The idea here is that to do justice to these predicates is, in a certain way, to affirm what we already knew but find it very difficult to realise:16 writing can and must be able to function beyond the context of its inscription; and this is ‘no less appropriate to every species of sign and communication’ (ibid., p. 7). That is, an event of ‘writing’, large or small, is necessarily such that ‘no context can entirely enclose it’ (ibid., p.9). To affirm this generalisation of writing is thus also to affirm dissemination. It is to say that, in fact and in principle, ‘writing’ will always and interminably be ‘offering itself to be read and to be rewritten’ (ibid., p. 8). As Derrida notes, ‘this does not imply that the mark is valid outside of a context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any absolute anchorage’ (ibid., p. 12). There is, that is to say, no metacontextual or extra-textual ‘outside’ which sets a limit to ‘play’.17 Events which in themselves can only be iterable are, therefore, at once the condition of possibility for ‘writing’ in actuality and the condition of impossibility for ‘meanings’ which attain the ideal of exactness.
Explaining generality The character of Derrida’s affirmation of dissemination can be brought out more sharply if we consider again the role of the concept of iterability in more traditional accounts of language. As we have seen, traditionally, the aim is to provide a general explanation for generality (or generativity) in language. How is it possible for a speaker to apply and recognise words and concepts in an indefinite number of new cases? And the answer was: because the speaker has knowledge of definite rules which are indefinitely repeatable as the same. The rules are ‘iterable’. Derrida’s argument has a very different character. Iterability does not explain generality. Rather, what Derrida’s argument from iterability brings to the fore is that it is inconceivable that an event of ‘writing’ might not recur in new contexts.18 Each ‘singular event’ of ‘writing’ is not what it is except in view of another such ‘singular event’, an event that is not what it is except in view of another such ‘singular