Derrida polarizes gift and economy, gift and exchange, gift and the circle. Like Heidegger, he posits a quasi-transcendental giving that is not giving of something by someone to someone. This pure donation eludes the calculating circle of gift and return.

As always, Derrida is on the verge of Trinitarian theology. As usual, he gets it wrong.

Rahner is correct: The economic Trinity is the immanent, the immanent the economic. There is no ascent from the economic Trinity to a differently-patterned ontological Trinity. Rather, in the economy of redemption, God displays the internal economy of eternal communion. If the economy is a circle of gift and return, so is the ontology. And the economy is a circle of gift and return: The Father sends the Son, who returns to the Father; Father and Son send the Spirit, who prepares creation for the Son, so that He might deliver it up to the Father.

Alternatively, Derrida can narrow “economy” and “exchange” to their common modern meanings: There is no economy but the economy of self-interest and driving bargains. But then Derrida’s apparent radicalism stands exposed as a projection of capitalism.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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