Alex Petridis doesn’t actually compare the new Faithless album to Jacques Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Other [he could have added the subtitle for heightened effect: or, the Prosthesis of Origin]. Instead he ridicules a ‘broadsheet’ critic for carrying on as if the two were comparable, specifically, that the Faithless album were a work of ‘academic importance’ to rival Derrida’s book (i.e. for what some would call a ‘category mistake’). But what does Petridis’s choice of Derrida text reveal?

It’s not one of the most well-known: surely more undergrad lit students have suffered through lectures on Of Grammatology or Limited Inc. (they should be being taught Writing and Difference and Derrida’s “Introduction” (it’s about ten times longer than the essay it precedes) to Husserl’s “Origin of Geometry” of course, but everyone will have their own view on this). So is Petridis simply showing off by plumping for an obscure text? Or is it the only one he happened to come across at university?

If he’s read the book, he might know that it is a fierce and confrontational text, but presented as a kind of cryptic confessional, part memoir, part analysis, part polemic. It’s certainly a political book, although not by any means comparable to the crude tub-thumping hand-wringing liberal conscience qualms of the Faithless single, “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. But if Petridis knows this, why doesn’t he extend the comparison? Does Derrida’s Algerian and Jewish and French identity, and the removal of his citizenship under the Vichy regime, or his concern for issues of immigration and transnational politics, bear some relation to the album? Wouldn’t you say so, if that was the point you wanted to make?

Is it because the title of the Derrida text itself sounds impressive (but does it?). Does Petridis think this is a major work rather than a slim volume, in an extremely unremarkable cover in the Stanford University Press translation (the French orginal is an extravagant deluxe edition which comes with the pages uncut, a biblio-fetishist’s dream), the transcription of a paper given at a conference in Louisiana on bilingualism? Has Petridis been misled by the title (and its inclusion of the by-now-exhausted term ‘other’) into thinking this is a principal statement rather than an interesting and illuminating, but not desperately substantial work?

Does the claim that ‘all culture is colonial’, thrown away as an aside by Derrida, have anything to do with Faithless? Does it matter that we’re each colonised first of all by our own language, by our so-called mother tongue? And then by a whole series of assumptions, traditions, customs, ways of thinking, from which we cannot simply opt out? That we have to make our way as best we can by negotiating with the terms of a system which may be entirely compromised, but is the only one we have?

My guess: and that’s all it is, is that the three page press release which has riled Petridis refers to the book. But if you have any other theories, I’d be interested to know…