Since the dawn of modernity, there have been two competing “models” to think and represent politics: war (and more generally conflict, or struggle, as in Machiavelli) and commerce (in the broad sense this term had in the classical age, for example in Kant and Montesquieu). These two terms are obviously not entirely independent but rather compete or even interfere with each other. With the political, social, and cultural transformations linked to globalization, from the expansion of communication to the encounter between cultures in a postcolonial context, in which all the old and new nations find themselves implicated in one sense or another, this antithesis has not disappeared but rather has taken on new forms. This must increasingly lead us to a reflection on the possibilities and obstacles for translation, both as an everyday practice in which millions of people are involved, a vital institution for the exercise of power, and as a rich and complex theoretical problem. I will attempt to explicate this set of issues with the assistance of certain works of three great contemporary philosophers, all recently deceased—Jean-François Lyotard’s The Differend (1983), Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) and Culture and Imperialism (1993), and Jacques Derrida’s The Monolingualism of the Other; or, The Prosthesis of Origin (1996).

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