The Rhetoric of Drugs

The Rhetoric of Drugs (French: Rhétorique de la drogue) in the original French title, is a 1990 work by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Derrida, interviewed, discusses the concept of "drug", and says that "Already one must conclude that the concept of drug is a non-scientific concept, that it is instituted on the basis of moral or political evaluations."[1] In his philosophical-linguistic analysis, Derrida unmasks the socio-cultural mystifications made on the discourses on drugs.

Derrida also discusses drug use by athletes. Exploring its confines, he says: "and what about women athletes who get pregnant for the stimulating, hormonal effects and then have an abortion after their event?"[2]

Derrida discusses how the link between the rhetoric of drugs and the Western ideology. He also says that "Adorno and Horkheimer correctly point out that drug culture has always been associated with the West's other, with Oriental ethics and religion",[3][4] and adds: "The Enlightenment [...] is in itself a declaration of war on drugs."[3]


This interview was made in 1989 and published more than one time as a journal article. It was included in the Derrida's 1992 book Points de suspension. Entretiens, as section XIV. The English edition of Points de suspension. Entretiens, titled Points: Interviews 1974-1994 (1995), contained the interview at pp. 228–254, as the final part of the chapter Autobiophotographies.


Neurobiologist and anti-drug activist Rita Levi Montalcini, which a few months earlier was the protagonist of an anti-drug TV ad campaign, was bothered by Derrida's work and commented: "Those [substances] that we call drugs are substances that are well identified both on the pharmacological-botanical level and on the behavioural level".[5]


  1. Eng. 1995, p.229
  2. Eng. 1995, p.248 original: "Et la pratique des athlètes femmes qui provoquent une grossesse dont les effets endocriniens sont «dopants» et qui avortent après l’épreuve?"
  3. 1 2 Eng. 1995, p.250
  4. Adorno and Horkheimer, 1944
  5. Corriere della Sera, March 1993:

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