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Philippe Meister Dr.

Kelly Sultzbach Critical Theory Paper 2 The Pledge Allegiance: Deconstruction of Material and Social Agency The Pledge of Allegiance may be better understood if we analyze how it relies on the construction of the word all to refer to a group of individuals without describing the composition of the group. When we speak of all of something, the boundaries within the group are not clearly defined. All of something can refer to the group as one being or to the group that is comprised of multiple individual entities. All is more unspecified than comparable terms such as everyone or everybody because those terms more definitively acknowledge the autonomy of the individual. The use of the word all may help us deconstruct the text to understand how the writer is manipulating structure and agency as he employs cultural concepts in this text. The deconstruction of the group and the individual is important in this document because the established constructions hold implications between multitudes of other politically defined relationships; namely, the social and the personal, the thought and the real, the material and the immaterial, the right and the wrong. To deconstruct the relationship between the I and the all the concept of differance will be used. Differance is the interval of a spacing and temporalizing that puts off until later what is presently denied, the possible that is presently impossible (Derrida 279). When the pledges constructions between the individual and the group are in the forefront, the subtext unravels the surface presentation of republic and liberty because the pledge fails to specify where and when the individual has agency and where the republic provides structure. The deconstruction of the subject must begin with the subject I at the beginning which directly refers to the individual speaker. The pledge confers all individual Is allegiances on a flag. The flag is a symbol for the republic. In using the flag as a representation of the republic, the writer defers identifying the location of power. This deference allows the author to defer the attribution of things disputednamely wealth, power, and agency to any single or collective entity.

Meister 2 The confluence of meaning onto the flag is significant because it allows the remainder of the pledge to refer directly to a material object that every single citizen has access to and may own, but it is also a material placed under strong social constrictions and definitions. The flag can be seen to allegorize the process of realizing an ideal in the material. The power conferred onto the surface of the flag is a theme that reoccurs in all subsequent attributions to the flag so the flag as allegory must be analyzed for those properties evoked by the flag. The allegiance to the flag is a metaphor for ones allegiance to the republic. Further the republic ideal becomes realized on the boundaries of the metaphor of the flag. The flags ability to be both individually owned and to serve the designated social function is transposed onto the republic for which it stands. The republic is symbolized on the flag, but how is the republic constructed in the pledge? Derrida says Every concept is necessarily and essentially inscribed in a chain or a system, within which it refers to another and to other concepts, by the systematic play of differences (285). The terms one nation under god indivisible and with liberty and justice for all must all take on the material associations of the flag through which the individual associates himself with the republic. The relationship between any combinations of the three terms cannot be logically reconciled, but they are rhetorically situated and become intelligible under the previously provided association to the flag. Example problems between the three terms -An indivisible entity cannot afford its individual parts any type of liberty. -A nation existing under god cannot afford its individual liberty because they are subordinate to god. -Something that is indivisible would not need to specify (or complicate itself) by specifying that liberty and justice will be for all. The material associations become even less coherent when we analyze how the writer creates the relationship between the flag, the republic, and the nation in order to transition the readers conception of the power source from a centralized governing power out toward the

Meister 3 agency of the individual. The replacement of republic with nation is significant step in this process because while the republic refers to a governing structure a structure that believes the process of governing should be a public debate; the Nation refers to the shared land, the shared beliefs of the people, the cultural meanings, the holidays, and etc.. The Writers use of The Nation helps the person pledging rationalize and understand sources of power. The writer repetitively manipulates the location of power from its centralized location to the individual. The Nation should be compared to The National Government (republic) because The National Government is a more representative replacement of republic but the Nation influences the reader to impose the structure of the republic onto the land. The use of the word nation has a similar affects as creating the flag metaphor because it encourages the reader to imagine the structure of the republic in a close relationship to the individual. Looking further into the relationship between the land, people, and culture, the contradiction between United States and indivisible can lead us to which elements in our nation are divisible and which arent. The contradiction between something that is united, and therefore inherently divided, and something that is inherently indivisible calls our attention to the material impossibility of this relationship. This may lead us to analyze the non-material relationship between the collective and the individual belief. If the social was divided, it would cease to be social and would be defined as merely an individual belief. Here we see the major function of indivisible and the ambiguous use of all; this collective imagery is used so that individuals relation to the flag not the republic or the nation is used so that issues of social agency and material distribution are never coherently organized. By placing the immaterial (social) onto the material flag it causes the speaker to believe that the immaterial (liberty and justice) can be materialized in the individual body, subsequently granting their own material body Liberty and Freedom. The relationship that isnt highlighted is that while the flag is an agreed upon construction that each individual can find indivisible, the

Meister 4 individual conception of Liberty and Justice is not a fixed entity that can be reprinted and distributed for all to have. This rhetoric of the pledge creates a disconnection between liberty and justice as a stable social good, and liberty and justice that is the basis for individual agency. The individual opinion is subordinated to the social construction; and therefore we realize why the term all was chosen for its ambiguity. This rhetorical move is even more important since the the immaterial social concepts are being used to construct an agreement between the individual and the nation whose job is to govern and distribute the available material resources. The genre conventions of a pledge are important in defining the text because the pledge must function to unify under the name of one. A pledge that is said by the governed submits them to a greater authority. The pledge of Allegiance must submit the speaker to the authoritative power, but it also must inspire the speaker to believe that his allegiance is beneficial to his self. Therefore, if we view the pledge as an individualized utterance rather than a culturally defined pledge, we can see the pledge act as a statement of declaration and a statement of self-rationalization. The speaker of the pledge must rationalize to himself the reasons for uttering the pledge. And since people may not have reasons for rationalization, the creator of the pledge imposes on the speaker of the pledge the act of self rationalization. The person pledging is not only engaging in the act of pledging or allegiance building, but they are also self-rationalizing their actions at the same time. The person speaking the pledge is reciting a text, cultural texts according to Greenblatt function[s] as a structure of limits, it also functions as the regulator and guarantor of movement. Indeed the limits are virtually meaningless without movement; it is only through improvisation, experiment, and exchange that cultural boundaries can be established. The pledge limits ones improvisation and establishes structures for exchange that become meaningful through individuals adherence and support of cultural boundaries. The writer of the pledge knew that in reciting the pledge individuals were expressing cultural frameworks of

Meister 5 exchange. Greenblatt explains exchange as a particular network of negotiations for the exchange of material goods, ideas, and through institutions like enslavement, adoption, or marriage people. We see the guiding ideologies of capitalism and colonialism shape the pledge because there is a definable importance of material inscribed into the cultural framework through the individuals pledge to the flag. The colonization of America and the American Revolution were motivated by aspiring industrialists. The relationship between power and the individual most notable in the establishment of private property was a concern to anybody who had prospects of owning property. The creation of this document helped convince the men living on North American land that the Nations governing body was working in their favor with industrialist ideals. The ode to the land through the flag was the idealization in the individual that some of the lands wealth would become his. This period is a time where men were spreading through the work to establish and partition the whole entity of the world into individual shares. The formation of a nation under these ambitions must have defined relationships in social and physical space through which the partitioning of one earth was rationalized and systematized. The political ambitions at this time were not only colonial actions, but investigations and manipulation into the governing of personal property and capitol. Capitalism is the main ideological operator. This pledge is a media entity that was created by the most affluent capitalists to further the development of capitalism. The capitalist ideology is competitive, so naturally the leading capitalists who were also the governing officials were manipulating law for their own self promotion. The establishment of a more transparent hierarchy in both material relations and social relations was a motivation for the creation of this statement and we can see the self-rationalizing affects this statement create and exert power that is able to create a more transparent hierarchy.