Reply to "redak" on Derrida's _Spectres of Marx_

David McInerney davidmci at coombs.anu.edu.au
Tue Nov 28 20:09:54 MST 1995


 On Tue, 28 Nov 1995, redak <h8706333 at falbala.wu-wien.ac.at> wrote:

>Here
>>Marxism presents itself as excessivley anxious to distance itself from
>>its own past.  In his recent "Marx's Purloined Letter", NLR 109, 75-109,
>Fredric
>>Jameson when *defending* the notion of class argues that there is
>>
>So you quoted the article of Jameson in the NLR which is about Derrida. What
>do you think of the rest of the Jameson-text and  - in case you have read
>also Derrida - about his new book (Spectres of Marx)
>
>
>
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"Redak", you may have seen the post I sent in before commenting on Derrida
and the response by Ahmad.  A further reference you may wish to look up is
a review article on the French edition of _Spectres de Marx_ (Paris, 1993)
in the August 1995 issue of _Economy and Society_.

I personally have little time for Derrida's spiritualist appropriation of
Marx.  Here is my former contribution again for your reference (from 2
November, 1995):


>>You may have already talked about this, but I was wondering if anyone has
>>looked at Derrida's _Spectres of Marx_ in enough depth to post a brief
>>critique/discussion.
>>
>>Jane Gregg
>>Dept of American Studies
>>University if Canterbury, New Zealand
>>
>Jane,
>
>I read the extract in _New Left Review_ No. 205 and the response by Aijaz
>Ahmad in _NLR_ # 208.  I lent my copy of _NLR_ # 205 to 'somebody' who I
>am unable to remember.  I purchased the book when it came out but it
>doesn't seem to offer much more excitement than the _NLR_ piece.  It's all
>so rusty now but what stuck with me about Derrida's piece was that he
>recommends discarding practically all of marxism except for a throw-away
>line about 'spectres' which he then interprets in the terms of Laclau's
>'New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time' as a sort of return of the
>repressed which arises out of every attempt at hegemony.  Of course, this
>sort of thing is deconstruction's strong point, and the mad prince of
>deconstruction, dear old Derrida himself, has privileged access to all
>that remains valid in marxism and therefore becomes the leader of the
>decontructivist Fourth International, and a veritable fifth column in the
>academy, finding lots of repressed things in Shakespeare and thereby
>holding up the banner of his idealist revolution ... The cynic in me
>suggests that Derrida wants to repress the few remaining marxists in the
>acedemy, usurp their rich theoretical legacy, reduce it to a bit of
>bullshit about Hamlet's dead father, and then claim he's 'doing it all for
>us'.  Suitably paternalistic for the son, who, in the grip of the
>Oedipus-complex, looks to replace the father and take control of the
>family.
>
>I haven't read Jameson's article.  It seems longer and perhaps more
>'balanced' than Ahmad's openly political piece.  Perhap's I lost interest
>in it for that very reason.  I think the important thing to remember here
>is 'what side are you on?', as, in the words of another ghost, 'philosophy
>is a political weapon'.  I recommend all Marxists on this list to read
>Derrida's piece in _NLR_ and Ahmad's response.  Here's a quote from Ahmad
>on Derrida's relation to this other ghost:
>
>>As regards the way Derrida formulates the issue of 'teleology' and
>>'messianic escatology', he is right when he says that Althusser's
>>philosophical project dissasociates Marxism from both of these.
>>Althusser surely sought to retain a concept of scientificity and to
>>derive the project of socialism from the contradictions of capitalism
>>itself, not from some voluntaristic or quasi-Hegelian notion of History
>>whereby the working class is *ordained* to overthrow capitalism (i.e. a
>>teleological but also primitive, cyclical notion of history in which the
>>communist society of the future returns to the primitive communism of the
>>remote past, only at a much higher stage, thus closing the circle in the
>>form of a Second Coming in accordance with the messianic prediction of
>>Salvation). (Ahmad, 'Reconciling Derrida', p. 94)
>
>Nevertheless, Ahmad is somewhat kinder on Derrida than I.  Read it.  I'm
>sure that several of Derrida's notions (like those of Jacques Lacan) may
>be useful to Marxists.  But in what way, and by what criteria?  But by no
>means should we let the deconstructivists and the psychoanalysts ride on
>our backs.  If need be, we should crush them under our (theoretical?)
>feet.
>
>David.


Mr. David McInerney,
Political Science Program, Research School of Social Sciences,
The Australian National University, Canberra, A.C.T., AUSTRALIA  0200.
e-mail: davidmci at coombs.anu.edu.au; ph: (06) 249 2134; fax: (06) 249 3051




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