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

David McInerney davidmci at
Tue Nov 28 20:09:54 MST 1995

 On Tue, 28 Nov 1995, redak <h8706333 at> wrote:

>>Marxism presents itself as excessivley anxious to distance itself from
>>its own past.  In his recent "Marx's Purloined Letter", NLR 109, 75-109,
>>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)
>     --- from list marxism at ---

"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
>>Jane Gregg
>>Dept of American Studies
>>University if Canterbury, New Zealand
>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
>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?)

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; ph: (06) 249 2134; fax: (06) 249 3051

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