November 26th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

Jaques Derrida: The Spectre of Marxism

"This hostility toward ghosts, a terrified hostility that sometimes fends off terror with a burst of laughter, is perhaps what Marx will always have had in common with his adversaries... He will have tried to conjure (away) the ghosts like the conspirators of old Europe on whom the Manifesto declares war. However inexpiable this war remains, and however necessary this revolution, it conspires with them in order to exorcizanalyse the spectrality of the spectre. And this is today, as perhaps it will be tomorrow, our problem."

     - Jacques Derrida, Spectres of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International


Derrida, in a little prophetic jewel, tipped his hand toward a New Enlightenment Project when he said:

"And still more particularly to those who have insisted on conceiving and on practising this resistance without showing any leniency toward reactionary, conservative or neo-conservative, anti-scientific or obscurantist temptations, to those who, on the contrary, have ceaselessly proceeded in a hyper-critical fashion, I will dare to say in a deconsructive fashion, in the name of a new Enlightenment for the century to come. And without renouncing an ideal of democracy and emancipation, but rather by trying to think it and to put it to work otherwise."[2]

Derrida affirms that the Marxian Project is unfinished, that we are the heirs of that project, and that that project is of a scientific form, both non-religious and unique. Like the ghost of Hamlet's father this revenant of a revolution uncompleted haunts us still, and deconstruction is situated within the interstices of this unfounded gap between earth and the burial of Capital:

"There is no precedent whatsoever for such an event. In the whole history of humanity, in the whole history of the world and of the Earth, in all that to which one can give the name of history in general, such an event (let us repeat, the event of a discourse in the philosophicoscientific form claiming to break with myth, religion, and the nationalist ‘mystique’) has been bound, for the first time and inseparably, to worldwide forms of social organization (a party with a universal vocation, a labour movement, a confederation of states, and so forth). All of this while proposing a new concept of the human, of society, economy, nation, several concepts of the state and of its disappearance."

Derrida goes on to give us a litany of the deconstructive project within the larger Marxian heritage, saying, "namely the deconstruction of the metaphysics of the ‘proper’, of logocentrism, linguisticism, phonologism, the demystification or the de-sedimentation of the autonomic hegemony of language (a deconstruction in the course of which is elaborated another concept of the text or the trace, of their originary technization, of iterability, of the prosthetic supplement, but also of the proper and of what was given the name exappropriation). Such a deconstruction would have been impossible and unthinkable in a pre-Marxist space." As he states it, "Deconstruction has never had any sense or interest, in my view at least, except as a radicalization, which is to say also in the tradition of a certain Marxism, in a certain spirit of Marxism."

In his summation Derrida links three critiques of debt: 1) the critique of State Debt, a crime always kept in secret, and only revealed by the revanant, the one who haunts our memories of this crime; 2) the second debt, those of the questions of democracy that "links the state and international law to this market; and, 3) the debt of sovereignty, a profound and critical re-elaboration of national sovereignty, and of citizenship must correspond to a phase of decisive mutation.