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Specters of Marx (Routledge Classics) Paperback – 1 May 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (1 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415389577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415389570
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 158,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"Its importance within the Derridean canon cannot be overemphasized ... The text that scholars turn to ... to understand the politics of deconstruction." – Southern Humanities Review

"One of Derrida's best books." – New Statesman and Society

About the Author

Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) was born in Algeria. He drew on psychoanalysis, Marxist theory, and Heidegger's philosophy to become a central figure in intellectual life in the latter part of the twentieth century.

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This is a fascinating book. To make the most of what this work has to say, I recommend reading 'ghostly demarcations' afterwards, for a discussion of this book by Derrida and many marxist readers. 'Specters of Marx' is based on talks conducted by Derrida addressing the question 'whither Maxism?' - where does it stand? Where is it going? He outlines various answers to this, but the bulk of this work discusses what deconstruction's relation to Marx is, and what this seeks to achieve.

Derrida tells us that deconstruction follows a 'certain spirit of marxism'. There are many different aspects of Marx's thought which various 'marxisms' have picked up on and use as a critique/tool of analysis for modern political issues. Derrida draws upon Marx's notion of 'spectrality'. What is spectrality? It is 'a non-living present in a living present'. This sounds complex, so lets unpack what this meant to Marx, and then to Derrida...

For Marx, capitalism has transformed the nature of objects, they are no longer determined by their use value. Rather, we identify ourselves with commodities, they become a part of our identity, they dictate who we wish to be. Think today of how advertising is used to sell products - through the use of models, sexual imagery and so forth. The product is more than an object to use, it is seen as a means of transforming oneself into something ideal (but something that we can never, in reality become). Spectrality is thus what is never there, but not strictly speaking simply absent either. It haunts the present.

But for Derrida, Marx is mistaken that, through abandoning capitalism, we can shake off these specters. The specters are always there, every 'self-same' is haunted by its 'other', nothing is quite as simply, sharply determined as it may seem.
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Format: Paperback
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was an extraordinary thinker. He described himself as a Marxian thinker, that is a thinker who develops an evolved interpretation of classical Marxist observation, and out of this process, developed the theory of 'deconstruction'. Karl Marx (1818-1883), studied the history of political economy, and in so doing, discovered 'hidden' truths in the narratives of the texts he used. Derrida saw this reality, and developed the deconstructive technique. A text has an obvious surface meaning,(that is, the meaning most apparent to the reader). This apparent meaning is so powerful that it obscures the deeper or true meanings of a text. These discovered meanings influence the reader in a sub-conscious manner - so that the reader, although ingesting these meanings, is consciously unaware of doing so. This surface meaning presents only a partial truth, or a complete non-truth about a subject, to the reader. The reason for this phenomena, is for the continued maintainence of a dominant political view, and the power this view entails. Under the surface of the text lie the underlying meanings. Marx saw clearly the exploitative reality of the Capitalist system - and reported his findings through his work, for humanity to see. Derrida uses this Marxisn technique of narrative extraction from all texts, regarding all subjects. Western reactions to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is the key narrative deconstructed in this book. Derrida reveals the inconsistencies and untruths in these responses.

The paperback (2006) edition contains 258 numbered pages, and is separated into five distinct chapters:

Editor's Introduction (Bernd Magnus & Stephern Cullenberg).
Notes on the Text.
1) Injunctions of Marx.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 22 reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Read for Would Be Intellectual Prophets 12 May 2010
By Rusty Gentry - Published on Amazon.com
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To begin, there is just far too much in this text to do it justice in such a setting. Thus, I will pick and chose based on the complaints I have seen others tossing at this extraordinary work. When are people going to learn that Derrida is not Habermas, or Austin, or even Rorty. In some of the reviews published thus far one complained that there is nothing new to be learned about Marx from this book. I wonder if perhaps the title of the work, in particular the term "Specters" may have tipped him off. Derrida is not attempting to provide yet another interpretation of Marx; rather, he does us a much more profound service. He calls our attention to the fact that there is no longer any such Marx to be learned from. There is only the name "Marx," which haunts us for the violence to which what he had to teach us has been subjected. Why? Because a certain generation, his own, has failed in its responsibility to properly read Marx, instead investing his name with all of the various ideological quests to which it has been attached in the 20th Century. Imagine, Karl Marx, the author of Capital, became little more than a common cultural place holder for all that is evil for those on the right. (It is truly a riot to quiz the disciple of the good and the right, having just called you a Marxist, about Marx or his ideas. Ironically, in our cultural idiom "Marx" and "Liberal" were synonyms for one another. It's not time, but our brains that are out of joint, but I am getting ahead of myself.)
Importantly, the book begins with a scene from Hamlet. The old king is giving an injunction to do responsibility to his memory. Importantly, Hamlet has the pivotal line, "Time is out of joint." Precisely. We have a responsibility to READ Marx, not X, Y, or Z's interpretation of Marx. What does Marx say? We must clear the debris of both scholars and killers from his name and work. What did Marx have to do with the Gulag, the Soviet Union in any way what so ever? Nothing, of course. Nonetheless, Whether from the right or the left his name has been associated with so much perversity or promise during the 20th Cenhttp://www.amazon.com/review/create-review/ref=cm_cr_dp_wr_but_right?ie=UTF8&nodeID=283155&asin=0415389577&store=books tury that we can see him only as a ghostly demarcation, and it is certainly no wonder that his message is not a kingly imperative.
Part of the debt of mourning we owe to those who bequeathed us their ideas is to take the responsibility to rediscover their works, the material that can be held in one's hand, precisely as their works. And make no mistake, this is a sacred responsibility. One to be upheld, in part at least, to combat the sort of bombastic "The King is dead. Long live the King!" shouting represented by, say, Francis Fukuyama's stunning book, The End of History and the Last Man. This vision--Hegel in triumph having been turned back upright to see the Reign of the Spirit of Capitalism and Christianity--would be the title's "New International." Fukahaha had no doubt that History has finally culminated in the victory and immanent universalization of the free-market economy lead by it's Christian soldiers. (For the sake of fairness, Fukuyama had the intellectual integrity to repudiate most of this earlier work in a critique of his fellow Neo-Cons and their continued certainties, which one may lead right into Iraq 2003). Derrida, generally mild even in the process of eviscerating a particular point of view, took off the gloves here. He knocked Fukuyama on his ass in 1993. I have noted that he had the guts and integrity to stand back up 10 years later, in the midst of what else but the global catastrophe wrought by...guess. Yes, the very free market cum New International, which had crowed far before the dawn of a catastrophe the longest shadows of which we more than likely still await.
Specters of Marx is one of Derrida's more broadly important texts and deserves as what it is, not as what many who have reviewed it here thus far think it ought to be. Indeed, Derrida had now joined those intellectual forefathers to whom we owe so much. If he is read responsibly, and if he has taught us to read others with a sense of the honor due their legacy, then, love him or hate him, one must admire the way in which he improves our own work, our own time.
5.0 out of 5 stars this book is sick as hell 15 Sept. 2016
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i really appreciated how derrida goes into like multiple spectral concepts surrounding marxism
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 14 Jun. 2017
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 8 Dec. 2015
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 1 Dec. 2015
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