Derrida Marxist?

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Sun Dec 13 11:18:23 PST 1998

Hello everyone,

Chuck Miller writes Sun Dec. 13/98 in response to Carrol Cox ---------- Or is it that seeming _disassemblage_ state in which the work seems to leave the subject? In some ways, I see the work analogous to a Duchamp painting.

Doyle Duchamp painted about knowing motion in a still medium like a painting. Afterwards (post 1914) when Duchamp abandoned easel painting especially after "nude descending a staircase" Duchamp wanted to portray a "concept". He still retained an interest in understanding motion and made some images to put on records to look at as an illusion of motion in the late twenties, and early thirties. At any rate Duchamp wasn't as skeptical as Derrida. If anything Duchamp was a full blown "modernist", who is too cryptic and anachronistic as a member of modernism to be easily catergorized with other modernist painters. But there is nothing in Duchamp that is about deconstruction of other painters. Like many modernist, Duchamp was fond of big money and the society of wealth. He was an expert at manipulating the wealthy to get his views advanced concerning art. Perhaps that is why the wealthy could see what they wanted to see in the work of Duchamp. In effect Duchamp meant what other people interpreted him to mean. His, Duchamps, ideas about how we concieve of things, his thinking about conceptual work, has had little impact outside the art world.

Chuck Miller The work's lack of programmatic assertions also might disenchant those looking for such pronouncements. But it is exactly this type of certainty-filled pronouncements that Derrida wants to undermine. No doubt, he sees these types of statements as indicative of Marxism's failure in its spectral manifestation in various totalitarian guises.

Doyle Certainty-filled pronoucements, hmmm. If you try to undermine when I tell my wife not to cross the street against traffic, I will do as Marx did which is destroy you as best I can because your statement would endanger the life of my wife whom I value over yours. I have a need to survive, and if you or Derrida can't do any better than make some vague assertion about certainty filled pronouncements then what you have to say undermines not just my own certainty, but any ability of anyone in my class to with certainty fight the capitalist class. We can't know before hand the rules of the game we must make, since that has been prevented from happening until we with a certainty of knowledge and experience of the capitalist, fight with all our might against their aims.

Chuck Miller Ultimately, Derrida is trying to deconstruct Marx in terms of a Levinasian alter-ego dialectic, where neither is subjugated and consumed by the other. I think this is where he's headed with his concentration on Marx's attack on St. Max In German Ideology_. There he shows the correspondences between Max and Marx, but also the terrible ferocity with which Marx wants to destroy his enemy--a mirror reflection, Derrida suggests.

Doyle A mirror reflection is not the same thing as seeing something. Mirror reflection is a faulty metaphor for invariant transformation of the image upon the retina and confuses the idea of what it means to have the same properties in two cases or family resemblances even. In any case symmetry is not at issue concerning St. Max. They are not identical mirror reflections; Marx and St Max. One can recognize that a person has distinct difference I hope if one is a Derridan. And not conflate likeness into what is not alike. As for destroying one's opponent, well that is really about the question of how social systems work, not about personally destroying someone. Marx would have been writing about why St Max fails in his social programmes. What is wrong with looking at the weakness of one's contemporaries? regards, Doyle Saylor

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list