What Is Deconstruction/Post-Structuralism?

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Thu Feb 4 20:35:02 PST 1999

What is the shortest and plainest possible way to explain what 'deconstruction' (or post-structuralism in general) is (to marxists)? A left-Hegelian dialectics without sublation. The interpenetration of opposites, but no third term to sublate the opposition. Why left-Hegelian, instead of historical materialist? Because the primary categories of oppositions are idealist ones: the Subject and the Law. Marx's theses on Feuerbach apply to deconstructors/post-structuralists as well:

VI Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence, is consequently compelled:

1.To abstract from the historical process and to fix the religious sentiment as something by itself and to presuppose an abstract -- isolated -- human individual.

2.Essence, therefore, can be comprehended only as "genus", as an internal, dumb generality which naturally unites the many individuals.

IX The highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.

X The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.

In other words, 'Essence' returns in an 'anti-essentialist' philosophy via the way it imagines the most important categories + oppositions: the Subject (with Its Discontents)/an abstract human individual; and the Law/civil society. And this return is not a 'secret' one. As Zizek says, ideology doesn't 'hide' behind anything; it materializes itself (in this case, in the categories that preoccupy the post-structuralist philosopher) for all to see.

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