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Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International Paperback – September 14, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0415910453 ISBN-10: 0415910455 Edition: First English Language Edition
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Linking Hamlet's ghost with the opening of the Communist Manifesto, the noted French philosopher (Aporias, LJ 2/15/94) meditates on the state and future of Marxism since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Developing two highly expanded lectures, Derrida notes that the current talk of the "new world order" and "the end of history" is the recurrence of a old debate, an attempt to exorcise the "spirit" represented by Marxism, just as Marx was concerned with the "ghosts" and "conjuring" of capitalism. Derrida argues that the deconstructive doctrine of "differance" and Marxism as an act posit many Marxisms. It is therefore the interpreter's duty to preserve the spirit of Marxism by pursuing the ghosts and laying bare the conjurings. This is Derrida's first major statement on Marx; an important book for academic collections.
T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Derrida presents a provocative and... insightful interpretation of Marx. Derrida shows convincingly that Marx is haunted by history and that he wants to put it to an end. -- RRPE
...Derrida is considered a classic of the postmodern canon. -- New York Review of Books, June 1998
...its importance within the Derridean canon cannot be overemphasized...the text that scholars turn to in order to understand the politics of deconstruction... -- Southern Humanities Review Derrida turns this back interestingly towards internationalism...From the vantage-point of a twentieth century that has already unravelled, he suggests that the spirit of humanism should have been addressed rather than conjured away. Jack Drydyk, Carleton University

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; First English Language Edition edition (September 14, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415910455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415910453
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,502,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), was born in Algeria, has been called the most famous philosopher of our time. He was the author of a number of books, including Writing and Difference, which came to be seen as defining texts of postmodernist thought.

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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE on January 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
Reading this book will help dispel (or at least nuance) two criticisms that are often addressed to Jacques Derrida's work. The first is that the brand of philosophy that he promotes under the name of deconstruction is irretrievably obscure and that it constitutes a refutation of the notion of objective truth as well as an attack on the Western canon of literary works. The second is that Derrida cultivates a radical posture that is detached from the realities of the day and unashamedly leftist, as the reference to an outmoded Marx would suggest.

Let us first address the accusation of obscurity. Nobody expects philosophy to be easy, and readers who have no experience of reading theoretical texts may have difficulties with this one. I must confess that there are times when I could not follow the author's line of reasoning, and I may have skipped a few paragraphs here and there, but on the whole I did not find this book unduly abstruse or recondite--and I consider myself an average reader, with only a distant background in modern philosophy. I will leave to the reader to judge for himself whether the puns and neologisms that are introduced in the book (hauntology, spectropolitics) or taken up from previous works (differance) are just pedantic wordplays or if on the contrary they do add value and enrich meaning. But at least one should give them a chance to speak for themselves, and place them in their own discursive context.

People often identify deconstruction with an attack on past scholarly traditions or a dismantling of literary texts--in other words, a rejection of the works of "dead white males". This is certainly not the case with Jacques Derrida.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. S. Proctor on July 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
The pro-Derrida and anti-Derrida standpoints are well represented in these reviews; however, there is a more important point that has not been made. I read this work much like Nietzsche's Zarathustra, meaning that its significance remains to be seen--for now to come. Now, take that as "post-structuralist obscurantism" all you want. I will shoot back just as Derrida did a hundred times: You have not read enough and you clearly do not understand his project.

With that being said, this is not even really a work on Marxism, historical materialism, or even "social" movements, per se. I read this work as affirming the undying desire for emancipation and uncovering the limits of the Marxist/leftist movements and how they are treated within academia. Marx is used as one example among many possible, just as he uses Fukuyama. I would also disagree with the previous reviewer and say that the more I read it, the more elucidating, exciting, and emancipatory this text became. This text is about infinite responsibility, inheritance, and creating "a new opening of event-ness."

I'll close with a quote from Jean Birmbaum who writes, "It is here that we find again the theme of transmission, of legacy, the 'politics of memory, of inheritance, and of generations' that is sought in Derrida's Specters of Marx, on the horizon of an obligation to justice and an endless responsibility before 'the ghosts of those who are not yet born or who are already dead.'"
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "orion_ravenwood" on March 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
In typical Derridian fashion, Derrida circles the subject of Marx, peeking at it directly sometimes, but always speaking of it. "Of" instead of "to" as Politics of Friendship points out. Derrida is haunted, as we all should be. The question is whether or not this is an ethical treatment of the problems brought to bear (a list of 10 - the ten commandments?) in the section entitled "Wears and Tears (Tableau of an agless world)." This is a book about ghosts, about specters (and of course the specter of Marx). His insights are once again profound (yet maybe a bit expected) when he calls the specter that which is neither present nor absent. The specter's call, is of course, ethical, yet Derrida focuses less on this than would be expected. Instead, Derrida is focuses on naming a few of the ghosts that flitter by. This is less a book about politics than about the metaphor of the ghost, which I find unfortunate. However, I did find this a valuable read. Derrida has the ability to break questions wide open with his sharp deconstructive intellect, and this book holds no exceptions. The specter is a figure of the "to come", as well as that which is already here. This book is like the begginging of a spider's web which can be stretched in many directions politically, thus it is certainly applicable and even practical (so maybe he's more Marxist than i give him credit for). If one identifies the system as the ghost, then a large connection has been made which can span many political divides. I recommend this book to any Derrida fan (like myself) and anyone interested in the critique of current politics. The concepts worked out here are a great primer and beginning to the work which must come after, the work "to come". This book is the present of the "to come". Debt, Mouring, and Politics. Read it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rusty Gentry on May 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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?
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