Chapter 21: “Injunctions of Marx” by Jacques Derrida
Well, it is that time once more in our wonderful series. The final entry. Grab your tissues because after this post there will be no more entries from our postmodernism reader! Woe is us!… of course, there is a second reason why you should grab your tissues; you see, this last entry is a piece by Derrida. Yeah, you heard right: Derrida, the head-ache man. If it is any consolation I can say that this is the last you will hear for Derrida for a long time (unless you take a philosophy class or an English theory class. In which case you only have yourself to blame). So enjoy!
The piece in question comes from Derrida’s book Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International (1994): prelude. The entry is actually relatively straight forward. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t a mind fuck but that it is a mild mind fuck. Though the thesis is covered by layers of largely useless literary references to prove Derrida’s esoteric point, the actual premise-of how history haunts reality- is clear cut.
He starts by discussing the concept of haunting and how Marx uses this term to great effect in the manifesto. Of how society is to be haunted by a specter of something yet arrived, something still in formation. Obviously this apparition (communism) is terrifying to the capitalists and nobility. So they have joined together to exercise this hated foe. It is in this exorcism that Derrida begins a discussion, via the insertion of the word ‘conjuration’. He lists some definitions of what the word means in English and German and how it would shift in Marx’s vocabulary to complement his theory; he demonstrates by pointing out the various instances of this altered visibility through locating moments when Marx uses quotations from relevant plays and literature to make a point; via these unintentional flares of matching Derrida then goes on to locate how the varied meanings of conjuration pop up in Marx’s own discussion of money and value, of its ghost like appearance. This leads him to finish by concluding that the only method in which this phantom may be vanquished is through repeatedly announcing its death and yet by doing so it is taking on the very same traits which they (opponents) are trying to destroy.
It is a convoluted piece only by virtue of the literary references Derrida inserts. Yet in keeping up with the whirling shifts in definition and how it relates to the theory dealt with (which presupposes a degree of understanding regarding Marx’s writings), the reader comes to the end and sees that the enterprise embarked upon here is a deconstruction of the ‘end of history’ narrative. This is why the incessant references to ghosts, phantoms, and exorcism never let up. I find this to be a decent endeavor and though Derrida’s ultimate ambition, denoted by this ‘New International’ is smudged by his own bourgeois misgivings, I will not go into these thoughts here as it is neither the time or place.
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What is the time and place, however, is to say goodbye and thank you for reading along through another series. This selection was a doozy in terms of theory but I hope I made it a bit easier for you; and that you dozed off only seldom. What will the next entry be, you ask? Who knows: maybe something from European history, history in general, more literary and philosophic theory, Leftist texts, and another reader of different origins? Your guess is as good as mine.
In any case I will see you then!