Specters of Marx by Jacques Derrida: reviewed

The oddness of life, reading, and philosophy was highlighted in this provocative text. Jacques Derrida, arguably a champion of making things too complex to be politically constructive, has indicated that he saw value in the work of Karl Marx. This was of interest because the practical philosopher had endured criticism for being deterministic, teleological, and inaccurate. Nor was Marx someone who was much praised by postmodernists in general.

However, the approach of Derrida to Marx was idiosyncratic. It involved focusing on some of the lesser works to a high degree. Nor was the reading made much clearer by the stress on competing translations of Hamlet, for example.

Nonetheless, when Derrida concentrated on commodities and their powers the reader was made to perceive some of what was at stake. The peculiar nature of the commodity was underlined and intriguing points about the changing values of commodities were driven home. As Derrida wrote:

“we can perhaps return to what Capital seems to want to say about the fetish, in the same passage and following the same logic…By rendering an account of the ‘mystical’ character and the secret…of the commodity form, we have been introduced into fetishism and the ideological.”

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