Re: [OPE-L] Derrida's ghosts

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sun Oct 30 2005 - 21:40:42 EST

  Or, perhaps you might take a look at the
>attached intro that provides a critical genealogy of postmodernism, and postmodernism in
>economics, and develops what we call the often-overlooked "postmodern moments" in much theory.

Steve, I could only skim this. But near the end you discuss the critique of humanism and the
subject. I think an accurate genealogy would have to include Pashukanis.  Balibar recognizes
the seminal importance of his work, which thus antedates by several decades Althusser, Lacan and
Foucault. Pashukanis is a name lot less sexy, and more likely to lead to marginalization, than
the later French thinkers. But he already raised question of as what do subjects mutually
recognize each other in civil society, as I argued with Axel Honneth. As Pashukanis showed on the
strict basis of Marx's writings, it is not the act of respect that has the active power as in
Kant's formulation but the system of generalized commodity exchange. Here is the practical basis
for respect, that is “awareness of a value which demolishes my self-love” (Kant): Commodity
exchange requires of each recognition of the other as a proprietor like him or herself, hence
having the right of ownership of his or her product and the right to dispose of it freely; such
mutual recognition then implie, as Carol Gould shows in her reading of the Grundrisse, that each
exchanger is bound not to take the other’s property by force and second to exchange for this
property on the basis of a free agreement on its equivalent value. In civil society individuals
are interpellated as legal subjects, posited as free and equal with each other;  and thus forced
to assume a persona which in Roman jurisprudence originally derived, as Sharlet reminds us in his
reading of Pashukanis,  from the function of an actor’s stage mask; the mask enabling  the actor
to conceal his real identity and to conform to the role written for him. Transposed into modern
civil society, man must assume a legal mask in order to engage in the activities regulated by
legal rules Well before post structuralist skepticism about agency--and Gould does not realize how
deeply Marx's
writings cut into the concept of autonomous subject or the agent--Marx presented the mutual
recognition of zoological individuals as free and equal bearers of abstract right in the act of
commodity exchange as a phantasmorgia and a mode of subjection, a reification and self-reification
of persons.
But we don't need postmodernism for these insights; they are more profoundly developed in the
Grundrisse and by
an early (and eventually 'liquidated') Bolshevik. The postmodernists may not want to admit this,
but Althusser
  would not have denied it. Rather the postmodernists seem to go back to Nietzsche for a critique
of humanism.
And I do not think Marx and Nietzsche are compatible.

On questions of economic determinism and causality, I don't know whether  the Austro marxists or
the famous debate
between the dialecticians and the mechanists  anticipates the post modern
critiques of these two topics. But my reading suggests that they did. On the question of causality
we do have other than
post modern critique the dialectical work of Levins and Lewontin and the critical realist work of
Bhaskar, Sayer, Collier. I do worry that these critiques are even less appreciated than the post

Godelier is also an important thinker for his rethinking of the various forms in which the
relations of production
can appear (so we are not lead from the importance of religion and politics in previous societies
to a post-
modern rejection of an even a weak form of so called economic determinism; Godelier also theorizes
the place of thought in social reproduction so that we are not led again from a critique of
economic determinism
to idealism in general).

Postmodernism may well have something to teach us, but Marxism is a richer body of work than
it is often thought to be.

That said, Marx's value theory cannot be simply classified as objective or subjective, materialist
or idealist.
It does explode such simple binaries. And post modern forms of thought can help think in more
complicated ways.


At the same time, I am very interested in poststructuralist thought.

> This work may not bring forth the revolution but it plays some modest role I would argue.
> Steve
> At 08:29 PM 10/28/2005 -0400, you wrote:
> On Fri, 28 Oct 2005, Ian Wright wrote:
> Why has this postmodern style of writing become popular in some
> quarters?
> Hypothesis: Picking up on and emulating this style requires a fair
> degree of intelligence and a fair amount of reading in the style.
> So being able to do it is a badge of some sort: membership of the
> smart club.  On the other hand, acquiring the knack of writing in
> this style is much easier than acquiring a good working knowledge  of
> a (any) scientific discipline, so it's an easier entree to getting
> recognition and publishing your work.  Not only that, but you get to
> feel superior to those toiling in specific scientific disciplines,
> since the standpoint of "deconstruction" gives you an Olympian
> overview of all human intellectual activity (denials of "privilege"
> to particular levels of discourse, blah blah etc, notwithstanding).
> Allin.  Stephen Cullenberg
> Professor of Economics
> University of California
> Riverside, CA 92521
> Office:  951-827-1573
> Fax:      951-787-5685
> Email:

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