Silence, in the Archives: Derrida’s Other Marx

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Abstract
The idea that Derrida kept silent on Marx before the publication of Spectres de Marx, in 1993, has become a commonplace in Derrida studies and in the history of Marxism and French 20th century political thought. This idea has often been accompanied by a certain representation of the relationship between deconstruction and dialectical materialism, and fed the legend of deconstruction’s «apoliticism» – at least before what some have called Derrida’s «ethicopolitical turn», usually dated in the early 1990s. Against this narrative, this essay analyzes Derrida’s notorious «silence on Marx» before Specters of Marx from the perspective of the archives. Archival research transforms the narrative: Derrida’s «silence on Marx» was only «relative». Beyond the scene of publications, archives reveal another scene: multiple engagements with Marx and Marxist thought, marked and remarked in many archival documents – more particularly in a series of early seminar notes from the 1960s and 1970s. How does this archival scene transform our interpretation of Derrida’s «silence»?
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Archival date: 2021-07-29
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