Alienation After Derrida

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

Simon Skempton’s book re-reads Marx’s concept of alienation, and its roots in Hegel, through Derrida’s critique of the metaphysics of presence. In a wide-ranging study that engages with Heidegger, Kant and Lukács, as well as with a large proportion of Derrida’s work, both early and late, Skempton argues that, contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy in critical theory, it is possible to account for a kind of political ‘disalienation’, provided that one first accepts that the metaphysical account of the self-present subject is itself a product of alienation. ‘Disalienation’, on this model, would be a recognition of the inherently differential condition of humankind, with both Marxian and post-Kantian theories of the subject enlisted to support the Derridean thesis of an originary différance. Skempton’s thesis is attractively original, but it risks artificially reducing Kant, Hegel and Marx to mere avatars of Derrideanism avant la lettre, while simultaneously denying the force of Derrida’s critique of post-Kantian philosophy.

Historical Materialism

Research in Critical Marxist Theory

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