Lyotard and the Political

Lyotard and the Political

Lyotard and the Political

Lyotard and the Political

Synopsis

Lyotard and the Political is the first book to consider the full range of the political thought of the French philosopher Fran¿¿ois Lyotard and its broader implications for an understanding of the political. James Williams clearly and carefully traces the development of Lyotard's thought from his early Marxist essays on the Algerian struggle for independence to his break with the thought of Marx and Freud. This is compared with Lyotard's later, highly influental writings on the politics of desire and his attempts to base a postmodern political discourse on the sublime.An indispensable work for all who are interested in modern continental philosophy, it presents the first systematic analysis of the political dimension of the work of one of the most controversial and influential philosophers of the twentieth century.

Excerpt

Signé Malraux (1996) is a biography of the French twentieth-century writer, political activist and politician André Malraux. Why write a biography at the end of a career as a writer on philosophy, art and society? Why a biography within an œuvre that is resolutely post-structuralist in its opposition to the modern dominance of the self and the subject and to positivist conceptions of truth? There is no object or subject ‘André Malraux’; only a patchwork of books, influences, languages, events, structures. Even if there were, to capture such a figure with its intentions, beliefs, feelings and desires would tell us little about the genesis of literature, the significance and truth of art, or the importance and function of politics.

Signé Malraux, however, is not a simple biography. Lyotard calls it a ‘hypobiography’ (SM: 355). It goes beneath the figure and invents an André Malraux, one that expresses deeper movements and influences than could be divined from the life proper. He also calls it a work of ‘mythopoïesis’, that is, the artistic distillation of a figure from a mixture of heterogeneous elements: Malraux’s novels, life, politics, subconscious, his friends, enemies, loves. The book is not afraid to invent in order to make a success of that expression. In response to those who already see here all that is corrupt and decadent in poststructuralism and in Lyotard’s philosophy, in particular, I would say that Signé Malraux is a work of the new-found maturity of this relativist and hypercritical tradition. It shows Lyotard able to create a consistent whole and to speak through it, without having to deconstruct or self-consciously to undermine his own arguments and conclusions, but also without having to resort to the suspect devices of objectivity and positivism. It is understood that this is Lyotard’s Malraux, a productive falsehood that operates on and tells the truth about much more that its eponym: ‘Another document to add to the file of this connivance. Would I confess that it is a counterfeit? But mythopoïesis, as we shall see, makes the so-called “life”.

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