CHAPTER ONE

Spectres and vampires:
Marx's metaphors

The 'linguistic turn'

The 'linguistic turn' in intellectual life has prioritised the textual surface. 1 The 'turn' was away from the reality (whether concretely material or phenomenologically ideal) that language purportedly described, and towards the subjects (writers and audiences) and objects (meaningful activities or 'discursive practices') that language was said to construct or constitute. As Michael J. Shapiro has argued, this has made subjects and objects (that is, who writes or speaks, and what is being talked about) increasingly fragile. This means that the 'uninvolved, objective analyst', and the presumed regularities in a world which is simply 'observed' as what it is, independent of the analyst, have both dissolved into politicised 'communities' of writers and audiences. Such communities do not merely know and learn but rather construct and rationalise a world in and through communication. For this communication, language is not a neutral or transparent medium but is rather the constitutive material from which identity and knowledge are formed. 2 This is not to say that the same world is constructed for everyone in the circle of communication; rather that if we understand at all, we understand differently. 3

Shapiro summarises what it is to 'textualise' and draws two interesting corollaries from this rejection of 'the old referential theory of meaning'. Once we "'textualise" and thus foreground ... writing practices', then we recognise that 'the language of analysis itself, far

-7-

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