Marx and the Postmodernism Debates: An Agenda for Critical Theory

By Lorraine Y. Landry | Go to book overview

Poststructuralist emphasis on aesthetic (and romantic) trends can be constructively articulated with an Enlightenment ethos which appeals to constant self-interrogation and self-creation. Within this perspective, privileging differences, linguistic creativity, and debunking critique rightfully challenges antidemocratic epistemologies and political trends while illumining partial (and negatively exclusionary) assumptions within more democratic ones. Marx's approach is less vital to contemporary critique to the degree that it neglects these positive facets of poststructuralist emphasis on difference and the Other. In this respect, poststructuralist critiques temper rationalistic Enlightenment residues within Marx's approach and reinforce its orientation toward plurality and utopianism (in the sense of fuelling socialist visions for better futures).

This summation of some the complex relations pertaining to a fruitful tension between Marx and the postmodernism debates, while not exhaustive, concludes one of the main claims of the book. The work of Marx does provide an interpretive key for the postmodernism debates insofar as they share a common concern with critique and the project of social change, which underpins criticisms of the Enlightenment and modernity. Furthermore, it contributes toward fulfilling the stronger claim that whatever theoretical vitality and political relevance the debates exhibit is indebted, in no small measure, to the positive connections which can be constructed between these debates and Marx's materialist critique interpreted as a situated knowledge approach.


NOTES
1.
Marx criticizes the instrumentalization of the political sphere to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie alone. In particular, he criticizes the degradation of the rights of the citizen in the service of the rights of man to property, security and equality. Convinced that political democracy alone would not guarantee formal rights, Marx argues that societal democracy is required for this task. Thus, the antagonistic spheres of life could be abolished through the restructuring of the social as well as economic sphere to serve the common good so that social life would become the genuine expression of universal and common interests. See Marx, "On the Jewish Question" in The Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 26-52.

Among those aspects of lasting value in Marxism, Habermas identifies "a conception of history as an evolutionary learning process, and an insight into the selective nature of capitalist rationalization," Callinicos, Against Postmodernism, p. 113. These Habermas incorporates into his theory while attempting to address what he notes as the "nonexistent Marxist theory of democracy," p. 119.

2.
Markus, Language and Production, p. 90.
3.
In addition to McMurtry, "The Crisis of Marxism," see Frank Cunningham , The Real World of Democracy Revisited: And Other Essays on Democracy and Socialism (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1994).

-191-

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Marx and the Postmodernism Debates: An Agenda for Critical Theory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xiii
  • Chapter 1 the Project of Modernity 1
  • Notes 23
  • Chapter 3 Derrida 45
  • Notes 58
  • Chapter 4 Foucault 67
  • Notes 76
  • Notes 95
  • Chapter 6 a Fruitful Tension Approach 105
  • Notes 126
  • Chapter 7 Marx and the Postmodernism Debates 141
  • Notes 156
  • Chapter 8 an Agenda for Critical Theory 169
  • Notes 191
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 227
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