www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> derrida {AT} marx.archive-pt one
John Hutnyk on Sun, 9 Aug 1998 13:57:21 +0200 (MET DST)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> derrida {AT} marx.archive-pt one


derrida {AT} marx.archive

byJohn Hutnyk

//speed.metaphor

One hundred and fifty[-one] years ago in France Marx published The Poverty
of Philosophy, and although this work has always been eclipsed by another
text written at the end of that year[1], it is worth consulting and is as
much deserving of reprint as the Manifesto (which has been released again
by at least six different publishers - both texts can be accessed via the
world wide web at http://csf.Colorado.EDU/psn/marx/Admin).=20

One of the points Derrida makes in Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression,
has to do with how an =91archive ought to be idiomatic=92 (Derrida
1995/1996:90). Certainly Marx=92s Poverty of Philosophy is replete with
idiosyncrasies, an almost contemptuous critique of Proudhon, alongside
early formulations of some of the most brilliant insights into political
economy. The idioms Derrida has in mind though are not only idiosyncratic,
but pertain to language, context, time, meaning and translation. It is
worth then considering just what kind of idiom is there when we read Marx
today. It is =91perhaps=92 plausible to do this in the context of time - 15=
0
years, 1000 days before the millennium, alongside Derrida=92s Archive Fever
and at a conference on =91Time and Value=92. There seems no more auspicious
moment.[2]

The first worry I have with discussions of Derrida and Marx has to do with
the inevitable practical and political importance that must be kept in
mind throughout. This concerns the political value of reading, Marx,
Derrida, theory in general, it concerns the speed, and expertise, with
which we read, the ways in which we claim authority to have read, and the
implications of this reading for how we live in the world=85 (These are not
easy or uncomplicated issues, and they are not to be rushed - obviously
reading is also in the world, political and practical. The question is
how? What sort of politics, what kinds of practice, what speed of
reading?). It worries me that reading slowly would also of course be no
guarantee, but I am concerned that the speed in which we often read is too
fast, and my worry is that the times in which we find ourselves reading
are not understood. Amidst this worry and concern, I=92d suggest that the
whole metaphorics of speed has infected our understanding to the point of
paralysis, and that political practice takes time. This has important
implications. Nearly everyone seems to accept with no problem the
acceleration of capital which today reaches such a degree that the
instantaneous is privileged as never before.  Capitalism has sped up and
now moves so fast, it is often said, that all is a blur (financial
transfers by electronic optic, hyper-cyber-giga acceleration, etc.) - I
think at least some of these rates need to be disaggregated.=20

I want to read speed, time and the poverty of philosophy in relation to
Derrida=92s Archive Fever in what may seem initially to be only a convenien=
t
correspondence, but which will become more important. Looking for
correspondences, I have drawn my quotes in part from Marx archived (in
English =3D idiomatic translation?) on the world wide web. It is now
possible to read, search and download more than enough Marx text to keep
anyone busy. The =91Marx and Engels Internet Archive=92 (MEIA), maintained =
on
a server in Colorado (URL given above) begins with a sentence I want to
misread. I want to misread this sentence carefully, since to do so raises
all the issues that concern me in an attempt to read Derrida=92s latest
books - Specters of Marx, Archive Fever and The Politics of Friendship.
The Marx and Engels web introduction begins: =91The M/E Internet Archive is
continually expanding, as one work after another is brought on-line. While
quite comprehensive as is, it's not complete=92.  This expanding, unfinishe=
d
archive then=85

//derrida.freud

Derrida begins Archive Fever with an avoidance of conventional times.=20
=91Let us not begin at the beginning, nor even at the archive=92 (Derrida
1995/1996:1). In a lecture delivered in London at the conference =91Memory:
the Question of Archives=92, Derrida entices =91us=92 to begin with a media=
tion
on the word. To begin, before time, with a word.=20

Archive Fever deserves attention for several reasons, but its tone is such
that, I think at least, we should already beware of how it - how Derrida -
suggests we read, not just this word, but what reading the word means in
general. Derrida will, towards the end of this book, tell us that =91nothin=
g
is less reliable today than the word =93archive=94=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:90=
),
but as yet this has to be demonstrated. In the (not) beginning, the word
=91archive=92 suggests, among other things, order, and so command, and this
might already warn that we are in the realms of power, and unreliability.
It may be well to remember this is where the power of a certain
metaphysical thinking operates, positing the real and the lived,
conserving and memorialising power. Derrida notes a certain archiving
distinction is at the heart of this order when he says the archive =91takes
place at the place of the originary and structural breakdown of memory=92
(Derrida 1995/1996:11). (It does matter who controls and orders the
archive. If every reading is transformational, archives are not
repositories nor as =91conservative=92 as they pretend).=20

Time will be bound up here with memory, the time of memory, and its
technologies: for =91there is no archive =85 without a technique of
repetition=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:11). Archive fever will be the problem of
wanting to repeat the origin, to return (Derrida 1995/1996:90). This
return privileges the origin and makes the technical apparatus of that
return (the apparatus of the archive) secondary. Derrida says this is the
fever of psychoanalysis. What is analysed like a symptom here is a double
structure, a contagious pattern - one that is first of all laid out in
Freud=92s book on that very old (and archived) resource called =91Moses=92.
Derrida is less interested in Moses than in Freud=92s comments on the value
of his own archiving, and there will be reasons to think this is Derrida
speaking through Freud (he later comments on the =91dramatic twist=92 of Fr=
eud
speaking of himself through speaking of a colleague (Derrida
1995/1996:89), but at the moment of the analysis of Moses, Freud asks the
question of the value of his own writings, and he gives the answer,
according to Derrida, that one =91can only justify the apparently useless
expenditure of paper, ink, and typographic printing, in other words the
laborious investment in the archive=92 by putting forward a novelty, a
discovery (Derrida 1995/1996:12).=20

Freud=92s discovery, in the Moses text, is that of the destructive impulse.
=91Was it worth it?=92, might have been Freud=92s and Derrida=92s question,=
 and it
is a question I want eventually to put to Derrida=92s work on Marx. It migh=
t
have been Derrida=92s question, and ventriloquy plays havoc with the
analysis here because, although it is not, it could be (=91Perhaps=92, if w=
e
follow the hesitations and affiliations of The Politics of Friendship, it
is). Instead, Derrida=92s text revolves - returns to - questions of the
technical apparatus that occupied him in his early essay =91Freud and the
Scene of Writing=92 (Derrida 1967/1976).  Based on the fact that =91Freud d=
id
not have at his disposition the resources provided today by archival
machines of which one could hardly have dreamed in the first quarter of
this century=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:14), Derrida will ask if these new
machines will change anything: =91What is at issue here is nothing less tha=
n
the future=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:14) [he adds =91if there is such a thing=
=92 -
this future will be very important when its time to look at Specters of
Marx].=20

In an innocent way accepting the homogenous context in which a question
such as this can be asked, Derrida would investigate (though he actually
does not have the time to do this, so often we are left with a promise
that an investigation would show something, perhaps, but there is not
time) the various technical apparatuses of psychoanalysis - =91for
perception, for printing, for recording, for topic distribution of places
of inscription, of ciphering, of repression, of displacement, of
condensation=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:15). We are well used to seeing question=
s
concerning technology these days, as Derrida asks:=20

=91Is the psychic apparatus better represented or is it affected differentl=
y
by all the technical mechanisms for archivization and for reproduction,
for prosthesis of so-called live memory, for simulacrums of living things
which already are, and will increasingly be, more refined, complicated,
powerful than the =93mystic writing pad=94 (microcomputing, electronization=
,
computerisation, etc?)=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:15)=20

The mischievous questioning Derrida offers then is to dream of a
cyber-Freud, a webbed-up, internet-surfing, micro-chip probing,
psycho-cyber-netical, Oedipoloroid, electra-callibrational,
pentium-envying, hyper-Freud (Derrida=92s fantasy question also possibly
hides a lament for a place as Freud=92s analysand - perhaps he wants to
post-date his communication and set up an appointment):=20

=91One can dream or speculate about the geo-techno-logical shocks which
would have made the landscape of the psychoanalytic archive unrecognisable
for the past century if =85 Freud, his contemporaries, collaborators and
immediate disciples, instead of writing thousands of letters by hand, had
had access to MCI or AT&T telephonic credit cards, portable
tape-recorders, computers, printers, faxes, televisions, teleconferences,
and above all E-mail=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:16 my emphasis).=20

Above all E-mail. He privileges the new personal communications format on
the basis of a view of technology that to me seems to take on a messianic
tone. Could it be that that Derrida is mesmerised by the novelty of email
- as if we would not =91recognise=92 its use in psychoanalysis? [Today, to
cite just the most tabloid of examples, analysts in Manhattan have their
dictated notes telephoned through to VDU operators in places like
Bangalore, India, to be typed up and transferred back to Manhattan the
next day. Would this really be so unrecognisable?]. Whatever the case,
Derrida=92s enthusiasm for new technology is clear: =91electronic mail toda=
y,
even more than the fax, is on the way to transforming the entire public
and private space of humanity=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:17).=20

What is Derrida saying here? Transforming the entire space of humanity?=20
Surely, not in its entirety? - a slippage here into the globalising
eurocentrism he usually is careful to guard against. So often the fetish
for new technological =91product=92 in the shopping malls of Paris, New Yor=
k,
Tokyo etc., is extended to the entire planet. Declarations of a
transformation of the entirety of human space seems a little hasty, the
sort of thing to be expected from the propagandists of AT&T, not from
staid old philosophy. And again: even more than the fax? The
transferability of office memos across geography - from identical offices
in London to Cairo, from Sydney to Santa Cruz. Is the fax so old hat? Why
does Derrida make so much of the process of electronic archiving effected
by new technologies that inaugurate a distancing effect? He suggests that
these new technologies move Freud=92s works =91away from us at great speed,=
 in
a continually accelerated fashion=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:18), and he compare=
s
our relation to them as akin to that of archaeologists or of biblical
philologists, or of medieval copyists (Moses and the archive again). He
does not want to denigrate philology, but this =91should not close our eyes
to the unlimited upheaval underway in archival technology=92 (Derrida
1995/1996:18). Why, I want to ask, is this unlimited, and what are the
implications of saying so?=20

Derrida also asks if the received protocols of reading, interpretation and
classification =91must=92 be applied to the, supposedly unified, =91corpus=
=92 of
Freudian psychoanalysis (Derrida 1995/1996:36). There are interesting
moves afoot here, not only with regard to the unity of the corpse - the
integrity of the dead, we could say - but also of the protocols of reading
that shall be applied to the archive in the future.  Derrida says this is
a question of the future =91to come=92, one we will =91only know in times t=
o
come=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:36). He refers, in this paragraph, to his book o=
n
Marx, and to a =91spectral messianicity=92 [which is not messianic - he doe=
s
not invoke the ghost of Benjamin which haunts here], and there can be no
doubt that the question of protocols of readings =91to come=92 are importan=
t
in relation to both Marx and Freud.=20

What are the themes signalled here and how do they fit the current
conjuncture? I think all this has to do with a new astonishment at time
and technology, not that these aren=92t old topics for the now elderly
Derrida [he has often written that =91time is violence=92[3]]. Never alone =
in
worrying about time, recently he shows certain symptoms of being less
subtle than he previously so often was. Increasingly thinking about death,
as Freud did at the end (these are not just jokes: of Gerontology),
Derrida refers to =91upheavals=92 in the =91economy of speed=92 of psychoan=
alysis.
In the course of raising questions about the techniques of investigation
and interpretation in the face of technological transformation (and it is
still necessary to raise questions about psychoanalysis as cure, as
normalisation), upheavals in the =91progress of representation=92 in
psychoanalysis become pertinent. No longer just the children=92s toy of the
magic writing slate upon which the trace of what is written remains
beneath the surface even when erased, but today, tape-recorders, video,
electronic telecoms. The economy of speed concerns =91all that is invested
in the representational models of the psychic apparatus for perception=92
(Derrida 1995/1996:15).=20

Are the techniques of Freudian analysis out of date as Derrida=92s
questioning might imply? Indeed, the =91laws=92 or rules of the consultatio=
n,
of free association and the absence of =91technological=92 recording device=
s
in the consultation rooms seem to ensure this is so.  What then of other
disciplines that have embraced at least some of these devices - the video
camera in anthropology or cultural studies, the electronic retrieval
systems in history? I wonder at this, since email - and Derrida writes:
=91above all email=92 - is not much more than the electronic delivery of
letters and so does not seem so different to Freud=92s scrivening practice,
if on a grandly different scale (questions of scale are different to
questions of speed). Some postal history should be remembered - there used
to be a half dozen deliveries of mail each day in major metropolises like
London: back and forth, first mail to invite someone for morning tea,
second to postpone to lunch, third to rearrange for the afternoon, and
forth to cancel and agree to meet later at the club - admittedly all this
only for the upper class urban elite, but it is a pattern replicated on
the larger scale of those who are electronically wired today. Some may say
even that email is a step back from the immediacy of the phone - and all
of Derrida=92s work on phonologism would echo here=85 Certainly the hype of
email has its political critics, none more so than those writing about the
parts of the third world less adequately webbed up than elsewhere,[4] and
where it is also sometimes a two hour walk to the nearest phone (see Scott
McQuire=92s essay on the =91Uncanny Home=92, on differential rates of inter=
net
access, privileging USA, UK, Australia and Canada, and also see activist
group discussion of first world demands for information vis a vis time
constraints and access costs to phonelines etc., on the autonomous Marxism
discussion list aut-op-sy
<http://jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU/~spoons/>). The point is that there
are still significant delays in the relays that exchange meanings here
(much of the circuitry remains copper, for example from a mine like that
of Bougainville in the Pacific, rather than optic fibre[5]). Of course,
the advent of video-exchange over the internet in =91real time=92 will both
tend to displace the text of email, and move a step past the telephonic
into immediacy of audio- visuallinkages across space for the
well-resourced elites. Sure, this may be good news for archivists vis a
vis Freud, communicating face-to-face across time and space, but sorry,
Freud cannot accept the call. Being dead, as we will see, he cannot answer
except through Derrida=92s control of the archive, through what Derrida can
show that he has already said. Derrida knows this, and says =91Freud can
only acquiesce=92 (Derrida 1995/1996:41).=20

[...]

//derrida.specters-of-marx

Derrida offers a new Marx. Revamped. Back from the dead. Let us cut to the
chase - there are some problems relating to what I am sorely tempted to
call =91the a-political tone recently adopted by Derrida=92[6] . The full
title is Specters of Marx: the State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and
the New International. The problems appear at the very moment when Derrida
has (finally) (re)turned to Marx (Derrida does call it a return, but
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has rightly quipped: =91when was ever the time t=
o
have left off reading Marx?=92 [Spivak 1996]. Derrida has anticipated, and
writes: =91And if one interprets the gesture we are risking here as a
belated-rallying-to-Marxism, then one would have to have misunderstood
quite badly=92 [Derrida 1993/1994:88]. I want to read this =91gesture=92 an=
d
indeed I do think we =91have to=92 misunderstand in just this =91bad=92 way=
, to
insist upon this misunderstanding so as to draw out consequences and
politics, to insist upon a =91bad Marxism=92 that will become clearer). Wha=
t
is the problem? Derrida proposes the foundation of a New International. I
will want to argue that this call, which is an explicit call for an
Internationalist =91politics=92, abruptly empties and simplifies where
previous confrontations - say with the conservative Claude L=E9vi-Strauss -
called forth more.=20

[...]

In Specters of Marx, evoking ghosts of 1848 (among other things, also the
year of the actual publication of the Manifesto), Derrida announces a new
International that would be:=20

=91without status, without title, and without name, barely public even if i=
t
is not clandestine, without contract, =93out of joint=94, without
coordination, without party, without country =85 without common belonging t=
o
a class. The name of new International is given here to what calls to the
friendship of an alliance without institution among those who, even if
they no longer believe in the Socialist-Marxist International, in the
dictatorship of the proletariat continue to be inspired by at least one
[my emphasis] of the spirits of Marx or Marxism even if this alliance no
longer takes the form of the party or of a worker=92s international, but
rather of a kind of counter-conjuration, in the (theoretical and
practical) critique of the state of international law, the concepts of
State and nation, and so forth: in order to renew this critique, and
especially to radicalise it.=92 (Derrida 1993/1994:85-86)=20

The important words here are the alliance with just one of the spirits of
Marxism, the dismissal of the party, the class, the workers, the
proletariat (=91barely public=92 - I will not yet read this as elitism, but
remember that the =91entire public and private space of humanity=92 is to b=
e
transformed by email). In favour of an international critique of Law and
concepts, of the State and so forth, which would no doubt be worthy, and
worthwhile, but surely in favour too of a massive restriction of the scope
and possibility of Marxism. Indeed, an avoidance of using, in this
context, the c-word for the international (Socialist, he says, not
Communist). Is it too hasty to read this as symptomatic of a non-Marxism,
of a reduction sliding rapidly into renunciation of those who might still
remain organised in the party-worker-communist forms?  There is much in
the way of rampant anti-Marxism and anti-Leninism about today, and Derrida
would not want to fall prey to further contribution to this, surely. Yet,
the Marx Derrida deals with seems to offer less even than the electronic
archive. An International that gives up upon institutionalising at the
very moment of its constitution seems inadequate in the face of a
recognition that Justice must exceed its examples.

[...]

//derrida.marx.tick-tock

If we were to take up the issues of email, telematics, the speeding
capital of the current conjuncture, then we could also read Marx on time.
It is clear from The Poverty of Philosophy, and from the later works, that
time is, for Marx, a social relationship and is to be understood as the
intertwining of three different temporalities, that of production, that of
circulation and that of reproduction. These are perhaps not all the
temporalities that are relevant - for example there may be that of the
movement from formal to real subsumption, and we might add the different
rhythms of resistance, of critical commentary, of organisation of the
class struggle, all of which might complicate the above. Yet, it is
obvious that in Marx=92s text there are differing temporalities that imping=
e
upon the calculations of capitalist production, and time is central to its
working. Importantly the rhythms of these circuits are not always the
same. First and foremost it is value that is the time of socially
necessary labour, and it is clear that this is not a simple calculation.
More recently (relatively), the work of Fortunati (1981/1995) has
demonstrated the determination of socially necessary labour, the role of
domestic labour and sexual reproductive work - in several senses - is not
calculated explicitly, indeed, this is the criteria of its hidden
character under patriarchal capitalism. Similarly, the abstract
calculation of circulation time in the paperwork of moneybags may not
correspond to the practicalities and specificities of circulation and
distribution, but must work in averages and means. Also, the antagonistic
relations between capital and labour throw variously speeding spanners
into the most carefully calculated plans, to a greater and lesser extent
in the differing domains of production, in the circulation phase and in
reproduction (where shopping is civil war). Similarly, the subsumption
thesis could be rethought in a context where centre and periphery no
longer works geographically nor temporally in the same ways. The
subsumption of inner city relations may also be formal or real in the
financial centre that is optic fibre inner London etc. (but this would be
another research task - see Thrift=92s informative and pithy attack on the
newness of the electronic city and those =91driven by a desire to fix on
metaphors of modern life like speed, circulation and travel, which were
already tired before they were recycled last time around=92 [Thrift
1996:1466]).=20

[...]

to be continued (part 2)



---
#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} desk.nl and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL: http://www.desk.nl/~nettime/  contact: nettime-owner {AT} desk.nl