Voyou Désœuvré

Explaining the way in which postmodernism produced an “incredulity” towards Marxism that enabled post-Marxism, Stuart Sim quotes Lyotard:

We no longer want to correct Marx, to reread him or read him in the sense that the little Althusserians would like to “read Capital”: to interpret it according to “its truth.” We have no plan to be true, to give the truth of Marx, we wonder what there is of the libido in Marx, and “in Marx” means in his text or in his interpretations, mainly in practices. We will rather treat him as a “work of art.” (Libidinal Economy)

and adds:

Marx is here stripped of his doctrinal status and opened up to plural interpretation, as if he were a creative writer rather than a cultural theorist. That is to be the drift of Lyotard’s postmodernism, towards a world of competing narratives where Marx’s would be merely one amongst many. (Post-Marxism: An Intellectual History, 109)

I experienced my own moment of incredulity here; was there really ever a time when Marx’s “doctrinal status” ruled out “plural interpretation” of his work? It would go some way to explaining the existence of post-Marxism, I suppose, but it also demonstrates how profoundly irrelevant post-Marxism is today. There’s certainly no possibility of Marx being anything other than “merely one amongst many” narratives, so there’s hardly a need to insist on it. Or, to put it another way, I suppose I am properly “post-Marxist” in the sense of having been inducted into theory at a time when the idea of “Marxism” as a totalising intellectual hegemony seems simply unimaginable.


  1. voyou (Voyou Désœuvré), 12:57 am, June 18, 2012

    Do you think Karl Marx has the libido in him? http://t.co/xVi6NeTt

  2. Dominic, 1:46 am, June 18, 2012

    As recently (ha!) as the early 90s I remember tousles between marxists and deconstructionists which centred (ho!) on the question of whether marxism was “deconstructible”: it seemed important to some people that it should not be, although it would be jolly convenient for marxism if absolutely everything else was.

    I do have some sympathy for the view that marxism isn’t really a narrative, or at least that there is a marxism that is separable from marxism-as-narrative (without that necessarily being because it’s a “science” instead). “Truth procedures” aren’t exactly narratives either; or at least, their narration is irremediably paratactic, which is kind of what Lyotard was getting at with his emphasis on “legitimation by paralogy”.

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