Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Things to Do, Places to Be (Australian Edition)

So in my ongoing quest to turn this blog into a very clumsy calendar of events, I just wanted to archive a couple of things that will be happening once I’m back from Europe. I will be presenting at two events in July:

11-13 July: Analytic vs. Continental Mini-Conference, Melbourne – a sort of… after-shock to the main AAP Conference taking place from the 6th through the 11th (which, by the way, is my nominee for the world’s worst academic conference website – who had the bright idea that site should feature animated bouncing worlds? And – although not strictly a website design issue – who came up with the “Daring Extras” optional addition to the conference registration, which will, among other things, see philosophers making their way up fake cliff faces in central Melbourne? You think I’m joking: take a look. Defensive much about the coolness factor in the profession? Sorry, I’ll stop now…)

In any event, for those who prefer to scale conceptual, rather than physical, heights… The Analytic-Continental mini-conference looks at the bridges and barriers between analytic and continental approaches to philosophy. L Magee, Andrew Montin and I put together a panel proposal that has been accepted for the event – one that grew out of a concept LM and I were tossing around some time ago, in relation to The Positivist Dispute – for the present event, though, inflected in a philosophical rather than sociological direction. My piece for this event is: “Transcending the Given: Adorno and Popper’s Conceptions of Science, Counterfactual Ideals and Critique” – more on this closer to the conference.

10-12 July Derrida Today, Macquarie University, Sydney. The paper for this event grows from, and is part of, the collaborative conversation between this blog and Praxis over Derrida’s Specters of Marx.

Title: Handling Value: Grasping the Fetish in Marx’s Capital


Derrida’s Specters of Marx seeks to exorcise the oppressive spirits of Marxist history, by conjuring an “indeterminate, abstract, desert-like” messianic potential from Marx’s work. Derrida’s argument pivots on his reading of Marx’s critique of commodity fetishism, in which Derrida convicts Marx of relying on use value as a naïve ontological ground for critique, while demonstrating that spectrality can never be eradicated.

To make this argument, Derrida suggests that Marx applies the term “commodity fetishism” to an illusion or ideology – to something created by the head:

There [in the religious world] the products of the human brain [of the head, once again, of men: des menschlischen Kopfes, analogous to the wooden head of the table capable of engendering chimera – in its head, outside of its head – once, that is, as soon as, its form can become commodity-form] appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race…. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself [anklebt] to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.

This act of quotation, however, is also an exorcism – excising a pivotal sentence: “So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands“.

In this paper, we wish to explore the implications of this move, both for Derrida’s critique and for the contemporary appropriation of Marx. We argue that Derrida’s insistence on reading Capital as a form of ideology critique obscures the practice-theoretic core of Marx’s work – and, in the process, occludes how Marx might offer a way to move beyond Derrida’s abstract and formal messianic spirit, without evoking the oppressive spirits Derrida hopes to exorcise.

Attentive readers will have noticed that these two conferences appear to be happening at the same time. Unfortunately, I will need to duck out of the Derrida Today conference early, to make my way back down to Melbourne for the Analytic-Continental event…

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