Really enjoyed this book - short, clear, and beautifully written. It's neither a partisan of the French thought of the 1960s-70s nor overly hostile. I...moreReally enjoyed this book - short, clear, and beautifully written. It's neither a partisan of the French thought of the 1960s-70s nor overly hostile. I'd describe Gutting as a sympathetic reader who brings an "analytic" eye to ways that French writers could make themselves more accessible to more readers and less vulnerable to accusations of obscurantism. Other than that, it's a great introduction to the thinkers included (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Badiou) and a worthwhile defense of their controversial styles of "thinking the impossible."(less)
Everything there is to say about this book has pretty much been said. If you're looking for engagement with Marx, any substantive reflection on the hi...moreEverything there is to say about this book has pretty much been said. If you're looking for engagement with Marx, any substantive reflection on the history of Marxism, or a philosophical "re-reading" of Marx, you're not going to find it here. The first half of the book might be described as brilliant literary criticism - the reading of Hamlet coupled with "spectrality" in Marx as well and an assortment of texts by Blanchot, Heidegger, etc are Derrida par excellence, and contain a few remarkably clear remarks on deconstructive reading.
When Derrida moves to political punditry (whether it's the "ten commandments" of the "New International," or the critique of Fukuyama), it's mostly banal or incomprehensible. As other reviewers have pointed out, simply observing that Marx must be read against the triumphant hubris of liberal capitalism takes a few sentences, not a whole book. That Fukuyama is ridiculous, the world is not getting better, and the West is domineering are all true but old news. Some of Derrida's remarks about deconstruction following a political imperative are interesting, but the attempt to link his philosophy with a "spirit of Marxism" are implausible.
I don't think this is a bad book or one that's a waste of time to read, but it's more relevant to people who are studying Derrida than to people who are studying politics or Marxism. It's about deconstruction and about Derrida's personal trajectory, and helps somewhat to situate that trajectory amid historico-political events. (It also, to Derrida's credit, reveals a lot about his personal passion for political justice.) I don't think Derrida owes anyone a substantial reading of Marx or any kind of "practical" Marxist position. He's so frank about his intentions that one can't really call "Specters of Marx" an exercise in bad faith. It's a repetition of the central Derridean point in political terms, which produces some brilliance and some banality. But it's no surprise people dealing with solidarity, organization, institutions, democracy, etc, have moved on to more constructive thinkers.(less)
Another entry in Ferry and Renault's questionable interpretation/understanding of Heidegger that goes to enormous (and unpersuasive) lengths to politi...moreAnother entry in Ferry and Renault's questionable interpretation/understanding of Heidegger that goes to enormous (and unpersuasive) lengths to politicize the concepts of Being and Time. Ferry and Renaut read B&T through the lens of the Heidegger of the mid-1930s, trying to (re)interpret him through his own politicization of his thought. But neither Heidegger's friends at the time nor his subsequent interlocutors have found his pathetic, temporary Nazification of his philosophy to be (philosophically) serious or the inevitable consequences of his thinking prior to 1933.
For example, Being and Time is constantly and pervasively explicit about the meaning of "fallenness," that it is a constitutive aspect of all (even authentic) human existence, that it is not a "moral" concept, and that it can only be modified, not overcome. Ferry and Renaut spend a significant portion of the book mis-understanding fallenness this way, insisting that B&T was advancing a latent thought of an authentic Aryan nation that would resist the "fallenness" of Europe.
Another problem is their attempt to castigate Lacoue-Labarthe and Derrida for attributing Heidegger's Nazism to humanism. One could make a solid argument that this interpretation (in Derrida's "Of Spirit," for example) is a bit overly theoretical, gives too much weight to a concept like humanism. But Ferry and Renault seem to think they can dismiss French Heideggerians just by labeling them anti-humanist, without any serious attempt to engage a robust version of what that anti-humanism was and how they came to embrace it. Ferry and Renault seem to think they can just pick up the dusty old traditional concept of humanism and then point fingers at anyone who (quite rightly) sees humanism traditionally understood as problematic.(less)
Occasionally hilarious, very entertaining, an almost obsessive catalogue of BHL's absurdity. Also, a couple of original interviews, including a very g...moreOccasionally hilarious, very entertaining, an almost obsessive catalogue of BHL's absurdity. Also, a couple of original interviews, including a very good one with Derrida about BHL and the "New Philosophy" in general.(less)