In his fine treatment of Jacques Derrida: Live Theory , James K.A. Smith assesses Derrida’s debt to Marx. Despite owing a real debt, Smith notes that there is “a fundamental logic of dissociation at work in Derrida’s ‘spirit of Marxism’ whereby he distances himself from the doctrines and dogmatics of a Marxist ontotheology and ‘the Party.’” As he seeks the religious without the specifics of particular religions, so he seeks a “purely ‘formal’ Marxism without Marxism.”

One reason, Smith says (quoting Derrida) is that “content . . . is always deconstructible.’” Smith glosses: “The determination and fixation of particular doctrines, programmes, policies and even manifestos are finite demarcations and, like the laws of hospitality, can measure up to the ‘Great Law’ of justice” (87).

Which raises two responses in my mind: First, Derrida is post -structuralist? And, here as elsewhere Derrida sounds Plato-haunted.

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