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Promise of Memory, The

History and Politics in Marx, Benjamin, and Derrida

Matthias Fritsch

Publication Year: 2005

Rereading Marx through Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida, The Promise of Memory attempts to establish a philosophy of liberation. Matthias Fritsch explores how memories of injustice relate to the promises of justice that democratic societies have inherited from the Enlightenment. Focusing on the Marxist promise for a classless society, since it contains a political promise whose institutionalization led to totalitarian outcomes, Fritsch argues that both memories and promises, if taken by themselves, are one-sided and potentially justify violence if they do not reflect on the implicit relation between them. He examines Benjamin’s reinterpretation of Marxism after the disappointment of the Russian and German revolutions and Derrida’s “messianic” inheritance of Marx after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. The book also contributes to contemporary political philosophy by relating Marxist social goals and German critical theory to debates about deconstructive ethics and politics.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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p. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

Among the many prosopopeitic voices, the voices of stones and of the dead, the poetry of Paul Celan has bequeathed two words to us. There is the word that might reach us through the scars of time, by way of groping fingers and through haunting darkness. ...

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pp. 1-9

It has often been remarked that the events of the twentieth century in particular, and, we might add, of Western modernity in general, force its inheritors to reconsider the structure and content of a ‘tradition’ that they might still feel compelled to recognize as ‘theirs,’ even if its ‘ownership,’ and the...

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ONE: Benjamin's Reading of Marx

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pp. 11-53

THE EVENTS MARKED by the year 1989 can largely be seen as severing a certain political messianism from its institutionalization. Thereby, they provide the opportunity to reopen the inheritance of Marx’s text with the intention of salvaging and reformulating its promise for a future, a promise that had been overshadowed and appropriated by totalitarian systems. ...

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TWO: Derrida's Reading of Marx

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pp. 55-101

AFTER THE BREAKDOWN of ‘actually existing socialism’ in 1989, the discourse on Marx seemed abruptly changed in the East and the West. Marx’s texts and the thinking of Marxism assumed a ghostly quality to which Jacques Derrida was one of the first to respond by attempting to keep this heritage...

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THREE: The Critique of Violence

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pp. 103-155

IN THE FIRST CHAPTER, I argued that Benjamin, in turning against Marx’s projection of an end to history, also rejects the conception of a law-governed history. The latter afforded Marx a link between a memory of past victimization and the promise of history. ...

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FOUR: The Claim of the Dead on the Living

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pp. 157-195

IN THE CONCLUDING CHAPTER, I will seek to connect various lines of investigation, with a focus on the history of culture and the source of responsibility to the oppressed in the past as well as in the present and the future. At the end of the first chapter, we sought a more detailed account of the relations Benjamin suggests between a past oppressed by the dominant (usually...


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pp. 197-229


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pp. 231-245


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pp. 247-249

E-ISBN-13: 9780791482780
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791465493
Print-ISBN-10: 0791465497

Page Count: 263
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 63147882
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Promise of Memory, The

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Subject Headings

  • Derrida, Jacques.
  • Political science -- Philosophy.
  • Benjamin, Walter, 1892-1940.
  • Marx, Karl, 1818-1883.
  • History -- Philosophy.
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