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103 terdiman Richard Terdiman Deconstruction/Mediation: ADialecticalCritiqueof''Derrideanism'' For imaginative production, any totalization of real capitalist social relations which might be counterposed against the false ideological totalization of bourgeois thought seems, while we remain imprisoned within the latter's hegemony, unattainable. Experientially, it appears as if it may no longer be possible to achieve the concrete empirical understanding of the determinants of class domination which, under the relatively early capitalism of the 19th century, could be apprehended almost as a sensuous reality. Since Marx, materiaUst thinkers have been intent on demonstrating how the unparalleled capacity to throw into shadow the real relations of production (which by comparison a Balzac or a Dickens could depict in a single Paris quarter or the Manchester factories ) — how such capacity to mystify is a crucial element in capitalism's power to reproduce itself. In History and Class Consciousness, Lukacs had explained how the ability to create ideology sustained bourgeois domination.1 Yet of the institutional forms by which mystification of capitaUst relations is now assured — automation and the rise of "technological production"; multinational corporate structures; concentration of raw material extraction in the Third World and of highly exploitative production in the semi-peripheral areas of the core nations; massification of the education system; media homogenization and technological manipulation of the images and languages constituting the social text; cooptation of working-class unions into the productive mechanism; the rise and capitalization of the "service economy" — not one was a significant factor prior to World War II. The complex of such characteristic forms of socio-economic organization under late capitaUsm has mediated the constitution of an apparently seamless nexus of productive and social relations which so thoroughly obscure the operation of the historial dialectic as to cause serious questionning among certain "post-Marxist" theoreticians in Europe about whether we are stiU living under capitalism at all.2 Because the contradictions within the structure cannot be imaginatively localized within traditional forms of representation, depictions of the contemporary "real" seem to translate a kind of "cybernests" of capitaUsm, a total autonomization and automation of production itself, 104 the minnesota review which impUcitly assumes the dissolution of classical capitalism's tensions and contradictions. Marxism accounts for such de-dialecticization without difficulty; already in the Manifesto Marx had written with irony about the bourgeois who "desire the existing state of affairs minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements, [who] wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat."3 But in the unprecedented mystification of the Sixties and Seventies, it is harder to be humorous on the subject — as if late capitalism had completed its colonization not only of Third World economies, but of First World imaginations. For many theoreticians, the system seems to have constituted itself not only as dominant reality (for human beings have experienced many forms of domination before, and have overturned them upon occasion), but rather as the reign of the eternal , as an ultimate, theological Is. Under such conditions it is no wonder that critical theory and literary representation have situated themselves differently than under 19th-century conditions. To posit a theory of late capitaUsm is to posit that dialecticity can no longer be (as it was in one moment of crisis and historical transition in the early 19th century) the explicit theme of the social — or of the literary — text, at least in the core areas of the First World.4 The age of more mystified contradiction has generated different strategies of literary production , and necessitates de-absolutizing and historicizing the traditional paradigms of Uterary representation and of our correlated critical activity . The critical function no longer overtly inhabits the text. To understand much recent literary theory is thus to ask what remains within the imaginative and the theoretical realms subsequent to this epochal disappearance . Derrideanism provides the crucial case. In "Force et signification," an early essay which appeared in 1963 (just five years after the original publication of Lukacs's Realism in Our Time and the same year as his Esthetics), Derrida attempted to confront the problem of structuraUsm's historicity.5 His account is characterized by precisely the tensions which inform his entire project — particularly in that strained striving toward the materialist perspective on his...


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