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On the Nature of Marx's Things


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Table of Contents

Foreword: Encounter and Translation by Vittorio Morfino
I. Necrophilologies
1. On the Nature of Marx's Things
2. Capital, catastrophe: Marx's "Dynamic objects"
3. Necrophilology

II. Mediation
4. The Primal Scenes of Political Theology
5. Adorno and the Humanist Dialectic
6. Uncountable Matters


About the Author

Jacques Lezra is Professor in the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. His most recent publications are Republica salvaje (2019), On the Nature of Marx's Things (2018), Untranslating Machines: A Genealogy for the Ends of Global Thought (2017), and Contra todos los fueros de la muerte (2016).


"With impressive erudition and passion, Jacques Lezra returns to Marxian things to clarify some older debates and to make a fresh and welcome intervention in contemporary critical and literary theory. For Lezra, both object-oriented ontology and new materialisms would do well to reread Marx on objects and things. They would find that the term 'object' designates neither the mental object nor the material one, but precisely the relation between them, and that this relation must be understood as a process of translation. Translation itself is no singular operation, acquiring new meanings in different historical situations, and offers a worthy alternative even to those tired versions of metaphysical identity that claim to be new. The book also shows that the very distinction between old and new materialism belongs to Marx's account of things. Translation offers insight into the very meaning of the social transformation of things and the ways that objects act to produce new forms of knowing. But whereas most readers of Marx end up valorizing either ideation or materialism, Lezra insists that there are ways out of these hierarchies and debates in primacy. Elaborating a notion of necrophilology that gives place to the vestige and the structuring powers of loss, Lezra shows us how critique requires the materiality of the poem as what is constantly rewrought to understand the process, the system, and the stuff of life." -- Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
"On the Nature of Marx's Things impresses every minute, exhorting us to see the messianic contradictions not only of contemporary capitalism but of fetishism itself, with its parade of objects that insist on establishing the general equivalency of unlike things. The 'thing' that matters to Lezra is therefore not stable but an occasion for playing out the dynamics of what's collectively held. Reading theoretically and aesthetically, historically and formally, he provides us with a 'necrophilology' that tracks the 'costs of translation' when processes get represented as objects or objects are said to substitute for each other. Adorno, Said, and Benjamin, the speculative realists, early modern drama and poetry, and a truly fantastic reading of "Bartleby's" translatability anchor us to engaging the set of rhetorical tropes and drives that enforce capitalist logics of general equivalence, creating false sovereignties and comforting relics. On the Nature of Marx's Things is a great, wild and precise, work of art." -- Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago
"The project of returning 'Marxist logic' to a materialist and pragmatic approach has been underway for some years now. Jacques Lezra, plunging into this logic's deepest reaches, discovers there a 'language of things,' exactly as in Lucretius; but also a language of singularities, as in Spinoza; and of differences, marshaled against the possibility of any system of general equivalences. What he calls 'necrophilology' intervenes wherever such systems would reinstall the fetishes of humanism to the heights from which they've been cast-as a rupture, a break. Is Lezra proposing an ontology? The word is heavy, but recalling Lucretius and Spinoza in this way certainly lightens its weight, and makes ontology powerfully viable for, and by means of, the critique of contemporary capitalism." -- Antonio Negri
Lezra's project is really to enrich our reception of Marx as a comprehensively cultural thinker, disrespecting the disciplinary boundary-lines of his time and ours. * Marx & Philosophy Review of Books *

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