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I – Intuition

1The article which appeared in 1911 in the journal Logos defines the most constant project of Husserlian phenomenology: “To found philosophy anew as rigorous science.” The need for rigor is a need for foundations : if Husserl affirms, then, that “philosophy is the science of true beginnings, of the origins, of the “ῥιζώματα πάντων,” it is only so as to immediately posit that, since “it lies precisely in the essence of philosophy, insofar as it returns to ultimate origins, that its scientific work moves in spheres of direct intuition.” [1] Phenomenological radicality is thus a systematic tracing of the given back to the intuitive root recognized as its “legitimizing source.” [2] So its movement is toward reduction, which gives everything that is, the status of a “simple phenomenon,” [3] whose mode of phenomenalization must be identified on the basis of the reduced sphere. Reduction is not, however, the restriction of thought to the closed field of interiority, but the conquest of the full domain of essence, which “elevates the whole essential content, in the fullness of its concretion,” thus challenging the “countersense” of the difference between phenomenon and thing-in-itself. In this way, recognition of the phenomenal status of the given is only the first methodological step of phenomenology, which allows it to conquer the proper field of its investigation; for reduction is the conquest of a new region, it leads back to “this field, this ontological sphere of absolute origins,” [4] and it can thus be defined as the “science of originary sources.” [5]

2In identifying this field, phenomenology discovers that every object which, in the naïve stance, seemed to be given, is in truth constituted by an intentional activity of objectification, which alone is capable of introducing meaning into what is at first only the unformed and indeterminate continuum of a “Heraclitean flux.” [6] By virtue of this very fact, it finds itself confronted with the task of circumscribing the originary source of phenomenality, which is at once active (since it is constitutive) and singular (since it is a pole of unity for the multiplicity of lived experiences); hence the necessary uncovering of the “ego-pole,” [7] as originary instance constitutive of the world, capable of forming the formless. Husserlian phenomenology thus discovers its field of research to be that of “all lived experiences in the unity of the lived experiences of a self,” and is able to define itself as the “theory of lived experiences in general.” [8] Reduction is in no way a loss of the world, but the discovery of the fullness of its essence; it is, consequently, from within the egological sphere that we must approach the correlation of intentions of sense with their intuitive fulfilment. Truth is therefore the fullness of meaning immanent to the ego – that is to say, “the evidence [which is] the originary phenomenon of intentional life.” [9] In so far as it is immanent to the ego, evidence is itself a “lived experience.” [10] The ego must therefore be understood as “der Erlebende, that which lives the lived experiences,” [11] so that it is “a possible experienceability which is ultimately decisive.” [12]

3But the enterprise of recasting science is developed against the “fanaticism for science” and “the superstition of facts” [13] characteristic of the positivism dominant in modern sciences. The discovery of subjective life as absolute foundation thus comes up against the existence of a science that systematically denies this foundation. On the basis of the foundation in principle which is intuition, Husserl can thus contest the legitimacy of a purely formal and deductive science, by bringing to light its divorce from life:


The contrast between the subjectivity of the life-world and the “objective,” the “true” world, lies in the fact that the latter is a theoretical-logical substruction, the substruction of something that is in principle not perceivable, in principle not experienceable in its own proper being, whereas the subjective, in the life-world, is distinguished in all respects precisely by its being actually experienceable. [14]

5It is thus on the basis of the immanence of evidence recognized as the criterion of truth that one can undertake a critique of the logical and abstract system of modern science; and the contrast between mathematicized theory and the life of the subject must then be recognized as a crisis. This crisis attests itself as an evidence immanent to the lived – in the “breakdown of life,” “the great weariness,” and the “despair [Verzweiflung]” [15] – that is to say, in the suffering of subjects. That “from which we suffer,” wrote Husserl in 1911, “is. .. the most radical vital distress. .. that leaves no aspect of our lives untouched.” [16]

6The question of crisis is thus the most profound motif of Husserl’s thought. Its thematic treatment in the 1930s is not at all a matter of the conjunctural discovery of history by a philosophy that in itself is timeless; in fact, phenomenology is fundamentally situated in a specific epoch of a specific history, namely the Western modernity born of that “revolutionary turn” [17] that is the Galilean mathematicization of knowledge. In its argument with positivism and psychologism, phenomenology developed from the very start against that configuration of rationality that is “objectivism,” [18] in which the domain of objectivity is founded upon itself and thus methodically short-circuits the subjective pole: in modern sciences, facts are only ever founded on facts, and idealities are only ever deduced from other idealities, without ever leaving the field of logico-formal objectivity. The essential characteristic of contemporary science is consequently its autonomization in relation to the subjects which are, nevertheless, the source in principle of its autofoundation and its automatization – that is to say, its technicization. For today we observe a process wherein “formal logic is made self-sufficient [Verselbständigung],” a process of “technicization [Technisierung] which from time to time becomes completely lost in purely technical thinking.” [19]

7If, therefore, Husserlian phenomenology uncovers the foundation in principle of all meaning as to the carnal trial of living, it does so through the crisis that is founded in fact on the technicization of the deductive machine that science has become, a mechanization that condemns the subject to the emptying-out (Entleerung) of sense, to deception, and thus to a life in absurdity, and consequently to despair. The phenomenological gesture consists in repatriating into the immanence of the carnal subject the originary pole of the constitution of the given that modern science projects into the transcendence of ideal objectivity: but it operates only under the constraint of the constitution in fact, of every given by this abstract pole.

II – Speculation

8Now, this autonomy of rationality has its own truth, which Hegel had thought out systematically. For in 1807 Hegel declares the necessity of “bring[ing] philosophy closer to the form of Science.” [20] However, he denies that evidence can constitute any foundation whatsoever, and to intuition he opposes speculation, precisely conceived as the autodeployment of truth. The question of truth is that of adequation between the concept and its content, but finitude is incapable of bringing about this adequation. Truth is thus no longer evidence, but actualization, through which the concept gives itself the content it requires: “It is the concept alone. .. which has actuality, and in such a way that it gives actuality to itself [er sich diese selbst gibt].” [21] What belongs properly to speculative truth is that it is irreducible to the finite subject: the adequation is that of the concept with itself, and of a concept that is not at all reducible to the content of a finite consciousness and is not a tributary of its operations: “Ideas are not just to be found in our heads, and the Idea is not at all something so impotent that whether it is realised or not depends upon our own sweet will.” [22] It is thus the concept itself that operates, and truth is the result of its operation:


It is only when we consider Spirit in the process of the self-realization of its concept [Prozeß der Selbstverwirklichung seines Begriffs] that we know it in truth, for truth signifies precisely an accord of the concept with its effectiveness [Wahrheit heißt Übereinstimmung des Begriffs mit seiner Wirklichkeit]. [23]

10Truth is thus the self-realization or self-effectuation of the concept: it is the concept that verifies itself by itself producing its own content, and this is why truth has the structure of a syllogism, since a concept is at first only in itself (or in potential) and becomes in itself and for itself (or in act) only through “this realisation of the Concept, in which the universal is this one totality returned into itself.” [24]

11The question is then that of knowing how this self-realization of the concept might appear to the finite consciousness that is philosophy, and how it may be experienced or lived. Hegel systematically developed the phenomenology inherent to speculative truth, in the form of a phenomenology of Spirit. Husserl defined the radicality of his starting point through the “principle of the absence of presupposition,” [25] and it is this same radicality that Hegel claims:


To place ourselves within the point of view of science, we must abandon the presuppositions contained in the subjective and finite ways of being of philosophical understanding.. .. The abandoning of these presuppositions is not necessary so much because they are false. .. as because they are givens and presuppositions. [26]

13So the method resides in a transvaluation of the sense of the given which recognizes it as phenomenon. Through phenomenological conversion, writes Husserl, “what was before my eyes in that life as ‘the’ world, having being and validity for me, has become a mere ‘phenomenon,’” [27] and Hegel similarly affirms that “philosophy differentiates itself from common consciousness in so far as it considers as a simple phenomenon what stands for the latter as a being in some way subsistent in itself.” In the same way, for Husserl, the recognition of the phenomenal status of the given is for Hegel no loss at all, but on the contrary an access to essence. For the phenomenon is the inherent deployment of essence; it is not a deficient or impoverished mode of being but, quite the contrary, the modality of its deployment, through which it realizes itself and thus conquers its fullness, so that we must say that “the phenomenon is precisely the truth of being [die Erscheinung ist überhaupt die Wahrheit des Seins], and a richer determination than the latter,” [28] which leads Hegel to challenge the Kantian opposition between phenomenon and thing-in-itself.

14But once the ontological fullness of the phenomenon has been recognized, once the domain of essence has been conquered, the question remains of determining the sense of the reduction – that is to say, its direction. Where Husserl founds essence upon the activity of an incarnate finitude, and traces every given to the immanent pole of carnal finitude, Hegel founds it upon the “total act” [29] of the concept and traces it back to the absolute pole of Spirit, which precisely in its phenomenalization produces its concreteness. Every given, whatever it may be, is in this way a “phenomenon of Spirit,” [30] and reducible to its logical status – that is to say, to the function that is allotted to it within the self-realization of the Absolute. The philosophical approach thus does not consist in reducing phenomenality to subjective finitude, but on the contrary in raising this finitude to the universality of the concept, in the process of its shaping, embodied in the culture through which the subject submits itself to the content of knowledge so as to be determined by it.

15Apparently, however, no reduction is methodologically at work in Hegel’s thought: in truth it is explicated in the exposition of the “nature of scientific method,” that is to say in the enunciation of the conditions of possibility of speculative thought. Precisely because “truth is its own self-movement,” that is to say the syllogistic autodeployment of the concept, the philosopher must above all not intervene in the process but must “let himself be moved” by its immanent logic: “What, therefore, is important in the study of Science, is that one should take upon oneself the strenuous effort of the concept.” The study of science thus supposes from the outset the “interruption” or “suspension [Unterbrechung]” of “habit,” and imposes upon the philosopher the “penalty of abandoning freedom” in regard to the content of his thoughts. The scientific approach thus brings into play a suspension that Hegel defines unequivocally: “This refusal to intrude into the immanent rhythm of the concept, either arbitrarily or with wisdom obtained from elsewhere, constitutes a restraint [Enthaltsamkeit] which in itself is an essential moment of the attention of the concept.” [31] We must therefore, Hegel specifies, “watch as a spectator the proper development of the object, not modify it through the immixture of our representations and subjective ideas.” [32] There is thus indeed a form of reduction at the foundation of Hegelian phenomenology, whose essential characteristic is to parenthesize subjectivity itself, and this for a basic reason, which is that consciousness itself is a phenomenon, since the sole constitutive instance is the Absolute. The phenomenon that appears to me is the essence, but this essence does not come from me, it is the appearance in me – and, in truth, as me – of a concept that precedes me, surpasses me, and encompasses me. My lived experience is therefore not foundational, because in truth it is not me who has experiences, it is Spirit that has experiences through me. The Phenomenology of Spirit is certainly a “science of the experiences of consciousness,” but the challenge of the whole work consists in showing that consciousness never owns the truth of its experience, and that it is precisely this structural inadequation (of consciousness with the content that it aims at) that commands the dialectical progression of its figures. Consciousness is not and cannot be the site of evidence; it is the site of discordance, and consequently of absurdity. The immanent lived experience of the finite subject is thus nothing but deception, since its intention of finding the content adequate to its concept knows only failure: the path of experience only ever “counts for it. .. as the loss of its own self; for it does lose its truth on this path. The road can therefore be regarded as the pathway of doubt, or more precisely as the way of despair [Verzweiflung].” [33] The ground upon which Husserl was able to contest the logico-formal autonomization of modern science is thus itself contested by the truth inherent in the process of this truth’s realization: the distress, absurdity, and despair of subjects faced with the “contrast” between the transcendent universality of the concept and their immanent experiences are nothing other than the condition of finitude within the Absolute, and the “unhappy consciousness” which experiences heartbreak, contradiction, and contrast, between the Universal that it knows and the particularity that it is, ultimately circumscribes the human condition itself.

16To the Husserlian repolarization upon the finite subject, Hegel thus opposes its depolarization, which demands that it should not posit itself as constitutive instance, but that, on the contrary, it recognize that “consciousness is not an absolute beginning, but a link [ein Glied] in the circle of philosophy.” [34] If therefore our epoch is indeed that of a “universal mutation,” [35] this mutation is not conceived as a crisis, but as the reconciliation of the ideal and the real, the parousia of the Absolute which convinces us of the insignificance of the lived experiences of finitude. Very far from being able to claim for itself the plenitude of sense, the subject must now forget itself. Thus Hegel closes the preface of Phenomenology as follows:


At a time when the universality of Spirit has gathered such strength, and the singular detail, as is fitting, has become correspondingly less important. .. the share in the total work of Spirit which falls to the individual can only be very small. Because of this, the individual must all the more forget himself. [36]

III – Decision

18Neither the demand to bring philosophy to the level of rigorous science, nor the recognition of the phenomenal status of the given, nor its reduction to essence and the relegation of the thing-in-itself, nor its being traced back to a constitutive subject, can be used to demarcate Husserlian from Hegelian phenomenology: Hegelian phenomenology develops the same method, but so as to lead us back in the last instance to the Absolute posited as Subject. The antagonism between Husserlian and Hegelian phenomenologies thus resides in the identification of the originarily constituting subject. Hegel posits that the Absolute is Subject, that it is thus “the very instance that posits [das Setzende selber],” and thus that finitude cannot be constitutive because it is constituted by the Absolute, and posited by it as simply a middle term of the syllogism of its self-realization: “[I]t is the absolute spirit itself which, in order explicitly to be knowledge of itself, makes distinctions within itself, and thereby establishes the finitude of spirit, within which it becomes the absolute object of the knowledge of itself.” [37] Whereupon Hegel develops the phenomenology inherent to metaphysics – inaugurated by the vast eidetic reduction of Platonism – which posits the first Being, the First Mover, the Demiurge, “God,” as unique and absolute Subject, and thus reduces all particularity to the rank of a phenomenon of that Absolute. From this point of view, the reduction to the sphere of evidence is but vanity: “To withdraw into sensible effectivity, believing to have found in it something solid and incontestable” and to settle “within the interior of the sphere of the phenomenon,” [38] is to condemn oneself to lacking the essential – that is to say, the concept that phenomenalizes in the phenomenon – garnering only the determinacy that determines me.

19The subject’s claim to the plenitude of sense thus cannot be satisfied with evidence, since there always remains the possibility that it was produced by the universality of the concept as a necessary moment of its self-realization, and is thus both provisional and illusory. This is why Husserl’s approach does not remain with the immanent sphere of the lived, but involves a confrontation with the entire history of metaphysics. The novelty of his phenomenology resides, then, in the contestation of the regulative hypothesis of Western metaphysics (completed in Hegel) which identifies being and reason (and defines itself through a Principle of Sufficient Reason), to posit, on the contrary, that the universality of the concept is a product or a deliverance of living subjectivity, and that the “objectivo-logical layer” is but a formal “substruction” which “disguises” with a “clothing of ideas” the world of life recognized as “the only true world,” [39] and to which the philosopher must then try to accede. The antinomy of Husserlian and Hegelian phenomenologies thus stems from a debate over the essence of truth: where Hegel posits that “truth has only the concept as the element of its existence,” [40] Husserl founds his analyses in the last instance upon “the ontological verification of living [die Seinsbewährung des Lebens].” The position of intuitive evidence as the source in principle of all objectivity is thus in itself revolutionary, in that it presupposes the delegitimization of the Principle of Sufficient Reason as such – that is to say, the process of the whole history of metaphysics. Husserl’s thought thus culminates in his taking up a position in relation to the “Greek primal establishment” recognized as the “teleological beginning” of European humanity, in which he recognizes the forgetting, the denial, or the repression of living subjectivity, dissimulated by the objectivity of its own productions. To the objectivism inherent in the originary foundation (Urstiftung) of rationality by Plato – who objectifies essences and projects them into the transcendence of an “intelligible realm” – Husserl opposes its terminal recasting (Endstiftung) by way of “this greatest of all revolutions [which] must be characterized as the transformation of scientific objectivism – not only modern objectivism but also that of all the earlier philosophies of the millennia – into a transcendental subjectivism.” [41]

20In assuming the crisis which is the fulfillment of the Western teleology of rationality, Husserlian phenomenology is thus a decision that aims to overcome the inaugural decision (κρίσις) [42] of the destiny of the West, a decision as to the essence of truth (ἀλήθεια), defining it through the identity of being and reason. Western modernity is thus the battlefield that opposes these two antagonistic truths – antagonistic because each posits the other as false, and is thus deaf to its arguments; each posits itself as the originary pole of the constitution of sense, recognizing in the other one of its productions, whose autonomy is an illusion – one, belonging to metaphysics, which defines it through “logic, the reign of pure thought,” and posits that “this realm is truth unveiled, truth as it is in and for itself,” [43] and the other, which argues that “transcendental subjectivity lives veiled in its humanity.. .. It is not pregiven in human worldliness and yet it is veiled in it,” [44]. It then goes on to define the domain of truth in terms of “this kingdom of originary evidences” that is the primordial world of living subjectivity. The crisis is therefore ultimately one of the unveiling (ἀποκάλυψις) of a truth hidden since the foundation of the world, namely the “transcendental functions [which] belong to a dimension of the living spirit that had to remain hidden. .. through the ages” [45] – an unveiling that constitutes a judgment and a condemnation of that history, inaugurated by an error, deployed as errancy, and fulfilled today in aberration.

IV – Alienation

21It is nevertheless the limitation of Husserl’s thought to have certainly identified subjectivity as the site of truth, but only by purely and simply dismissing the autonomous deployment of logico-formal scientificity, without analyzing the ways in which the latter might effectively attain autonomy and bring about the reign of its power. And in fact, the absence of any ground for technicized science does not thwart the actuality of its realization at all; and Husserl’s work has not had the least influence on the development of a Western science whose empire is now planetary in scale. For its deployment is effectively autonomous, and proceeds entirely through the realization of the concept whose sole criterion of truth is, precisely, its efficacy.

22Hegel identifies the mediation through which the concept can produce its own content and thus actualize itself: it is work, which “effectively completes” the concept, and which thus attains its effectiveness through “the discipline of service and obedience.” [46] Truth has the structure of a syllogism, and the universality of the concept is only actualized through the systematic subsumption of the finite subject whose work (unbeknownst to him) concurs (through a ruse) with the realization of reason in history. For, from the very moment when one recognizes, as Husserl himself did, that the objectivo-logical stratum is but a production of living subjectivity, and that this formal substruction disguises the real world, one must recognize its ideological status, and consequently base the “alienation” (Veräusserlichung) [47] of rationality in objectivism upon a practical alienation of subjectivity, immanent to the world of life, which actually provokes its voiding (Entleerung). Thus a radicalization of the phenomenological approach is demanded, which does not simply reduce the given to a theoretical activity (νόησις) of constitution, but instead to a practical activity (πρᾶξις) of production, and which consequently no longer defines the phenomenon through the formal correlation of noesis (the action of thinking) and noema (its objective correlate), but through the practical correlation of praxis and that which it deals with. The study of noetico-noematic structures must therefore be replaced by the study of praxico-pragmatic structures, and more fundamentally still, that of poietico-poiematic structures – that is to say, techniques of production and social relations. The question of the constitution of objectivity by an ego cogito turns out to be secondary and derivative in relation to the question of its production by an ego laboro. Husserl’s radicalization of the reduction in the direction of transcendental intersubjectivity had thus led him to recognize the necessity of taking into account “the mediation of social activity,” [48] and of elaborating a “general sociological theory of the essence of the possible life of a human community in general and its communal ‘actualization,’” [49] that is to say, to found a “social ontology [soziale ontologie].” [50] But it is Marx who fully carries this out, by treating the contemporary crisis no longer on the basis of the Copernican revolution, but on the basis of the Industrial Revolution.

23Marx states his fundamental principle in 1843: “One has to start with the real subject and examine its objectification;” [51] he thus grounds all of his analyses upon “the working subject [das arbeitende Subjekt],” and posits “living work. .. , present as living subject” [52] as the source in principle of all “phenomenal form [Erscheinungsform],” including the objectivo-logical stratum recognized as having an ideological status – that is to say, as “product of life.” [53] Subjective work is thus the radical source of everything that is: “The only thing distinct from objectified labour is non-objectified labour, labour which is still objectifying itself, labour as subjectivity [die Arbeit als Subjektivität],” [54] and all objectivity is in the last instance reducible to the subject’s activity of objectivation; it must be defined fundamentally as “objectivity-of-use [Gebrauchsgegenständlichkeit],” defined by the utility that it has for the life of the subject.

24The Industrial Revolution brings about a new mode of the production of objectivity, in which “the products of labour acquire a socially uniform objectivity as values [Wertgegenständlichkeit], which is distinct from their sensuously varied objectivity.” [55] This mutation of phenomenality is crucial, for it brings to light something that is no longer “work qua subjectivity” that is an instance of production, but “work qua totality;” as Marx emphasizes, “overall [work] as a totality is not the work of the individual worker.” [56] The novelty of such a system is due to the fact that within it, “it is not a person who works.” [57] It thus rests entirely upon the subsumption (Aufhebung) of individual work: “The work of the singular individual is posited in its immediate existence as work subsumed [aufhebt] in its singularity.” [58] The mode specific to subjective work is thus precisely its subsumption within an apparatus of production in which it intervenes only qua mediation destined to be overcome. The question, then, is that of knowing how and through what subjective work is overcome; a question answered by the wage system, the “absolute basis” [59] of the capitalist mode of production. It is thus the universal and abstract objectivity autonomized in money that arrogates to itself the power of production that really belongs to living subjectivity. The wage system effectively reduces subjective work to the rank of the middle term of the syllogism of the autoproduction of money, and is the basic schema of the capitalist operation wherein a quantity of money (a capital in the normal sense of the term) buys a quantity of merchandise (which contains a certain quantity of work) so as to produce a quantity of money greater than the initial sum (producing a surplus value). Thus the wage system is the subjective foundation of the speculative logic of “the self-realization of value” [60] that defines capital.

25The fundamental characteristic of the capitalist apparatus of production is thus to dispossess living subjects of their labor power: it rests entirely upon this divestiture (Entäusserung), which is immediately transferred from this concrete and particular subjective power into its other (Entfremdung) – that is to say, into the abstract and universal objectivity of value. Consequently, it is the universal and abstract pole that becomes the effective instance of the production of objectivity. Value is posited “as the active subject [als dem aktiven Subjekt],” [61] as “the subject predominant [übergreifende Subjekt]. .. appropriating to itself the work of another.” [62] The universal divestiture of living subjects and the universal alienation of their powers of production institute the “foreign subjectivity [fremde Subjektivität]” of capital, which “behaves by producing itself as foundation of itself [als Grund von sich]” [63] and thus becomes effectively the constitutive instance of all objectivity in place of and instead of living subjectivity.

26Capital is thus that which procures an actual effectiveness for ideal objectivity: the formal idealities that Husserl sought to reduce to their originary source themselves become effective instances of production. For European science is no longer an affair of scientists alone – it is an integral part of the apparatus of production, and conditions its productivity: “Large-scale industry. .. makes science a potentiality for production which is distinct from labor,” [64] and it procures for its idealities the effective power to produce themselves, and in so doing “objectivates the scientific idea [den wissenschaftlichen Gedanken objektiviert].” [65] In this way science is effectively autonomized, and each worker is divested of a knowledge which no longer exists except as an objective and constraining reality – that is to say, in an alienated form:


The science which compels the inanimate limbs of the machinery, by their construction, to act purposefully, as an automaton, does not exist in the worker’s consciousness [existiert nicht im Bewußtsein des Arbeiters], but rather acts upon him through the machine as an alien power [als fremde Macht], as the power of the machine itself. [66]

28Not only does the objectivo-formal logic of objectivist science become the effective regulation of a technical apparatus, but it comes to regulate and standardize living subjectivity in its very immanence. For what is distinctive about the capitalist apparatus is that it forces subjective power to no longer deploy itself except within the “fundamental forms” defined by science:


The principle which it pursued, of resolving each process into its constituent movements, without any regard to their possible execution by the hand of man, created the new modern science of technology... Technology also discovered the few main fundamental forms of motion, which. .. are necessarily taken by every productive action of the human body. [67]

30The phenomenological conflict between Husserl’s founding of the given upon the activity of the finite subject and Hegel’s founding of it upon the total act of the universal abstract Subject is thus no mere theoretical debate, but an everyday practical conflict on the part of every subject with an effectively constraining apparatus whose logic is none other than that of speculation. In his initial debate with Hegel in 1843, Marx accuses him of an “inversion” which consists in positing the Abstract Universal as Subject and of reducing the real and concrete subject to the rank of a phenomenon of that Universal: in Hegel, “the mystical substance becomes the real subject and the real subject appears to be something else, namely a moment of the mystical substance.” [68] But his whole analysis of the apparatus of capitalist production consists in bringing to light an “effective inversion [wirkliche Verkehrung]” [69] through which it is the abstract universality of value that becomes Subject and makes of all concrete labor a certain determinate expression of that value, and reduces real activity to the rank of a phenomenon. Thus, for a waged laborer, writes Marx in 1873,


Being human labour counts as its essence [Wesen]: being the labour of tailoring counts only as the form of appearance [Erscheinungsform] or definite form of realisation of this essence.. .. This inversion by which the sensibly-concrete counts only as the form of appearance of the abstractly general [Erscheinungsform des Abstrakt-Allgemeinen] and not, on the contrary, the abstractly general as property of the concrete, characterises the expression of value. [70]

32The considerable difficulty of this analysis thus consists in its maintaining that living subjectivity is the source in principle of all objectivity, while recognizing that it is in fact subject to a “complete emptying-out [völlige Entleerung]” [71] by an apparatus that defines itself through “the subjectivization [die Versubjektivierung] of things, the thingification of subjects, the inversion of cause and effect.” [72] It is therefore not enough to critique Hegel from the theoretical point of view alone, since capital is “a self-moving substance which passes through a process of its own [sich selbst bewegende Substanz],” [73] and since it is thus Subject-Substance realizing itself through the subsumption and overcoming of all particularity; it is not enough to refute speculative logic, since this logic structures and commands the apparatus of production of objectivity, which is found to be effectively characterized by the inversion of subject and object, ideal and real, universal and particular, essence and phenomena: “It is this perverted appearance, this prosaically real, and by no means imaginary, mystification that is characteristic of all social forms of labour positing exchange-value.” [74] Thus, even as he recuses it in 1843 as “mysticism,” Marx discovers the speculative logic of metaphysics as the software of the apparatus. Even as he contests the legitimacy of this logic, he observes its effectiveness. There is here, according to a remarkable expression from his critique of Hegel, “a non-truth, albeit an existent non-truth,” [75] and this is the unprecedented problem that Marx is the first to confront: to think a world ruled by the false, an epoch wherein the absurd has the force of law and where therefore the false is verified every day, an apparatus characterized by “the most total aberration [die vollständige Verrücktheit],” and “aberration in the most tangible form,” [76] where everything “appears. .. in this aberrant form [erscheint in dieser verrückten Form].” [77] Capitalism thus deploys systematically the mystified phenomenality that Marx reproaches Hegel for: the crisis is thus a crisis of phenomenality as such. If we admit that the question of the constitution of objectivity is derived from its production, and that this production is today integrally regulated by a capitalist apparatus whose logic is speculative, then we must admit that phenomenality is today produced by this apparatus in accordance with its proper structure, which is no longer that of incarnate finitude. In other words, in the epoch of technology, the phenomenon itself is artificial and factitious: thus it is a matter of defining the status of this artificial phenomenality.

V – Spectralization

33Husserlian phenomenology aims to trace back idealities to their intuitive foundation; but the dialogue with the destiny of Western rationality led Husserl to develop phenomenology as an “archaeology,” [78] to cede to the originary institution of rationality by the Greeks, and thus to recognize that “I am what I am qua inheritance [ich bin, was ich bin, als Erbe].” [79] Approaching the objectivo-logical stratum in terms of inheritance means that we have to recognize that the domination of its concepts has a very peculiar status: if on the one hand ideality is founded in principle upon an immanent subjective activity, and if on the other hand the genealogy of these idealities leads back to an ancient bygone epoch, then the idealities which today dominate Europe are but the “empty husks” of dead intuitions, and science is the erecting of “this great columbarium of concepts, this cemetery of intuitions [Begräbnissstätte der Anschauung]” which has never promised to the people of the West anything other than this “land of the spectral schemata [das Land der gespenstischen Schemata].” [80] It is in these terms that Nietzsche discussed the reign of nihilism, recognizing in German metaphysics “dreary northern gray-on-gray and sunless specter-concepts [Begriffs-Gespensterei] and anemia” [81] and explaining the European disease by the domination of the “specter-concepts [Begriffs-Gespenster] of superstition.” [82] But it is Marx who developed this phenomenology of spectrality, by making a distinction between specters and ghosts, a distinction it was the central contribution of Jacques Derrida to have brought to light.

34To recognize that we are late arrivals, the inheritors of a millenarian history, and on the other hand to recognize that Spirit has as its foundation in principle the trial of life, is in effect to admit that all the concepts that have come down to us are but the legacy of an initial death. As Derrida emphasizes, “we are inheritors, and, like all inheritors, we are in mourning.” [83] Every inheritance is thus the presence of the dead amongst the living; so the heritage of rationality is itself phantomatic, and its concepts, ideals, and categories are “ghosts [Spuck]:” “These universal concepts,” writes Marx in The German Ideology, present themselves “as objective spirit, as objects for men, and, at this stage, they are called phantoms or ghosts.” [84] Indeed, Marx specifies that these concepts are called ghosts “at this stage:” the ghost is an idea detached from its initial substrate that maintains itself independently of its constitutive act and despite the death of its foundational lived experiences. The ghost, in so far as it is the presence of an ideality transmitted by inheritance, and ultimately is this transmission itself, is therefore a moment internal to every phenomenon. So Derrida has to place mourning at the very center of phenomenality, in the sense that only the interiorizing idealization of the lost object allows its reintegration into the self, and hollows out in the self the crypt of the absence which renders possible all presence. What is proper to mourning is thus that it maintains in itself ideality as absence, in the sense that this absence opens up the “allogeneous space” [85] that is ultimately that of existence. [86] The specter then appears at another stage, the stage when the ghost itself takes on a body:


The ghostly moment comes upon it, adds to it a supplementary dimension, one more simulacrum, alienation, or expropriation. Namely, a body! In the flesh (Leib)! For there is no ghost, there is never any becoming-specter of the spirit without at least an appearance of flesh.. .. The spectrogenic process corresponds therefore to a paradoxical incorporation. Once ideas or thoughts (Gedanke) are detached from their substratum, one engenders of some ghost by giving them a body. [87]

36Mourning is the interiorizing idealization of the lost object. The spectrogenic process corresponds to the hallucinatory and fetishistic moment when this ideality is exteriorized, reified, and thus made present and offered up to intuition.

37However, it is a matter of approaching the question of objectivation at the primordial level of its production – that is to say, by reducing it to living labor as the root of all objectivity. This is indeed what Marx does, by no longer emphasizing that every ideality is the residue of a dead intuition, but that every value is the residue of a dead labor. For value is nothing other than the form that a subject has added to a matter. Thus the product subsists as objectivated work, and “value” is the value “of past, dead, work become a thing.” [88] What is distinctive about human labor is thus that it is always based upon past work, and we must affirm “the importance of past labour, realised in products, for labour qua present ἐνέργεια.. .. Past labour appears as a pedestal that labour itself has provided.” [89] All labor is thus the assumption of an inheritance, and articulates past and present, death and life:


The labour already contained in the means of production is the same as that which is newly added. The only difference between them is that one is objectivated in the use value and the other involved in the process of this objectivation; one is past, the other present, one is dead, the other living, one has been objectivated in the past, the other is being objectivated in the present. [90]

39Thus all objectivity – qua result of a subjective activity of objectivation – is ghostly – that is to say, the persistence of an object in spite of the death of its subject; and no labor is possible except through this inheritance, and this ghost.

40Human history is thus founded upon the appropriation by living beings of dead labor, the present utilization of the results of past work – including in the theoretical field. As for Capitalism, it is defined by the autovalorization of value – that is to say, the moment when value becomes Subject through the subsumption of living workers: “Past labour does not appear as a simple objective moment of living labour, subsumed by it, but the inverse: it does not appear qua element of the power of living labour, but as power over this labour.” [91] It is no longer the living subject that appropriates dead objectivity so as to activate or express itself; on the contrary, it is the system of dead objectivity that consumes living labor. Thus “living labour appears as a mere means to realize objectified, dead labour, to penetrate it with an animating soul while losing its own soul to it.” [92] The epoch of capital leads living beings to impute life to that which is dead, and enables that which is dead to consume the power of the living: “By incorporating living labour into their lifeless objectivity, the capitalist simultaneously transforms value, i.e. past labour in its objectified and lifeless form, into capital, value which can perform its own valorization process, an animated monster.” And capital is “dead labour, which dominates and soaks up living labour-power.” [93] If the capitalist epoch is that of aberration, it is defined through this inversion of relations between the dead and the living: “This inversion, indeed this aberration” writes Marx in Capital, “is characteristic of capitalist production, of the relation between dead labour and living labour [Verkehrung, ja Verrückung des Verhältnisses von toter und lebendiger Arbeit].” [94] If the ghost that is value captures living labor, it is so as to produce itself – to produce a ghost[95] – and thus to attain its spectral body: the apparatus thus produces the “spectral objectivity [gespenstige Gegenständlichkeit] of the objectivity-of-value, gives to everything what is its “fantastic form [die phantasmagorische Form],” [96] and thus condemns humanity to the fetishism of a reality transformed “into a mere phantom of the mind [in Bloßes Hirngespinst].” [97]

41The capitalist apparatus is thus deceiving in so far as it is a spectrogenic apparatus which systematically produces phenomenality as spectrality: the phenomenon is spectral when intuition is but the means to give a body to an ideality, rather than ideality being the condition of possibility for intuition. And it is the vista of all of being that appears today, at first sight and almost always in everyday circumstances, as spectral objectivity. To approach the everyday situation of man today means we have to recognize that the given that is given to him is a flow of perspectives appearing on screens; and the screen is the site of apparitions (in the ghostly sense of the term), wherein a dead ideality comes to take on a body in the halo of an artificial luminosity, to come and haunt the spectator. We must observe today that the world has been replaced by a space that is itself spectral – cyberspace, which Derrida analyzed in 1993. As he writes,


The medium of the media themselves (news, the press, telecommunications, techno-tele-discursivity, techno-tele-iconicity, that which in general assures and determines the spacing of public space, the very possibility of the res publica and the phenomenality of the political), this element itself is neither living nor dead, present nor absent; it spectralizes.

43He recognizes that here there is


[a] power, a differentiated set of powers [that] cannot be analyzed or potentially combatted, supported here, attacked there, without taking into account so many spectral effects, of the new speed of apparition (we understand this word in its ghostly sense) of the simulacrum, the synthetic or prosthetic image, and the virtual event, cyberspace and surveillance, the control, appropriations, and speculations that today deploy unheard-of powers. [98]

45Faced with the planetary power of an apparatus that spectralizes space-time itself, it becomes simply obsolete to speak of the “world.”

46In other words, spectrality is an everyday environment in the form of a spectacle, and this in the exact sense intended by Guy Debord – that is to say, as the supreme stage of the capitalist apparatus of production: “The spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image.” [99] For it completes the triple movement of the separation, autonomization, and inversion of dead ideality in relation to living subjectivity that defines capitalism. Just as dead ideality conquers the milieu of its survival and its autonomy of deployment in a scientific apparatus to which it submits living subjects, and just as dead value conquers the milieu of its survival and its autonomy of deployment in an economic apparatus to which it submits living workers, so dead representation conquers the milieu of its survival and its autonomy of deployment in a spectacular apparatus to which it submits living individuals who have become spectators. “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation,” writes Debord, “the spectacle in its generality is a concrete inversion of life, and, as such, the autonomous movement of non-life.” [100] In this spectacle, representations deploy themselves on the basis of themselves, and every representation proceeds only from another representation; the spectator is thus he whose lived experience is produced by the spectacle – that is to say, he whose lived experience comes to realize and incorporate a dead representation. In this, every spectacle is effectively spectrogenic. The contemporary industry of culture, that is to say “the project of. .. its management as a dead thing to be contemplated in the spectacle,” [101] is a privileged example of this, whose emblematic institution is the museum, the true “cemetery of intuitions” where passive spectators come regularly to try to feel the required emotions.

47But what is characteristic of spectacle is above all that it is produced by a producer distinct from the spectator: to speak of spectacle is thus to recognize that the finite subject is no longer the agent of the constitution of objects, but that he never does anything except act as the audience for a preconstituted given which continually produces meanings that impose themselves in sites where they make no sense. [102] It is not true that I am the primordial instance of my environment, constituting the given on the basis of my intentional acts; on the contrary, I am exposed to a continual flow of “information” which I do not constitute but which constitutes me (in-forms me), and which assigns me to a universal public space that is no longer the world in the proper sense. My immediate horizon is always already geolocalized in the planetary space thus deployed – that is to say, always already integrated into cyberspace. The society of the spectacle is, in this way, the fulfilment of the crisis of phenomenality that belongs to Western modernity: if Husserlian phenomenology discovered the founding in principle of everything appearing upon a carnal intuition, it is today confronted with the autonomization of apparitions artificially produced through a technological apparatus – that is to say, with that total effectiveness of the speculative that defines metaphysics – and this indeed is what Guy Debord emphasizes:


The spectacle is the heir to all the weakness of the project of Western philosophy, which was an attempt to understand activity by means of the categories of vision. Indeed the spectacle reposes on an incessant deployment of the very technical rationality to which that philosophical tradition gave rise. So far from realizing philosophy, the spectacle philosophizes reality and turns the material life of everyone into a universe of speculation. [103]

49Whence the crisis in the very method of phenomenology: faced with “the spectrality of all that is [Gespensterhaftigkeit Aller],” [104] a phenomenology of perception is powerless to accede to essence, and can only ever grasp “the coarsely sensuous objectivity” [105] of use value. For Derrida,


The phenomenological good sense may perhaps be valid for use-value. It is perhaps even meant to be valid only for use value, as if the correlation of these concepts answered to this function: phenomenology as the discourse of use-value so as not to think the market or in view of making oneself blind to exchange-value. [106]

51The reduction to the sphere of the lived proves totally powerless to attain the “essential content” of objects which are the realization of an ideality by an autonomized production that short-circuits any intuitive basis. Incapable of thinking about the exchange value that is precisely irreducible to subjectivity, since it is a specific product of capital, it proves equally incapable of thinking about the technical object. For the latter has a noumenal reality, an in-itself, which is the idea of which it is the reification, and remains inaccessible to the user who only ever grasps its apparition. It is like the computer upon which I write this text: I can only reduce it to the use I make of it, and thus recognize in it the status of a tool, but the phenomenal form of utensility conceals the machinic essence of the computer, which precisely produces utilization as one of its functions; to take refuge in this usage is thus to let myself be entirely determined by the function that the machine assigns to me, and to become its slave.

52But the reduction is not only inoperative faced with such an apparatus of spectralization: it becomes deceptive, because it is itself spectralizing. The moment when ideality becomes flesh is the moment when it becomes specter, and it is in such terms that Marx criticizes Stirner:


Thus, the man, identified here with the “unique,” having first given thoughts corporeality, i.e. having transformed them into spectres, now destroys this corporeality again, by taking them back into his own body, which he thus makes into a body of spectres.. .. [H]e arrives at his own corporeality only through the negation of the spectres. [107]

54In the epoch of spectral objectivity, “the incorporation of ideality,” writes Derrida, “is then “the second incarnation conferred upon an initial idealization:”


It is not enough to destroy as if with a spell, in an instant, the “corporeality” [Leibhaftigkeit] of the ghosts in order to reincorporate them alive.. .. This resembles an epokhe, a phenomenological reduction of the ghost, but Marx criticizes it as a phenomenological reduction to the ghost (to the phenomenality or phantasm of a phantom). The reduction as subjectivization of the corporeal form of the external phantom is but a super-idealization and a supplementary spectralization. [108]

56When the subject is subjected to the technical apparatus, the reduction is not the liberation from this apparatus – quite the contrary:


Once ideas or thoughts [Gedanke] are detached from their substratum, one engenders some ghost by giving them a body. Not by returning to the living body from which ideas and thoughts have been torn loose, but by incarnating the latter in another artifactual body, a prosthetic body. [109]

58A prosthetic body – that is to say, a body made of prostheses, possessed by the apparatus. If, therefore, the ghost becomes a specter by objectifying itself, the subjects who attempt the reduction of this spectral objectivity condemn themselves to becoming the “possessed.” [110] Intuition is thus disqualified, because it can no longer offer us anything: if it takes refuge in the domain of a world of preserved life, it is denial of the real and blindness to what is essential; if it takes the given as it is given, that is to say as spectral, it is possession.

VI – Revolution

59The question of phenomenology as developed by Husserl cannot not take into account the systematic development of phenomenology by Hegel: two phenomenological principles are opposed, one which reduces every given to the singular pole of living subjectivity, the other which reduces it to the universal pole of the concept. The upholding of the subject’s claim to the plenitude of sense implies the taking up of a certain position in relation to the whole destiny of Western metaphysics: subjectivity can only be posited as a source in principle if objectivism is ruled out as illegitimate as such. But this delegitimization of the formal autonomy of rationality itself comes up against its own actuality in an apparatus which is the completion of metaphysics. The foundation in principle of every phenomenon upon living subjectivity is opposed to its foundation in fact upon the speculative logic of the self-realization of the concept: Marx’s whole work consisted in firstly contesting Hegelian speculative logic by recusing the subjectivation of the Universal, and then observing in this logic the very reality of the capitalist apparatus.

60The completion of metaphysics in an effectively constraining planetary apparatus thus marks out a purely formal phenomenological reduction as a vain exercise, which must prove incapable of tracing back idealities to their source. The reduction thus can no longer be immediate – it must take into account all the mediations through which idealities have attained their power and their factuality as specters, that is to say the dialectics of the speculative logic that effectively regulates the apparatus. But the bringing to light of this logic of the autonomization of objectivity, while observing its effectiveness, contests its legitimacy. The question of reappropriation then becomes all the more urgent; however, it must be posed at the level of the real bases of this apparatus: “Marx thus prescribes that we proceed to reappropriation while taking account of all the practical and social structures, all the empirico-technical detours that the initial phantoms had produced.” To do away with specters, Derrida writes, supposes that one “cease[s] to transform these realities into objects of theoretical intuition, that is to say into spectacle” to


take into account the “practical structure” of the world: Work, production, actualization, techniques. Only this practicality, only this actuality. .. can get to the bottom of a purely imaginary or spectral flesh.. .. The egological conversion is not enough, nor is the change in the direction of a gaze, nor a putting into parenthesis, nor the phenomenological reduction; one must work – practically, actually. One must think work and work at it. [111]

62Reappropriation must therefore itself be effective and total; it no longer concerns a scientific system, but a technical apparatus; it can no longer be solitary, but must be shared; it can no longer be theoretical, but must be practical: it is no longer a matter of reduction, but of what Husserl himself named “revolution.” [112]

63But if what is at stake in revolution is to “recover the spirit of revolution [Geist der Revolution] not to relaunch its spectre [ihr Gespenst],” and if, in order to do so, it must free itself “from words transformed into phrases, ideas into spectres,” [113] then it itself relates still more fundamentally to conjuring, and to exorcism.


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  • [56]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 470 [ES, vol 1, 409]; MEW 42, 382
  • [57]
    Marx, Manuscrits de 1861-1863, ES, vol. 2, 197; MEW 43, 50-51.
  • [58]
    Marx, Grundrisse [ES 2, 197]; MEW 42, 605.
  • [59]
    Marx, Economic Manuscripts 1863-1865; MEGA II.4.1, 79.
  • [60]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 327 [ES 1, 266]; MEW 42, 246;
  • [61]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 746 [ES 2, 234]; MEW 42, 638.
  • [62]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 620 [ES 1, 410]; MEW 42, 383.
  • [63]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 470 [ES 2, 233]; MEW 42, 638.
  • [64]
    Marx, Capital vol 1, 482 [Le Capital, 407]; MEW 23, 382.
  • [65]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 470 [ES 1, 409]; MEW 42, 382.
  • [66]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 693 [ES 2, 185]; MEW 42, 593.
  • [67]
    Marx, Capital vol 1, 617 [Le Capital, 547]; MEW 23, 510.
  • [68]
    Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 24 [Critique du droit politique hégélien, ES, 60]; MEGA I.2, 24-25.
  • [69]
    Marx, “Theories of Surplus-Value,” [Théories sur la plus-value, in ES 3, 536]; MEW 26.3, 445.
  • [70]
    Marx, “The Value-Form,” [“La Forme-valeur,” trans. P.-D. Dognin, in Les “Sentiers escarpés” de Karl Marx. Le chapitre I du Capital traduit et commenté dans trois rédactions successives” (Paris: Cerf, 1977), 1:131.]
  • [71]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 488 [ES 1, 425]; MEW 42, 396.
  • [72]
    Marx, “Theories of Surplus-Value” [ES 3, 582]; MEW 26.3, 484-485.
  • [73]
    Marx, Capital vol 1, 256 [Le Capital, 174]; MEW 23, 169.
  • [74]
    Karl Marx, “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” [ES, 27]; MEW 13, 34-35.
  • [75]
    Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 26 [Critique du droit politique hégélien, ES, 67]; MEGA I.2, 30.
  • [76]
    Marx, “Theories of Surplus-Value” [Théories sur la plus-value [ES 3, 540]; MEW 26.3, 448.
  • [77]
    Marx, Capital vol 1, 169 [translation modified] [Le Capital, 87]; MEW 23, 90.
  • [78]
    Husserl, Philosophie première 2; Hua VIII, 29.
  • [79]
    Husserl, Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität, Hua XIV, 223.
  • [80]
    Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” trans. R. Spears, in The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, edited by R. Geuss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 152 [translation modified] [Vérité et mensonge au sens extra-moral]; KSA 1, 886, 878, 888-889.
  • [81]
    Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin Classics, 2002), 187 (§254); KSA 5, 200.
  • [82]
    Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, in Twilights of the Idols and The Anti-Christ, trans R. J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin Classics 1990), 277 (§49) [translation modified]; KSA 6, 228.
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    Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, trans. P. Kamuf (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), 67 [Spectres de Marx. L’état de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale (Paris: Galilée, 1993), 94].
  • [84]
    Marx, The German Ideology [ES, 146]; MEW 3, 140.
  • [85]
    Derrida, “Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok,” in The Wolfman’s Magic Word: A Cryptonomy, by N. Abraham and M. Torok (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), xxii [Fors, (Paris: Aubier-Flammarion, 1976, 16-17)].
  • [86]
    There is humanity only through this proximity to death and this intimacy with the dead, and there is no Self except through this sedimentation and this archiving of an inheritance, and thus through a primitive mourning, and through the work of mourning (Jacques Derrida, Memoirs for Paul de Man, trans. C. Lindsay et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, revised edition 1989), 28 [Memoires, pour Paul de Man (Paris: Galilée, 1988), 49]): “A ‘self’ is never in itself or identical to itself. This specular reflection never closes on itself; it does not appear before this possibility of mourning”). Mourning qua being-for-the-death-of-the-other, is thus the most primordial relation to death, which founds for each of us the possibility of the assumption of the dimension of absence through which alone there is an existence – and it is a limitation of Being and Time that Derrida emphasizes: “The existential analysis does not want to know anything about the ghost [revenant] or about mourning,” Jacques Derrida, Aporias, trans. T. Dutoit (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), 60 [Apories (Paris: Galilée, 1996), 110]. Existence may be defined in terms of the space of play of mourning [Trauerspiel], that is to say, tragedy. Thus we ought to replace ontology, which wishes no phenomenon except the presence it brings to light, with a “hauntology” (Specters of Marx, 10 [31]) attentive to the absence which haunts it.
  • [87]
    Derrida, Specters of Marx 157-158 [202].
  • [88]
    Marx, Le Capital, Paris 1872-1875; MEGA II.7, 160.
  • [89]
    Marx, “Theories of Surplus-Value” [ES, vol 3, 321-322]; MEW 26.3.
  • [90]
    Marx, Economic Manuscripts 1863-1865, MEGA II.4.1, 70.
  • [91]
    Marx, “Theories of Surplus-Value” [ES, vol 3, 322]; MEW 26.3.
  • [92]
    Marx, Grundrisse, 461 [ES, vol 1, 400]; MEW 42, 374.
  • [93]
    Marx, Capital vol. 1, 302, 548 [Le Capital, 219, 475]; MEW 23, 209, 329. This is why Marx must give a more precise status to the ghost. In so far as it is not content to come and haunt the living, but comes to appropriate their vital power so as to attain its spectral body, the ghost is a vampire: “Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” (342 [259]; MES 23, 247); It is, moreover, in the same terms that Nietzsche thinks metaphysical nihilism: “Ideas are worse seductresses than the senses, for all their cold, anaemic appearance and not even despite that appearance – they always lived off the ‘blood’ of the philosopher, they always drained his senses and even, if you believe it, his ‘heart’. These old philosophers were heartless; philosophizing was always a type of vampirism,” The Gay Science, trans. J. Nauckhoff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 237; KSA 3, 624.
  • [94]
    Marx, Capital vol. 1, 425 [translation modified] [475]; MEW 23, 329.
  • [95]
    The relation between “ghost” [revenant] and “revenue” [revenu] is emphasized by Derrida in the debate “Autour des écrits de Jacques Derrida sur l’argent,” in L’Argent. Croyance, mesure, spéculation, ed. Marcel Drach (Paris: La Découverte, 2004), 204.
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    Marx, Capital vol. 1, 165 [Le Capital, 43, 83]; MEW 23, 52, 86.
  • [97]
    Marx, Capital vol. 3, 603 [ES, vol. 2, 134]; MEW 25, 490.
  • [98]
    Derrida, Specters of Marx, 63, 67 [83, 93]. See also the book of interviews with Bernard Stiegler, Echographies of Television: Filmed Interviews (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002) [Échographies. De la télévision (Paris: Galilé/INA, 1996), 129].
  • [99]
    Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. D. Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1994), 24 (§34) [La Société du spectacle (Paris: Gallimard, 1992), 32].
  • [100]
    Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 12 [15-16] (§1 and §2).
  • [101]
    Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 131-132 (§184) [180].
  • [102]
    See Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 2-3 [Le Coût humain de la mondialisation (Paris: Hachette, 1999), 9-10)]: “Localities are losing their meaning-generating and meaning-negotiating capacity and are increasingly dependent on sense-giving and interpreting actions which they do not control.. .. The centers of meaning-and-value production are today exterritorial and emancipated from local constraints – this does not apply, though, to the human condition which such values and meanings are to inform and make sense of.”
  • [103]
    Debord, The Society of the Spectacle 17 (§19) [La Société du spectacle, 23-24].
  • [104]
    Marx, The German Ideology, [ES, 146] MEW 3, 140.
  • [105]
    Marx, Capital 138 [Le Capital, 54]; MEW 23, 62.
  • [106]
    Derrida, Specters of Marx, 188 [239].
  • [107]
    Marx, The German Ideology [ES, 141]; MEW 3, 136.
  • [108]
    Derrida, Specters of Marx, 162 [206-207].
  • [109]
    Derrida, Specters of Marx, 158 [202-203].
  • [110]
    Marx, The German Ideology [ES, 141]; MEW 3, 136.
  • [111]
    Derrida, Specters of Marx 163 [206-207, 208-209].
  • [112]
    Husserl, Crisis, 68 [La Crise, 79]; Hua VI, 69.
  • [113]
    Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in Later Political Writings, ed. T. Carver (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 33, 123 [Pléiade IV, 438, 539]; MEGA I.11, 98, 185.

I contrast two phenomenological principles: one which reduces every given to the singular pole of living subjectivity (Husserl), the other which reduces it to the universal pole of the concept (Hegel). This opposition defines the crisis of Western modernity. Thus the claim of the subject to the plenitude of sense implies a certain position in relation to the whole destiny of Western metaphysics: subjectivity can only be posited as a source in principle if objectivism is ruled out as illegitimate as such. But this critique of the formal autonomy of rationality comes up against its own actuality in an apparatus which is the completion of metaphysics. The foundation in principle of every phenomenon upon living subjectivity is opposed to its foundation in fact upon the speculative logic of the self-realization of the concept – that is to say, the capitalist apparatus of production (Marx). In which case, it is a matter of confronting the regime of phenomenality proper to this speculative apparatus: it will be seen then that capitalism brings about a crisis of phenomenality itself, produced as spectrality (Derrida) within the horizon of the spectacle (Debord).


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