The Marxism Deconstruction Debate in Literary Theory

  • Michael Ryan


I will argue that the debate between Marxists and deconstructionists in literary theory is in part a false one, at least from a Marxist perspective. The work of certain deconstructive literary critics like Paul de Man is relevant to a Marxist critique of ideology. And deconstructive theorists like Christopher Norris are not entirely correct in maintaining that deconstruction is antithetical to Marxism. Similarly the Marxist critics of deconstruction frequently misread basic deconstructive concepts like ‘textuality’ (which they take to mean a kind of literariness, when in fact it describes a spatialisation and a relationality that is in many ways congruent with such Marxist notions as practice and meditation), and they mistake as nihilistic an anti-idealist and anti-positivist affirmation of the irreducibility of the practical mechanics of rhetoric to pre-Marxian concepts of ideal thematics or unmediated objectivity, when in fact it is in keeping with a Marxist interest in the way practice mediates both ideality and materiality. I will first review the debate between Marxists and deconstructionists; then I will say why I think a deconstructionist like de Man can be useful to Marxists; and I will conclude with some comments on the relevance of deconstruction to a Marxist cultural criticism.


Literary Criticism Literary Theory Yale School Marxist Critique Nuclear Warhead 
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© Rajnath 1989

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  • Michael Ryan

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