In the Beginning Was the Word

  • Alex Callinicos


These words were written by Eugene Jolas in 1929 in an article entitled ‘The revolution of language and James Joyce’. They are applicable to one of the most striking phenomena of western intellectual culture in this century — the manner in which language has somehow folded back onto itself, its nature defined, not by the relation between words and things, discourse and a reality that exists independently of and prior to it, but by its own inner structure. Language, in much of western philosophy and literature, has broken loose from reality and become an autonomous, self-referential process extending to infinity in all directions.


Symbolic Order Linguistic Sign Hide Meaning Western Metaphysic Cartesian Cogito 
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Notes and References

  1. 4.
    F. de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966) pp. 65, 66, 113.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    R. Jakobson, Essais de Linguistique Générale (Paris: Minuit, 1963) p. 162.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    F. Jameson, The Prison-house of Language (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974) p. 32.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    G. Deleuze, ‘A quoi reconnait-on le structuralisme?’ in F. Chatelet (ed.) Histoire de la Philosophie t. 8 (Paris: Hachette, 1973) p. 306.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    V. Descombes, La Même et l’Autre (Paris: Minuit, 1979) p. 13.Google Scholar
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    M. Poster, Existential Marxism in Postwar France (Princeton University Press, 1975) p. 19.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in W. Kaufmann, Hegel (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1965) p. 176.Google Scholar
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    C. Levi-Strauss, ‘Introduction à l’oeuvre de Marcel Mauss’, in M. Mauss (ed.), Sociologie et Anthropologie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1950) XLIX, XLVII-XL V III.Google Scholar
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    J. Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1977) pp. 154, 177.Google Scholar
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    G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1966) p. 229. Lacan refers to the dialectic of master and slave on a number of occasions - for example, Lacan, Ecrits, pp. 26, 80.Google Scholar
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    J. Derrida, Writing and Difference (London and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978) p. 291.Google Scholar
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    See J. Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1976) p. 98.Google Scholar
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    V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (Moscow: Progress, 1947) p. 250. For Marx’s views, see K. Marx, Grundrisse (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) pp. 100–8.Google Scholar

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© A. T. Callinicos 1982

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  • Alex Callinicos

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