Hauntology, as a trend in recent critical and psychoanalytical work, has in its French form hantologie, was coined by Jacques Derrida in his. Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life, Martin Hag- glund argues that this broken sense of time is crucial, not only to hauntology but to Derrida’s whole. Jacques Derrida .. That is what we would be calling here a hauntology. Ontology opposes it only in a movement of exorcism. Ontology is a conjuration.

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Can one translate with regard to it the logic of surviving that we have just glimpsed with regard to the patrimony of the idol, and what would be the interest of such an operation?

The treatment of the phantomatic in The German Ideology announces or confirms the absolute privilege that Marx always grants to religion, to ideology as religion, mysticism, or theology, in his analysis of ideology in general.

If the ghost gives its form, that is to say, its body, to the ideologem, then it is the essential feature [ le propre ], so to speak, of the religious, according to Marx, that is missed when one effaces the semantics or the lexicon of the spectre, as translations often do, with values deemed to be more or less equivalent fantasmagorical, hallucinatory, fantastic, imaginary, and so on.

The mystical character of the fetish, in the mark it leaves on the experience of the religious, is first of all a ghostly character. Well beyond a convenient mode of presentation in Marx’s rhetoric or pedagogy, what seems to be at stake is, on the one hand, the irreducibly specific character of the spectre.

The latter cannot be derived from a psychology of the imagination or from a psychoanalysis of the imaginary, no more than from an onto- or me-ontology, even though Marx seems to inscribe it within a socioeconomic genealogy or a philosophy of labour and production: On the other hand and by the same token, at stake is the irreducibility of the religious model in the construction of the concept of ideology.

When Marx evokes spectres at the moment he analyses, for example, the mystical character or the becoming-fetish of the commodity, we should therefore not see in that only effects of rhetoric, turns of phrase that are contingent or merely hhauntology to convince by striking the imagination.

If that were the case, moreover, one would still have to explain their effectiveness in this respect. One would have to say why it frightens or strikes the imagination, and what fear, imagination, their subject, the life of their subject, and so forth, deerrida.

Let us situate ourselves for a moment in that place where the values of value between use-value and exchange-valuesecret, mystique, enigma, fetish, and the ideological form a chain in Marx’s text, haunfology in Capital, and let us try at least to indicate it will be only an indicator the spectral movement of this chain.

The movement is staged there where it is a question, precisely, of forming the concept of what the stage, any stage, withdraws from our blind eves at the moment we hauntoloty them. Now, this concept is indeed constructed with reference to a certain haunting. It is a great moment at the beginning of Capital as everyone recalls: It is the moment in which Marx means to demonstrate that the hauntologt character owes nothing to a use-value.

Is it just chance that he illustrates the principle of his explanation by causing a table to turn? Or rather by recalling the apparition of a turning table? This table is familiar, too familiar; it is found at the opening of the chapter on the fetishism of the commodity and its secret Geheimnis. This dereida has been worn down, exploited, over-exploited, or else set aside, no longer in use, in antique shops or auction rooms.

The thing is at once set aside and beside itself.

Will that which is going to loom up be a mere example? Yes, but the example of a thing, the table, that seems to loom up of itself and to bauntology all at once on its paws. It is the example of an apparition. Let us take the chance, then, after so many glosses, of an ingenuous reading.

Let us try to see what happens.

Derrida, Jacques (1930–2004)

But is this not right away impossible? Marx warns us with the first words. The point is right away to go bey rid, in one fell swoop, the first glance and thus to see there where this glance is blind, to open one’s eyes wide there where one does not see what one sees.

One must see, at first sight, what does not let itself be seen. And this is invisibility itself. For what first sight misses is the invisible. The hauntolog, the error of first sight is to see, and not to notice the invisible. If one does not give oneself up to this invisibility, then the table-commodity, immediately perceived, remains what it is not, a simple thing deemed to be trivial and too obvious. So as to prepare us to see this invisibility, to see without seeing, thus to think the derrica without haunology of hauntologyy invisible visibility — the ghost is already taking shape — Yauntology declares that the thing in question, namely, the commodity, is not so simple a warning that will elicit snickers from all the imbeciles, until the end of time, who never believe anything, of course, because they are so sure that they see what is seen, everything that is seen, only what is seen.


The commodity is even very complicated; it is blurred, tangled, paralysing, aporetic, perhaps undecidable ein sehr vertracktes Ding. Precisely in order to analyse the metaphysical and the theological that constructed the phenomenological good sense of the thing itself, of the immediately visible commodity, in flesh and blood: This 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: If one keeps to use-value, the properties Eigenschaften of the thing and it is going to be a question of property are always very human, at bottom, reassuring for this derriea reason.

They always relate to what is proper to man, to the properties of man: For example — and here is where the table comes on derrdia — the wood remains wooden when it is made into a table: It is quite different when it becomes a commodity, when the curtain goes up on the market and the table plays hauntoogy and character at the same time, when the commodity-table, says Marx, comes on stage auftrittbegins to derida around and to put itself forward as a market value.

The ghostly schema now appears indispensable. What surpasses the senses still passes before us in the silhouette of the sensuous body that it nevertheless lacks or that remains inaccessible to us. Marx does not say sensuous and non-sensuous, or sensuous but non-sensuous. It renders the non-sensuous sensuous. One touches there on what one does not gauntology, one feels there where one does not feel, one even suffers there where suffering does not take place, hwuntology at least it does not take place where one suffers which is also, let us not forget, what is said about phantom limbs, that phenomenon marked with an X for any phenomenology of perception.

The commodity thus haunts the thing, its spectre is at work in use-value. This haunting displaces itself like an anonymous silhouette or the degrida of an extra [ figurante ] who might be the principal or capital character. It changes places, one no longer knows exactly where it is, it turns, it invades the stage with its moves: Marx must have recourse to theatrical language and must describe the apparition of the commodity as a stage hanutology auftritt.

Theo-anthropological figure of indeterminate sex Tisch, table, is a masculine nounthe table has feet, the tab e has a head, its body comes alive, it erects its whole self like an institution, it stands up and addresses itself to others, first of all to other commodities, its fellow beings in phantomality, it faces them hauntloogy opposes them, For the spectre is social, it is even engaged in competition or in a war as soon as it makes its first apparition.

Otherwise neither socius, nor conflict, nor desire, nor love, nor peace would be tenable. One would have to put this table on hsuntology auction block, subject it to co-occurrence or concurrency, make it speak with so many other tables in our patrimony, so many that we have lost count of them, In philosophy, rhetoric, poetics, from Plato to Heidegger, from Kant to Ponge, and so many others.

From Spectres of Marx, by Jacques Derrida

With all of them, the same ceremony: Marx, then, has just announced its entrance on stage and its transmutation into a sensuously supersensible thing, and now here it is standing up, not only holding itself up but rising, getting up and lifting itself, lifting its head, redressing itself and addressing itself. Facing the others, and first of all other commodities, yes, it lifts its head.

Let us paraphrase a few lines as literally as possible before citing the translation. Facing up to the others, before the others, its fellows, here then is the apparition of a strange creature: This Thing, which is no longer altogether a thing, here it goes and unfolds entwickeltit unfolds itselfit develops what it engenders through a quasi-spontaneous generation parthenogenesis and indeterminate sexuality: And since this becoming-immaterial of matter seems to take no time and to operate its transmutation in the magic of an instant, in a single glance, through the omnipotence of a thought, we might also be tempted to describe it as the projection of an animism or a spiritism.

The wood comes alive and is peopled with spirits: But what would Enlightenment be without the market? And who will ever make progress without exchange-value?

At the very origin of capital. Moving about freely aus freien Stuckenon its own head [de son propre chef], with a movement of its head but that controls its whole body, from head to toe, ligneous and dematerialised, the Table-Thing appears to be at the principle, at the beginning, and at he controls of itself. It emancipates itself on its own initiative: The capital contradiction does not have to do simply with the incredible conj unction of the sensuous and the supersensible in the same Thing; it is the contradiction of automatic autonomy, mechanical freedom, technical life.


Like every thing, from the moment it comes onto the stage of a market, the table resembles a prosthesis of itself. Autonomy and automatism, but automatism of this wooden table that spontaneously puts itself into motion, to be sure, and seems thus to animate, animalise, spiritualise, spiritise itself, but while remaining an artifactual body, a sort of automaton, a puppet, a stiff and mechanical doll whose dance obeys the technical rigidity of a program.

Two genres, two generations of movement intersect with each other in it, and that i s why it figures the apparition of a spectre. It accumulates undecidably, in its uncanniness, their contradictory predicates: Become like a living being, the table resembles a prophetic dog that gets up on its four paws, ready to face up to its fellow dogs: But, inversely, the spirit, soul, or life that animates it remains caught in the opaque and heavy thingness of the bulein the inert thickness of its ligneous body, and autonomy is no more than the mask of automatism.

A mask, indeed a visor that may always be hiding no living gaze beneath the helmet. The automaton mimes the living.

The Thing is neither dead nor alive, it is dead and alive at the same time. At once cunning, inventive, and machine-like, ingenious and unpredictable, this war machine is a theatrical machine, a mekhane. What one has just seen cross the stage is an apparition, a quasi-divinity — fallen from the sky or come out of the earth. But the vision also survives. Marx insists on this a lot for there is a multiple of this sociality there is always more than one commodity, more than one spirit, and even more spectres and number belongs to the movement drrida, to the non-finite process of spectralisation Baudelaire invoked number very well in the anthill-city of modern capitalism — ghost, crowd, uauntology, prostitution — and Benjamin likewise in his wake.

For if no use-value can in itself produce this mysticality or this spectral effect of the commodity, and if the secret is at the same time profound and superficial, opaque and transparent, a secret that is all the more secret in that no substantial essence hides behind it, it is because the effect is born of a relation ferance, difference, reference, and diff a renceas double relation, one should say as double social bond.

This double socius binds on the one hand men to each other. It associates them insofar as they have been for all times interested in time, Hauntilogy notes right away, the time or the duration of labour, and this in all cultures and at all stages of techno-economic development.

On the other band, but how? And how is what takes place on derrkda one band among men, in their apprehension of time, explained by what takes place on the other hand among those spectres that are commodities?

This formula literally recalls and this literality cannot be taken as fortuitous or external the definition of time — of time as well as of space — in Hegel’s Encyclopedia Philosophy of Nature, Mechanics. Hegel subjects the Kantian definition to a dialectical interpretation, that is, to the Aufhebung. He analyses time as that which is first of all abstract or ideal ein Ideelles since it is the negative unity of being-outside-self like space of which it is the truth.

This ideality of time is obviously the condition of any idealisation and consequently of any ideologisation and any fetishisation, whatever difference one must respect between these two processes.

Now, it is in order to make explicit the movement of Aufhebung as temporalisation of abstract and ideal time that Hegel adds this remark: The commodity table, the headstrong dog, the wooden head faces up, we recall, to all other commodities. The market is a front, a front among fronts, a confrontation. Commodities have business with other commodities, these hard-headed spectres have commerce among themselves.

That is what makes them dance. It takes us back once again to some theatrical intrigue: Here the theatrical quid pro quo stems from an abnormal play of mirrors.

There is a mirror, arid the commodity form is dsrrida this mirror, but since all of a sudden it no longer plays its role, since it does not reflect back the expected image, those who are looking for themselves can no longer find themselves in it. Men ahuntology longer recognise in it the social character of their own labour.