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Red rhetorics : polemics and the Marx-machine Barbour, Charles Andrew

Abstract

The recent past has witnessed an explosion of interest in politics, in republican traditions, and in what many have dubbed "the political." This return to politics and to theories of ideology has, however, generally been conducted, not only in the absence of, but often in direct opposition to any extensive reconsideration of Karl Marx. Marx is treated as the chief example of a line of thought that denies the specificity of the political, that reduces it to more fundamental social or material conditions, and that treats politics, ideology and rhetoric as means to an end, not ends in themselves. Building on Marx's early texts, and especially on his forgotten polemics with Bruno Bauer and Max Stimer, I argue that, in fact, Marx still has a great deal to offer theories of the political, and that his work represents both an affirmation of the political freedoms associated with the res publica or "open space" of discourse and struggle, and a powerful critique of the limitations of those freedoms - an analysis, that is to say, of those places where social conditions render political freedoms void of significant content. Reawakening Marx's texts and the promise of justice that they announce in a post-Marxist conjuncture will, however, require that" they be approached in a new fashion. I propose reading Marx, not as the author of a single, monolithic system known as Marxism, but as a politically engaged, rhetorically gifted, but also fragmentary and ambiguous writer. Marx's texts do not constitute a single, coherent body of work. Nor, however, is his career shorn in half by a definitive epistemological break. Rather, the massive collection of documents retroactively labeled "Marx" constitute an overdetermined assemblage of cracks and fissures, gaps and breaks, skips and relays - what I call a Marx-machine.

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