A Marxist Philosophy of Language (Historical Materialism Book Series)

A Marxist Philosophy of Language (Historical Materialism Book Series)

Jean-Jacques Lecercle

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 1608460266

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The purpose of this book is to give a precise meaning to the formula: English is the language of imperialism. Understanding that statement involves a critique of the dominant views of language, both in the field of linguistics (the book has a chapter criticising Chomsky’s research programme) and of the philosophy of language (the book has a chapter assessing Habermas’s philosophy of communicative action). ?The book aims at constructing a Marxist philosophy of language, embodying a view of language as a social, historical, material and political phenomenon. Since there has never been a strong tradition of thinking about language in Marxism, the book provides an overview of the question of Marxism in language (from Stalin’s pamphlet to Voloshinov's book, taking in an essay by Pasolini), and it seeks to construct a number of concepts for a Marxist philosophy of language. ?The book belongs to the tradition of Marxist critique of dominant ideologies. It should be particularly useful to those who, in the fields of language study, literature and communication studies, have decided that language is not merely an instrument of communication.
About the Author
Jean-Jacques Lecercle was educated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. From 1999 to 2002 he was Research Professor in the English department at the University of Cardiff, and he is currently Professor of English at the University of Nanterre. He is the author of Interpretation as Pragmatics (Macmillan 1999), Deleuze and Language (Palgrave 2002) and The Force of Language (with Denise Riley, Macmillan 2004).
Gregory Elliott was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, where he completed his D.Phil. on Louis Althusser in 1985. An independent translator and writer, his books include Perry Anderson: The Merciless Laboratory of History (1998). His most recent translation is Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism(2006).


















an irate customer who claims that the porter has insulted him and that this is bad for his heart: (18) If you’ve got a bad heart, I should calm yourself, Sir. This sentence seems to be the grammatically unwarranted combination of two sentences that conform to the rules: (19) If you’ve got a bad heart, you should calm yourself, Sir. (20) If I had a bad heart, I should calm myself, Sir. In truth, the sentence pronounced by the station-master is not only intelligible, it is clever – perfectly

every product of labour into a social hieroglyphic. Later on, men try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind the secret of their own social product: for the characteristic which objects of utility have of being values is as much men’s social product as is their language.38 36 37 38 Marx 1976, p. 165. See Lakoff and Johnson 1980. Marx 1976, pp. 166–7. 96 • Chapter Four Language features twice in this text. In its own right, first of all, as a term of comparison: like value, it is a

to hand, this means: on 4 July 1917, the first, virtually peaceful phase of the revolution is over and the slogan that encapsulated it – ‘All power to the soviets!’ – is outmoded. (ii) Consequently, a correct slogan names the political task corresponding to the moment of the conjuncture: the task of this moment is to prepare for the ‘decisive battle’ – that is, the overthrow by force of a government that has become counterrevolutionary. A correct slogan makes its possible to name the decisive

Voloshinov).7 From these four founding concepts, Voloshinov draws three methodological rules for studying language. The first enjoins us to never sever ideology from the material reality of signs. Ideology is not abstract and ethereal; there is no transcendent realm of ideas: it is always embodied – in gestures, intonations, expressions. The second recommends that we never sever the sign from the concrete forms of social communication – hence both the central importance of a form of pragmatics and

least a line or lines (as everyone knows, the concepts of plane of immanence, line of flight, and rhizome are essential in Deleuze and Guattari).19 These multiple lines (here we have a difference with Marxism: the line of organisation, as Leninism dictates, is one) found a politics of desire, often characterised as anarcho-désirant. And, in truth, Marxists have difficulty making sense of this (just as they previously found it difficult to approve of the concrete political options of Deleuze and

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