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Dialectics Beyond Dialectics

Translated by Cain Elliott and Jan Burzyński

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Malgorzata Kowalska

Dialectics beyond Dialectics is a study of contemporary French philosophy from Bataille to Derrida. It analyses, on the first level of generalization, the decomposition of Hegelianism understood as philosophy of totality. Many French philosophers of the 20 th century deconstruct Hegelian dialectics and harshly criticize the very idea of totality as either dangerous or impossible. The thesis of the book is that, on doing so, they do not really break with dialectics, but transform it. On the second level of generalization, the issue of the book is modernity and the thesis is that transformations of dialectics reveal transformations of modern consciousness which – despite hasty declarations on the end of modernity – still remains ours.
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Introduction: On Contemporary French Philosophy, Specters of Hegel, Dialectics, and Modernity

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Introduction

On Contemporary French Philosophy, Specters of Hegel, Dialectics, and Modernity

This book deals with contemporary French philosophy, but it is not a historical monograph. It does not follow a principle of chronology or, if it does, only in so far as historical necessity corresponds to the logic of the problem with which I am occupied. As for the authors I invoke, I do not claim to put forward an exhaustive discussion of their philosophical oeuvres or all the significant aspects of their thought. Indeed, their philosophical legacies are treated more or less selectively. For my aim is not to present some individual authors, particular works or currents in philosophy, but rather a general panorama of contemporary French philosophy in a perspective which may seem – and to some extent undoubtedly is – limited, but which nonetheless allows for the disclosure of a process of considerable theoretical significance that is by no means confined to French philosophy itself.

On the first level of generalization, what comes into play here is the decomposition of Hegelianism. To be sure, the history of the process is much older than all philosophical propositions marking the book’s scope of reference, since, at least in Germany, it began shortly after Hegel’s death.1 Nevertheless, during the second half of the twentieth century this process has both accelerated and radicalized – a process which found its most dominant manifestation in the very French thought which, for the most part, can be described as post- and...

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