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Dialectics Beyond Dialectics

Translated by Cain Elliott and Jan Burzyński


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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Preliminary remarks


Hegelian or pseudo-Hegelian totality continues to haunt contemporary French thinkers, but it does it for several reasons and in several different ways. These reasons and ways may be conjoined, but they often diverge, depending on the positions of individual authors. And the situation is complicated by the fact that the concept of totality, while always having negative connotations and a kind of common horizon of sense, is differently construed by different authors who treat it either as a synonym or a parasynonym for other concepts – concepts whose interrelations seem neither simple nor obvious. Let us list them straight away with no claim to exhaust the subject: system, synthesis, reconciliation, unity, continuity, identity, and generality. (And let us set aside concepts such as metaphysics, idealism, absolute rationalism, teologism or onto-teo-teleology, which may also function as parasynonyms of totality in certain mental shortcuts, but which, above all, describe an actual or ostensible genesis of this category. Finally, let us set aside concepts such as communism and capitalism, and even consensus, which, once again, depending on a particular author, of course, are meant to designate the possible practical manifestations of totality). It is not hard to see that the terms listed above are by no means equivalent, and the extent to which they are synonyms is a matter of interpretation. After all, an exhaustive discussion of the possible meanings of each of these terms would require a whole study of its own. Here I have to make do with more or...

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