Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The End of Theory, the End of Ideology: Marxist and Structuralist Strategies vis-à-vis Saussure

Michael Lynn-George.

'I recognize that to hear talk of the end of history is always pleasurable. '(Blanchot). 'It is a fallacy that what persists is truer than what perishes.' (Adorno).
In the light of some startling new finds in the archive, the Saussure legend is in urgent need of reexamination. In this presentation I should like to examine the services into which those two old antagonists, structuralism and Marxism, pressed Saussure from the post-war period to the post-modern. There have been audacious moves in this contest. While Lévi-Strauss was proclaiming the need for an escape from history, his friend Merleau-Ponty suggested that Saussure had sketched a new philosophy of history which defied the Marxist order. Sartre's ultimate silence in this debate has been said to have decided much of the subsequent intellectual fate of the French left. In the Tracks of Historical Materialism avenged this silence and established a new orthodoxy by producing a true Saussure and confronting structuralism and post-structuralism with the 'genealogical embarrassment' of impurity and illegitimacy. But how could Marxian intellectual history, which is generally quite exemplary in its demands and thoroughness, have accepted uncritically what was presented as the true Saussure, and to what extent are both sides, along with others less clearly aligned, exposed by the discovery of significant new documentary evidence?


Michael Lynn-George  (Canada)
Associate Professor
Department of History and Classics
University of Alberta

  • Marxism
  • Post-structuralism
Person as Subject
  • Saussure, Ferdinand de

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)