For a Marxist Theory of the Impersonal

Daniel Hartley


This paper argues that there is an intrinsic relation between modernist impersonality and the subject of communism. Beginning with a brief history of the concept of the ‘person’ from the 'persona' of Roman law and theatre, through the ‘personality’ at the heart of the Bildungsroman and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the politico-aesthetic ‘impersonality’ developed by T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (among others), the paper will trace a subterranean current of reflections on the ‘person’ within the Marxist tradition itself. Focusing especially on Marx’s “On the Jewish Question” and Capital, Gramsci’s writings on persona and Badiou’s conception of the (impersonal) ‘generic’, the paper will sketch out the coordinates for a Marxist theory of the ‘impersonal’. It will conclude with a brief comparison of this Marxist conception of the impersonal and that developed by Roberto Esposito in such works as Third Person and Two. The preliminary hypothesis of the paper is that the Marxist conception places more emphasis on the determinate role of the state.

Badiou - marx - gramsci - person - Communism - subject - literature - culture - state