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Specters of Marx (excerpt)
Jacques Derrida

If we now prepare ourselves to speak about ghost, about inheritance and generation, which is to say about certain others who are not present, not presently living, not here among us or within us or outside of us, then it is in the name of justice. In the name of justice where it is not yet, not yet there, where it is no longer, in the sense that it is no longer present.

It is necessary to speak of the ghost, indeed to the ghost and with it, from the moment that no ethics, no politics, whether revolutionary or not, seems possible and thinkable and just that does not recognize in its principle the respect for those others who are no longer or not yet there, presently living, whether they are already dead or not yet born.

No justice seems possible or thinkable without the principle of some responsibility, beyond all living present, within that which disjoins the living present, before the ghosts of those who are not yet born or who are already dead, be they victims of wars, political or other kinds of violence, nationalist, racist, colonialist, sexist, or other kinds of exterminations, victims of the oppression of capitalist imperialism or any of the forms of totalitarianism.

Without this non-contemporaneity with itself of the living present, without this responsibility and this respect for justice concerning those who are not there of those who are no longer or who are not yet present and living, what sense would there be to ask the question ”Where?”. ”Where tomorrow?”. ”Whither?”.

This question arrives, (if it arrives,) it questions with regard to what will come in the future-to-come. Turned toward the future, going toward it, it also comes from it, it proceeds from the future. It must therefore exceed any presence as presence to itself
This question, which is perhaps no longer a question and which we are calling here justice, must carry beyond present life, life as my life or our life. In general. For it will be the same thing for the ”my life” or ”our life” tomorrow, that is, for the life of others, as it was yesterday for other others; beyond therefore the living present in general.

The spirit and the specter are not the same thing, but as for what they have in common, one does not know what it is, what it is presently. It is something that one does not know, precisely, and one does not know if precisely it is, if it exists, if it responds to a name (and corresponds to an essence.) One does not know: not out of ignorance, but because this non-object, this non-present present, this being-there of an absent or departed one no longer belongs to knowledge. One does not know if it is living or if it is dead.

Here is – or rather there is, over there, an unnameable or almost unnameable thing: something, between something and someone, anyone or anything, some thing ”this thing”, but this thing and not any other, this thing that looks at us, that concerns us, comes to defy semantics as much as ontology.

This Thing that is still invisible, that is nothing visible. This Thing that meanwhile looks at us and sees us not see it even when it is there.