The work of Marx has often been treated as an ontology and metaphysics of labor, and this “ontology” has often been resisted in the name of life. In particular, in a series of recent theoretical works, the “savage ontology of life,” as Foucault names it, has been posed against the “limits” of political economy and Marx. This claim to escape the bind of labor and of Marx is critiqued by a return to the early Marx and the early Derrida to explore a different reading of the binding of life to labor. Contrary to Derrida's later reading, in Specters of Marx (1994), which tends to confine Marx to the metaphysics of presence and of labor, this reading considers the early Marx alongside Derrida's early reading of Antonin Artaud to disrupt this bind. The work of Marx is reread as a complex and fissured probing of the problem of detachment from the bind to labor that is never a pure escape. This is not to reinforce our real binding to labor but a way to suggest new forms of mapping and thinking this binding as contradictory and as capable of being exploded from within.

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