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Extraordinary efforts are being made
To hide things from us, my friend.
Some stay up into the wee hours
To search their souls.
Others undress each other in darkened rooms.
The creaky old elevator
Took us down to the icy cellar first
To show us a mop and a bucket
Before it deigned to ascend again
With a sigh of exasperation.
Under the vast, early-dawn sky
The city lay silent before us.
Everything on hold:
Rooftops and water towers,
Clouds and wisps of white smoke.
We must be patient, we told ourselves,
See if the pigeons will coo now
For the one who comes to her window
To feed them angel cake,
All but invisible, but for her slender arm.
Charles Simic, Pigeons at Dawn
Hauntology is an idea within the philosophy of history introduced by Jacques Derrida in his 1993 work Spectres of Marx. The word, a portmanteau of haunt and ology, and a near-homophone to ontology in Derrida’s native French, deals with “the paradoxical state of the spectre, which is neither being nor non-being”, according to a professor at RMIT University.
The idea suggests that the present exists only with respect to the past, and that society after the end of history will begin to orient itself towards ideas and aesthetics that are thought of as rustic, bizarre or “old-timey”; that is, towards the “ghost” of the past. In this, it is has some similarity with the cyberpunk literary movement. Derrida holds that because of this intellectual realignment, the end of history will be unsatisfactory and untenable.
The name and concept fundamentally come from Marx’s assertion that a “spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of communism.” Derrida holds that the spirit of Karl Marx is even more relevant after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of communism, that the West’s separation from the ignorance of the suffering still present in the world will “haunt” it and provide the impetus for a fresh interest in communism.