Ghostlier demarcations

ʻWe do not publish our own drafts, that is, our own mistakes, but we do sometimes publish other peopleʼs.ʼLouis Althusser, 1963ʻWhat use is Althusser?ʼ The question rhetorically posed on the Left Bank in 1968, as structures took to the streets, invites reactions other than the blunt rien of (some of) those who recently marked the thirtieth anniversary of their Maydays. When a selection from his correspondence is published this autumn, a posthumous edition of Althusserʼs oeuvre will be nearing completion that provides copious matter for sustained reflection and informed reaction. Yet if, as David Macey observed here three years ago, ʻ[t]he death of the philosopher has led to a resurrection of his writingsʼ, then it is a cause for regret that the main effect of one of them – the ʻwild analysisʼ of LʼAvenir dure longtemps – has been more or less to eclipse the others. For it has furnished false warrant for aversion from, or recrimination against, the philosophicopolitical history in which Althusser was a subject, as a deranged process with a murderous telos. [1] Redressing the balance of the reception in the English-speaking world to date is a task for future work, by many hands. For now, at the risk of the bland trailing the blind, no more than a rudimentary inventory and overview, with some side glances at the gathering secondary literature, will be atttempted.

The philosopher in his laboratory

What does the posthumous edition comprise? In sum, eight volumes, totalling approximately three thousand pages (or half as much again as Althusser authorized during his lifetime), about one-third of which has been translated into English to date. Drawn from the archives deposited at the Institut mémoires de lʼédition contemporaine (IMEC) in Paris, and individually or jointly edited with admirable diligence by Olivier Corpet, Yann Moulier Boutang and François Matheron, they may be classified as follows:(1) Two volumes of autobiographical writings issued in 1992 – the two memoirs (1985/1976) presented in LʼAvenir dure longtemps, suivi de Les Faits, and the prison-camp notebooks and correspondence (1940–45) assembled in the Journal de captivité. An expanded version of LʼAvenir, including other autobiographical texts as well as three chapters omitted from the ʻconfessionsʼ, appeared in 1994. A slack English translation of the first edition had been marketed in the UK the year before by a mid-Atlantic conglomerate. Unfathomably, the US version renders the Gaullist obiter dictum of Althusserʼs title The Future Lasts Forever.(2) Two volumes of psychoanalytical writings – Ecrits sur la psychanalyse, from correspondence with Jacques Lacan commenced in 1963 to Althusserʼs interventions in the controversy over the dissolution of the Ecole freudienne de Paris (1980), published in 1993; and Psychanalyse et sciences humaines, the text of two seminar presentations from 1963–64, released in 1996. An abridged English edition of the Ecrits from Columbia came out the same year as the seminars.(3) Four volumes of philosophical and political writings. The first, Ecrits philosophiques et politiques: Tome I (1994), retrieved the bulk of the ʻearly writingsʼ (1946–50), translated by Verso last year; an unfinished manuscript on the ʻcrisis of Marxismʼ (1978); and extracts from the late Althusserʼs speculations as to a ʻSubterranean Current of the Materialism of the Encounterʼ (1982). The second, entitled Sur la philosophie (1994), collects interviews and correspondence with Fernanda Navarro (1984–87) ruminating on the ʻaleatory materialismʼ mooted in 1982. A third volume – Sur la reproduction (1995) – is composed of the 1969 book on ʻThe Reproduction of the Relations of Productionʼ from which ʻIdeology and Ideological Ghostlier demarcations On the posthumous edition of Althusser’s writings

Gregory elliott

State Apparatusesʼ was extracted the following year, together with that article and a retrospective ʻNoteʼ of 1976. Finally, a second offering of Ecrits philosophiques et politiques (1995), arranged thematically, selects diverse material from 1962–77: in particular, unfinished works on Feuerbach and ʻThe Humanist Controversyʼ (1967); texts related to the ʻPhilosophy Course for Scientistsʼ (1967–68); and an opuscule on Machiavelli derived from a lecture course in 1972, scheduled for translation by Verso.

So much for the essential details. Before proceeding, it is worth mentioning that, under the stimulus of this ambitious programme, in 1996 Presses Universitaires de France issued a variorum edition of Lire le Capital, regrouping the four instalments of the second edition (1968–73) in the order of the two-volume original (1965); while later the same year, Editions la Découverte (formerly François Maspero) reprinted Pour Marx with a remarkable preface and helpful biographical note by Etienne Balibar. [2]

Following the premature burial of 1980, then, a resurrection of sorts has come to pass. The interest reawakened, albeit often rudely, by the ʻtraumabiographyʼ in 1992 was fuelled by the simultaneous appearance of the first part of Moulier Boutangʼs indispensable biography, covering 1918–56, the completion of which is eagerly awaited. The aspects of Althusser disclosed by them, and corrected, corroborated or complemented by subsequent volumes in the posthumous edition, have generated a lively literature of which the colloquia proceedings edited by Matheron and by Pierre Raymond (both 1997) are the most substantial items. [3]

As to ʻdirections for useʼ, it is only proper to point out that although, on occasion, Althusser appears to have envisaged a ʻposthumous works and correspondenceʼ, [4] on others he expressed misgivings over the phenomenon. Thus, at two points separated by an interval of fifteen years, he regretted that Marxʼs consignment of such drafts as the Paris Manuscripts and The German Ideology to his bottom drawer (plus resident mice) had not been accorded due respect by editors and commentators. [5] Since by far the greater part of Marxʼs writings remained unpublished at his death, the paradoxical effect of any consistent application of the implied etiquette would, to look no further, have been to deprive posterity of precisely those works of Marxian maturity – Capital Volumes II and III, for example – which Althusserianism counterposed to Marxʼs youth. In Althusserʼs own case, whilst it would have veiled the ʻautobiographical deliriumʼ of LʼAvenir – that ʻplea-indictment-confession … composed for an imaginary tribunalʼ [6] – it would not have exempted another book, likewise carefully prepared for publication – that gem of a draft, no mistake: ʻMachiavelli and Usʼ. Accordingly, if we would do well to heed Gramsciʼs cautions about the status of ʻposthumous worksʼ, [7] handle Althusserʼs with a care conspicuous by its absence in the prevalent shanghaiing of LʼAvenir, and bear in mind that these materials discover the philosopher-general mostly in his laboratory (sometimes in his labyrinth), extrusion of them as unauthorized is neither feasible, nor desirable.

Archimedean points

Althusserʼs own tendentious account of his road to Marx in LʼAvenir has been amply aired, then queried; and a previous article in this journal has skimmed the early writings, haunted by the spectres of Hegel and Stalin. [8] The ʻterrible education of deedsʼ [9] undergone by the pre-war royalist Roman Catholic finds its muffled echo in his Journal de captivité, a testament of lost youth or to the pitiless demarcation of generation. The intrusion of ʻhistorical problemsʼ in ʻa life without historyʼ itself (JC, pp. 70, 245); the vacillation of faith, rescued by resort to the wager of Althusserʼs constant companion, Pascal (pp. 159–60); the volatilization of his politics, reorientated towards Communism by the counter-example of Vichy (pp. 349–52), that ʻparade of counter-revolutionary France in which Nazi Germany took the saluteʼ [10] – these helped induce the postwar ʻintellectual in armsʼ, ʻslicing up the world with a single blade, arts, literatures, philosophies, sciences with the pitiless demarcation of classʼ. [11] And thus it was that Althusser, who up to the early 1950s might have maintained that he was a Communist because he was a Catholic, [12] had not done with his instruction – now courtesy of the PCF, a party of ʻFrench chauvinists and Russian patriotsʼ (as Léon Blum had it) ranged against the Coca-colonisation of the Fourth Republic. Amid the crisis in the international Communist movement after the demise of Stalin, and the unwitting desacralization of the CPSU by Khrushchev, Althusser was obliged ʻto retreat, and, in semi-disarray, return to first principlesʼ. [13]

ʻI haveʼ, Althusser wrote to Lacan on 26 November 1963, ʻbeen pursuing obscure works on Marx for some fifteen years. I have finally, slowly, laboriously emerged from the night. Things are clear to me now. That austere inquiry, that long and harsh gestation, was neededʼ (WP, 148). By now, the inquiry ranged beyond Marx and had assumed a collective shape. [14] Prior to the ʻReading Capitalʼ seminar of 1964–65, which consolidated and deployed their results, a sequence of seminars had been held at the Ecole normale supérieure. [15] In the wake of Althusserʼs opening salvo on the subject, that of 1961–62 was devoted to ʻThe Young Marxʼ. The next academic year, coinciding with publication of Lévi-Straussʼs Savage Mind and Foucaultʼs Birth of the Clinic, attention switched to ʻThe Origins of Structuralismʼ, with Althusser himself speaking on ʻFoucault and the Problematic of Originsʼ and ʻLévi-Strauss in Search of his Alleged Ancestorsʼ. At the time of the first exchange of letters with Lacan, Althusser and his pupils were engaged in a seminar on ʻLacan and Psychoanalysisʼ, in the course of which Althusser wrote the article on ʻFreud and Lacanʼ eventually carried by La Nouvelle Critique – the very PCF publication in which psychoanalysis had been officially anathematized as a ʻreactionary ideologyʼ fifteen years earlier.

Hitherto, ʻFreud and Lacanʼ has represented the sole available evidence of Althusserʼs own input into the joint enterprise of 1963–64, which featured contributions by (among others) Balibar, Michel Tort, Jacques-Alain Miller and Yves Duroux. In Psychanalyse et sciences humaines, we now have reconstituted versions of the papers he presented – the first on ʻThe Place of Psychoanalysis in the Human Sciencesʼ, the second on ʻPsychoanalysis and Psychologyʼ. Surveying the Gallic encounter with Freud, in the former Althusser was concerned to demarcate Freudian theory from the ʻphilosophy of intersubjectivityʼ, and hence from the Sartrean ʻexistential analysisʼ that took its ʻconcreteʼ bearings from Georges Politzerʼs Critique of the Foundations of Psychology (1928).16 At the same time he declined a certain anthropologization of Freudian concepts which effectively construed the super-ego as a latter-day ʻpineal glandʼ conjoining biological individual and social collective. (This equally applied to the identification of psychoanalyst and shaman by Lévi-Strauss, said to be ʻbecoming a specialist in a generalization of the pineal glandʼ: p. 56.) The ʻmethods of intellectual terrorismʼ employed by Lacan, on the other hand, were motivated by a ʻradical refusalʼ of ʻmechanisticʼ or ʻintersubjectivistʼ distortions of psychoanalysis, serving a ʻreturn to Freud and a theoretical interpretation of [his] textsʼ (pp. 69–70). They thus facilitated specification of the ʻde jure relationship … between psychoanalysis and the world of the human sciencesʼ:

To penetrate this world, we require the point which Archimedes demanded so as to be able to see further … in my opinion there are two anchorage points. One is the theoretical results of the problematic inaugurated by Marx.… And the other … is the possibility of a consistent, rigorous and valid definition of psychoanalysis: this is what Lacan gives us. (pp. 71–2)Althusserʼs second paper, peppered with references to Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, evinced antipathy to the discipline seemingly most proximate to psychoanalysis – psychology – whose credentials had been submitted to withering inspection in Georges Canguilhemʼs 1956 lecture, ʻWhat is Psychology?ʼ (subsequently reprinted in the Althussero-Lacanian journal Cahiers pour lʼanalyse). [17] Psychoanalysis had effected an ʻepistemological breakʼ, ʻthe irruption of a radically new disciplineʼ with the ʻpotential to disrupt the field in which it irruptsʼ (pp. 78–9). Successive attempts at recuperation of it by psychology rested upon a conflation of ʻindividualʼ, ʻsubjectʼ and ʻegoʼ typical of the latter, which occluded the imaginary structure of the ego and the irreducible alterity of the unconscious (pp. 104–6). Freudʼs revolution, ʻwhich you have restoredʼ (so Althusser flattered Lacan), entailed ʻrejection of any homo psychologicusʼ (WP, p. 149). Meanwhile, against any absorption of psychoanalysis by biology, Althusser maintained that Freudʼs discovery revolved around the ʻpassage from the biological to the culturalʼ, or the infantʼs entry into the ʻsymbolic orderʼ via ʻthe defiles of the signifierʼ (pp. 81–2).

The leitmotivs sounded in the seminar papers of 1963–64 resound in the ʻculturalistʼ interpretation advanced in ʻFreud and Lacanʼ (later acknowledged as such by Althusser [WP, p. 32]), with which Writings on Psychoanalysis opens. The remainder of the volume records the rise and fall of the alliance between Althusserian Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis, institutionalized with Lacanʼs relocation of his own seminar to the Ecole normale through Althusserʼs intermediation in January 1964. Two themes are perhaps of particular interest. The first is Althusserʼs counterposition of a ʻlogic of irruptionʼ to the problematic of ʻoriginsʼ, in conceptualizating the starting point of a historical process (p. 61). The habitual Althusserian term for the advent of Marxism and Freudianism alike is surgissement, with its sense of ʻsudden appearanceʼ or ʻspringing upʼ. Ben Brewsterʼs otherwise excellent translations of the 1960s and 1970s tend to conceal this, since they invariably render the French by ʻemergenceʼ, with its more genetic-evolutionary connotations. In correspondence with his analyst, René Diatkine, dating from 1966, in which Althusser sought to impress upon him Lacanʼs ʻunique originalityʼ (pp. 48–9), the idiom of surgissement – felicitiously translated as ʻirruptionʼ by Jeffrey Mehlman – is frequent. Contrary to the ʻnecessarily teleological … structure of every genesisʼ, both Freudʼs theory and (more importantly) its object – the unconscious – were to be conceived as the ʻirruption of a new realityʼ – a process which Althusser sought to clarify by reference to the ʻirruption mechanism of one determinate mode of productionʼ, as analysed by Balibar in Reading Capital (pp. 57–64). In the instance of the unconscious, Lacanʼs ʻhypothesis that the structures of language (say, of the symbolic) play a determining role in the mechanism issuing in [its] irruptionʼ (p. 73), was upheld; the Lacanian ʻlikeʼ – ʻthe unconscious is structured like a languageʼ – meant that there could be ʻno question of reducing the theory of the unconscious to a chapter or a subchapter of general linguisticsʼ (p. 64).

This brings us to a second intriguing aspect of the Althusserian liaison with Lacan: the determination – vain, as it transpired – to obviate his assimilation to what Althusser disdained as ʻthe idealist aberrations of the “structuralists”ʼ (p. 171), in a letter to Lacan of 11 July 1966, some months before his addresseeʼs Ecrits were collected. This is plainly apparent from ʻThree Notes on the Theory of Discoursesʼ drafted in the second half of 1966 (EPFL, pp. 117–70), regrettably omitted from the English translation of Ecrits sur la psychanalyse. These initiated a sequence of lengthy exchanges over the next eighteen months among a group whose personnel comprised Althusser, Balibar, Duroux, Tort, Pierre Macherey and Alain Badiou, and which Althusser hoped would lead to a collective ʻElements of Dialectical Materialismʼ – a ʻveritable work of philosophy which could be our Ethicsʼ, as he put it in a letter to Balibar of 14 October 1966 (p. 113).18

In the ʻNotesʼ to hand, much taken up with the articulation of the unconscious and ideology, the structuralist pretention to unify the ʻhuman sciencesʼ via the linguistic model was met with a fin de non-recevoir by an Althusser insistent upon the differential singularity of the sciences. Lacanʼs recourse to Saussure and Jakobson, fertile in itself, nevertheless indulged the illict, hegemonizing ambitions of structural linguistics as relayed by Lévi-Strauss (pp. 127–8). The ʻregionalʼ discipline of linguistics, whose object was that particular discourse known as langue, could function as an ʻepistemological “guide”ʼ for the missing ʻgeneral theory of discoursesʼ to which psychoanalysis, whose object was the discourse of the unconscious, likewise pertained (pp. 168–9). Contra linguistic ʻformalismʼ, however, it did not constitute that general theory, and psychoanalysis was misconceived as a subset of it, with the attendent consequence of a dematerialization of Freudian theory:

It is a false conception of the object, and thus of the claims of linguistics, which effectively generates the risk of ʻlosing the libidoʼ. If the formula ʻthe unconscious is structured like a languageʼ is understood as one which presupposes the deductive application of linguistics to an object dubbed unconscious, then one is indeed faced with a formula which is reductive of its specific object, and with a loss of the libido. (p. 159)

A prophet in his own country? of marxisms real and imaginary

ʻSo many questions… How to respond…?ʼ, Althusser inquired of his interlocutors at the end of his third note (p. 170). But if, according to a letter of 1977 (p. 5), ʻ[e]very question does not necessarily imply an answerʼ, a decade earlier Althusser was confident that he had at least tabled some of the requisite questions; and, as he informed a session of the Société française de philosophie in February 1968, ʻhumanity only finds an answer to the problems which it can pose.ʼ [19] Indeed, in his November 1963 letter to Lacan Althusser struck an evangelical note:

I am prophesying, but we have entered, in large measure thanks to you, into an era in which one can finally be a prophet in oneʼs own country. I have no merit in running the risk of this prophecy; henceforth we have a right to it, since we possess the means for it, in this country at last become ours. (pp. 149–50)The intervening years have more nearly vindicated St Matthew. At the time of writing, however, Althusser had published the majority of the articles whose collection in For Marx in September 1965 propelled him into the Parisian limelight – but not before they had aroused the political suspicion of his party. Days after communicating with Lacan, the article which he had enclosed with his letter – ʻOn the Materialist Dialecticʼ – was the subject of a session of the management committee of La Pensée, presided over by Georges Cogniot, co-founder of the journal and secretary to Communist leader, Maurice Thorez. At a PCF Central Committee meeting the previous month on the Sino-Soviet split, Althusserʼs work had been criticized by Lucien Sève for its Maoist inflections; and rejoinders to ʻContradiction and Overdeterminationʼ (1962) by party philosophers had taken Althusser to task on a variety of scores, from the Marx–Hegel relationship to the primacy of the economic. In an extraordinary ʻReply to a Critiqueʼ (EPP2, pp. 351–91), formulated in advance of the La Pensée confrontation on 30 November 1963, Althusser anticipated – and repudiated – his criticsʼ objections. [20] Although tactically distancing himself from the political line of the Chinese Communist Party, he upheld the ʻtheoretical valueʼ of the categories introduced in Maoʼs On Contradiction (p. 381). As to the accusation of ʻdualismʼ pressed by those who registered a culpable silence on the ʻdialectics of natureʼ, Althusser replied that since he lacked ʻcompetenceʼ on the ʻstructures peculiar to natural processesʼ, he had ʻsaid nothing about themʼ. ʻA scientist who has made a foolish remark … keeps quiet, often for years, for fear of making another. This is not generally the case in our philosophical sphereʼ, Althusser acidly rebuked his comrades (p. 379).

ʻAlthusserianismʼs paradoxʼ, Jacques Derrida reflected in 1989, ʻwas that it claimed hardening and transformation simultaneously.… But in both traits … it was playing to lose – more and faster.ʼ [21] If ʻMaoismʼ affords convenient shorthand for the political terms of that paradox, ʻstructuralismʼ is the appellation mal contrôlée for its theoretical terms, Sèveʼs diagnosis of a structuralist ʻcontaminationʼ of Marxism being the moderate expression of a critical consensus perhaps overdue for revision. [22] An astringent text of 1966, ʻOn Lévi-Straussʼ (EPP2, pp. 417–32), penned shortly after Maurice Godelierʼs sketch of a Marxist–structuralist synthesis, and circulated to Emmanuel Terray and others, [23] reproved the ʻfunctionalismʼ of the Lévi-Straussian social unconscious, the ʻformalismʼ of the structuralist combinatory, and the homologization of words, women and goods consequent upon an abusive extrapolation of Saussureanism to non-linguistic objects. Albeit that they were ʻcursoryʼ, Althusser reckoned his criticisms had located ʻthe precise point which distinguishes us from Lévi-Strauss and, a fortiori, from all the “structuralists”ʼ (p. 430).

That demarcation had been publicly signalled in a lecture, ʻThe Philosophical Conjuncture and Marxist Theoretical Researchʼ (EPP2, pp. 393–415), before a packed auditorium at the Ecole normale in June 1966. The grandiose research programme mapped by Althusser looked for domestic allies to the tradition of historical epistemology (Cavaillès, Bachelard, Koyré and Canguilhem), and to Lacanian psychoanalysis, rather than Lévi-Strauss, let alone ʻvoguishParisian ideological by-productsʼ (p. 403) – a vogue raised to fever pitch by two products of that year,

Foucaultʼs Order of Things in April and Lacanʼs Ecrits in November.

ʻImaginary Marxismsʼ: such was Raymond Aronʼs verdict on the Sartrean and Althusserian enterprises of the 1960s. Conceded by Althusser in LʼAvenir and elsewhere, it – or rather Althusserʼs construal of it – is disavowed by Balibar in his preface to the re-edition of Pour Marx. [24] What he calls ʻThe Quarrel of the “Real” and the “Imaginary” Marxismsʼ (PM, p. ii) incited by For Marx was intensified that November by Lire le Capital, where, to underscore Marxʼs putative rupture with the German ideology, Balibar himself ventured to describe historical materialism as ʻa most unusual structuralismʼ (LLC, p. 650).For Marx may be regarded as an anti-History and Class Consciousness (translated into French in 1960); Reading Capital was more than an anti-Critique of Dialectical Reason (published the same year). [25] If the classification of their results as an ʻimaginary Marxismʼ designed to turn the flank of the PCF leadership is misleading, the ʻreturn to Marxʼ of their self-conception is unilluminating. The motto in which the Royal Society spurned the authority of the past – Nullius in verba (in the words of no one else) – was not an option for Althusser, required by his organizational allegiance to invoke the founder. Yet in so doing, he not only mounted a critique of ʻhistoricalʼ Marxism and Communism26 but also deployed Marx against himself, inducing the anti-humanist and anti-historicist ʻtheoretical revolutionʼ of the Althusserian reconstruction. Hence, perhaps, another paradox, encapsulated by Sève: ʻOne of the strongest Marxist thinkers of this century … was doubtless never exactly a Marxian.ʼ [27]

However that may be, as the introduction to the 1996 reissue of Lire le Capital clarifies (pp. v–vi), the twelve seminar sessions on Capital held in the Salle des Actes from January to April 1965 conjugated several different projects, whose intertwinement accounts for the richness of the published record: a ʻcritical rereading of Marxʼs scientific oeuvreʼ; a ʻrecasting of the categories and figures of the dialecticʼ, steered by the notion of ʻstructural causalityʼ and intimately related to a reinterpretation of the basic concepts of Freudian psychoanalysis; an endeavour to substitute a problematic of ʻtheoretical practiceʼ for the ʻtheory of knowledgeʼ; and a ʻfinal project which, subjectively at least, governed all the othersʼ – ʻthe search for a communist politics, of Spinozist inspiration (“theoretical anti-humanism”), which would conceive [communism] as the necessary development of freedom, rather than as the “exit from the kingdom of necessity”ʼ.

The Althusserian reversal of alliances against ʻhumanismʼ – sanctioned by the conviction that nothing inhuman was alien to it28 – caused a scandal within and without PCF ranks. At an assembly of Communist philosophers in January 1966, which the principal culprit could not attend, Garaudy led an assault, repaid in kind by Macherey. Two months later, the PCF Central Committee, while conceding freedom of research, resolved that ʻMarxism is the humanism of our timeʼ. [29] Althusser was undeterred; if his 1985 memoirs are to be credited, ʻaround 1967ʼ he even risked the ʻawful remarkʼ: ʻwe are in the process of becoming hegemonicʼ (FLLT, p. 144). Immediately after For Marx and Reading Capital, he had set to work on an alternative manual of Marxism-Leninism to those available from Progress Publishers and/or Editions Sociales, extracted in the maoisant organ of the Communist students of the rue dʼUlm the month after the Central Committee meeting at Argenteuil. [30] In 1967 he delivered a lecture course on The German Ideology which began with an examination of Feuerbach (EPP2, pp. 172–251), whose ʻphilosophical manifestosʼ of 1838–45 Althusser had translated in 1960 and whose Essence of Christianity he would publish in the Théorie series in 1968. In turn, he envisaged incorporating this material, in which the secret of Feuerbachian anthropology resided in theology, into a work on ʻThe Breakʼ, intending to assume responsibility for chapters on Feuerbach, the 1844 Manuscripts and the Theses on Feuerbach himself, while Balibar took charge of The German Ideology.

Meanwhile, an unfinished counter-polemic on ʻThe Humanist Controversyʼ (EPP2, pp. 435–532), in which Althusser demurred at his leadersʼ edict (pp. 438–9), traversed much of the relevant terrain. A scherzando preface evoked Erich Frommʼs commission, and then rejection, of a text for an international symposium on humanism (pp. 435–40).31 The article that resulted – ʻMarxism and Humanismʼ (1964) – had elicited numerous critical responses in Communist periodicals. Whereas it had ʻsettled out of hand the question of Marxʼs intellectual evolution in two linesʼ (p. 436), Althusser now scanned that evolution at some length, offering his most extended discussion of the ʻworks of the breakʼ, and emphasizing the centrality for Marx and Engels of Stirnerʼs The Ego and its Own (pp. 475–6). The ʻnotion of manʼ was an ʻepistemological obstacleʼ to the science of history. In his mature works,

Marx starts from the abstract and declares it. That does not mean that for Marx men, individuals, and their subjectivity have been erased from real history.

It means that the notions of Man, etc. have been erased from theory, for I am not aware that anyone has ever encountered man in the flesh and blood in theory, but only the notion of man. (p. 483)Reaffirming the theoretical anti-humanism of Marx,

Althusser likewise declared ʻthe anti-historicism, antievolutionism, and anti-structuralism of Marxist theoryʼ (p. 447). But if he was manifestly playing to win, Althusser was advised that it would be a long game: ʻtheoretical humanism has “happy days” ahead of it for a long time to come. No more than those of the evolutionist, historicist and structuralist ideologies, its “account” will not be settled by next springʼ – a fortiori since next spring was May ʼ68.

The Paris Spring derailed the last major collective venture of the Althusserians, the ʻPhilosophy Course for Scientistsʼ staged in 1967–68. Althusserʼs own fifth contribution, anatomizing the ʻinvariantʼ structure of the classical theory of knowledge, has now been published (EPP2, pp. 257–98), thus completing Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists (1974). While the course was under way, complementary private exchanges with Badiou, Balibar and co. ruminated on the nature of philosophy (EPP2, pp. 301–48), endeavouring to stabilize a ʻpoliticistʼ redefinition of it. [32] In the midst of them, Althusser pondered the ʻsymptomatic readingʼ of Capital advanced in 1965, querying one of its principal results:

I also wonder if it might not be considered that what we treated as irrational residues in Capital (a discrepancy between the old categories and those which would be required by the new scientific problematic) – that is to say, a certain anthropological Hegelianism … – does not ʻrepresentʼ in Capital the ʻphilosophyʼ announced by Marx in the Theses on Feuerbach. (p. 321)This consideration would weigh heavily with the later Althusser, who might have subscribed to Derridaʼs detection of the ʻcoup de force of an artificial strategy … an interpretative violenceʼ committed, but not admitted, in Reading Capital. [33]

The aftershocks of May were soon the order of the day. In 1965 Balibar had sought to infer ʻelements for a theory of transitionʼ from an analysis of the concept of reproduction. Post-May, Althusser embarked on a conjoint theory of reproduction and revolution. Significantly, however, only the first volume, treating the former, was substantially completed, in March–April 1969; while a second, given over to ʻclass struggle in capitalist social formationsʼ, was seemingly never begun. ʻThe Reproduction of the Relations of Productionʼ, presented by Jacques Bidet (SR, pp. 5–14), has finally been released. Space allows no more than three remarks. The first is that Althusser proved to be his own best editor in singling out the sections on the ISAs and ideology in general for La Pensée in 1970. These represent his key innovations and the full version (as Jean-Jacques Lecercle justly noted in RP 87, pp. 41–2) adds nothing to them specifically. Second, the resonance of not only the May events in France but also the Cultural Revolution in China pervades this didactic exposition of the fundamentals of Althusserian Marxism-Leninism. Notwithstanding seriatim criticisms of formerly existing socialism, Althusserʼs political optimism was unbounded: ʻWe are entering an age which will witness the triumph of socialism the world overʼ (p. 24). Contrariwise – a third observation – anarcho-libertarianism, with its prioritization of ʻrepressionʼ and denigration of knowledge as authoritarian (pp. 213–15), was identified as the proximate ideological beneficiary of the student revolt. (Marcuseʼs One-Dimensional Man, released in the very month of May, became an immediate best-seller, outstripping a concurrent Althusserian publication: Poulantzasʼ Political Power and Social Classes.)In this respect, at any rate, May was (as Foucault surmised) ʻprofoundly anti-Marxistʼ. Of more immediate significance for our purposes, it was explicitly or implicitly anti-Communist, with decisive consequences for an Althusser trapped between the anvil of Communist discipline and the hammer of ultra-leftist contestation. The intricacies of Althusserʼs transactions with the parties to the dispute are beyond our remit. [34] But that the contradictory pressures of the conjuncture post-May prompted a series of ʻautocritiquesʼ, whose concessions to critics issued in a ʻbad return of the repressedʼ, is evident enough. [35] Esprit de système, esprit de contradiction: even as he composed the most dogmatic of his ʻrectificationsʼ – the Reply to John Lewis (1972) – Althusser was privately parodying the ʻlaws of the dialecticʼ and his own declaration of the ʻTheses of Marxist-Leninist philosophyʼ (EPP1, pp. 345–56).36 Matters took a more serious turn in the mid-1970s, with the anti-Marxist Operation ʻNew Philosophyʼ in the wake of Solzhenitsynʼs immensely influential Gulag Archipelago. And soon enough it was Marxism and Althusserianism that were experiencing a crisis.

Brief encounters, or a throw of the dice

In an undelivered conference paper of 1976, published without permission in 1983 (WP, pp. 85–104), Althusser had retracted his ratification of Lacan (the points de capiton did not, after all, furnish ʻanchorage pointsʼ). The following year, he proclaimed the ʻcrisis of Marxismʼ at an Il Manifesto gathering in Venice. The ʻhour of additionʼ had struck, so a letter of January 1978 confided to a Georgian friend (EPP1, pp. 525–9). In an abortive manuscript on ʻMarx dans ses limitesʼ (EPP1, pp. 357–524), whose thrust was conveyed in two Italian publications in 1977–78,37 Althusser took his own cue, lashing out at Glucksmann, Lévy and the like, while calling for a ʻlabour of correction and revisionʼ of the Marxism of Marx, Lenin and Gramsci. Breaking off in the middle of a discussion of Gramsci and politics, this manuscript indicates that Althusser did hasten to address, even if he failed to resolve, the indicated crisis. [38]

The electoral Ides of March 1978 tolled the knell of the phase of French politics opened by May ʼ68, provoking the frontal assault on the PCF leadership in Le Monde with which Althusserʼs public career came to an effective end. As we now know, however, Althusser did not cease to think and write in the interval between the murder of his wife in November 1980 and his own death a decade later. Where the ʻearly writingsʼ have shed light on the pre-Althusserian terminus a quo – baldly put, Catholicism and Hegelianism – the late table the question of the (post-) Althusserian terminus ad quem: is Antonio Negri right to identify what, alluding to Heideggerʼs ʻturnʼ, he has dubbed ʻAlthusserʼs Kehreʼ? [39]

Before responding, a word on the extremely uneven materials themselves, divisible into two groups: (1) the late writings in the strict sense: ʻThe Subterranean Current of the Materialism of the Encounterʼ, drafted in 1982 (EPP1, pp. 539–79); Philosophy and Marxismʼ, constructed between 1984 and 1987 (SP, pp. 13– 79); LʼAvenir dure longtemps, hastily contrived in 1985; three chapters on Spinoza, Machiavelli and the ʻpolitical situationʼ originally intended for LʼAvenir (ADL, pp. 467–526).(2) ʻMachiavelli and Usʼ (EPP2, pp. 42–168), a lecture series given at the Ecole normale in 1972,40 intermittently revised in accordance with the idiom of the late Althusser up until 1986 or so, and manifestly destined for posthumous publication.

The first group of texts revolves around the project of what Althusser calls an ʻaleatory materialismʼ, or ʻmaterialism of the encounterʼ, which amounts (in Alex Callinicosʼs words) to ʻan extreme rejection of a teleological conception of the historical processʼ. [41] Supposedly originating with Epicurus, and variously continued by Machiavelli, Hobbes, Pascal, Spinoza, Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger, [42] this ʻ“authentic” materialismʼ is positively contrasted with an incorrigible ʻdialectical materialismʼ, derided as a ʻyellow logarithmʼ (SP, pp. 35, 32). ʻMy essential thesisʼ, writes Althusser in ʻThe Subterranean Currentʼ,[is] the existence of a materialist tradition almost completely unrecognized in the history of philosophy … : a materialism of the encounter, hence of the aleatory and of contingency, which is opposed … to the various registered materialisms, including the materialism commonly attributed to Marx, Engels and Lenin, which, like every materialism in the rationalist tradition, is a materialism of necessity and teleology, that is to say, a transformed and disguised form of idealism. (pp. 539–40)Acknowledged not to be ʻa Marxist philosophyʼ, it is proposed as a potential ʻphilosophy for Marxismʼ (SP, pp. 37–8) – one to which Marx himself was only ambiguously affiliated, ʻforced to think in an horizon rent between the aleatory of the Encounter and the necessity of the Revolutionʼ (EPP1, p. 560). In thus identifying anti-finalism as the defining characteristic of any consequent ʻmaterialismʼ, the late Althusser was resuming the Spinozist critique of Hegelian teleology summed up in the category of ʻa process without a subject or goal(s)ʼ. [43]

The strictures of Pierre Raymond on the ʻvery approximateʼ character of the intuitions in ʻThe Subterranean Currentʼ and the interviews with Fernanda Navarro are difficult to gainsay: ʻAlthusser … accumulates some very different philosophical sources … and various heterogeneous themes which he never analyses distinctly or precisely.ʼ [44] The same cannot be said of his singleminded analysis of the encounter of Fortuna and Virtù in The Prince, which confirms the soundness of Terrayʼs judgement prior to publication of ʻMachiavelli and Usʼ that there was nothing ʻfortuitousʼ about the Althusserian encounter with the Florentine Secretary. [45]

In LʼAvenir Althusser characterizes Spinoza as a ʻnominalistʼ, commenting: ʻMarx taught me that nominalism was the royal road to materialism. In fact, it leads only to itself, but I can think of hardly any more profound form of materialism than nominalismʼ (FLLT, p. 217).46 And in response to Navarro, invoking Wittgensteinʼs ʻthe world is what the case isʼ, he specifies the ʻfundamental thesisʼ of nominalism as the exclusive existence of singular ʻcases, situations, things … totally distinct from one anotherʼ (SP, p. 46). Althusserʼs Machiavelli, who demands to be treated at length elsewhere, is a nominalist in the stipulated sense: his ʻobjectʼ is not some general theory of the ʻlawsʼ of history or of politics, but the conjunctural conditions for the foundation of a durable new principality by a new prince. That the Discourses and The Prince yield ʻMachiavellian maxims, rather than Hobbesian lawsʼ [47] is the source of their unprecedented power for Althusser:

Machiavelli is in no way a utopian: he merely thinks the conjunctural case of the [singular] thing, [ʻleaving aside imaginary things, and referring only to those which truly existʼ]. He declares it in concepts which are philosophical, and which doubtless make him … the greatest materialist philosopher of history, the equal of Spinoza, who declared him ʻacutissimusʼ. (EPP2, p. 161)Now, the most acute problem posed by all these materials is that of the discontinuity or otherwise between the unknown Althusser of the 1980s and the (overly familiar) Althusser of the 1960s and 1970s. On inspection, as the date of composition of ʻMachiavelli and Usʼ might predispose us to think, there are demonstrable elements of continuity between them. Thus, ʻnominalismʼ is, as Sève has suggested, Althusserʼs ʻmost profound philosophical inclinationʼ – a verdict that could be strengthened by reference to the 1966 article ʻOn Theoretical Workʼ, published in La Pensée the following year. [48] Similarly, as Matheron has argued, the category of the ʻencounterʼ is not a belated discovery of Althusserʼs: it constitutes one of the fundamental tendencies of the articles collected in For Marx. It is asserted in all the texts whose object is the conjuncture, and which attempt to show what it means to think theoretically from the standpoint of a task to be accomplished, and not from the angle of the fait accompli. [49]

ʻThe Subterranean Currentʼ peters out with a contrast between two conceptions of ʻmode of productionʼ in Marx – ʻhistorico-aleatoryʼ and ʻteleologicalʼ, respectively – referring back to Balibarʼs ʻgenealogyʼ of the capitalist mode of production in Reading Capital, while maintaining that Marx himself succumbed to the latter (pp. 569–76). Minus the critical note, however, the project of an alternative logic of the constitution of modes of production – categorized as a ʻtheory of the encounterʼ or ʻconjunctionʼ, in an unpublished letter of 1966 – pervades Althusserʼs writings. [50] Late Althusserian aleatorism, we might conclude, is but a unilateral inflection of a recurrent Althusserian tendency.

If one theme, explicitly formulated as such, runs like a red thread through Althusserʼs oeuvre, then it is the ʻnecessity of contingencyʼ, [51] tributary to Cournotʼs definition of chance events as the unpredictable consequence of the intersection of independent causal series. Introduced to Cournot by Jean Guittonʼs philosophy curriculum at the Lycée du Parc in Lyon from 1936,52 Althusser invoked him sparingly but approvingly in the 1960s, most strikingly in an unpublished working note from 1966 which reads like an outline for ʻThe Subterranean Currentʼ:1. Theory of the encounter or conjunction (= genesis … ) (cf. Epicurus, clinamen, Cournot), chance etc., precipitation, coagulation.

2. ^ Theory of the conjuncture (= structure) … philosophy as general theory of the conjuncture (= conjonction). (quoted in EW, p. 10)In retrospect, what else was ʻContradiction and Overdeterminationʼ – and the correlative ʻunderdeterminationʼ belatedly appended to it – but the sketch for a theory of the necessary contingency of history? [53] This was an enterprise whose centrepiece of ʻoverdeterminationʼ aimed to supersede the dichotomy of ʻconjunctureʼ and ʻstructureʼ, just as its conception of the latter tended towards a refusal of methodological individualism and holism alike;54 an enterprise, pursued in ʻOn the Materialist Dialecticʼ and Reading Capital, whose unresolved tension between singular conjunctures and invariant structures Althusser ultimately sought to resolve by catching the ʻmoving trainʼ of the mid-1980s (SP, pp. 64–6). The metaphor is reemployed in his last pathetic ʻPortrait of the Materialist Philosopherʼ, drawn in hospital in July 1986:The manʼs age has no importance. He can be very old or very young.

The essential thing is that he does not know where he is and wants to go somewhere.

That is why, as in American Westerns, he always takes a moving train. Without knowing whence he comes (origin) or whither he goes (end). And he descends en route… Without having wanted to, he … becomes a quasi-professional materialist philosopher – not dialectical-materialist, that abomination, but aleatory-materialist… He can then discuss with the great idealists. He not only understands them, but explains the reasons for their theses to them! And the others are sometimes won round in bitterness – but so whatamicus Plato, magis amica Veritas! (EPP1, pp. 581–2)

Shades of althusser

Some proposals for future research have been made elsewhere;55 and it would be otiose (not to say discourteous) to reiterate them here. It is, however, scarcely hazardous to propose that the immediate result of the posthumous edition is to render the available syntheses of Althusserʼs thought inadequate – a fact that should not unduly discountenance their authors, since they have long been out of print. Its wider impact either side of the Channel is imponderable. Revisiting his critiques of Sartre and Althusser in his memoirs, Aron remarked that for three decades after the Liberation, ʻParisian ideological fashions were accompanied on each occasion by a reinterpretation of Marxism.ʼ [56] In the subsequent quarter-century, they have been accompanied by re-editions of mandatory anti-Marxism – often as not by soixante-huitards turned fifty-somethings, graduates (in Todd Gittlinʼs words) from ʻJʼaccuse to jacuzziʼ. And notwithstanding a government of the ʻplural Leftʼ whose seeming commitment to French ʻexceptionalismʼ exasperates transatlantic commentators for whom globalitarianism is the Law and the Prophets, anti-Communism remains a potent ideological force in a country where Eric Hobsbawmʼs Age of Extremes, translated into twenty languages, has struggled to find a publisher because of its insufficiently disobliging account of the Communist experience. For its left-wing critics of thirty years ago, the PCF still served as an ʻinstitutionalized reminder, [a] mnemonic device, … holding the place in the pages of historyʼ. [57] Today, under the influence of François Furetʼs Le Passé dʼune illusion (1995) or Stéphane Courtoisʼ Le Livre noir du communisme (1997), with its inverted-Marxist innovation of ʻclass genocideʼ, right-thinking people are more liable to apprehend les lendemains qui hantent. [58]

In these circumstances, where the terms of intellectual engagement are now very different, Althusser – ʻpolitical agitator in philosophyʼ – is doubly suspect. A Marxist and a Communist – the latter because he was the former – for many his posthumous oeuvre conjures up shades of a past which deserves no future. From the cooler clime of Britannia a more temperate response is indicated. The revenant may have ʻsome impartmentʼ: let us not hasten to exorcise him.


I am grateful to Peter Osborne and colleagues for the commission; and to Geoffrey Goshgarian for an almost continuous flow of information.

1. ^ See David Macey, ʻThe Lonely Hour of the Final Analysisʼ, RP 67, Summer 1994, pp. 45–7 (here p. 45); and cf. Gabriel Albiac, ʻAlthusser lecteur dʼAlthusser:

lʼautobiographie comme genre imaginaireʼ, in Matheron (1997) pp. 7–21 (esp. p. 8). My own thoughts on LʼAvenir can be consulted in ʻAnalysis Terminated,

Analysis Interminable: The Case of Louis Althusserʼ, in Elliott (1994), pp. 177–202. An unhappily representative review is David Papineau, ʻThe Philosopher Emperor Who Had No Clothesʼ, Independent on Sunday, 14 November 1993.

2. ^ So as not to overburden the notes, full details of these volumes have been consigned to a chronologically organized Bibliography, which also offers a list of the principal secondary literature in French and English since Althusserʼs death. For the sake of convenience, references to Althusserʼs own texts will henceforth be abbreviated as follows: LʼAvenir dure longtemps (second edition) to ADL; The Future Lasts a Long Time to FLLT; Journal de captivité to JC; Ecrits sur la psychanalyse to EPFL; Writings on Psychoanalysis to WP; Psychanalyse et sciences humaines to PSH; Ecrits philosophiques et politiques I to EPP1; Early Writings to EW; Sur la philosophie to SP; Sur la reproduction to SR; Ecrits philosophiques et politiques II to EPP2; Pour Marx to PM; and Lire le Capital to LLC.

3. ^ Apart from the occasional contribution, the four collections in English published since 1990 (Kaplan and Sprinker 1993; Elliott 1994; Lezra 1995; and Callari and Ruccio 1996) either effectively predate the posthumous edition, or focus their attention elsewhere (but see the forthcoming issue of Rethinking Marxism, Winter 1998). The same is true of the full-length studies by Resch (1992) and Majumdar (1995), and of two excellent earlier French volumes: Balibar (1991) and Lazarus (1993).

4. ^ In a letter of 18 November 1963 to Franca Madonia (quoted in EW, p. 11 n. 1).

5. ^ Cf. the appendix to ʻRéponse à une critiqueʼ (1963), EPP2, pp. 385–87 (from which my epigraph is taken), and ʻMarx dans ses limitesʼ (1978), EPP1, p. 381.

6. ^ The apt characterizations of Albiac (ʻAlthusser lecteur dʼAlthusserʼ, p. 10) and Balibar (ʻAvant-proposʼ to PM, p. v).

7. ^ See ʻProblems of Marxismʼ, in Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, Lawrence & Wishart,

London, 1971, pp. 382–6 (esp. p. 384). Made with reference to the Marxist canon, much of the piquancy of Gramsciʼs comments derives from their immediate pertinence to the very text in which they feature.

8. ^ See my review article, ʻFateful Rendezvous: The Young Althusserʼ, RP 84, July/August 1997, pp. 36–40.

9. ^ Introduction to For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster, Allen Lane, London, 1969, p. 21.

10. ^ H.R. Kedward, Fascism in Western Europe 1900–45, Blackie, London and Glasgow, 1969, p. 163.

11. ^ For Marx, p. 22. In addition to Moulier Boutang (1992), see the illuminating discussion by Stanislas Breton, ʻAlthusser et la religionʼ, in Raymond (1997), pp. 155–66, where François Furetʼs facile observation on the ʻseductionʼ of Catholic intellectualas by the October Revolution is reproved (p. 161). Cf. Furet, Le Passé dʼune illusion: Essai sur lʼidée communist au xxe siècle (1995), Livre de Poche, Paris, 1997, p. 175.

12. ^ Compare Spenderʼs credo of the thirties: ʻI am a Communist because I am a liberal.ʼ

13. ^ For Marx, p. 22.

14. ^ Althusserʼs pride in this ʻcollective workʼ was conveyed in a letter of 17 September 1966 to Franca Madonia, quoted in WP, p. 11. For testimony to the authenticity of his claims, see, for example, Balibarʼs remarks at his funeral: ʻAdieuʼ, in Balibar (1991), pp. 119–23, esp. pp. 120–21.

15. ^ See the presentation of LLC, and the introduction to WP, pp. 1–2.

16. ^ For Politzerʼs influence, readers are referred to the helpful discussion in David Archard, Consciousness and the Unconscious, Hutchinson, London, 1984, pp. 38–40.

17. ^ With its celebrated conclusion in which the philosopher offers the psychologist a choice of directions: ʻwhen you leave the Sorbonne by the rue Saint-Jacques, you can either ascend or descend. If you go uphill, you reach the Pantheon, which is the Conservatory of a few great men; but if you go downhill you are inescapably heading for the Préfecture de policeʼ (ʻQuʼest-ce que la psychologie?ʼ, in G. Canguilhem, Etudes dʼhistoire et de philosophie des sciences, Librairie J. Vrin, Paris, 1968, pp. 364–81; here p. 381). The lecture was reprinted in Cahiers pour lʼanalyse, no. 2, April 1966.

18. ^ An unpublished circular dated 11 July 1966 indicates that a seminar on Spinoza was scheduled for the academic year 1966–67, which Althusser was slotted to introduce with a paper on ʻSpinozaʼs Anti-Cartesianismʼ, and in which Badiou and Macherey were due to participate.

19. ^ ʻLénine et la philosophieʼ, Bulletin de la société française de philosophie, October/December 1968; pp. 127–81; here p. 173. The allusion on both occasions is to Marxʼs claim in the 1859 Preface, dear to Gramsci, that ʻMankind … inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solveʼ (Early Writings, Penguin/NLR,

Harmondsworth, 1975, p. 426).

20. ^ When, a decade later, extracts from his ʻReplyʼ were published in Patrick Kesselʼs compendium on Maoism (Le Mouvement ʻmaoisteʼ en France: Textes et documents, 1963–1968, Union Générale dʼEditions, 10/18, Paris 1972, pp. 64–6), Althusser disclaimed authorship of the text (see EPP2, pp. 23–4).

One of Althusserʼs critics – Guy Besse – was the co-author with Maurice Caveing of the official Principes fondamentales de philosophie (Editions Sociales,

Paris 1954), to which Politzerʼs name was attached. In it the categories of Maoʼs On Contradiction (published in French in Cahiers du Communisme, nos 7–8, August 1952) had been assimilated to Soviet ʻdiamatʼ: see pp. 109–32.

At a colloquium in 1995 Sève returned to the subject of Althusserʼs Maoism: see ʻAlthusser et la dialectiqueʼ, in Raymond (1997), pp. 105–36. ʻ[W]hyʼ, he inquired, ʻdid Althusser, this inflexible customs officer as regards concepts in fraudulent transit from Hegel to Marx, from Feuerbach to Marx, prove so lax when it came to those deriving from Mao…?ʼ (p. 129).

21. ^ ʻPolitics and Friendship: An Interview with Jacques Derridaʼ, trans. Robert Harvey, in Kaplan and Sprinker (1993), pp. 183–231; here p. 210.

22. ^ Postscript to the third French edition (1974), in Sève, Man in Marxist Theory and the Psychology of Personality, trans. John McGreal, Harvester, Hassocks, 1978, p. 481.

23. ^ Piloted in Aletheia, no. 4, May 1966, Godelierʼs ʻSystème, structure et contradiction dans “Le Capital”ʼ was published in Les Temps Modernes in November 1966.

His Rationality and Irrationality in Economics (trans.

Brian Pearce, NLB, London, 1972) appeared the same year.

24. ^ See Raymond Aron, Dʼune sainte famille à lʼautre: Essais sur les marxismes imaginaires, Editions Gallimard,

Paris, 1969, esp. pp. 69–276, ʻAlthusser ou la lecture pseudo-structuraliste de Marxʼ. And compare Althusser, FLLT, pp. 148, 221 and SP, pp. 37, 88, with Balibar, PM, pp. xiii–xiv.

25. ^ On For Marx, see Balibar, ʻThe Non-Contemporaneity of Althusserʼ, in Kaplan and Sprinker (1993), pp. 1–16, esp. pp. 5–6. Balibar notes (p. 15 n. 7) that Althusserʼs acquaintance with Lukácsʼ text probably derived from Merleau-Pontyʼs Adventures of the Dialectic. On Reading Capital, cf. Jean-Pierre Cotten, La Pensée de Louis Althusser, Editions Privat, Paris, 1979, p. 71 n. 33.

26. ^ In addition to the texts by Balibar already cited, see Costanzo Preve, ʻLouis Althusser: la lutte contre le sens commun dans le mouvement communiste “historique” au xxe siècleʼ, in Lazarus (1993), pp. 125–36.

27. ^ ʻAlthusser et la dialectiqueʼ, p. 135 n. 99 (see pp. 135–6).

28. ^ See François Regnault, ʻPortrait du philosopheʼ, in Lazarus (1993), pp. 161–76, esp. p. 175. Cf. FLLT, pp. 185–6.

29. ^ See EPP2, pp. 523–4; and cf. Jeanine Verdès-Leroux, Le Réveil des somnambules: Le parti communiste, les intellectuels et la culture (1956–1985), Editions de Minuit,

Paris, 1987, pp. 113–27.

30. ^ An unpublished manuscript of the period on ʻSocialisme idéologique et socialisme scientifiqueʼ (88 pp.) presumably pertains to the same project.

31. ^ Erich Fromm, ed., Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium, Doubleday, New York, 1965 (Allen Lane,

London, 1967).

32. ^ See Alain Badiou, ʻQuʼest-ce que Louis Althusser entend par “philosophie”?ʼ, in Lazarus (1993), pp. 29–45 and François Matheron, ʻLa Récurrence du vide chez Louis Althusserʼ, in Matheron (1997), pp. 23–47, esp. 35–7.

33. ^ Cf. Derrida, ʻPolitics and Friendshipʼ, pp. 223–4, where he declares his belief that ʻonto-theo-teleology is ineradicable in Marxʼ – a conviction developed in Specters of Marx (1993), trans. Peggy Kamuf, Routledge, New York and London, 1995 (on which see the symposium in RP 75, January/February 1996, pp. 26–41).

34. ^ Suffice it to say that it is irreducible to what Simon Clarke once deemed a ʻsordid historyʼ, with a confidence in inverse proportion to competence (see his ʻAlthusserian Marxismʼ, in S. Clarke et al., One-Dimensional Marxism: Althusser and the Politics of Culture, Allison & Busby, London, 1980, p. 16).

35. ^ Cf. Balibar, ʻStructural Causality, Overdetermination and Antagonismʼ, in Callari and Ruccio (1996), pp. 110–19 (esp. p. 112), and in PM, p. xii. The quoted phrase is from Regnault, ʻPortrait du philosopheʼ, p. 172.

36. ^ See also the letters of 1972 and 1974 to Jean Guitton, quoted in Guitton, Un Siècle, une vie, Robert Laffont,

Paris, 1988, Part IV, ch. 4, ʻAlthusserʼ; and a psychoanalytical burlesque ʻOn the Transfer and CounterTransferʼ, omitted from WP, in EPFL, pp. 173–86.

37. ^ ʻThe Crisis of Marxismʼ, trans. Grahame Lock, in Il Manifesto, ed., Power and Opposition in Post-Revolutionary Societies, Ink Links, London, 1979, pp. 225–37; ʻMarxism Todayʼ, trans. James H. Kavanagh, in L.

Althusser, Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists and Other Essays, Verso, London and New York, 1990, pp. 267–80.

38. ^ Cf. Perry Anderson, In the Tracks of Historical Materialism, Verso, London, 1983, p. 30.

39. ^ ʻNotes on the Evolution of the Thought of the Later Althusserʼ, in Callari and Ruccio (1996), pp. 51–68; here p. 58.

40. ^ For an evocation of it by one of those who attended, see Timothy OʼHagan, ʻ“Machiavelliʼs Solitude”: An Introductionʼ, Economy and Society, vol. 17, no. 4, November 1988, pp. 461–7.

41. ^ ʻLost Illusionsʼ, RP 74, November/December 1995, pp. 42–4; here p. 43.

42. ^ In 1989 Derrida pronounced Heidegger ʻthe great unavoidable thinker of this centuryʼ for Althusser – ʻ[b]oth the great adversary and also a sort of essential ally or virtual recourseʼ (ʻPolitics and Friendshipʼ, pp. 189–90).

The late Althusserʼs explicit recourse to him is evidenced in the correspondence with Fernanda Navarro in SP, pp. 92–137.

43. ^ As Callinicos, ʻLost Illusionsʼ, p. 43, notes.

44. ^ ʻLe Matérialisme dʼAlthusserʼ, in Raymond (1997), pp. 169–79: here p. 174. Raymond points (p. 172) to his own La Résistible fatalité de lʼhistoire (Albin Michel, Paris, 1982) as the source of many of Althusserʼs formulations.

45. ^ See his fine essay, ʻAn Encounter: Althusser and Machiavelliʼ (1993), in Callari and Ruccio (1996), pp. 257–77; here p. 276. And see also Antonio Negri, ʻMachiavel selon Althusserʼ, in Matheron (1997), pp. 139–58.

46. ^ On Spinoza, see FLLT, pp. 216–18 and ADL, pp. 467–87, where nominalism is adjudged ʻthe only conceivable materialismʼ (p. 478). On the theses attributed by Althusser to Spinoza, see Pierre-François Moreau, ʻAlthusser et Spinozaʼ, in Raymond (1997), pp. 75–86. And on the theme of ʻnominalismʼ, cf. SP, pp. 46–7, 64–6.

47. ^ A phrase borrowed from Alasdair MacIntyre, ʻIs a Science of Comparative Politics Possible?ʼ, in Against the Self-Images of the Age: Essays on Ideology and Philosophy, Duckworth, London, 1971, pp. 260–79; here p. 273.

48. ^ Trans. James H. Kavanagh, in Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists, pp. 43–67.

Cf. Sève, ʻAlthusser et la dialectiqueʼ, p. 133, and the extracts from Althusserʼs letter of 13 September 1966 to Franca Madonia, quoted in EPFL, pp. 114–15.

49. ^ ʻLa Récurrence du vide chez Louis Althusserʼ, pp. 39–40.

50. ^ ʻSur la genèseʼ, 22 September 1966: an item in the exchanges between Althusser et al. of 1966–68, which refers to the second letter to Diatkine of August 1966 (WP, pp. 54–77). Cf., for example, ʻThe Humanist Controversyʼ (1967), EPP2, p. 519.

51. ^ For an indication of just how ubiquitous it is, see my ʻThe Necessity of Contingency: Some Notes on a Themeʼ, forthcoming in Rethinking Marxism, Winter 1998.

52. ^ Moulier Boutang (1992), p. 141.

53. ^ See especially PM, pp. ix, xii–xiii, where the invocation of ʻunderdeterminationʼ in ʻIs it Simple to be a Marxist in Philosophy?ʼ (1975) is cited (Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists, pp. 221–3).

Cf. the late Althusserʼs allusion to it in SP, p. 121.

54. ^ Balibar, PM, p. vii; and see also his ʻLʼObjet dʼAlthusserʼ, in Lazarus (1993), pp. 81–116, esp. p. 94; ʻStructural Causality, Overdetermination, and Antagonismʼ, p. 115; and The Philosophy of Marx (1993), trans. Chris Turner, Verso, London and New York, 1995, pp. 30–32, on Marxʼs ʻontology of relationsʼ.

55. ^ In conclusion to ʻThe Necessity of Contingencyʼ.

56. ^ Mémoires, Editions Julliard, Paris, 1983, p. 579.

57. ^ Fredric Jameson, Marxism and Form: Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1971, p. 273.

58. ^ For responses to Furet and Courtois, see, respectively,

Eric Hobsbawm, ʻHistory and Illusionʼ, New Left Review 220, November–December 1996, pp. 116–25 and Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1997, pp. 22–3. For rejoinders to the revisionist intellectual historiography of Tony Judt and Sunil Khilnani, see Fredric Jameson, ʻExit Sartreʼ, London Review of Books, 7 July 1994, pp. 12–14, and my own ʻContentious Commitments: French Intellectuals and Politicsʼ, NLR 206, July–August 1994, pp. 110–24.


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