Louis Pierre Althusser — was one of the most influential Marxist philosophers of the 20 th Century. As they seemed to offer a renewal of Marxist thought as well as to render Marxism philosophically respectable, the claims he advanced in the s about Marxist philosophy were discussed and debated worldwide. In addition, his autobiography has been subject to much critical attention over the last decade. His concepts are also being increasingly employed by philosophers, political theorists, and activists who have returned to Marx and to Marxian analyses in order to explain and to envision alternatives to our present socio-economic conjuncture.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — For Marx by Louis Althusser. For Marx by Louis Althusser ,. Ben Brewster Translator. A milestone in the development of post-war Marxist thought. This is the work in which Louis Althusser formulated some of his most influential ideas.

Structuralis A milestone in the development of post-war Marxist thought. Structuralism constituted an intellectual revolution in the s and s and radically transformed the way philosophy, political and social theory, history, science, and aesthetics were discussed and thought about.

For Marx was a key contribution to that process and it fundamentally recast the way in which many people understood Marx and Marxism. Since his death in , Althusser's legacy has come under renewed examination and it is increasingly recognized that the influence of his ideas has been wider and deeper than previously thought: reading For Marx, in its audacity, originality and rigor, will explain why this impact was so significant. Get A Copy. Paperback , Verso Radical Thinkers , pages.

Published January 17th by Verso first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about For Marx , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of For Marx. Nov 20, William West rated it really liked it. The essential task that Louis Althusser devoted his philosophical career, and this book most pointedly, to was rescuing what he understood as the science of Marxism from the philosophical musings of the young Marx, which Althusser believed constituted neither Marxist science nor philosophy.

Althusser felt this was an imperative task, as he hoped that what he deemed to be Marxist science could transform humanity's relationship to ideology.

Marxism would only be allowed to perform this heroic serv The essential task that Louis Althusser devoted his philosophical career, and this book most pointedly, to was rescuing what he understood as the science of Marxism from the philosophical musings of the young Marx, which Althusser believed constituted neither Marxist science nor philosophy.

Marxism would only be allowed to perform this heroic service, however, if it did not itself devolve into an ideology. When Althusser was writing these essays, in the early s, he was witnessing a self-reassessment on the part of the global communist movement as a response to the revelation of Stalin's crimes.

Western Marxists were turning to the work of the young Marx in order to insist that the spirit of Marx's philosophy was ideologically humanist. It was this tendency that Althusser felt the need to counter. Althusser called for an authentically Marxist study of Marx's early writings which were, Althusser fully acknowledged, indeed humanist.

He claimed that the "western Marxists" were enraptured with the idealist notion of the author or philosopher. If humanism haunted the work of the young Marx, then, for the western Marxists, its seed must still be at the root of the mature works such as Capital, because, for them, nothing could transcend the idealist totality of the oeuvre, the ever present, metaphysical "human-ness" of the author's stamp.

Rather, insisted Althusser, the work of the young Marx had to be subjected to the Marxist principles of ideological development that stated that the meaning of an ideology does not depend on its relation to "truth" but rather its relation to the social structure in which it developed and therefore, to understand an ideological position, one would have to look at the social conditions facing the thinker, and therefor the context of the thinker's intellectual development, as s he was writing any one piece.

Texts can, for Althusser, point to a future, but all must be confronted within their singular present. In this way Althusser, I think, lays the groundwork for Foucault's "death of the author" through the tenants of Marxism and structuralism.

Althusser called the cultural framework in which a concept exists its "problematic. The problematic of Marx's early thought, when he was still a humanist liberal, was that of nineteenth century Germany, which had never experienced a revolution of any kind, including a bourgeois one. The German bourgeoisie, including Marx, could only think in the codes of servitude, which is to say the religious obscurantism of Hegel. Marx's earliest writings were thus Feurbachian- attempts to free the Hegelian Spirit from alienation through transcending what Marx and his German brethren viewed as its alienated form- religion.

Althusser thought Marx could only escape this line of thought by getting out of Germany, which he luckily did in , leaving for France in the hopes of glimpsing the spirit of the French Revolution. Instead of freedom, equality, and liberty, Marx found only a more intense workers struggle. This radicalized the young Marx, and he began writing about politics and socialism. For Althusser, however, these early socialist writings were still not truly Marxist.

Indeed, they remained profoundly Hegelian. They rested on a simplistic notion of the proletariat superseding the bourgeoisie. Hegel viewed History as relentlessly marching towards its completion, the totality of absolute spirit manifested in a society that had evolved to the point of transcending all alienation. Marx's early political writings spoke of worker's struggle, but only as a simplistically messianic displacement of one stage of society by a less alienated stage of society.

Marx remained, Althusser claimed, stuck in an essentially religious, idealist line of thinking, not yet truly starting from a materialist foundation. He was commenting on struggle, not partaking in it. According to Althusser's narrative, as Marx became more involved in activism and organizing, his thinking began to be increasingly based on the reality of the worker's struggle.

Marx began, in other words, to develop the materialist dialectic which Althusser argues borrows only terminology from Hegel, but breaks fully with Hegel's philosophy.

For Althusser, the materialist dialectic looks for social change to come not as a result of shifts in universal social consciousness but in contradictions in actual social being. Althusser posits, following Lenin and, most directly, Mao, that these contradictions are never universal but are localized and unique.

Again following Mao, Althusser says that ruptures, be they scientific, political or philosophical are never the result of a simple, predictable dialectic between competing forces proletariat vs. For example, the Russian Revolution became necessary because Russia was pregnant with two revolutions. It was a feudal society existing in a capitalist world where a working class was already starting to rebel under the banner of socialism.

Althusser defines the role of theory as being an aid to understanding the possibility of an epistemological break- when one kind of thinking turns into another, such as when Hegel's idealism is transformed into dialectical materialism. Such breaks make possible the creation of new types of knowledge.

Theory is a specific practice that acts on general concepts. It is the means of production of knowledge. Dialectical materialism, for Althusser, is the mode of theoretical inquiry by which ideologically driven political activity is examined and turned into scientific arguments. Again, Mao's influence on Althusser is here apparent. Generality III arrives at a scientific hypothesis.

Like all new kinds of science, Marxist science had the potential to create new possibilities for philosophy, although Althusser did not think a legitimately Marxist philosophy had yet presented itself. Later in his career, Althusser would attempt to practice Marxist philosophy with his notion of the capitalist construction of the the individual.

Instead, what passed for Marxist philosophy, the work of Western Marxists such as George Luckaks, was in fact a kind of Hegelian thinking. It denies, in other words, that knowledge is a practice. Thought is self-creating knowledge for the Hegelians, for whom the totality of social being is constantly revealing itself.

The Western Marxists threatened, then, to turn Marxism into just another ideology. It was rather Althusser's line of thinking that would, at least potentially, lead humanity to a healthier relationship with ideology. Ideology will always function, to some degree, subconsciously. But, Althusser hopes, if the essential nature of ideology is socially acknowledged, then it could be transformed into an instrument of deliberative social action.

Ideology could mold humanity towards egalitarian social tasks. If rulers, socialist or otherwise, failed to understand that ideology is inescapable and acts on all, including the ruling strata of any society, then those rulers could fall into the trap of thinking they could simply use ideology as a tool as Stalin did, though Althusser does not mention this. Humanism, Althusser finally admits, could have its uses for Marxism, but only if humanism is recognized as an ideology.

Marx was able to arrive at a whole new way of thinking only by rejecting humanism for materialism. Humanist ideology may be able to point to questions for Marxism to tackle, but humanism cannot itself answer those questions. Jan 26, David M added it. Just the opposite, he was affirming that it's profoundly misguided to ever expect to find a 'science' of human meaning along the lines of the physical sciences.

By contrast, Althusser is extremely insistent that Marxism is a science. What exactly does he mean by that? At least in this collection he has rather little to say about the actual content of Marxism - history, the economy, the workers' movement, etc. He seems to define 'science' in totally formal, non-empirical terms.


Louis Althusser

For Marx French : Pour Marx is a book by the philosopher Louis Althusser , a leading theoretician of the French Communist Party , in which the author reinterprets the work of the philosopher Karl Marx , proposing an epistemological break between the young Hegelian Marx, and the old Marx, the author of Das Kapital — However, Althusser later criticized the work, believing that in it he had neglected the class struggle. He also discusses the work of the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. Except for its introduction, the chapters of For Marx first appeared as articles that were published in journals of the French Communist Party between and An Italian translation was published in , [4] and an English translation, by Ben Brewster, in The book has been published in English by Verso Books. For Marx established Althusser's reputation.


— For Marx —


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