Althusserian Materialism in England



Hearing that I was about to write this essay, a friend recently remarked to me that he no longer felt ashamed at not knowing about the work of Louis Althusser — a reaction which has become, I think, quite common among English and American philosophers and social scientists. During the 1970s, when Althusser was a star of the kind that shines only from Paris, many intellectuals were excited by his brilliance, and ignorance was a source, if not of shame, at least of regret. Some people studied his views and others did not; but for all of them his reputation stood high, and he was acknowledged as the author of a serious and important contribution to the interpretation of Marxism. Now that the star has waned, however, the name of Althusser is no longer one to conjure with. In France and elsewhere his claims have been criticised on both philosophical and political grounds, so that his period of popular fame is sometimes represented as nothing but a season’s fancy, without lasting consequences for either the theory or the practice of Marxism.


Social Practice Capitalist Society Historical Materialism Class Struggle Marxist Theory 
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    Among the signs of this are a renewed interest in up-to-date editions of Marx’s texts (see, for example, the Penguin Marx); the translation of important works about Marx’s intellectual development — for example, R. Rosdolsky, The Making of Marx’s ‘Capital’ (German original 1968), tr. Pete Burgess (London: Pluto Press, 1977); and a wealth of exegetical works, of which some of the most detailed and interesting areGoogle Scholar
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© Ceri Crossley and Ian Small 1988

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