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Althusserian Materialism in England

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Abstract

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.

Keywords

Social Practice Capitalist Society Historical Materialism Class Struggle Marxist Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    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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  4. 2.
    See, for example, Perry Anderson, Arguments within English Marxism (London: Verso, 1980);Google Scholar
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  8. 3.
    See Louis Althusser, Politics and History, tr. Ben Brewster (London: New Left Books, 1972).Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    Louis Althusser, Pour Marx (Paris: Maspéro, 1965), tr. Ben Brewster as For Marx (London: Allen Lane, 1969).Google Scholar
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    Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Lire le Capital (Paris: Maspéro, 1968), tr. Ben Brewster as Reading ‘Capital’ (London: New Left Books, 1970).Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    See, in particular, G. Bachelard, Le Nouvel esprit scientifique, 14th edn (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1978). For an excellent discussion of Bachelard’s philosophy of science, seeGoogle Scholar
  12. Mary Tiles, Bachelard: Science and Objectivity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 32.
    See, for example, S. Lukes, ‘Power and Structure’, in Essays in Social Theory (London: Macmillan, 1977);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  17. 37.
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    William Connolly, Appearance and Reality in Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981) p. 50.Google Scholar
  20. 40.
    For example, Michel Aglietta, Régulation et crises du capitalisme (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1976);Google Scholar
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    Nicos Poulantzas, Political Power and Social Classes, tr. T. O’Hagan (London: Verso, 1975).Google Scholar
  31. 45.
    See, for example, Nicos Poulantzas, Classes in Contemporary Capitalism, tr. D. Fernbach (London: Verso Books, 1978).Google Scholar
  32. 46.
    Nicos Poulantzas, Fascism and Dictatorship, tr. J. White (London: Verso, 1974) p. 190.Google Scholar

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© Ceri Crossley and Ian Small 1988

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