Althusser and Marxist Philosophy: Science and Ideology

  • Ted Benton
Part of the Theoretical Traditions in the Social Sciences book series


For Althusser, as we have seen, Marxist philosophy, or Theory (with a capital ‘T’) was supposed to be an indispensable means for any adequate interpretation of the works of Marx (or, indeed, any other text). In order, then, to establish the principles and methods of Marxist philosophy it is first necessary to employ them. Althusser recognises the circularity of this intellectual process, but denies that it is a vicious circularity: the interpretation achieved by the employment of the results of that interpretation is tested in the process. I have argued that whatever the significance of this claim of Althusser’s, in practice he escapes from his circle by a series of conceptual borrowings mainly from French conventionalist philosophy of science, historical epistemology and from structuralism.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    In the essay ‘On the Materialist Dialectic’ in For Marx (London, 1969), pp.184ff.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Marx’s ‘General Introduction’ to the Grundrisse, trans. M. Nicolaus (Harmondsworth, 1973), pp.83–111.Google Scholar
  3. Also included as a supplementary text in K. Marx and F. Engels, The German Ideology, pt1, trans. Chris Arthur (London, 1970).Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Louis Althusser, Reading Capital (London, 1970), p.38.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago and London, 1962), especially ch.10.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    See, for example, Reading Capital, p.59.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Ibid, p.62.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    T. Benton, Philosophical Foundations of the Three Sociologies (London, 1977), pp.185ff.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Louis Althusser, Reading Capital, p.41.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    See, for example, Marx’s famous preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (London, 1971), p.20.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Louis Althusser, For Marx, p.166.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Louis Althusser, Reading Capital, p.27, second emphasis added.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    This book, ch.1, pp.28–30.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    Louis Althusser, For Marx, pp.219–42.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    Ibid, p.231.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Ibid, p.235.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    Louis Althusser, Reading Capital, p.5 2.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    Ibid, p.53.Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Louis Althusser, For Marx, p.169.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    For a more extended discussion of this ‘scientific metaphysics’, and what can be salvaged from it, see my contribution, ‘Natural Science and Cultural Struggle’, to J. Mepham and D. H. Ruben, eds, Issues in Marxist Philosophy, vol.II (Brighton, 1979).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ted Benton 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ted Benton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of EssexUK

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