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Althusser, Louis (1918–90)

GREGORYELLIOTT


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


Extract

French Communist philosopher. One of the most notable Marxist theoreticians of the postwar period, Althusser's comprehensive reconstruction of Marxist philosophy and social theory won him a large intellectual following throughout Western Europe and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s. In For Marx and Reading “Capital” (1965), Althusser and his collaborators (including Etienne B alibar and Pierre M acherey ) subjected actually existing Marxism to swingeing critique on account of its alleged H egelianism . According to Althusser, the seemingly antithetical traditions of orthodox M arxism (Kautsky or Stalin) and Western Marxism (L ukáacs or S artre ) exhibited the common vice of H istoricism . Whether in the guise of economism or H umanism , both tendencies cancelled Marx's departure from the German idealism of his youth by construing historical materialism as a philosophy of history. As pseudo-materialist inversions of Hegelian theodicy, they each depicted human history as an expressive totality or process, with an origin, a center, a subject, and a goal. Economism – typical of Stalinist orthodoxy from the mid-1920s – constituted a technological D eterminism , positing a metanarrative of the advance of the productive forces towards an ineluctable communism. Humanism – characteristic of the anti-Stalinist reaction in the 1950s and 1960s – represented a teleological philosophical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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