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Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays

Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays

Louis Althusser
Introduction by Fredric Jameson
Translated from the French by Ben Brewster
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 272
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    Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays
    Book Description:

    No figure among the western Marxist theoreticians has loomed larger in the postwar period than Louis Althusser. A rebel against the Catholic tradition in which he was raised, Althusser studied philosophy and later joined both the faculty of the Ecole normal superieure and the French Communist Party in 1948. Viewed as a "structuralist Marxist," Althusser was as much admired for his independence of intellect as he was for his rigorous defense of Marx. The latter was best illustrated in For Marx (1965), and Reading Capital (1968). These works, along with Lenin and Philosophy (1971) had an enormous influence on the New Left of the 1960s and continues to influence modern Marxist scholarship. This classic work, which to date has sold more than 30,000 copies, covers the range of Louis Althusser's interests and contributions in philosophy, economics, psychology, aesthetics, and political science. Marx, in Althusser's view, was subject in his earlier writings to the ruling ideology of his day. Thus for Althusser, the interpretation of Marx involves a repudiation of all efforts to draw from Marx's early writings a view of Marx as a "humanist" and "historicist." Lenin and Philosophy also contains Althusser's essay on Lenin's study of Hegel; a major essay on the state, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," "Freud and Lacan: A letter on Art in Reply to Andr Daspre," and "Cremonini, Painter of the Abstract." The book opens with a 1968 interview in which Althusser discusses his personal, political, and intellectual history.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-373-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Fredric Jameson

    The Althusser we reread today is no longer the center of those heated polemics and ideological battles that characterized the Marxisms of the 1960s and 1970s. Has he now become a Marxist classic? That will partly depend on what Marxism becomes in the new century, and partly on the new post–Cold War situation of globalization and universal commodification which it confronts as a target and a field of action. His work has aroused fierce theoretical opposition, most notably in E.P. Thompson’sPoverty of Theory. Crude ad hominem attacks have attempted to discredit it, as a result of the tragic...

  4. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Louis Althusser

    I am glad to be able to extend a few words of welcome to the reader who does me the honour of opening this book.

    I trust him: he will understand the political, ideological and theoretical arguments which inspired the already old philosophical essays in the Appendix; he will discern in them an internal evolution and displacement giving rise to the new Theses which appear in ‘Lenin and Philosophy’, ‘Preface toCapitalVolume One’ and ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’; he will realize that it is in the direction opened by the indications in these last texts that I now...

  5. Philosophy as a Revolutionary Weapon Interview conducted by Maria Antonietta Macciocchi
    (pp. 1-10)
    Maria Antonietta Macciocchi

    Can you tell us a little about your personal history? What brought you to Marxist philosophy?

    In 1948, when I was 30, I became a teacher of philosophy and joined the PCF. Philosophy was an interest; I was trying to make it my profession. Politics was a passion; I was trying to become a Communist militant.

    My interest in philosophy was aroused by materialism and its critical function: forscientificknowledge, against all the mystifications ofideological‘knowledge’. Against the merely moral denunciation of myths and lies, for their rational and rigorous criticism. My passion for politics was inspired by...

  6. Lenin and Philosophy
    (pp. 11-44)

    May I thank your Society for the honour it has done me in inviting me to present to it what it has called, since it came into existence, and what it will doubtless long continue to call, by a disarmingly nostalgic name: a communication.¹

    A scientist is justified in presenting a communication before a scientific society. A communication and a discussion are only possible if they arescientific. But a philosophical communication and a philosophical discussion?

    Philosophical communication. This term would certainly have made Lenin laugh, with that whole-hearted, open laugh by which the fishermen of Capri recognized him as...

  7. Preface to Capital Volume One
    (pp. 45-70)

    Now, for the first time in the history of French publishing,CapitalVolume One is available to a mass audience.

    What isCapital?

    It is Marx’s greatest work, the one to which he devoted his whole life after 1850, and to which he sacrificed the better part of his personal and family existence in bitter tribulation.

    This work is the one by which Marx has to bejudged. By it alone, and not by his still idealist ‘Early Works’ (1841–1844); not by still very ambiguous works likeThe German Ideology,¹ or even theGrundrisse, drafts which have been translated...

  8. Lenin before Hegel
    (pp. 71-84)

    In a lecture now a year old, published in a small volume by Maspero under the titleLenin and Philosophy, I have attempted to prove that Lenin should be regarded as having made a crucial contribution to dialectical materialism, in that he made a realdiscoverywith respect to Marx and Engels, and that this discovery can be summarized as follows: Marx’s scientific theory did not lead to a new philosophy (called dialectical materialism), but to a newpracticeof philosophy, to be precise to the practice of philosophy based on a proletarian class position in philosophy.

    This discovery, which...

  9. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)
    (pp. 85-126)

    I must now expose more fully something which was briefly glimpsed in my analysis when I spoke of the necessity to renew the means of production if production is to be possible. That was a passing hint. Now I shall consider it for itself.

    As Marx said, every child knows that a social formation which did not reproduce the conditions of production at the same time as it produced would not last a year.² The ultimate condition of production is therefore the reproduction of the conditions of production. This may be ‘simple’ (reproducing exactly the previous conditions of production) or...

  10. Appendix
    (pp. 127-132)
  11. Freud and Lacan
    (pp. 133-150)

    Friends have correctly criticized me for discussing Lacan in three lines.¹ This was too much for what I was saying about him, and too little for the conclusions that I drew from him. They have asked me for a few words to justify both the allusion and its object. Here they are—a few words, where a book is needed.

    In the history of Western Reason, every care, foresight, precaution and warning has been devoted to births. Prenatal therapy is institutional. When a young science is born, the family circle is always ready for astonishment, jubilation and baptism. For a...

  12. A Letter on Art in Reply to André Daspre
    (pp. 151-156)

    La Nouvelle Critiquehas sent me your letter.¹ I hope you will permit me, if not to reply to all questions it poses, at least to add a few comments to yours to the line of your own reflections.

    First of all, you should know that I am perfectly conscious of thevery schematiccharacter of my article on Humanism.² As you have noticed, it has the disadvantage that it gives a ‘broad’ idea of ideology without going into the analysis of details. As it does not mention art, I realize that it is possible to wonder whether art should...

  13. Cremonini, Painter of the Abstract
    (pp. 157-166)

    As I was standing in the hall at the Venice Biennale in which Cremonini¹ had exhibited some fine canvases, two Frenchmen came in, glanced quickly round and left, one saying to the other, ‘Uninteresting: expressionism!’ Since then, I have had occasion to read the same words from the pen of art criticism. Applied to Cremonini, the term ‘expressionism’ is a striking indication of a misunderstanding. All in all, it is the misunderstanding of all critical (and therefore of all aesthetic) judgement, which is no more than a commentary, at best a theoretical commentary, on aestheticconsumption:the ruling misunderstanding in...

  14. Index
    (pp. 167-173)