Althusser's Underground Railroad: From Dialectical Materialism
to the Non-Philosophy of the Non-State
Marx has bequeathed Marxists (cruelly instructed by the counter-experience of Stalinist ontology) an especially difficult undertaking. Just as he left the worker's movement with the task of inventing new forms of "commune" that would convert the State into something superfluous, so Marx left Marxist philosophers with the task of inventing new forms of philosophical intervention to hasten the end of bourgeois hegemony. In sum: the task of inventing a new practice of philosophy.
—Louis Althusser, 1976
The secret philosophy of the encounter ... "catches a moving train" and, with strong arms, jumps on the wagon that runs from eternity like Heraclitus' water, without knowing where it comes from and where it's going. Through Althusser's image we see in the materialist philosopher almost an IWW activist who travels through America to trigger off strikes, hiding from the cops and beating the industrial centres and mine pits along the railway…
—Augusto Illuminati, 2005
1. The history of philosophy, as Jason Read notes in his contribution to this special issue, is one of repetitions, survivals, reversals, burials, and revivals. In recent decades we have seen The New Nietzsche (Allison 1985), followed by The New Spinoza (Montag and Stolze 1997), and it seems highly likely that someone will soon produce The New Foucault. The title of this special issue might well have been The New Althusser, but we have chosen the title Althusser & Us, both to evoke Althusser's Machiavelli and Us (1999), and to suggest that it is not just a matter of who Althusser might be today but rather of 'who' Althusser is for us, how Althusser's text 'speaks' to us.
2. While the essays, interviews, and review articles presented in this special issue do not necessarily constitute a homogenous group, they do share certain positions that distinguish them from both older commentaries on Althusser (Benton 1984, Resch 1992, Elliott 1987 - although there similar recent accounts, such as Ferretter 2006) and various recent interpretations (Negri 1996, Callari and Ruccio 1998, Suchting 2004, Vatter 2004). What is distinctive about the essays included here is their sustained attention to Althusser's self-criticism of For Marx and Reading Capital (both published in 1965) and the extent to which they think with that self-criticism, together with the continuities that they identify between those early publications and Althusser's last writings. This continuity, however, has nothing to do with 'Althusser the author', as the contributors to this issue seem to share a materialist conception of reading and literary (re)production (following Macherey 1978, Macherey 1999; see also Goshgarian 1992 and Montag 1999). There is no sense in which these essays depend upon the author-function, on the fiction of an author whose intentions and psychology are increasingly manifest as his oeuvre unfolds in time (on the author as a device of literary criticism, see Montag 2003). On the contrary, each of the contributors to this issue insists on a material difference within Althusser's work, a fissure that Althusser opens up within his own thought as he engages in theoretical and political struggle.
3. The Althusser presented in these pages will be unrecognisable to those who have only read the polemical commentaries of the 1970s, and especially to anyone whose knowledge is restricted to E.P. Thompson's 1978 essay, "The Poverty of Theory". Indeed, in some of Althusser's last writings, especially "The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter" (1982, forthcoming in Althusser 2006) he often seems to agree with Thompson, at least on a superficial level, especially regarding Thompson's comments on Marx's "Grundrisse face" (see Thompson 1978: 247-262) and the "unreconstructed Hegelianism" evident in parts of Capital. But we find here a paradoxical fact: whereas Thompson took his distance from Stalinism in politics by moving away from the politics of class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, for Althusser it was precisely in his defence of the thesis that "class struggle is the motor of history" and the related concept of "class dictatorship" that he broke with Stalinism in philosophy. While Thompson became increasingly fearful of the masses, as Mike Hill has suggested in a brilliant essay (Hill 2000), Althusser adopted and then radicalised a new practice of philosophy that emphasises mass struggle against the State.
4. In his introduction to Philosophy of the Encounter (Althusser 2006) G.M. Goshgarian argues that Althusser's "Theory of theoretical practice" in For Marx and Reading Capital represents the philosophy of the state, whereas his later definition of philosophy as a theoretical struggle between idealist and materialist tendencies (which represents, "in the last instance, class struggle in the field of theory" - Althusser 1984: 69) constitutes "the non-philosophy of the non-state" (Goshgarian 2006, c.f. Althusser 1990d). This second definition of philosophy thus constitutes the crucial moment in Althusser's self-criticism, and it is on the basis of this transformation in his understanding of philosophy itself that Althusser proceeds to intervene within his early work to draw out and amplify those tendencies that eventually formed the basis for his 'aleatory materialism' of the 1980s.
5. The 'aleatory materialism' that dominates works such as Machiavelli and Us and "The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter" was already present in the margins of Althusser's earliest works, not only in For Marx and Reading Capital but also in his 1959 book on Montesquieu (Althusser 1972a), his 1963 lectures on Foucault (see Montag's essay in this issue), and his 1966 essay on Rousseau (Althusser 1972b). But it is only from the viewpoint of Althusser's redefinition of philosophy that we can see these elements as representing materialist tendencies within works that, to a greater or lesser extent, are dominated by an idealist tendency that Althusser would soon (in his 1967 foreword to the Italian edition of Reading Capital) identify as "theoreticist" (Althusser and Balibar 1970: 8). Although little of Althusser's early work on philosophy survived his 1967 redefinition of it (Goshgarian 2003: xix), Goshgarian argues in his introduction to The Humanist Controversy and Other Writings (2003) that two texts might be said to have produced Althusser's "critique of his own theoreticism avant la lettre" (Goshgarian 2003: xxi). The most obvious of these is Althusser's unpublished 1966 critique of structuralism in "On Lévi-Strauss" (Althusser 2003a: 19-32). However, Goshgarian argues, there is an earlier example:
There was another: Althusser's 1959 discussion of Montesquieu's "mythical notion of the nature of the State", which was based on the premiss "that a political power [could] be established and exercised outside classes and over them". Theoreticism was the theoretical equivalent, the mythical notion that that Theory could establish and exercise its power outside (class) ideologies and over them; it was the native doctrine of what Althusser would later describe as the party of the state in philosophy. (Goshgarian 2003: xxi)
Goshgarian returns to this first book of Althusser's again in his introduction to Philosophy of the Encounter, where the analysis of the State in Montesquieu reappears in elaborated form in both the unpublished manuscript Sur la reproduction (1969, later published as Althusser 1996) - from which the famous essay on the ideological State apparatuses (Althusser 1971) was abstracted - and in his account of the "state machine" in "Marx in his Limits" (1978). It would seem that despite the changes in Althusser's understanding of philosophy in relation to the sciences (in particular his understanding of "Marxist philosophy") there are substantial continuities in other respects. On example is his concept of overdetermination, which first appeared in an essay of 1962 (Althusser 1969: 87-128) and was further developed in Reading Capital (1965) and later essays, when Althusser adds the concept of "underdetermination" (Althusser and Balibar 1970: 106; Althusser 1990c: 223; Althusser 1977a: 9-10). Hasana Sharp claims that it is this concept of underdetermination that, in combination with overdetermination, "challenges us to think ... the unanticipated nature of beginnings, the possible, what will become, the unpredictable effects of encounters" (Sharp 2000: 32-33); in other words, it is the combination of these concepts in the theory of the conjuncture in Reading Capital that anticipates Althusser's "aleatory materialism" in Machiavelli and Us.
6. The readings of Althusser's work presented in this issue are especially relevant to recent debates on Althusser and post-marxism. These essays not only posit strong continuities between Althusser's writings of 1976-78 and those of 1982-87, but also, therefore, draw our attention to the overwhelmingly Marxist character of those writings, especially Althusser's essay "Marx in his limits", which has been subjected to a "post-marxist" interpretation in a recent essay by Miguel Vatter (2004). As Montag claims in his response to Vatter (Montag 2004), and Goshgarian demonstrates at length in his introduction to Philosophy of the Encounter, "Marx in his limits" does not attempt to place Marxism within limits that must subsequently be transcended in a post-marxist fashion but rather indicates the limits of Marx's writings as a basis for Marxist theory and politics. That is to say, returning to Althusser's reading of Lenin, that "Marx only laid the foundation stones of a theory that we must at all costs develop in every direction" (Althusser 1990c: 230; cf. Lenin 1960: 211-212), and that the soundness of these 'foundation stones' should be subjected to severe scrutiny. What is most striking, as Goshgarian (2006) contends, is the fact that Althusser's strident defence of the Marxist concepts of "class struggle" and "class dictatorship" in his writings of 1976-78 includes the 1977 lecture "Machiavelli's Solitude" (Althusser 1988), which is, as both Gregory Elliott (editor of Machiavelli and Us) and Adam Holden and Stuart Elden (in their essay in this issue) contend, fundamentally of a piece with Althusser's 1986 draft of his 1972 lectures on Machiavelli.
7. Understanding Althusser's Marxism is crucial for understanding what Goshgarian has called (following Althusser 1990d) Althusser's non-philosophy of the non-state. It is in this formulation of "the non-philosophy of the non-state" that we can detect the contemporary relevance of Althusser's self-criticism, especially in his rejection of "dialectical materialism" as "the Theory of theoretical practice". Althusser's early position on philosophy, as many of the contributors in this issue point out, placed philosophy above the sciences as "the Science of the sciences". This idealist conception of philosophy not only reproduces the philosophical subjugation of Marxism to the State in Stalin's "Dialectical Materialism" but also facilitates bourgeois hegemony over Marxism within the universities (Althusser's non-philosophy is unthinkable from the perspective of the philosophers - withess the befuddlement of the "graduated flunkeys" of philosophy in Althusser et. al. 2006). Goshgarian argues that while Althusser's second definition of philosophy constitutes a non-philosophy of the non-state, the first definition simply represents a reworking of the philosophy of the state, just as humanist enthusiasts of "the Young Marx" (against whom Althusser intervened in For Marx) simply reworked the philosophy of the state in another direction. Philosophy exists in an intimate relation with the State because philosophy - understood as the constitution of doctrines about how our world must be constituted and the conditions under which we can (or can not) have knowledge of it - is legislative first and foremost. Althusser's attempt to invent a new practice of philosophy adequate to Marxist revolutionary practice (understood as the destruction of the State) must then be considered as the necessary corollary not only of his defence of the concepts of class struggle and class dictatorship but also his increasingly open critique of the French Communist Party (Althusser 1977b, Althusser 1978, Althusser 1979, Althusser 1990e).
8. The image of the vagabond who boards a train without knowing where it has come from or where it is going is a recurrent metaphor for the materialist practice of philosophy in Althusser's later writings, and it is one that has powerful resonances for many readers. Augusto Illuminati's rendition of it, where the materialist philosopher is something like a Wobbly of the early twentieth century, is not only suggestive of a possible new readership for Althusser's works among a different sort of militant (i.e., one outside both the Communist parties and the universities) but also underlines the fact that for Althusser "materialism" is a practice, a way of doing philosophy that is precisely a non-philosophy - or, perhaps, even an anti-philosophy - rather than a "philosophy" about the relations between "ideas" and "matter". The metaphor of the activist boarding the train without knowing in advance from where it came or to where it might be going reminds us that we must resist any tendency to form Althusser's work into a philosophy, even a doctrine of contingency. It must remain a non-philosophy, a practice of philosophy that intervenes in the theoretical without constituting a new philosophy. Taking Althusser's self-criticism - and his Marxism - seriously means not attempting to construct a "postmodern materialism" or an "epistemology" - even an "overdeterminist" one - out of his work. Guarantees, for Althusser, exist only in ideology. Doing philosophy in a materialist way means, first of all, rejecting all philosophies of matter. Otherwise we might produce a "postmodern Stalinism" - in a philosophical soup kitchen of the State that serves up yet another dreary recipe for the masses, perhaps this time going under the name of "Aleamat and Histomat" - of contingency, of indeterminacy, and overdetermination, with which we might never be able to develop concrete analyses of our conjuncture, nor seize its opportunities for victories in the class struggle, no matter how much we might imagine to have "overcome" the limits of previous forms of Marxism, or indeed the limits of Marxism itself. Our choice remains, now as much as in 1978, and in both philosophy and politics, one between dissidence and revolution (Lecourt 2001).
In this issue
9. In the lead essay of this special issue Vittorio Morfino argues that we must take seriously Althusser's writings of the 1980s, and that - despite considerable diversity within that body of writing - a certain unity can be discerned across the diversity within and between those writings. Intervening against the reading of Antonio Negri, whose appropriation of Althusser's "aleatory materialism" emphasizes its discontinuities with Althusser's previous work, Morfino argues that Althusser's post-1980 writings develop themes already present in the works of the 1960s, including not only Lenin and Philosophy but also the supposedly "structuralist" works of 1965, For Marx and Reading Capital. Despite what Morfino identifies as a certain lack of rigor in Althusser's late works - due in large part to the fact that Althusser was depending on his memory of the works discussed, rather than engaging in the close textual reading characteristic of his earlier works such as Reading Capital - he argues that the later writings bring to the fore aspects of the early texts that have hitherto remained in their margins. As a means of grasping the unity and diversity of the late texts - and to enable us to discern the continuities and discontinuities between these late texts and those texts of Althusser's which are more familiar to us - Morfino constructs a lexicon of five crucial concepts from Althusser's post-1980 writings, namely the void, the encounter, the fact, the conjuncture, and necessity/contingency. This lexicon enables us to map the subtle shifts within these concepts as we move between Althusser's analyses of Epicurus, Machiavelli, Spinoza, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Marx. In using this approach, Morfino opens up for us not only Althusser's later writings but also his early ones, forces us to look at them anew, and encourages us to intervene within those texts, to push their various theses to extremes, and to draw lines of demarcation within them, thereby leading us to engage in a practice of Althusserian self-criticism in which 'Althusser' is transformed for us by our reading. Furthermore, Morfino's discussion of encounters that endure (or not) suggests that Althusser's use of fortuna and virtú in Machiavelli and Us provides not only a means of grasping what Althusser meant by the conjuncture but also enables us to rethink certain concepts found in For Marx and Reading Capital, including overdetermination, underdetermination, uneven development, reproduction, structural causality, differential temporality, or even 'the last instance'.
10. In his essay "The Althusser Effect" Jason Read considers concepts of temporality, structure and history in relation to Althusser's understanding of the history of philosophy. Starting from the pedagogical practice of Philosophy as an academic discipline, Read notes the decidedly unhistorical character of 'history of philosophy' courses and their preoccupation with (re)producing the philosophical canon. The continued relevance of figures such as Plato and Epicurus supports Althusser's thesis that there is no history of philosophy, at least not in the sense that there is a history of the sciences, as the basic structure of philosophy has remained unchanged since its first emergence. At no point is Plato likely to become irrelevant, or of interest to the antiquarian only - indeed any philosopher can potentially return to, or be removed from, the canon at any time, for reasons as much political as theoretical. Returning to Althusser's comment that philosophy has no concept of its history, Read attempts here to delineate the specific temporality of philosophy, exploring its implications in Althusser's readings of Marx, Hegel and Spinoza. He traces the development of Althusser's account of philosophy as a theoretical practice during the 1960s, examining how Althusser came to see philosophy as "doubly determined" by its place in the theoretical between science and politics, noting the differences in the role of science and politics in philosophy and the effects of their specific modalities and temporalities of change. Read argues, following Althusser, that while history occurs in philosophy there is no history of philosophy, in that it is always subject to reversals. However, it is not eternal in the same sense as ideology, which is a condition of human action, but rather it occupies a place in the theoretical, which has not existed in all times and places. Read claims that "philosophy intervenes at the very site where it's born, at the point of articulation of knowledge and action." (§18) In conclusion Read explores the ongoing effects of Althusser's account of the specific modality and temporality of philosophy in recent French philosophy, including the works of Pierre Macherey, Etienne Balibar, and Alain Badiou.
11. In the next essay for this issue Warren Montag provides a reading of Althusser's 1963 lectures on Michel Foucault's Folie et déraison (1961), which formed part of his seminar on structuralism (see Montag 1998). Althusser's attention, like that of Jacques Derrida in his "Cogito et histoire de la folie" (1963, repr. in Derrida 1978), focuses on Foucault's preface, which was deleted in subsequent editions. Montag shows that Althusser's lecture "Foucault and the Problematic of Origins" produces a very different reading from Derrida's. Montag suggests that in asking what is specific about Foucault's problematic Althusser discerns in Foucault two opposed models for understanding how a culture defines itself in part through acts of refusal and rejection. The first of these Husserl's Crisis of the European Sciences, in which science is understood to conceal the origin of its meaning in the very movement of its development. Husserl's solution is hermeneutics, where the truth can be recovered from beneath the surface, revealing its meaning and motivation. The second model is Nietzsche's analysis of the birth and repression of tragedy, where diversity and difference are original while unity remains secondary and derivative. While in Husserl's case the origin is there to be recovered by philosophy, for Nietzsche the origin has been destroyed, constituting a void, and it is only the silence and emptiness of this void that can be recovered (any "origin" recovered by a hermeneutic operation being entirely imaginary). The very traces of the struggle have disappeared into the void left by tragedy and filled by the victor, Socratic and then Christian philosophy. According to Althusser, in putting both of these models to work Foucault transforms them into something different from what they are in their original contexts, so that philosophy as a hermeneutic operation can no longer be "purely philosophical" but rather can succeed only to the extent that it exercises force, while Foucault's use of Nietzsche method forces us to confront the unavoidable problem of the origin of origin. Montag claims that while Derrida claims that Foucault's analysis depends upon a disavowed notion of the subject, Althusser claims that it depends on an originary void or abyss, an absense d'ouevre (§29). Montag shows how the theme of an absense d'ouevre persists from Reading Capital to Althusser's later texts on "aleatory materialism", and how that theme folds into Althusser's rethinking of philosophy as demarcation after 1967.
12. Adam Holden and Stuart Elden explore the points of convergence and divergence between Althusser and Foucault through an analysis of their respective positions on Machiavelli. In 'Society Must Be Defended' Foucault claims that Machiavelli understood power relations to constitute a "political technique" in the hands of the sovereign, a position later modified by the Germanists of the 18th century to include its use by a class, nation, or other group (§7). Later, in the course on "governmentality", Holden and Elden note that Foucault emphasizes that the need to engage with Machiavelli was pervasive for those attempting to construct theories of the art of government despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that all of those theorists were very critical of Machiavelli's ideas (§11-12). Holden and Elden claim that Machiavelli occupies a similarly important place for Foucault, given that Foucault's work attempts to move beyond the problematic of personal government to rethink power relations and the object of government, which perhaps sheds further light on Foucault's remark, cited by Holden and Elden, that "Machiavelli for us, from this point of view, is of course Marx" (§17). Similarly, for Elden and Holden Althusser's engagement with Machiavelli involves, as it does for Foucault, mapping the relations between the political subject, political technique and the object of politics (§18). Against recent post-marxist readings of Althusser (e.g., Vatter 2004) Elden and Holden argue for the "explicitly Marxian" (§23) character of Althusser's book, and they note that it replicates and expands upon Althusser's position in the essay "Machiavelli's Solitude" (1977). This fact suggests that the appearance of the term "aleatory materialism" in the 1986 draft merely names a concept already present in the lectures of 1972. Holden and Elden argue that in Althusser's reading Machiavelli's encounter between fortuna and virtú is embodied in a process, rather than a subject, and that the object of his theory becomes the sheer contingency of the revolutionary rupture and the conditions under which it might endure (§28). For Holden and Elden the theme of a "political technique" reappears in Althusser's "neo-Gramscian" concept of "hegemony" and in his insistence that ideological practice is constitutive of the political, because the foundations of the durable state - the basis of the reproduction of reproduction - are ideological (§36). What Holden and Elden enable us to see through the encounter they stage between Althusser and Foucault on Machiavelli is that the emergence of "governmentality" (as a technique for governing the aleatory) entailed that those theorists of government were forced to engage with Machiavelli, and just as "Machiavelli is [for Althusser] a vital supplement to Marx" (§39) so might Foucault be a vital supplement to Althusser for us.
13. Yoshihiko Ichida, one of the editors of the French journal Multitudes, considers the possibility of "the multitude" being a "subject" on the "political stage" in his contribution to this issue, in a complex essay drawing upon the works of Althusser, Carl Schmitt, and Antonio Negri. Commencing with an analysis of Althusser's "On Brecht and Marx" (1968, Althusser 2003b), Ichida considers whether "the multitude" might constitute a "virtual subject" that cannot appear on the political stage but rather waits perpetually in the wings, off stage. Like the proletariat or the people, the multitude can be represented in the theatre of politics only in the form of the party, but the politics of the multitude rejects any such representation. Unable to constitute itself as a subject in the theatre of politics, the multitude acts only in dissolving the distinction between on-stage and off-stage to represent "all". In an analysis that will be of interest to those of the Left who have been engaging with the work of Schmitt, Ichida examines Karl Löwith's reading of Schmitt's "occasionalism", considering whether the multitude assume the shape of the limit-form, the bare subject-form of the decision. Ichida claims that Schmitt's "occasionalism" is not politically neutral but rather has a definite conservative content; however, he also sees similarities between Schmitt's subject of the decision and Althusser's subject of ideology, and asks why Althusser's individual, when hailed, answers the call. Ichida claims that it is a condition of an interpellation's success that it can fail, that answering the call of the other is always a decision. If one allows the subject to decide ex nihilo, then the theatrical device of freedom enables the individual's process of becoming-subject. Here Ichida returns to Althusser's reading of Brecht, where he agues that the intersubjective distance brought onto the stage of presence displaces the void into the off stage, into the wings, into the distance that the author, the actor and the audience take between the play and reality. It is via the author-actor-spectator relation that Ichida introduces Negri's concept of Kairós as a means to overcome the difficulties of the Schmitt-Althusser conjunction, and following Althusser's account of the "authorless theatre" of Darstellung in Reading Capital he argues that the author-actor-spectator relation forms a circle, wherein the author is always-already an actor who is always-already a spectator who is always-already an author, although the distance between them is never abolished, and the movement it entails constitutes the subjectivity of the composite author-actor-spectator. The boundary between the play and reality constitutes the point of contact between virtú (the subjective power) and fortuna (the objective arrangement) in the circular movement of Kairós. Ichida argues that the repetition of separation in Kairós entails an irreversible time flow from past to future, constituting a vectoral line in which we might recognise something like Gilles Deleuze's "lines of flight" (Deleuze 1992).
14. In the last essay of this special issue William Lewis provides us with an Marxist critique of the post-marxism of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, in particular of their use of the concept of "overdetermination" in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985). That book, as Lewis notes, represents a crucial conjuncture in what Ellen Meiskins Wood described as "the retreat from class" and the formation of a "new 'True' Socialism" (Wood 1986). Lewis gives an account of the structure of Laclau and Mouffe's exposition (which will be familiar to many) and demonstrates the crucial role that the concept of "overdetermination" plays within it, both in terms of their genealogy of an "anti-essentialist" tendency within Marxism (which for them can only, however, be fully realized in "post-marxism") and their construction of their own post-marxist discourse theory. In this teleological narrative of the necessary end of Marxism the work of Althusser plays a key role, as it has for other post-marxists (and, it should be added, for their critics). Lewis demonstrates how Laclau and Mouffe provide a very specific reading of Althusser, one that abstracts "overdetermination" from its theoretical context and uses it against Althusser's Marxism. Lewis shows how while Laclau and Mouffe claim only to be "borrowing" the concept from Althusser in the same manner that Althusser borrowed it from Freud in reality they evacuate the concept of its meaning in Althusser's work. After discovering the origin of overdetermination in Freud, Laclau and Mouffe then replace Althusser's theoretical content with the structuralism of Jacques Lacan, Ferdinand de Saussure, and Roland Barthes. Lewis outlines how, having transformed the content of Althusser's concept in this manner, Laclau and Mouffe then claim that Althusser was unable to grasp the implications of his own concept. Unsurprisingly, overdetermination so transformed is incompatible with Althusser's Marxism, especially his concepts of the social whole and structural causality. This essay by Lewis suggests that a reevaluation of recent discourses on Marxism and post-marxism is now necessary, and that the claims of post-marxism to have provided a "non-essentialist" alternative to Marxism are seriously flawed.
15. These essays are followed by three interviews, the first of which is conducted by Tassos Betzelos. In a 2003 interview (first published in Greek) Betzelos interviews Warren Montag, and in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq they discuss a number of political and theoretical issues, including: (1) the condition of the U.S. Left and the Anti-War Movement; (2) the recent anti-globalization movements; (3) the possibilities and limits of new forms of political organization; (4) the recent work of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; (5) the possible distinctions between concepts of "the multitude" and "the masses" in Spinoza; and, (6) the encounter that Montag has produced in his recent works between Althusser and Foucault. In the second interview Caroline Williams and I discuss her recent and forthcoming books on Althusser, and in particular Althusser's writings on Spinoza, Machiavelli, and Lacan, considering "the persistence of the subject" throughout Althusser's work and the relations between his early works and the later writings on the materialism of the encounter. In the third and final interview William Lewis and I discuss his work on Althusser's philosophy, especially on the relations between ideology, philosophy and the sciences. In particular, we concern ourselves with Althusser's ongoing self-criticism, and raise the issue of the formation of scientists in ideology in relation to their scientific practice - and of Marxists in relation to their revolutionary political practice - and the role of philosophy in these processes, considering whether philosophy can constitute a work on the self, transforming our lived relation to our political conditions.
16. This issue also includes three relevant review articles, the most important of which is Augusto Illuminati's review of recent Italian editions of Althusser's later writings. In his review Illuminati draws our attention to the possibilities of a new reading of Althusser in our conjuncture, a reading that, proceeding from Althusser's late work on the materialism of the encounter, enables a rethinking of recent political movements structured around notions of "the multitude" and draws particular attention to the flaws of Hardt and Negri's recent work in this area, especially its teleological faith in the multitude (here Illuminati seems to follow Turchetto 2003). It also provides an excellent summary of Althusser's theory of the State in "Marx in his limits", one that will no doubt be of interest to many Marxists, autonomists, and anarchists. The second review, by myself, is of William Lewis's new book on Althusser. While noting the strengths of Lewis's book in his use of Althusser's concept of philosophy as "doubly determined" by theory and politics to examine the development of Althusser's philosophy in the context of political and theoretical struggles within French Marxism, my review, drawing on Dominique Lecourt's account of the differences between Althusser's materialism and Kuhn's conventionalism (Lecourt 1975: 7-19), suggests that the epistemological underpinnings of Lewis's work - which, if anything, are even more apparent in his contribution to this issue - reveal a residual idealism in his attempt to answer the empiricist "problem of knowledge". The final review of this issue, by Hasana Sharp - author of important Althusserian essays on feminism, Foucault, and Spinoza - reviews a recent collection of essays that put the concepts of Foucault's later writings on the self to work in thinking through various issues in feminist theory and politics.
17. As the various contributions to this issue by Ichida, Montag, and Illuminati suggest, there is great potential for an encounter between Althusser's work and other contemporary tendencies in radical theory - especially the autonomist Marxism that first arose in Italy in the 1960s. Recent work in this regard by Jason Read, both in an earlier contribution to Borderlands (Read 2003a) and in his book The Micro-Politics of Capital (Read 2003b), has in many respects shown the way. Similarly, the essay of Holden and Elden in this issue - together with the two contributions by Montag - suggests the productivity of encounters between Althusser and Foucault. This issue of Borderlands includes an essay by the Canadian autonomists Enda Brophy and Mark Coté, which is included here not only because of its intrinsic merits as an analysis of the representation of protests by the media but also because it seems likely to provide yet more fertile ground for an encounter between recent autonomism and the works of Althusser, Montag and others on ideology.
David McInerney is Tutor in Education at the University of Adelaide. He has published an essay on Benedict Anderson's 'print-capitalism' thesis (in Masses, Classes and the Public Sphere, ed. Mike Hill and Warren Montag) and is currently writing several essays and a book proposal on James Mill's philosophical practice in The History of British India.
Althusser & Us began as a discussion between Tony Burke and myself in a Rundle Street cafe in Adelaide in 2004, when Tony encouraged me, once again, to "write something" on Althusser. Warren Montag has encouraged my interest in Althusser for over a decade, and in this instance his assistance in providing the email addresses of possible contributors for this issue was invaluable. One of those names was Geoff Goshgarian, and the stimulation that our conversations provided has been almost as important as the access Geoff (and Verso) provided to his draft introductions and translations for the forthcoming volume of Althusser essays, and the critical comments he has provided on this introduction. I would especially like to thank Vittorio Morfino and Augusto Illuminati for their persistence with this project despite my lack of Italian, and to thank the translators Jason Smith and Arianna Bove for their efforts. We wanted to include an essay by Mosbah Salah, but unfortunately in that case translation and communication problems - including lack of funds - meant that it could not be included in this special issue, and we hope that his important essay on Althusser in Arabic thought will be published soon in Historical Materialism. Yoshi Ichida, Caroline Williams, and Bill Lewis all agreed to contribute to this issue at rather short notice, and this issue would be much poorer were it not for their generosity. Jason Read, Adam Holden, and Stuart Elden wrote brilliant original essays specifically for this issue, and Hasana Sharp provided a brief but insightful review that fits well with the themes of this issue.
We also wish to thank Enda Brophy and Mark Coté for their patience with us after their paper was mislaid, and I am pleased that it fits well alongside Althusser & Us. In addition to all of these contributors, I would like to personally acknowledge the support of the following people, who provided encouragement, conversation, and often a willingness (along with many of our contributors) to review contributions to this issue: Paul Patton, Giorgos Fourtounis, Peter Thomas, Tassos Betzelos, Thomas Lemke, Brett Nielson, Jack Amariglio, Antonio Callari, Jacinda Swanson, Ceren Ozselçuk, Colin Cavell, Amal Bouaffia Cavell, Hamid Bouaffia, Sébastien Budgen, Ted Stolze, and Mike Hill. During the eighteen months that this special issue has been in development I also have benefited from engaging in and following the conversations on the AutOpSy email discussion list, and I would like to make special mention of the support and interest that this project has received within that forum from comrades Angela Mitropoulos, Nate Holdren, and Arianna Bove.
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