Althusser and the Renewal of Marxist Social Theory by Robert Paul Resch

By Robert Paul Resch

The writings of the French Marxist thinker Louis Althusser and his affiliates have figured prominently within the improvement of latest social concept. The Althusserian university of Structural Marxism is a startlingly unique synthesis of Marxism and Modernism, which has produced a wide physique of paintings that extends around the human sciences and the arts to have interaction a large number of cultures, theoretical difficulties, and political concerns. regardless of the incontrovertible fact that Althusser himself is widely known as a huge determine, the breadth, coherence, and achievements of Structural Marxism as a complete have long gone principally unrecognized. during this, the main systematic and wide-ranging evaluate of Structural Marxism in any language, Resch offers a accomplished and thematic advent to the paintings of Althusser, Nicos Poulantzas, Pierre Macherey, Etienne Balibar, Emmanuel Terray, Terry Eagleton, Gran Therborn, Rene Balibar, Perry Anderson, Pierre- Philippe Rey, Michel Pchaux, man Bois, and others. Resch's sympathetic and serious learn demonstrates the large importance of Althusser's modernist renewal of Marxist social concept and its ongoing problem to post-Marxist pursuits reminiscent of postmodernism and neo-liberalism.

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6] The ensemble of contradictions assigns a place and a function to individual practices, but the contradictions within each individual practice will exercise in turn an effect on the ensemble and hence back eventually on each individual practice and contradiction, including its own. Overdetermination also expresses economic determination in the familiar Althusserian fashion. In precisely the same manner as he develops the concept of determination in the last instance by the economy in such a way as to avoid reflectionism without thereby falling into a "pluralism of instances," Althusser introduces the concept of a "general contradiction"—a "contradiction between the forces and relations of production, essentially embodied in the contradiction between two antagonistic classes" (Althusser 1969, 99)—to assert the primacy of class struggle within the field of contradictions.

I]n order to conceive the "dominance" of a structure over other structures in the unity of a conjuncture it is necessary to refer to the principle of the "determination in the last instance" of the non-economic structures by the economic structure; . . this "determination in the last instance" is an absolute precondition for the necessity and intelligibility of the displacements of the structures in the hierarchy of effectivity, or of the displacement of 'dominance' between the structured levels of the whole; only this "determination in the last instance" makes it possible to escape the arbitrary relativism of observable displacements by giving these displacements the necessity of a function.

Conceiving things in terms of a "motor" rather than a "subject" eliminates the question of who makes history and foregrounds the idea of class struggle, a concept whose adequacy has yet to be demonstrated, but one that at least forces us to speak in terms of process (classes do not precede class struggle but are the outcome of class struggle) and the material basis of that process (class struggle exists only within determinant structures, values, and institutions). ― 73 ― The Economism/Humanism Couplet Whatever reservations one might have regarding Althusser's uncompromising thesis that class struggle is the motor of history, it is difficult to deny his contention that the absence of such struggle is fundamental to both humanist and economist political ideologies.

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