Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture

By Alex Hughes; Keith Reader | Go to book overview

would safeguard Algérie française (French Algeria), quickly realized that the war was politically unwinnable and set about ridding the country of what had become a threat to the Republic and a barrier to postwar reconstruction. Skilfully exploiting his personal prestige, the semi-presidential constitution of the new Fifth Republic, and his incomparable mastery of the mass media, de Gaulle was able finally to break the settler and military stranglehold on Algerian policy. His declaration of the Algerians' right to self-determination on 16 September 1959 was a watershed, prompting armed challenges to his authority by the forces of colonial reaction. Having faced down the pieds-noirs during the so-called 'Week of the Barricades' in January 1960, he would overcome an attempted army putsch in April 1961. Subsequent negotiations with the FLN led to a ceasefire on 19 March 1962, with Algerian independence being declared a few months later.

PHILIP DINE


Further reading

d
Droz, B. and Lever, E. (1982) Histoire de la guerre d'Algérie, 1954-1962, Paris: Éditions du Seuil (the best French-language introduction to the war).

h
Home, A. (1977) A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962, London: Macmillan (still the standard English-language history of the conflict).

s
Stora, B. (1992) La Gangrène et l'oubli: la mémoire de la guerre d'Algérie, Paris: La Découverte (an examination of the difficulties still faced by France and Algeria in coming to terms with the war).

Althusser, Louis

b. 1918, Birmandreïs, Algeria;

d. 1990, La Verrière, Yvelines

Marxist philosopher

A Catholic militant in his youth, Althusser received his political education as a prisoner of war and in 1948 joined the French Communist Party (PCF). As a philosopher at the École Normale Supérieure, he influenced a generation of young people, who responded with enthusiasm to his attempt to revitalize the stultified Marxist theory of the 1950s. Applying his theory of symptomatic reading to the classic texts of Marxism, analysing gaps and silences, unanswered questions, as well as answers to unasked questions, he attempted to construct the conceptual system Marx himself had not been able to complete.

Rejecting the interpretation of Marxism as an ethical humanism, which dominated European Communist parties after the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Althusser denied any continuity with Hegelian philosophy, stressing Marxism's revolutionary originality. In For Marx (Pour Marx) and Reading Capital (Lire le Capital), he applied principles learned from the Bachelardian school of historical epistemology to demonstrate that Marxism was a new development, inaugurating the science of history, through an epistemological break with previous ideological, non-scientific thinking. As a science, it was subject only to scientific criteria of validity, not to political pressures. Knowledge production was a process confined solely to the domain of thought, which he defined as theoretical practice. This position owed much to Spinoza's notion that truth contained its own norms of validity, but ran counter to orthodox communism's reflection theory of knowledge, which Althusser rejected as empiricist.

Only scientific knowledge had the status of knowledge; all else was dismissed as ideology, though in his key 1970 essay, 'Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses' ('Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d'État'), Althusser admitted that ideology was more than mere lack of knowledge or error. Not only was ideology a social practice, the mode in which individuals operated within the Ideological State

-13-

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