Louis Althusser

Louis Althusser

Louis Althusser

Louis Althusser

Synopsis

Best known for his theories of ideology and its impact on politics and culture, Louis Althusser revolutionized Marxist theory. His writing changed the face of literary and cultural studies, and continues to influence political modes of criticism such as feminism, postcolonialism and queer theory. Beginning with an introduction to the context of Marxist theory, this book goes on to explain: - how Althusser interpreted and developed Marx's work - the political implications of reading - ideology and its significance for culture and criticism - Althusser's aesthetic criticism of literature, theatre and art. Placing Althusser's key ideas in the context of earlier Marxist thought, as well as tracing their development and impact, Luke Ferretter presents a wide-ranging yet accessible guide, ideal for those new to the work of this influential critical thinker.

Excerpt

Althusser is a Marxist philosopher. The intention that governs all his major work is that Marx’s thought and practice – with all that it means for the struggle of the working class – should be rightly understood and acted upon. When asked about ‘Althusserian’ theory in 1980, his former student and co-author Étienne Balibar responded that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as Althusserian theory. As he replied to his interviewer, ‘Althusser is not an “Althusserian”. He is a Marxist’ (Balibar and Macherey 1982: 46). Balibar was right. Although he underwent a journey towards Marxism in his very early work, and although he began to think outside its frame of reference in his very late work, during the period of his most influential thought (1960–80), Althusser was a Marxist philosopher. His work consisted entirely in understanding – in a situation in which he claimed it had been obscured or never properly understood in the first place – the immense theoretical revolution that had taken place in the work of Karl Marx. In order to make sense of Althusser’s work, therefore, which he consistently claimed was an interpretation of Marx, we need to understand the basic elements of Marx’s thought. In this chapter, I will outline these elements. We will discuss Marx’s theory of human history, and his theory of the place of human discourses – that is, extended uses of . . .

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