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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 tuition 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 interact a large number of cultures, theoretical difficulties, and political matters. regardless of the indisputable fact that Althusser himself is widely known as a big determine, the breadth, coherence, and achievements of Structural Marxism as a complete have long past mostly unrecognized. during this, the main systematic and wide-ranging overview of Structural Marxism in any language, Resch presents a complete 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 research demonstrates the big value 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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The true "subjects" are these definers and distributors: the relations of production (and political and ideological social relations). But since these are "relations" they cannot be thought within the category subject . (Althusser and Balibar 1970, 198) Two important points must be made here. First, Althusser's attack on the philosophical category of the subject and his argument that social relations rather than real men are the "subjects" of historical processes does not empty human practice of either its complexity or its capacity to transform society.

Althusser develops a concept of contradiction radically different from that of Hegel and those variants of Marxism that identify Marx's dialectic with Hegel's. Unfortunately, Althusser's rejection of the Hegelian dialectic is often interpreted as a rejection of the very idea of historical process or, even worse, as evidence of the inability of Structural Marxism to develop a satisfactory alternative to the Hegelian concept of contradiction. Althusser's Spinozism has served critics admirably in this regard, for as Althusser himself acknowledges, "whatever you do, you cannot find in Spinoza what Hegel gave to Marx: contradiction" (Althusser 1976, 139).

Accepting the fact that a given structure may act as the support for a unity of several functions does not justify confusing the different structural effectivities of each function. Structural causality, therefore, should conceptualize a hierarchy of functional distinctions and structural causalities "without in any way prejudicing the nature of the structures, which in every case performs these functions (kinship, politics, religion . ), nor the number of functions which a structure may support" (Godelier 1977, 2).

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