Synopses & Reviews
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Louis Althusser enjoyed virtually unrivalled status as the foremost living Marxist philosopher. Today, he is remembered as the scourge and severest critic of “humanist” or Hegelian Marxism, as the proponent of rigorously scientific socialism and as the theorist who posited a sharp rupture—an epistemological break—between the early and the late Marx. This collection of texts from the period of 1945-1953 turns these interpretations of Althusser on their head. Readers discover that there was a “young Althusser,” as well as the “mature Althusser” people are already familiar with. In his Masters thesis, “On Content in the Thought of G.W.F. Hegel” (1947), Althusser developed a position which he was later to attack ferociously: namely, that the revolutionary potential of the Hegelian dialectic could be defended against Hegel‘s own political convervatism. Althusser is seen wrestling with the spectres of Hegel and of Catholicism in another long text, his letter to Jean Lacroix and, finally, his own “epistemological break” is shown in the piece “On Marxism” from 1953. Other texts included are his critique of Alexander Kojeve (whose interpretation Francis Fukuyama has recently revived), and his attack on the French Church‘s teachings on women, sex and the family. This collection not only gives an insight into the formation of this major intellectual figure, but should also restore the “unknown Althusser” to the centre of the history of Marxism and of philosophy since World War II.
Louis Althusser is remembered today as the scourge of humanist Marxism, but that was his later incarnation, an identity formed by years grappling with the intellectual inheritance of Hegel and Catholicism. The Spectre of Hegel collects the writings of the young Althusser, before his final epistemological break with the philosopher’s work in 1953. Including his famed essay ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, The Spectre of Hegel gives a unique insight into Althusser’s engagement with a philosophy he would later renounce.
About the Author
Louis Althusser was born in Algeria in 1918 and died in France in 1990. He taught philosophy for many years at the Ecole Normale Superieur in Paris, and was a leading intellectual in the French Communist Party. His books include For Marx; Reading Capital (with Etienne Balibar); Essays in Ideology; Politics and History: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Marx; Machiavelli and Us; and The Spectre of Hegel.