[OPE-L:2752] (4) Althusser on Alienation

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 06 2000 - 17:25:03 EDT

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    Alienation, and alienation as a negation.

    First off, Althusser notes that "there are many references to
alienation in the *Grundrisse*" ("Reply to John Lewis", *Essays in
Self-Criticism*, p. 70).

    Next, consider *Capital*, Volume 1. We find alienation (or alienable,
etc., usually corresponding to "Veräusserung") used as follows, excluding
3 occasions in Part 8 on alienation of the state (using Progress
Publishers Edition):

   2 passages: Chapter 2, Exchange
   9 passages: Chapter 3, Money, or the Circulation of Commodities
   2 passages: Chapter 6, The Buying and Selling of Labor Power
   1 passage: Chapter 23, Simple Reproduction
   4 passages: Chapter 24, Conversion of Surplus Value into Capital

   For reference purposes these passages are made available at
   http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka/aliena.htm ,
   as I already noted on this list.

The Chapters 2 and 3 passages concern alienating commodities (one being a
footnote in Chapter 3 to Marx's *Contribution...*), as does one passage in
Chapter 24. The remaining 6 concern the alienation of labor via the
selling of labor power (one being to a footnoted quotation in Chapter 6 to
Hegel's *Philosophy of Right*). Put another way there are only 5
occasions by Marx himself, in which Marx mentions in Volume 1 alienation
of laborers by the selling of their labor power.

    Now Althusser notes:

"The gradual disappearance of these two philosophical categories inherited

From the past and still subsisting as remnants, known as *alienation* and
the *negation of the negation*. Now in fact, the more we advance in time,
the more these categories disappear. *Capital* speaks only once of the
negation of the negation in explicit terms. It is true that Marx several
times uses the *term* "alienation". But all that disappears in Marx's
later texts and in Lenin. Completely. We could therefore simply say:
what is important is the *tendency*: and Marx's scientific work does
*tend* to get rid of these philosophical categories." ("Reply to John
Lewis", *Essays in Self-Criticism*, p. 67).

     Negation of the negation. Althusser has claimed that this expression
is charged with idealism and furthermore appears only once in *Capital*.
In any case, some connect it together with alienation and the struggle to
end alienation. Althusser answered this by implying that one cannot just
place A PHRASE ONTO A PROBLEM. You must explain WHY the phrase itself is
scientific and you cannot do that by repeatedly saying that dialectics is
Marxism, etc. In fact, says Althusser:

"Instead of saying: man makes history, in transcending it, by the
'negation of the negation', he [John Lewis] could say that man makes
history by 'transforming' it, etc. Wouldn't that be more simple?" ("Reply
to John Lewis", *Essays in Self-Criticism*, pp. 41-42).

Paul Z.

******************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka

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