Re: [OPE-L] Althusser

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sun Feb 11 2007 - 12:37:32 EST

>  Althusser himself did very little empirical research,
> if any, as far as I know. He was more a student of the "history of ideas".
> I  think E.P. Thompson's reply to Althusser ("The Poverty of Theory")
> was quite  good. Perry Anderson promoted Althusser in England as a sort
> of antidote to narrowminded empiricism. But instead, what you got was
> mostly a rarified theoreticism."

Hi Jurriaan:

I was going to let the matter drop, but  since Paul C offered a brief reply,
I'll add a couple of cents as well. Whether Althusser did or did not do
much empirical research, I think there are plenty of examples of
Althusserians doing empirical research / historical analysis / class, race
and gender analysis / conjunctural studies. The _contemporary_
Althusserian tradition (as, for instance, exemplified by many of the
articles in _Rethinking Marxism_) can not be described as "rarified
theoreticism".    One only has to look at Rick Wolff's recent writings
(see _MRZine_ for some short pieces) to see that.  The issue, as I
understand it, is not _whether_ empirical research should be done, but
_how_ it should be done.  The Althusserian concept of overdetermination
could be used, for instance, to highlight some problems with which analysts
from some other theoretical perspectives go about doing empirical, including
historical, research.

There are also a whole host of others who have been influenced by
Althusserianism -- on this list, for example, Allin, Paul C, and Paul Z
come to mind.  You can agree or disagree with what they've written,
but I think it's only fair to note that  _in practice_ they recognized the
importance of  empirical research.

You don't have to be an Althusserian to recognize the above.

In solidarity, Jerry

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