[OPE-L:3637] Dialogue on Hegel and Althusser

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Fri, 8 Nov 1996 10:38:47 -0800 (PST)

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Re: Paul Z's [OPE-L:3629]:

I have an alternative suggestion. Rather than discussing the influence of
Hegel on Marx's method of analysis and Althusser's interpretation of Marx,
let's try something different.

I. Background

So long as there have been Marxists, Marxists have been discussing the
influence of Hegel on Marx. Right? That dialogue has primarily taken the
form of evaluating Hegelianism and Hegel's writings through the prism of
Marx's writings.

Ever since Althusser and Balibar wrote _Reading Capital_ there have been
intense and frequently heated debates among Marxists that primarily
centered on A&E's interpretation of Marx. Consequently, as was the case
with evaluating Hegelianism, Marxists have engaged in this discourse
primarily through a critical evaluation and interpretation of Marx's

While there is a lot to be said for having extended discussions of
what Marx meant and said (and while we have had many extended discussions
on this list regarding different interpretations of Marx), I don't think
that it unfair to say that this has not proven to be the most fruitful way
of having a dialogue between Hegelian-Marxists, Althusserian-Marxists, and
other kinds of Marxists.

The problem, simply put, is that it is difficult to move beyond our
interpretations of what Marx's method of analysis was to independently
determine the merit of different perspectives.

II. A different format for dialogue

Here's my suggestion (you can call it a "challenge" if you wish):

Let our Hegelian-Marxists (or Marxists who believe that Hegel had a
significant positive impact on Marx's method of analysis, irrespective of
whether they call themselves "Hegelian-Marxists" or whatever) and let our
Althusserian-Marxists (or Marxists that believe that the writings of
Althusser are important for today's Marxists) explain -- *** without
making any reference whatsoever to what Marx or Engels or Lenin etc. wrote
*** what _specifically_ they view as the major (dare I say "essential"?)
positive contributions of Hegelianism or Althusserianism are for
interpreting social reality in general and capitalism in particular.

I would also suggest that the Althusserians _not_ refer to Hegel since
that would get us back into the trap of discussing what Hegel did or did
not say (which, like interpreting Marx, can lead to an extended
discussion that focuses on hermenutics). By the same token, I would
suggest that the "Hegelians" not get into a debate about what Althusser
wrote or didn't write.

Call the above a "thought experiment." I don't recall ever listening to
or reading such a "cross-paradigm" discussion. It might prove to be very

The object of the experiment is to simply see if we can identify areas of
agreement and disagreement regarding these different perspectives without
resorting to the expedient of quoting Marx.

Any takers?

In solidarity,