[OPE-L:4076] Re: Althusser query

Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 10:16:13 -0800 (PST)

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Andrew, Two reactions:

When Althusser talks about "reading" he really means it. So, he could say
he hasn't fully read Marx because he has enormously high standards of what
it means to "read".

On Tue, 28 Jan 1997, andrew kliman wrote:
> End of paragraph. The next begins: "But some day it is esssential to read
> _Capital_ to the letter. To read the text itself, complete, all four
> volumes, line by line, to return ten times to the FIRST CHAPTERS [?!] ... [my
> emphasis]."
> The next paragraph begins: "That is how we decided to read _Capital_. The
> studies that emerged from this project are no more than the various individual
> protocols of this reading: each having cut the particular oblique path that
> suited him through the immense forest of this Book." Now, I don't know
> French, but this might seem to indicate the taking of shortcuts, not a line by
> line reading.

Second, Althusser does not say to "skip" Part I permanently. He says "Leave Part
I deliberately on one side in a first reading" and, after everything else
in Volume 1 is read, "begin to read Part I with infinite caution, knowing
that it will always be extremely difficult to understand, even after
several readings of the other Parts, without the help of a certain number
of deeper explanations". (Preface to Capital, in Lenin and Philosophy, p.

> But the more elemental issue is whether there *is* a whole that can be read.
> Althusserianism says no on epistemological grounds, from the "epistemological
> break," through the "symptomatic reading" and the recommendation that Part I
> of Vol. I be skipped, to the claim that Notes on Wagner is the only fully
> Marxist text of Marx, not "tainted" by Hegelianism. Jerry and now Duncan (in
> his review of _Marx and Non-equilibrium Economics_) also call this into
> question, but on empirical grounds, principally the early projection of
> additional books and the fact that much of _Capital_ was not reworked for
> publication. (Of course, they're not the first to do so.) I think this
> question is a crucial one, since how one answers it colors how one reads the
> text. For instance, if the self-contradictory or incomplete state of the work
> (in a theoretical sense) can be taken for granted instead of having to be
> demonstrated, then a reading can and must be selective, symptomatic,
> reconstructive, etc. I hope to write some more about this in the near future,
> since Duncan's review has (very appropriately in my view) highlighted this as
> *the* crucial question concerning the interpretation of Marx's value theory,
> or perhaps theorieS.
> Andrew Kliman

Paul Z.