[OPE-L:4317] Althusser and Hegel

Paul Zarembk (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Sat, 8 Mar 1997 05:43:35 -0800 (PST)

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Mike, In retrospect I see I was reading too much into your post. In any
case, on Jerry's comment and your reply:

> In 4287, Jerry made a quite interesting passing remark (perhaps with this
> very issue in mind):
> >E.g. despite the *very deep* differences in perspective on method and
> >value, I think that Althusserianism and Hegelian-Marxism *share* a common
> >rejection of certain "diamat" perspectives popularized in the USSR. My
> >feeling is that this should be noted so as not to forego a possibility of
> >constructive engagement between these schools.
> On the question of organic systems and overdetermination, I think this is
> one of those areas of congruence. On the other hand (because there is
> another hand), you won't find any concept of the self-development of the
> Idea/ the self-valorisation of workers/ revolutionary practice --ie., the
> focus on that which transcends-- in Althusser (I think). What do you think,
> do you see any common elements?

I am not sure what Jerry meant by "Hegelian-Marxism" as it can be a
wide field, but anyway I wouldn't think any commonality on "organic
systems" with Althusser is worth highlighting, I just don't know what
would be gained (except that it sounds "accommodating").

Actually, one of Althusser's later writings recognized that--from his
point of view, of course--the relation of Marx to Hegel is not solved.
I'll type out the relevant passage from MARXISM TODAY, July 1978, p. 219:

"There are other difficulties in Marx, and also many enigmas. For example
the enigma of philosophy, and in particular of the dialectic, on which
Marx said nothing except to propose a few formulae too schematic to be
take literally and to equivocal to be thought through. There is the
question of the relation between the dialectic in Marx and in Hegel.
There is a lot a stake in this question, in spite of its apparently very
abstract and philosophical character: it concerns the conception of
necessity and of history, and of the forms of history (does it have a
meaning and an end? Is the collapse of capitalism inevitable? etc.),
i.e., the conception of the class struggle and of revolutionary action.
Marx's silence, and the difficulty of reconstituting his philosophical
positions on the basis of his writings, did in fact--with some exceptions
(Lenin, Gramsci)--open the road to positivism and evolutionism, whose
forms were fixed and frozen for thirty years by Stalin's chapter on
'Dialectical and Historical Materialism' in the SHORT HISTORY OF THE

Note that Althusser is basically opening up an issue by saying that Marx
is not at all conclusive in any respect on these issues and we have to
think them through anew. And in an important sense that is why OPE came
into existence in the first place--to move forward even as we deepen our
understanding of Marx himself.

But do I have an answer? No.