[OPE-L:1585] Re: Althusser and Hegel

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 25 Oct 1999 07:19:22 -0400 (EDT)

Re Paul Z's [OPE-L:1582]:

> I join Jurriaan in no longer wishing to debate "missing books",
> Althusser, or Hegel with Jerry.

That's your choice, Paul. It is unfortunate that tempers have flared -- to
my mind unjustifiably -- so quickly on this thread.

> >To begin with, let me turn the question around, and ask you why Althusser
> >and Althusserians attempt to demonstrate a "epistemological break" in
> >Marx rather than simply going about developing their own
> >interpretation(s) of capitalism?
> Put on reading glasses for all the constructive attempts which have been
> made; maybe no "Second" Book, but nevertheless!!!
> >Do you think that there is more textual evidence in Marx for an
> >"epistemological break" than for the 6-book-plan? Why appeal to Marx --
> >in his grave -- for permission to develop a new social theory? After all,
> >you don't NEED his permission, right?
> "Epistemological breaks" can at least contrast one set of works with
> another, rather than emptiness.
> >Anyway ... getting back to what I was trying to say, I think there is
> >scant textual evidence for an "epistemological break" in Marx.

My point was very simple and -- I thought -- unmistakable. I was turning
the very same arguments that you were using in regard to the
6-book-interpretation against you by substituting the term
"epistemological break". Your reaction seems to suggest rather strongly
that you don't care for it when *others* use the same logic that you
used (indeed, it is true, I even "coquetted" with your language).

> Jurriaan seems to agree. So, my departure from discussing this with you
> shares a unity with an anti-Althusserian ("I am not an Althusserian so I
> don't subscribe to that sort of bourgeois interpretation of Marx").

For the record, I don't share Jurriaan's judgment on Althusserianism.
Even though I have a different methodological perspective, I have always
believed that Althusserians are Marxists. And I never implied, at any
point in time, that I believed otherwise. That is because a determination
of who is a "Marxist" is independent, imho, of the "epistemological
break" question which concerns an *interpretation of Marx* rather than a
dividing line between Marxists and non-Marxists.
> >However, if there was an "epistemological break", then surely this would
> >have been noted by the Marx scholar, Kenneth Lapides. Does he think that
> >there is evidence based on his research into Marx for an "epistemological
> >break"?
> You respect Kenneth Lapides as a "Marx scholar"! That means that you
> thoroughly reject the "scholarly dishonesty" charge leveled by Mike L.
> against Lapides. Perhaps you'd comply with Lapides' request of our list
> members: "His charges are out of line, and he should withdraw them and
> apologize; if he does not then other members of this list should urge him
> to do so." ...

Again: I was using the same style of argumentation that you used re the
6-book-plan question on the issue of the "epistemological break"
question. I.e. it seemed to me (and I think some others) that you were
holding-up Kenneth as an "authority" on this question [hence you stated,
repeatedly, e.g in (1574), that we should use his book to discuss the
subject of wages]. Since Marx wrote on the subject of wages throughout his
lifetime *if* there was an "epistemological break" than Kenneth might have
noticed it. Hence: ask him.

I have thought quite a bit about Mike L's charge, and Kenneth's L's
defense and counter-charges. And, to be thoroughly honest, I don't know
what to think. Ultimately, it boils down to a kind of "he said, she said"
argument. You will excuse me, I hope, if I am confused by all of the
charges and counter-charges. Frankly, I wish it would never have come-up
on this list. However, you (and others on this list) have the right to
take a position publicly that you seem to demand of me. And, I note, that
to date you haven't complied with Kenneth's suggestion about what
listmembers should do.
> Correction: A leading dissident [!!!] member of the French CP (Louis
> Althusser, "Ce qui ne peut plus durer dans le parti communiste" [What can
> no longer be tolerated in the Communist Party], Maspero: Paris, 1978. ...

And, it should be recalled, that the heat on this thread was turned-up --
rather considerably -- when you suggested an association of Hegel and
Hegelians to Stalinism. Had you backed-down from that claim, then the heat
might have been turned down rather than up.

> Lenin undertook a "serious study of Hegel" (but not before age 45!),
> while Althusser did NOT undertake a serious study of Hegel?

If he did, then there isn't a lot of evidence in his published writings,
including his autobiography. (I won't even get into the issue here of how
thoroughly and repeatedly he read _CapitaL_, before publishing a book,
with Balibar, on that topic).

In any event, my comment concerned whether Althusserians, rather than
Althusser, was familiar with Hegel. And I will reinforce my prior
statement by suggesting that if one keeps making claims about Hegel and
Hegelians than one should have *read* Hegel rather than relying on
secondary sources. I wouldn't have thought that this would be a
controversial point among scholars. [In the same vein, I will also agree
that unless one has read Althusser seriously, then one has no right to
pass judgment on his perspectives].

> And what gives you
> the right to pronounce on what is "beneficial" for any of us to read or
> not read?

The same right that anyone else on this list has to suggest readings to
others. I may be mistaken, but haven't you recommended books and authors
on this list before?
> >... Hegel and Feuerbach and "Humanists" are
> >treated as a spectre in Althusser, i.e. people who should be feared (and
> >dismissed). Yet, there is too little explanation in Althusser to justify
> >such a fear.
> Fear? Let's talk real: I fear for Mumia's life under the American
> bourgeois state!

That's a fear that I share as well (and, in fact, joined "Academics for
Mumia" a long time back and hence had my name appear in various
publications on his behalf).

Yet, I will stand by my previous statement that the way in which such
statements as "Hegelianisms" and "Feuerbachianisms" (in addition to being
clearly dismissive terms) are used in Althusser as a spectre that is
not sufficiently explained and is therefore asserted.

We can hold ever other author up for criticism on this list: why not
Althusser? In the interests of fairness, if some can make critical remarks
about Hegelian-Marxist interpretations, then others can also make critical
remarks about Althussian-Marxism interpretations.

> Long live Mumia! Paul

and Jerry!

In solidarity, Jerry

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