[OPE-L:1621] Re: Althusser and Hegel

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sat, 30 Oct 1999 09:02:15 -0400 (EDT)

Re Chris's [OPE-L:1619] and Ajit's [OPE-L:1620]:

Chris wrote:

> Re: Althusser & Hegel.
> Those debating on this thread appear not to know that Althusser did
> indeed make a serious study of Hegel, writing a dissertation on him
> that was published not too long ago by Verso. There are several
> astonishing thing about this. First it is an excellent book on Hegel,
> especially considering its early date. Second how come after making
> such a serious study he was so crudely dismissive of hegel later. Third
> - throughout this work Althusser wrote explicitly as a humanist
> Marxist. Thus the later anti-huanism is a self-criticism.

Also in the spirit of self-criticism, I stand corrected on this point.

Perhaps, after all, it was Althusser - rather than Marx - who experienced
an "epistemological break".

Ajit then wrote, in part:

> And he [Althusser, JL] did not dismiss
> Hegel completely. He gave Hegel credit for Marx's central idea of
> 'history without a subject'.

This raises two questions:

1) is the idea of "history without a subject" an idea of Hegel's (and

2) Regardless of whether or not "history without a subject" was a idea of
   Hegel's, was it a "central idea" for Marx?

On the first question: from Hegel's perspective, I think it is fair to
say, that history has both a subject and an object. While one can see a
(metaphysical) force driving history, the subject is central to Hegel's
overall scheme. An indication of this component of his philosophy can be
seen from an examination of his _Philosophy of Mind_ (Part 3 of the
_Encyclopaedia_) in the transitions (and dialectical relation of) "Mind
Subjective", "Mind Objective", and "Absolute Mind". A brief examination
of the logical structure of some of his other works related to history
(including the _Phenomenology of Spirit_, the _Philosophy of Right_, and
_The Philosophy of History_) supports this interpretation. While it is
true that Hegel considered history to be a *rational* process (and thus
there was an underlying logic to history), his philosophy by my reading
clearly has a major historical role for the "subject".

On the second question: I guess I would have to know which specific works
Althusser is looking at when he made this comment to respond adequately
to this question. Was it _Capital_? If so, then that gets us back to the
logical structure of _Capital_ and the place of that book in his overall
theory of modern society (i.e. capitalism). However, whether one wants to
look at the so-called "Young Marx" or the so-called "Old Marx", I think
it would be much more accurate to say that for Marx - as well as Hegel -
history has both a subject and an object.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: If anyone has saved the posts from September, please respond to me

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Mon Jan 03 2000 - 12:18:34 EST