Re: (OPE-L) Derrida on Althusser

From: antonio callari (antonio.callari@FANDM.EDU)
Date: Mon Nov 15 2004 - 09:30:34 EST

I take "theoretically intimidating" here to be Derrida's assessment of the
ideological play at work in Althusser's very skillful (I think) use of the idea
of "theory." And, yes, of course, it has to be contextualized in the 70s in
France. Althusser's heavy reliance on the armour of "theory" was, I think, a
way of caring a space within the CP for a voice of dissent. By carving a very
precise theoretical framework for Marxism, Althusser and his co-workers could
move to question the dogmatism of the CP without being accused of having
deviated from Marxism. But, of course, the attachment to that style/strategy
also had effects beyond the field of politicsc within the CP and could effect
people outside that field in the manner Derrida describes. This is just my
reading of the matter. Funny thing is that Althusser was early on, as early as
the 70s, moving toward a more open conception of Marxism, toward a different
concept of the class struggle (more open to popular forms, and less subject to
a party structure)--a conception which Derrida would not have described, I am
confident, in the terms he used to describe the more theoreticist

>  > >This review gives the citation and it comes from an article/
>>  >interview called "Politics and Friendship."  Regarding Althusserian
>>  >Marxists, Derrida commented:
>  > >"there was, let's say, a sort of theoretical intimidation: to formulate
>>  >questions in style that appeared, shall we say, phenomenological,
>>  >transcendental or ontological was immediately considered
>>  >suspicious, backward, idealistic, even reactionary."
>Without arguing with what you wrote,   my guess is that the
>above quote has to be contextualized within the French
>academy during the 1970's.  After all, no where else was
>the influence of Althusserianism as strong during that period.
>I guess we all have experience in academic milieus where an
>intellectual tradition  (mainstream or otherwise) can be
>(intentionally and/or unintentionally) intimidating.  Perhaps also
>Derrida was the type of individual who could be personally
>intimidated rather easily?  After all, there are many other radical
>intellectuals (we all know some) who can find some intellectual,
>professional, and political exchanges to be personally intimidating
>and hence these individuals often withdraw from or avoid such
>confrontations.  Admittedly the above is partially speculative,
>but it does seem to be a plausible interpretation, imo.
>In solidarity, Jerry
>>  Sigmund M. and Mary B. Hyman Professor of Economics
>Who are or were Sigmund M and Mary B. Hyman?

Antonio Callari
Sigmund M. and Mary B. Hyman Professor of Economics
F&M Local Economy Center
P.O. Box 3003
713 College Avenue
Lancaster PA 17604-3003
phone: (717) 291-3947
FAX:  (717) 291-4369

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