Bookmarks on Althusser's 'Reply to John Lewis'*
*Published in Essays in Self Criticism. NLB, 1976 (entire text available online)
Althusser criticises an understanding of Lenin as a Sartrean humanist where 'man' makes history. According to Althusser, it is not man but the 'masses' that make history. Class struggle is the 'motor' of history. This is an important claim because of the emphasis on the struggle of classes. Classes are not merely classifications of social life but the results of struggle. Struggle is the form of the existence of class; struggle and class are the same thing. (p. 50) In this conception the question of the 'subject is dissolved'; history is a process without a subject.
Social relations are...not, except for the law and for Bourgois legal ideology, 'relations between persons'. (p. 52)
By centring on 'man', humanist Marxism serves the power of the Bourgeoisie by making men believe that they are powerful as men and not as an organised work force. (p. 64)
Althusser claims that there is a tendency in Marx's late works to expunge the earlier philosophical problematic that used the categories of alienation. Further, that philosophy is a concentrated form of politics or that in 'the last instance' it is class struggle in its theoretical form. Althusser goes back on the idea of philosophy having an object and being the theory of theoretical practice (previously outlined in Reading Capital) (p. 68)
Bookmarked by Erik Empson