Althusser Glossary 1969
Written and translated: 1969 by Ben Brewster.
Althusser’s interpolations are indicated by [square brackets].
For Althusser, the theoretical opposition between the abstract and the concrete lies wholly in the realm of theory. The abstract is the starting-point for theoretical practice, its Generality I, while the concrete is its end-point (Generality III). The common theoretical view that regards theory as abstract and reality as concrete is characteristic of the works of Feuerbach and of Marx’s own youth.
An ideological concept used by Marx in his Early Works and regarded by the partisans of these works as the key concept of Marxism. Marx derived the term from Feuerbach’s anthropology where it denoted the state of man and society where the essence of man is only present to him in the distorted form of a god, which, although man created it in the image of his essence (the species-being), appears to him as an external, pre-existing creator. Marx used the concept to criticize the State and the economy as confiscating the real self-determining labour of men in the same way. In his later works, however, the term appears very rarely, and where it does it is either used ironically, or with a different conceptual content (in Capital, for instance).
Break, Epistemological (Althusser)
A concept introduced by Gaston Bachelard in his La Formation de l’esprit scientifique, and related to uses of the term in studies in the history of ideas by Canguilhem and Foucault (see Althusser’s Letter to the Translator). It describes the leap from the pre-scientific world of ideas to the scientific world; this leap involves a radical break with the whole pattern and frame of reference of the pre-scientific (ideological) notions, and the construction of a new pattern (problematic q.v.). Althusser applies it to Marx’s rejection of the Hegelian and Feuerbachian ideology of his youth and the construction of the basic concepts of dialectical and historical materialism in his later works.
Causality, Linear, Expressive and Structural (Althusser)
Whereas classical theories of causality have only two models, linear (transitive, mechanical) causality, which only describes the effects of one element on another, and expressive (teleological) causality, which can describe the effect of the whole on the parts, but only by making the latter an ‘expression’ of the former, a phenomenon of its essence, Marxist theory introduces a new concept of the effect of the whole on the parts, structural, complex causality, where the complex totality of the structure in dominance is a structure of effects with present-absent causes. The cause of the effects is the complex organization of the whole, present-absent in its economic, political, ideological and knowledge effects. Marx himself often used the theatrical analogy of the Darstellung (representation, mise en scène). Empiricist ideologies, seeing the action on the stage, the effects, believe that they are seeing a faithful copy of reality, recognizing themselves and their preconceptions in the mirror held up to them by the play. The Hegelian detects the hand of God or the Spirit writing the script and directing the play. For the Marxist, on the contrary, this is a theatre, but one which reflects neither simple reality nor any transcendental truth, a theatre without an author; the object of his science is the mechanism which produces the stage effects
Combination / Combinatory (Althusser)
The only theory of the totality available to classical philosophy is the Leibnizian conception of an expressive totality (totalité expressive) in which each part ‘conspires’ in the essence of the totality, so that the whole can be read in each of the parts, which are total parts (partes totales) homologous with it. Modern structuralism reproduces this ideology in its concept of a combinatory, a formal pattern of relations and (arbitrarily occupied) places which recur as homologous patterns with a different content throughout the social formation and its history. Theoretically, the combinatory will produce all the possible structures of the social formation, past, present and future, which are or will be realized or not according to chance or to some kind of principle of natural selection. Marxism has an apparently similar concept, that of combination or Verbindung (Marx). The Verbindung, however, has nothing in common with the formalism of the combinatory: it is a complex structure, doubly articulated (in the mode of production, by the productive forces connection and the relations of production connection – q.v.), and one that specifies its content (its ‘supports’ – q.v.), which changes with a change in the formation or mode of production analysed.
Concrete-in-Thought / Real-Concrete (Althusser)
In Feuerbach’s ideology, the speculative abstract, theory, is opposed to the concrete, reality. For the mature Marx, however, the theoretical abstract and concrete both exist in thought as Generalities I and III. The concrete-in-thought is produced wholly in thought, whereas the real-concrete ‘survives independently outside thought before and after’ (Marx).
The central concept of the Marxist science of politics (cf. Lenin’s ‘current moment’); it denotes the exact balance of forces, state of overdetermination of the contradictions at any given moment to which political tactics must be applied
A term designating the region where ideology is located (‘false consciousness’) and superseded (‘true consciousness’), contaminated by the pre-Marxist ideology of the Young Marx. In fact, Althusser argues, ideology is profoundly unconscious – it is a structure imposed involuntarily on the majority of men
A term for the articulation of a practice into the complex whole of the social formation. Contradictions may be antagonistic or non-antagonistic according to whether their state of overdetermination is one of fusion or condensation, or one of displacement.
Contradictions, Condensation, Displacement and Fusion of (Althusser)
Condensation and displacement were used by Freud to indicate the two ways dream-thoughts are represented in the dream-work – by the compression of a number of dream-thoughts into one image, or by transferring psychical intensity from one image to another. Althusser uses the analogy of these processes of psychical overdetermination to denote the different forms of the overdetermination of contradictions in the Marxist theory of history. In periods of stability the essential contradictions of the social formation are neutralized by displacement; in a revolutionary situation, however, they may condense or fuse into a revolutionary rupture.
Freud used the term Verneinung (normally translated into English as negation, but denegation has been used in this text because of the Hegelian ambiguity of negation) to designate an unconscious denial masked by a conscious acceptance, or vice versa (in fetishisms, for example, there is a denegation of the female’s absence of a penis). Translated into French as dénégation, it is one of a set of concepts for the place of the conscious system in the total psychic mechanism (the unconscious) which Althusser applies by analogy to the place of ideology in the social formation. The role of historical materialism is to analyse (in the strict sense) the mechanisms producing the ideological recognition of the obvious, given facts, just as psycho-analysis explains the mechanism producing the mirror-recognition of Narcissistic identification with the other. This mythical recognition structure, typical of ideology, explains the latter’s closed circular nature, its homology with wish-fulfilment (plein-du-désir) in analysis, as ideology fulfilment (plein-de-idéologie). Science and analysis, on the other hand, are open systems of concepts, because they cannot be defined by any spatial metaphor.
Development, Uneven (Althusser)
A concept of Lenin and Mao Tse-tung: the overdetermination of all the contradictions in a social formation means that none can develop simply; the different overdeterminations in different times and places result in quite different patterns of social development.
Dialectic of Consciousness (Althusser)
The Hegelian dialectic, or any dialectic where the various elements or moments are externalizations of a single, simple, internal principle, as Rome in Hegel’s Philosophy of History is an expression of the abstract legal personality, etc.
Empiricist and historicist problematics assume a one-to-one correspondence (correspondence biunivoque) between the concepts of a science and its real object, and a relation of expressive homology between these objects themselves (although these correspondences may be direct or inverted – i.e., the order of emergence of the concepts in the science may follow the historical sequence, or, on the contrary, follow a reverse order). Althusser argues, on the contrary, that the relations between ideology and the other practices, between the different practices in general, between the elements in each practice, and between ideology and science, are, in principle, relations of dislocations, staggered with respect to one another: each has its own time and rhythrn of development. The totality is the theory of their articulation together, so it cannot be discovered by making an ‘essential section’ through the current of historical movement at any time one. This dislocation plays an important part in the theory of transition.
Effectivity, Specific (Althusser)
The characteristic of Marx’s later theory: the different aspects of the social formation are not related as in Hegel’s dialectic of consciousness as phenomena and essence, each has its precise influence on the complex totality, the structure in dominance. Thus base and super-structure must not be conceived as vulgar Marxism conceives them, as essence and phenomenon, the State and ideology are not mere expressions of the economy, they are autonomous within a structured whole where one aspect is dominant, this dominance being determined in the last instance by the economy.
Althusser uses the concept of empiricism in a very wise sense to include all ‘epistemologies’ that oppose a given subject to a given object and call knowledge the abstraction by the subject of the essence of the object. Hence the knowledge of the object is part of the object itself. This remains true whatever the nature of the subject (psychological, historical, etc.) or of the object (continuous, discontinuous, mobile, immobile, etc.) in question. So as well as covering those epistemologies traditionally called ‘empiricist’, this definition includes classical idealism, and the epistemology of Feuerbach and the Young Marx.
Fetishism is the mechanism which conceals the real functioning (the real movement – wirkliche Bewegung) of the dominant structure in the social formation, i.e., it is the constitutive dislocation between the ideological practice and the other practices. This is not a subjective mystification, but the mode of appearance of reality (Marx calls it a reality – Wirklichkeit). In the capitalist mode of production it takes the form of the fetishism of commodities, i.e., the personification of certain things (money-capital) and the ‘reification’ of a certain relationship (labour). It does not consist of a general ‘reification’ of all relationships, as some humanist interpretations of Marx argue, but only of this particular relationship. Fetishism is not absent from other modes of production, it is merely displaced onto whichever level is dominant in the social formation characterized by that mode of production.
Formation, Social (Althusser)
The concrete complex whole comprising economic practice, political practice and ideological practice at a certain place and stage of development. Historical materialism is the science of social formations.
A currently widespread interpretation of Marxism which originated around the time of the October Revolution, and which dominates the ideas of authors as diverse as Lukács, Korsch, Gramsci, Della Volpe, Colletti and Sartre. It is characterized by a linear view of time susceptible to an essential section into a present at any moment. The knowledge of history is then the self-consciousness of each present. This self-consciousness of the present may take a number of forms; (different ‘mediations’ may intercede between the historian and the totality): the class consciousness of the revolutionary proletariat (Lukács), the organic ideology of the ruling (hegemonic) class (Gramsci), or the practice of human inter-subjectivity as a whole, human ‘praxis’ (Sartre). Historicisms may or may not be humanist (Sartre and Colletti respectively)
Generalities I, II and III (Althusser)
In theoretical practice, the process of the production of knowledge, Generalities I are the abstract, part-ideological, part-scientific generalities that are the raw material of the science, Generalities III are the concrete, scientific generalities that are produced, while Generalities II are the theory of the science at a given moment, the means of production of knowledge.
Humanism is the characteristic feature of the ideological problematic from which Marx emerged, and more generally, of most modern ideology; a particularly conscious form of humanism is Feuerbach’s anthropology, which dominates Marx’s Early Works. As a science, however, historical materialism, as exposed in Marx’s later works, implies a theoretical anti-humanism. ‘Real-humanism’ characterizes the works of the break: the humanist form is retained, but usages such as ‘the ensemble of the social relations’ point forward to the concepts of historical materialism. However, the ideology of a socialist society may be a humanism, a proletarian ‘class humanism’ [an expression I obviously use in a provisional, half-critical sense. L. A.].
Ideology is the ‘lived’ relation between men and their world, or a reflected form of this unconscious relation, for instance a ‘philosophy’, etc. It is distinguished from a science not by its falsity, for it can be coherent and logical (for instance, theology), but by the fact that the practico-social predominates in it over the theoretical, over knowledge. Historically, it precedes the science that is produced by making an epistemological break with it, but it survives alongside science as an essential element of every social formation, including a socialist and even a communist society.
Knowledge is the product of theoretical practice; it is Generalities III. As such it is clearly distinct from the practical recognition (reconnaissance) of a theoretical problem.
Materialism, Dialectical and Historical (Althusser)
Historicists, even those who claim to be Marxists, reject the classical Marxist distinction between historical and dialectical materialism since they see philosophy as the self-knowledge of the historical process, and hence identify philosophy and the science of history; at best, dialectical materialism is reduced to the historical method, while the science of history is its content. Althusser, rejecting historicism, rejects this identification. For him, historical materialism is the science of history, while dialectical materialism, Marxist philosophy, is the theory of scientific practice.
The theory of models is a variant of empiricism. According to this theory, Capital, for example, analyses not the real capitalist world, but the properties of an ideal, simplified model of it, which is then applied to empirical reality, which, of course, it only fits approximately. For Althusser, the theory in Capital is only ‘ideal’ in the sense that it only involves the object of knowledge, like all theory, not the real object, and the knowledge it produces is perfectly adequate to its object, not an approximation to it. Related to the general theory of models are both the view that Volume Three of Capital is a concretization, removing the simplifications of the ideal model of Volume One, and the theory of the ‘English example’ in Capital as a model for capitalist development everywhere else. For Althusser, Volume Three is as much concerned with the object of knowledge as Volume One, and England is only a source of illustrations in Capital, not a theoretical norm.
Negation of the Negation (Althusser)
A Hegelian conception that Marx ‘flirts’ with even in his mature works. It denotes the process of destruction and resumption (supersession/Aufhebung. q.v.) whereby the Spirit moves from one stage of its development to another. For Marx, it describes the fact that capitalism, having come into being by the destruction of feudalism, is itself destined to be destroyed by the rise of socialism and communism [this description makes a metaphorical use of the notion. L. A.].
Freud used this term to describe (among other things) the representation of the dream-thoughts in images privileged by their condensation of a number of thoughts in a single image (condensation/Verdichtung), or by the transference of psychic energy from a particularly potent thought to apparently trivial images (displacement/Verschiebung-Verstellung). Althusser uses the same term to describe the effects of the contradictions in each practice constituting the social formation on the social formation as a whole, and hence back on each practice and each contradiction, defining the pattern of dominance and subordination, antagonism and non-antagonism of the contradictions in the structure in dominance at any given historical moment.
More precisely, the overdetermination of a contradiction is the reflection in it of its conditions of existence within the complex whole, that is, of the other contradictions in the complex whole, in other words its uneven development.
Philosophy / ‘Philosophy’ (Althusser)
‘Philosophy’ (in inverted commas) is used to denote the reflected forms of ideology as opposed to Theory. See Althusser’s own ‘Remarks on the Terminology Adopted’ . Philosophy (without inverted commas) is used in the later written essays to denote Marxist philosophy, i.e., dialectical materialism.
Practice, Economic, Political, Ideological and Theoretical (Althusser)
Althusser takes up the theory introduced by Engels and much elaborated by Mao Tse-tung that economic, political and ideological practice are the three practices (processes of production or transformation) that constitute the social formation. Economic practice is the transformation of nature by human labour into social products, political practice the transformation of social relations by revolution, ideological practice the transformation of one relation to the lived world into a new relation by ideological struggle. In his concern to stress the distinction between science and ideology, Althusser insists that theory constitutes a fourth practice, theoretical practice, that transforms ideology into knowledge with theory. The determinant moment in each practice is the work of production which brings together raw materials, men and means of production – not the men who perform the work, who cannot therefore claim to be the subjects of the historical process. Subsidiary practices are also discussed by Althusser, e.g. technical practice (pratique technique).
A word or concept cannot be considered in isolation; it only exists in the theoretical or ideological framework in which it is used: its problematic. A related concept can clearly be seen at work in Foucault’s Madness and Civilization (but see Althusser’s Letter to the Translator).
It should be stressed that the problematic is not a world-view.
It is not the essence of the thought of an individual or epoch which can be deduced from a body of texts by an empirical, generalizing reading; it is centred on the absence of problems and concepts within the problematic as much as their presence; it can therefore only be reached by a symptomatic reading (lecture symptomale q.v.) on the model of the Freudian analyst’s reading of his patient’s utterances.
Production / Discovery of a Knowledge (Althusser)
Engels noted the difference between Priestley’s production of oxygen without realizing the theoretical significance of the new substance, and Lavoisier’s discovery of (the concept of) oxygen, with its revolutionary consequences for the science of chemistry. He compared this with the difference between the production of the reality of surplus-value in classical economic theory and Marx’s discovery of the concept of surplus-value. The slightly pejorative use of production here should not be confused with Althusser’s insistence that knowledge is a specific mode of production.
Production, Mode of (Althusser)
The mode of material production is the central concept of the theory of the economic practice of the social formation. It is itself a complex structure, doubly articulated by the productive forces connection and the relations of production connection, and containing three elements: the labourer, the means of production (sub-divided into object of labour and instrument of labour), and the non-labourer. The term can also be applied by analogy to any other practice or level, for they are all also doubly articulated, contain a similar set of elements, and produce a specific product
Productive Forces / Relations of Production (Althusser)
These concepts are generally taken (even by some Marxists) to mean the machines or their productivity on the one hand, and the human relations between the members of a society on the other. For Althusser and Balibar, on the contrary, they are the two different articulations of the combination of the mode of production: they are both ‘relations’ (connections – relations) combining together labourers, means of production and non-labourers within the mode of production. The productive forces constitute the connection of real appropriation (wirkliche Aneignung) of nature, or the ‘possession’ connection, while the relations of production are the relations of expropriation of the product or the ‘property-ownership’ connection (not the corresponding ‘law of property’ which is not even an ‘expression’ of the relations of production, but a structure dislocated from them, a superstructure). This double articulation appears in every aspect of the mode of production, in the difference between use-value and exchange value, and in the difference between the technical and the social division of labour, etc. While the productive forces cannot be reduced to machines or quantifiable techniques, the relations of production can not be reduced to relations between men alone, to human relations or inter-subjectivity, as they are in the historicist ideology
The problems of Marxist theory (or of any other theory) can only be solved by learning to read the texts correctly (hence the title of Althusser’s later book, Lire le Capital, ‘Reading Capital’); neither a superficial reading, collating literal references, nor a Hegelian reading, deducing the essence of a corpus by extracting the ‘true kernel from the mystified shell’, will do. Only a symptomatic reading (lecture symptomale), constructing the problematic, the unconsciousness of the text, is a reading of Marx’s work that will allow us to establish the epistemological break that makes possible historical materialism as a science.
Simple reproduction is often regarded as simplified ‘model’ of extended reproduction, and the analysis of reproduction as the realization of production in history, the introduction of temporality into the analysis of production, in the form of the conditions of its continuation. Balibar shows, however, that simple reproduction is the concept of social production. Social production is only apparently the production of things; in reality it is the production of a social relation, i.e., the reproduction of the relations of production. Hence simple and extended reproduction are synchronic concepts of the mode of production
Section, Essential (Althusser)
Ideological theories (empiricism, idealism, historicism) see the historical totality as analysable in a present, a contemporaneity, in which the relations between the parts can be seen and recorded. To see this present implies the possibility of cutting a section through the historical current, a section in which the essence of that current is visible. This essential section is impossible for Althusser and Balibar because there is no present for all the elements and structures at once in their conceptual system. The possibility of an essential section is one of the positive tests for an empiricist ideology of history
A term employed by Lenin to criticize an ideological and political tendency in the Russian Social-Democratic movement that held that the revolutionary movement should base itself on the ‘spontaneous’ action of the working class rather than trying to lead it by imposing on this action, by means of a party, policies produced by the party’s theoretical work. [For Lenin, the real spontaneity, capacity for action, inventiveness and so on, of the ‘masses’, was to be respected as the most precious aspect of the workers’ movement: but at the same time Lenin condemned the ‘ideology of spontaneity’ (a dangerous ideology) shared by his opponents (populists and ‘Socialist Revolutionaries’), and recognized that the real spontaneity of the masses was to be sustained and criticized in the mean time in order to ‘liberate’ it from the influence of bourgeois ideology. L. A.]. In this sense, Lenin argued that to make concessions to ‘spontaneity’ was to hand the revolutionary movement over to the power of bourgeois ideology, and hence to the counter-revolution. Althusser generalizes this by arguing that each practice and its corresponding science must not be left to develop on their own, however successful they may temporarily be, since to do so leaves the field open for an ideology (characteristically pragmatism) to seize hold of the science, and for the counter-revolution to seize the practice. The ‘unity of theory and practice’ cannot be the simple unity of a reflection, it is the complex one of an epistemological break [in theory. In political practice this unity takes another form (not examined in this book). L. A.].
A fashionable ideology according to which only the relations between the elements (i.e., their places) in the totality are significant, and the occupants of these places are arbitrary. The set of places and relations is the structuralist combinatory. Structuralism also conceives of the combinatory as the synchronic structure and its temporal or historical realization, its development, as the diachrony
Structure, Decentred (Althusser)
The Hegelian totality presupposes an original, primary essence that lies behind the complex appearance that it has produced by externalization in history; hence it is a structure with a centre. The Marxist totality, however, is never separable in this way from the elements that constitute it, as each is the condition of existence of all the others; hence it has no centre, only a dominant element, and a determination in the last instance: it is a decentred structure
Structure in Dominance (Althusser)
The Marxist totality is neither a whole each of whose elements is equivalent as the phenomenon of an essence (Hegelianism), nor are some of its elements epiphenomena of any one of them (economism or mechanism); the elements are asymmetrically related but autonomous (contradictory); one of them is dominant. [The economic base ‘determines’ (‘in the last instance’) which element is to be dominant in a social formation (see Lire le Capital). L. A.]. Hence it is a structure in dominance.
But the dominant element is not fixed for all time, it varies according to the overdetermination of the contradictions and their uneven development. In the social formation this overdetermination is, in the last instance, determined by the economy (determiné en dernière instance de l’économie). This is Althusser’s clarification of the classical Marxist assertion that the superstructure is relatively autonomous but the economy is determinant in the last instance. The phrase ‘in the last instance’ does not indicate that there will be some ultimate time or ever was some starting-point when the economy will be or was solely determinant, the other instances preceding it or following it: ‘the last instance never comes’, the structure is always the co-presence of all its elements and their relations of dominance and subordination it is an ‘ever-pre-given structure’ (structure toujours-déjà-donnée).
A Hegelian concept popular among Marxist-humanists, it denotes the process of historical development by the destruction and retention at a higher level of an old historically determined situation in a new historically determined situation – e.g. socialism is the supersession of capitalism, Marxism a supersession of Hegelianism. Althusser asserts that it is an ideological concept, and he substitutes for it that of the historical transition, or, in the development of a science, by the epistemological break.
Superstructure / Structure (Althusser)
In classical Marxism the social formation is analysed into the components economic structure – determinant in the last instance – and relatively autonomous superstructures: (1) the State and law; (2) ideology. Althusser clarifies this by dividing it into the structure (the economic practice) and the superstructure (political and ideological practice). The relation between these three is that of a structure in dominance, determined in the last instance by the structure
Humanist ideologies see the social totality as the totality of inter-subjective relations between men, as civil society, tho society of human needs. In other words, they are anthropologies strictly homologous with the classical economic theory of the homo oeconomicus. In Marxist theory, on the contrary, the real protagonists of history are the social relations of production, political struggle and ideology, which are constituted by the place assigned to these protagonists in the complex structure of the social formation (e.g., the labourer and the capitalist in the capitalist mode of production, defined by their different relations to the means of production). The biological men are only the supports or bearers of the guises (Charaktermasken) assigned to them by the structure of relations in the social formation. Hence each articulation of the mode of production and each level of the social formation defines for itself a potentially different form of historical individuality. The correspondence or non-correspondence of these forms of historical individuality plays an important part in transition
Synchrony / Diachrony (Althusser)
Althusser and Balibar oppose the structuralist ideological use of these terms, and insist that the synchrony of an object is merely the concept of that object, existing as one of a set of concepts in the theory of that object (e.g., the synchrony of production is its concept: reproduction – q.v.). However, they make slightly different uses of the concept of diachrony. Althusser only uses it to indicate the ‘time’ of the proof, the fact that the concepts emerge in a certain order in the proof, an order which has nothing to do with the historical emergence of the real objects of those concepts. Balibar, on the other hand, uses it to designate the theory of the transition from one mode of production to another
Marx describes a number of the capitalist mode of production as tendencies (notably the tendency of the rate of profit to fall). These tendencies have often been seen as the patterns of historical development from one mode of production to another, as the symptoms of the ‘negation of the negation’ which leads to a higher historical phase. Balibar shows that they are in fact merely the concept of the pattern of development peculiar to a mode of production, the concept of the limits of variation of its movement and of the eventual barriers to its development, i.e., they are features of the synchronic analysis of the mode of production, not of the diachronic analysis of the transition from one mode of production to another
Theory, ‘Theory’, Theory (Althusser)
For Althusser theory is a specific, scientific theoretical practice. In Chapter 6 ‘On the Materialist Dialectic’, a distinction is also made between ‘theory’ (in inverted commas), the determinate theoretical system of a given science, and Theory (with a capital T), the theory of practice in general, i.e. dialectical materialism. [In a few words in the preface to the Italian translation of Lire le Capital, reproduced in the new French edition of the book, and to be published in the English translation (New Left Books), I have pointed out that I now regard my definition of philosophy (Theory as ‘the Theory of theoretical practice’) as a unilateral and, in consequence, false conception of dialectical materialism. Positive indications of the new definition I propose can be found: (1) in an interview published in L’Unità in February 1968 and reproduced in the Italian translation of Lire le Capital (Feltrinelli) and in La Pensée (April 1968); 2) in Lénine et la philosophie, the text of a lecture I gave to the Société Française de Philosophie in February 1968, and published under the same title by François Maspero in January 1969. The new definition of philosophy can be resumed in three points: (1) philosophy ‘represents’ the class struggle in the realm of theory, hence philosophy is neither a science, nor a pure theory (Theory), but a political practice of intervention in the realm of theory; (2) philosophy ‘represents’ scientificity in the realm of political practice, hence philosophy is not the political practice, but a theoretical practice of intervention in the realm of politics; (3) philosophy is an original ‘instance’ (differing from the instances of science and poli-tics) that represents the one instance alongside (auprès de) the other, in the form of a specific intervention (political-theoretical). L. A.].
Hegelian theories of history see time as the mode of existence (Dasein) of the concept (Begriff). There is therefore a unique linear time in which the totality of historical possibilities unfolds. Empiricist theories of history as a chronology of ‘events’ accept the same conception of time by default. This simple unilinear time can then be divided into ‘events’ (short-term phenomena) and ‘structures’ (long-term phenomena), or periodized in evolutionist fashion into self-contemporaneous ‘modes of production’, the static or ‘synchronic’ analysis of which has a dynamic or ‘diachronic’ development in time into another mode of production. This dynamics or diachrony is then history. For Althusser and Balibar, on the contrary, there is no simple unilinear time in which the development of the social formation unfolds: each level of the social formation and each element in each level has a different temporality, and the totality is constituted by the articulation together of the dislocations between these temporalities. It is thus never possible to construct a self-contemporaneity of the structure, or essential section. Historical time is always complex and multi-linear. The synchrony of the social formation, or of one of its levels or elements, is the concept of its structure, i.e., of its dislocation and articulation into the totality. It therefore includes both ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ elements (tendencies – q.v.). The term diachrony (q.v. synchrony) can only be applied to the concept of the phase of transition. History itself is not a temporality, but an epistemological category designating the object of a certain science, historical materialism
An originally Hegelian concept that has become confused by its use by all theorists who wish to stress the whole rather than the various parts in any system. However, the Hegelian and the Marxist totalities are quite different. The Hegelian totality is the essence behind the multitude of its phenomena, but the Marxist totality is a decentred structure in dominance.
Marx’s analysis of the transition from one mode of production to another has two sides. First there is the analysis of the pre-history of the mode of production, the genealogy of its constitutive elements, as they emerge in the interstices of the previous mode of production. Second there is the analysis of the phase of transition itself, which is not a destructuration-restructuration, but a mode of production in its own right, although one in which there is a dislocation of a special type rather than a homology between the two articulations of the structure and therefore between the modes of historical individuality defined by the structure, a dislocation within the mode of production and between the mode of production and the other levels of the social formation. This dislocation is such that, rather than defining reciprocal limitations which maintain the structure within a certain pattern of development, one of the dislocating connections transforms the other. Thus, the phase of manufacture is a transitional phase in the development of the capitalist mode of production. The labourer is separated from the means of labour in the property connection; but he is still linked to them in the connection of real appropriation, through his traditional craft skill. Labourer and instrument of labour are opposed to object of labour. Hence the labour process still has its feudal form, whereas the property relation is capitalist. The introduction of machines breaks down this feudal connection between the labourer and his means of labour, replacing it by one homologous with the property connection, in which the means and the object of labour are connected and opposed to the labourer
Works of Marx, Eearly transitional and Mature (Althusser)
Althusser rejects the view that Marx’s works form a theoretical unity. He divides them as follows: Early Works (up to 1842); Works of the Break (Oeuvres de la Coupure – 1845); Transitional Works (1845-47); Mature Works (1857-83). It should be remembered, however, that the epistemological break can neither be punctual, nor made once and for all: it is to be thought as a ‘continuous break’, and its criticism applies even to the latest of Marx’s works, which ‘flirt’ with Hegelian expressions and contain pre-Marxist ‘survivals’