Reading Capital. Louis Althusser, Étienne Balibar 1968


For the conjuncture in which this text was prepared (1965), for its character as a theoretico-ideological intervention in that conjuncture, and for its theoretical limits, lacunae and errors, the reader should refer to the presentation, ‘To My English Readers,’ in For Marx.

Louis Althusser, 17 May 1970

To the citizen Maurice La Châtre

Dear Citizen,

I applaud your idea of publishing the translation of Das Kapital as a serial. In this form the book will be more accessible to the working-class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else.

This is the good side of your suggestion, but here is the reverse of the medal: the method of analysis which I have employed, and which had not previously been applied to economic subjects, makes the reading of the first chapters rather arduous, and it is to be feared that the French public, always impatient to come to a conclusion, eager to know the connection between general principles and the immediate questions that have aroused their passions, may be disheartened because they will be unable to move on at once.

This is a disadvantage I am powerless to overcome, unless it be by forewarning and forearming those readers who zealously seek the truth. There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.

Believe me,
dear citizen
Your devoted,

London, 18 March 1872.