Louis Althusser (1918-1990)
Louis Althusser was a French Marxist
philosopher who saw Marxism as a science. His work is in the
structuralist tradition. One
feature of Althusserian Marxism is a rejection of Marx's Hegelian
essentialism. Essentialism is a reduction of things to a single
principle or essence. Althusser rejected two kinds of Marxist essentialism:
economism (economic determinism) and humanism (in which social developments
were seen as expressive of a pre-given human nature). So Althusserian
Marxism is anti-economist and anti-humanist. In rejecting economism he
saw ideology as itself a determining force shaping consciousness, embodied
in the material signifying practices of 'ideological state apparatuses',
and enjoying 'relative autonomy'. Althusser's work represents a move away
from a preoccupation with economic determination.
Born in 1918, Louis Althusser was one of the most influential French thinkers of
the Post-war period. In 1948 Althusser Joined the
Communist Party and began teaching philosophy at the Ecole normale superieure.
Over the coarse of his life, he was hospitalized for mania
over 30 times, and in a particularly severe episode, he strangled his wife.
Althusser died in Paris in 1990.
- For Marx (1965)
- Reading Capital (1968)
- Lenin and Philosophy
One of Althusser's closest friends
was the French Post-Structuralist Michel Foucault
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