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Jacques Rancière's first major work, Althusser's Lesson appeared in 1974, just as the energies of May 68 were losing ground to the calls for a return to order. Rancière's analysis of Althusserian Marxism unfolds against this background: what is the relationship between the return to order and the enthusiasm which greeted the publication of Althusser's Reply to John Lewis in 1973? How to explain the rehabilitation of a philosophy that had been declared 'dead and buried on the barricades of May 68'? What had changed? The answer to this question takes the form of a genealogy of Althusserianism that is, simultaneously, an account of the emergence of militant student movements in the '60s, of the arrival of Maoism in France, and of how May 68 rearranged all the pieces anew. Encompassing the book's distinctive combination of theoretical analysis and historical description is a question that has guided Rancière's thought ever since: how do theories of subversion become the rationale for order?
positions was never the point. The goal, rather, was to ﬁnd anew the dialectical practice at work in Marx’s text and Lenin’s actions. The polemic with Mury is revealing in this respect.10 There, Althusser confronts the retrospective knowledge of historians with the dialectic at work in the political determination of the combination of contradictions that deﬁne ‘the current situation’.11 In one or another note or allusion in the texts from this period, we catch a glimpse of the political
easy to follow the development of this concept of leftism from ‘On the Young Marx’ to the introduction to For Marx. At ﬁrst, Althusser is still thinking within the categories of The German Ideology: the suppression of philosophy, the primacy of historical materialism and the opposition of historical reality to the illusions of ideologues. ‘Contradiction and Overdetermination’, however, opens a new period in which Althusser questions the appeal to ‘history’ in the name of what is speciﬁc to
similar to the same. If theory is to escape this, its time of elaboration cannot be the same as the time of political campaigns or Cold War manoeuvres. Nor can the norms of theoretical truth be the norms of Party discipline. Here we come upon the roots of Althusser’s entire theoretical apparatus, of the whole system of differences he sets in motion: the distinction among instances, the construction of the time speciﬁc to each instance, the severing of science from ideology, the epistemological
nature – negligence, profusion, incapacity – will have re-established the inequality you abhor.25 The ‘free’ subject of the bourgeoisie is a determined nature, one determined, precisely, to inequality. The ‘man’ of bourgeois discourse is always double; it posits the inevitability of the couple, dominant/dominated. Humanism, if we want, but no discourse about man-as-God, only a discourse that says to proletarians that they cannot do anything on their own. In spite of the means used to conﬁne us to
is sugar-sweet in the very paternal Montfalcon: ‘The science of things and of men is, of all other sciences, the most difﬁcult and serious . . . How could workers have an opinion about the principles of government or about what system to follow, when these problems remain unresolved even though history’s most intelligent men have long debated them?’ Jean-Baptiste Montfalcon, Code moral des ateliers, ou, Traité des devoirs et droits des classes labourieuses (Lyon: G. Rossary, 1835), 83. In Michel