Cover of the first edition
|Original title||Pour Marx|
|Publisher||François Maspero, Allen Lane|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Pages||258 (first edition)|
For Marx (French: Pour Marx) is a 1965 book by the philosopher Louis Althusser, a leading theoretician of the French Communist Party, in which the author reinterprets the work of the philosopher Karl Marx, proposing an epistemological break between the young, Hegelian Marx, and the old Marx, the author of Das Kapital (1867–1883). The book, first published in France by François Maspero, established Althusser's reputation. However, Althusser later criticized the work, believing that in it he had neglected the class struggle.
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Althusser, a leading theoretician of the French Communist Party, discusses the work of the philosopher Karl Marx, including texts such as Das Kapital and The German Ideology (1932). He also discusses the work of the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach.
Background and publication history
Except for its introduction, the chapters of For Marx first appeared as articles that were published in journals of the French Communist Party between 1960 and 1964. For Marx was first published in 1965 by François Maspero. An Italian translation was published in 1967, and an English translation, by Ben Brewster, in 1969. The book has been published in English by Verso Books.
For Marx established Althusser's reputation. Together with Reading Capital (1965), the book drew Althusser to the attention of French intellectuals and attracted a significant international readership. It provided one of the most politically influential of the philosophical reinterpretations of Das Kapital that were made by Marxists in the 1960s and 1970s. The appearance of Reading Capital and For Marx in English translation influenced the development of Marxist thought in the Anglophone world throughout the 1970s. However, For Marx has attracted criticism from both anti-Marxists, such as the philosopher Roger Scruton, and from Marxist theorists, such as the Marxian economist Harry Cleaver. According to the philologist Sebastiano Timpanaro, the Marxist Italian philosopher Cesare Luporini, despite his largely favorable view of Althusser, commented that Althusser's anti-humanism, "manifests itself in a tendency to make man disappear as much as possible from the framework of the so-called human sciences."
Scruton maintains that For Marx is poorly written and obscure. Scruton criticizes Althusser for employing technical terms without explaining them. He also argues that it is doubtful that Althusser's interpretation of historical materialism is true to Marx's intentions, and that it does not deserve to be considered a coherent theory, that it effectively abandons the Marxian thesis that base determines superstructure, that it effectively abandons historical materialism itself, that it is irrefutable in the sense that no possible event would be inconsistent with it, and that it makes no useful predictions. He further suggests that Althusser's supporters had difficulty agreeing on how For Marx should be understood.
Cleaver considers For Marx and Reading Capital an attempt by Althusser and his colleagues to reinterpret Marx with the "aim of revitalizing dialectical materialism as an ideology to mediate the widely discredited political practices of the French Communist Party." He criticizes Althusser's science of history for being ahistorical and abstract. According to Cleaver, Althusser was subsequently critical of For Marx, believing that it largely ignored the class struggle. Cleaver writes that the only revision Althusser considered necessary was to redefine philosophy, from being a "theory of theoretical practice" to being "the class struggle in theory", and that Althusser thus retained the basic theoretical structure of For Marx.
- Althusser, Louis (2005). For Marx. London: Verso Books. ISBN 1-84467-052-X.
- Cleaver, Harry (2000). Reading Capital Politically. Leeds: AK Press. ISBN 1-902593-29-4.
- Levine, Andrew (2017). "Althusser, Louis". In Audi, Robert (ed.). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Third Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-64379-6.
- McLellan, David (1995). The Thought of Karl Marx: An Introduction. London: Papermac. ISBN 0-333-63948-0.
- Merquior, J. G. (1986). Western Marxism. London: Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08454-1.
- Scruton, Roger (1985). Thinkers of the New Left. Harlow: Longman Group Limited. ISBN 0-582-90273-8.
- Scruton, Roger (2010). The Uses of Pessimism And the Danger of False Hope. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-84887-201-1.
- Timpanaro, Sebastiano (1980). On Materialism. London: Verso Editions. ISBN 0 86091 721 5.