For Marx

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For Marx
For Marx (French edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorLouis Althusser
Original titlePour Marx
TranslatorBen Brewster
SubjectKarl Marx
PublisherFrançois Maspero, Allen Lane
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages271 (2005 Verso edition)

For Marx (French: Pour Marx) is a 1965 book by Louis Althusser, a leading theoretician of the French Communist Party. Althusser reinterprets the work of Karl Marx, proposing an epistemological break between the young Hegelian Marx, and the old Marx, the author of Capital. One of Althusser's chief works,[1] For Marx was first published in 1965, with an English translation in 1969.[2] The work has been criticized by many scholars, and also by Althusser himself, who later believed he had neglected the class struggle.


Althusser discusses Karl Marx.[3]


Pour Marx made Althusser a sensation in French intellectual circles,[4] and provided one of the most politically important philosophical readings of Capital made during the Marxist revival of the 1960s and 1970s.[5] The work was translated into numerous languages: an Italian version was published in 1967 and an English version in 1969.[6][7] According to the philologist Sebastiano Timpanaro, Cesare Luporini, despite his largely favorable view of Althusser, commented in the preface to the Italian translation 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."[8]

The English translation of Pour Marx helped to shape the development of Marxist thought in the Anglophone world throughout the 1970s.[9] The Marxist theorist Harry Cleaver, who sees its influence as unfortunate, considers it, together with Reading Capital, as 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.[10] The philosopher Roger Scruton writes that Pour Marx "reads like a liturgical invocation of the Devil, composed by someone who is lifting uncomprehended phrases from a poor translation of Das Kapital."[11]

Althusser was subsequently critical of Pour Marx, believing that it largely ignored the class struggle, a view expressed in his 1974 work Essays in Self-criticism. However, the only revision he considered necessary was to redefine philosophy, from being a "theory of theoretical practice" to being "the class struggle in theory". Althusser thus retained the basic theoretical structure of Pour Marx.[12]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Scruton 1985. pp. 217-218.
  2. ^ Althusser 2005. p. 4.
  3. ^ Althusser 2005. p. 21.
  4. ^ Levine 1999. p. 23.
  5. ^ Cleaver 2000. p. 47.
  6. ^ Timpanaro 1980. p. 68.
  7. ^ Levine 1999. p. 23.
  8. ^ Timpanaro 1980. p. 68.
  9. ^ Levine 1999. p. 23.
  10. ^ Cleaver 2000. pp. 47, 49-50.
  11. ^ Scruton 2010. p. 182.
  12. ^ Cleaver 2000. p. 51.


  • Althusser, Louis (2005). For Marx. London: Verso. ISBN 1-84467-052-X.
  • Cleaver, Harry (2000). Reading Capital Politically. Leeds: Ak Press. ISBN 1-902593-29-4.
  • Levine, Andrew (1999). Audi, Robert, ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-63722-8.
  • Lewis, William S. (2005). Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism. Lanham: Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-1307-0.
  • 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. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-84887-201-1.
  • Timpanaro, Sebastiano (1980). On Materialism. London: Verso Editions. ISBN 0 86091 721 5.