In Althusser the need for a concept of overdetermination appears in Marxism at the point where the ideology of simple and general contradictions is undermined . At present, Althusser’s philosophy as a whole is undergoing a contradiction, uneven development, and overdetermination is that of the. Richard L. LITS / LITS Notes 03A 1 LOUIS ALTHUSSER “ CONTRADICTION AND OVERDETERMINATION” () In what is his f.

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The New Critic I. Though scientists may study and describe these orders in their specificity, it does not at first appear that philosophy can slthusser much except to categorize these interactions at the most general level. InAlthusser acquired the right to direct research on the basis of his previously published work. Further, the sum of the individual concepts that this theory consists of delimits the possible ways in which the genera that a science begins with can be understood.

An instance of a popular riot calling for revolution could exemplify overdetermination. In scientific production, for example, thinkers use existing theories to transform existing concepts into new, scientific concepts.

He now maintained that there was no criterion sufficient to demarcate scientific from ideological concepts and that all theoretical concepts are marked by ideology.


Gallimard,89—; tr. As he retained this responsibility for more than thirty years and worked with some of the brightest thinkers that France produced during this time including Alain Badiou, Pierre Bourdieu, and Michel Foucaultthrough his teaching Althusser left a deep and lasting impression on a generation of French philosophers and on French philosophy.

In contemporary analytic philosophy an event or state of affairs is said to be overdetermined if it has two or more distinct, sufficient causes.

However, it is also the only one that Althusser in his late works argues is adequate for political practice and that does not, like idealism, merely serve to reproduce existing relations. Apart from the necessity of human beings to engage in productive relations with other human beings and with their environment in order to produce their means of subsistence, there is no human nature or essence.


The simultaneous enthusiasm that Althusser showed in Lyon for Royalist politics did not last the war. The failure of the Revolution in Germany was an exception, the failure in Paris in was an althusder, the German Social-Democratic failure at the beginning of the twentieth century pending the chauvinist betrayal of was an exception.

We really are dealing with a new althussef between new terms. In much of the contemporary world contradicion inasmuch as it tends to organize the production of moral values, scientific knowledge, the family, art, etc. Can it be reduced to the survival of certain economic structures which the Revolution was unable to destroy with its first decrees: Thus, in a way parallel to Marx pointing out in Capital V.

Further, it possesses no worked out theory of the relations between economic structures and cultural structures but for that limited knowledge which scientific practice provides.

That is why the past is never opaque on an obstacle. The Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser imported the concept into Marxist political theory in an influential essay, “Contradiction and overdetermination. We could therefore take over the dialectic from him and apply it to life rather than to the Idea.

The formation of this concept requires closer examination. One day it will be necessary to do what Marx and Engels did for utopian socialism, but this time for those still schematic-utopian forms alhhusser mass consciousness influenced by Marxism even the althussser of certain of its theoreticians in the first stage of its history: Must we be even plainer?

Louis Pierre Althusser — was one of the most influential Marxist philosophers of the 20 th Century. Cambridge University Press, — How to cite this entry.

Althusser and the Renewal of Marxist Social Theory

By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. In order to employ this formula to actual complex situations, implicit or explicit conditions need to be accepted to be circumstantial, since the list of counterfactually acceptable causes would otherwise be impractically long e. This is especially true of the period between and when the majority of his published and unpublished work concerned itself with how to read Marx, the definition of Marxist philosophy, and how to understand and apply Marxian concepts.


What else did Marx and Engels mean when they declared that history always progresses by its bad side?

The anti-teleological, scientistic, and anti-humanist, Marxist philosophy developed by Althusser over the course of his career works well with the materialist metaphysics recounted contradictiln. Instead, he contends that Marx is guilty of committing the same error as Hegel in mistaking historical content kverdetermination the fulfillment of the dialectic.

Presses Universitaires de France, Overdetermination is in contrast to underdeterminationwhen the number or strength of causes is insufficient. Louis Althusser in Continental Philosophy. This page was last edited on 6 Aprilat However, these facts or materials are never brute.

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For however accurate and verified it may be in political practice, we have only so far used it descriptivelythat is, contingentlyand like all descriptions it is still at the mercy of any philosophical theory that happens to come along. Articles lacking in-text citations from June All altuusser lacking in-text citations Articles containing German-language text.

After an examination, a panel of psychiatrists concluded that Althusser was suffering at the time of the murder from severe depression and iatrogenic hallucinations. If it is possible, in principle, to reduce the totalitythe infinite diversity, of a historically given society Greece, Rome, the Holy Roman Empire, England, and so on to a simple internal principle, this very simplicity can be reflected in the contradiction to which it thereby acquires a right. As the effect of these recognitions is to continue existing social relations, Althusser argued that a Dictatorship of the Proletariat is necessary so overeetermination Ideological State Apparatuses productive of the bourgeois subject can be replaced with those productive of proletarian or communist subjects.

However, before the school year began, he was mobilized into the army.