NOTES ON:  Rancière, J. (2011) [1974] Althusser's Lesson, trans Emiliano Battista. London: Continuum International Publishing Group

 by Dave Harris

[For good or ill, Rancière (R) tends to be a bit repetitive, monotonous even, with his constant refrain that there is equal capacity among all social groups engaged in political struggle, but that a number of analysts and theorists, including leftwing ones, seem to find ways of denying this.  At its most paradoxical, it is those philosophies and theories ostensibly designed to emancipate the proletariat that do the most damage, since they are also have to explain why it is that the proletariat has not risen up or ready to smash capitalism.  The answer is because they are systematically fooled about the exploitative nature of the system, which goes about reproducing inequality and defending itself in ways which ensure compliance.  The poor old proletariat misrecognise this, and require expert theorists and philosophers to explain it to them.  Ranciere is on a one man mission to expose the flaws in this misrecognition argument, and he does take on the best representatives of it—Louis Althusser (LA), and, elsewhere, Pierre Bourdieu.

The most systematic expose of LA, and the one I read first, appears as an appendix to this later book, and that is the section where I have the most detailed notes.  J.R. says that this is actually a rather dated essay, and that he hesitated before including in this collection, principally because LA has written a great deal of work afterwards, and also because it seemed far too optimistic about the fate of revolutionary movements in Europe and in China.  Nevertheless, if readers of this guide want to turn to that first, it might help fill out some of the sketchier notes of the rest of it.]

Foreword to the English edition

This was written before better known works by LA such as the isas essay.  J.R.  thinks that the text that he is about to criticize represents the core of LA's position, and isolates the moment when he was most effective in becoming of dominant figure in Marxism.  He did much to insist that we returned to Marx's thought, but also defended the authoritative position of the Party in France [aka pcf], 'not without ulterior motives' (xiv).  Structuralism was making a lot of ground in those days, and LA wanted to develop connections with it.  However, May '68 took over the political agenda, and LA became a major source for those who wanted to see 'student uprisings as a petty bourgeois movement, one whose actors were in fact the victims of the bourgeois or ideology they imbibed without knowing'.

This book wants to defend the effects of the events in 1968, against the disenchantment that was taking place.  This included an attack on militants as male and patriarchal, and as ascetic, and one response was to turn to 'Deleuze and Guattari's "desiring machines"' (xv).  Another was to read the so-called new philosophy.  Marxism also tried to patch itself up and organize a return to order, through the work of LA.

However, instead of sifting through these alternatives, to arrive at a 'good theory of emancipation', the book tries to keep open the subversion of thought and practices displayed in 68, and to turn away altogether from emancipatory theory and its stale discussions of the relation to practice, in favour of studying 'the multiple ways thought assumes form and produces effects on the social body'.  Foucault's Archaeology looks promising in its analysis of discourses of domination and how they might be exposed.  The focus was not on the old abstract fights between materialism and idealism, but on 'the rationality of thought at work', expressed in institutions, dispositions, and actual words, often in a borrowed, interpreted, and transformed and impure form.  This was to be opposed to the usual teleological discourses about the march of history which had been so disappointing.

Interest has been in conflicts and struggles, 'the topography of the possible', and this informs the book as a critique, not only of LA, but of the broader transformation of revolutionary thought and domination such as 'the sociology of "misrecognition", the theory of the "spectacle", and the different forms assumed by the critique of consumer and communication societies' (xvi).  In these approaches, domination arises through the ignorance of the dominated.  At first, the project is to bring science to the masses, but this soon dissolves into resentment and disillusion about the masses [fits UK gramscianism really well].

At the heart of these approaches is 'the theory of the inequality of intelligences'.  This must be inverted.  At first this was associated too closely with Maoist slogans about cultural revolution.  The anti authoritarianism of the movements offered a radical critique of the notions of the state and development found in Russian communism.  However, support for maoism was too enthusiastic, although there is no support for 'the inverse thesis, which essentially reduces the mass movements of the Cultural Revolution to a simple manipulation carried out by Mao Tse-tung to recover a power he had lost in the apparatus of the party' (xvii).  The reality was more complex, displaying not only the real capacity for autonomy and initiative, but also the existence of 'penitentiary realities' behind policies such as reeducating intellectuals with manual labour.  This only goes to show that 'there is no theory of subversion that cannot also serve the cause of oppression' after all.

Overall, this book has not produced sound arguments for all its convictions, and some claims and analyses should be challenged.  Nevertheless the underlying principle of 'a capacity common to all' can produce both emancipatory thought and emancipation.  As a result, no changes have actually been made in the original version, even in the Appendix which was a 'written in the heat of the moment'.  Some reservations about it were originally added, but not for this volume.


The book comments on LA's reply to John Lewis and what it tells us.  It is not an objective analysis or a personally partisan one,  and it arises from the experiences of the 68 generation that saw LA as 'a philosophy of order'separating itself from the uprisings.  There was some hesitation about criticising LA who had done some good work in opening up various paths and seeing off earlier philosophies such as phenomenology, even making some readers into militants.  Actually, L A's work had already been refuted by the events.  How they were still producing material, but it looks like a pitiful struggle to square his work with the events.

However, in 1973, LA reappeared still offering his main discourse, that Marxism is a theoretical antihumanism, and trying to discuss the criticisms of Stalinism.  Meanwhile real events, such as the strike at Lip seem far more relevant [but see an alternative and more critical account of the Lip occupation here) .  Nevertheless, the Reply was hailed as very important, reviving Marxism, and was clearly implicated in the return of the old Party dominance.

The book is not about replacing L A's concepts with better more marxist  ones, but rather showing how Althusserianism  actually works, how it uses words and reasoning, and forms of knowledge to construct what passes for a Marxist discourse.  The question therefore is 'what does it mean to speak as a Marxist today?' (xxi).  The situation remains one where a series of revolts are taking place, while the official Marxism is also developing but is unable to understand them [again the Lip occupation is mentioned].  The disjunction has led to reflection about Marxism, and its practice.  Do Marxists just read and teach Marx?  do they create organisations?  Why so much time defending or applying theory, what power relations are at work?  However, instead of analysing these matters, Marxists, and others, have offered 'a discourse of justification' (xxii).  It seems to be about continuing academic discourses, referring to events only as 'phantoms of their speculations'.  We can include Deleuzians, who argue that we should abandon all the old approaches, but urged us to read Nietzsche—'the revolution, the proletariat—it's all reactive libido, debt, resentment'.  We just need to change authors.  Whenever the core concepts, the underlying argument is that everything is in vain, the world cannot be changed 'the point now is to interpret it' [nice!]. Higher education seems to provide us only with the skill of speculation.  Practice does not transform consciousness.  We have not left behind the academy.

So we can start with the Reply as a way into L A.s thought, especially the relation between theory and politics, and the displacement in political positions that this produces.  The first chapter is the most pedagogical [sneer quotes], featuring 'a systematic deconstruction of [L A's] problematic'.

[But try the Appendix first?]

[I read this first as a separate article, still available in that format, and page numbers refer to this article  ]

Rancière, J. (1974)[1969]   'On the theory of ideology (the politics of Althusser)'.  Radical Philosophy 7: 2--15.

Once, Marxists used to worry about how to avoid mysticism in theory, and to link it with practice.  Theoretical practice itself was seen as a kind of [mysterious] praxis.  May '68 broke with all that, and challenged the status of the theoretical, not least by 'a mass ideological revolt' (2).  It was no longer enough for Marxism to simply assert its own rigour.  All participants had to choose a revolutionary or counterrevolutionary stance.

The significance of LA's work soon emerged as less radical than it looked.  It offered no understanding of student revolt.  It came to serve revisionism by defending conventional academic knowledge: this was the real solidarity between its theory and its practice in politics.  The key is the analysis of ideology.

L A.s theory argues that in all societies ideology has a common function to ensure social cohesion by relating individuals to their allotted tasks.  This first appeared in a Spanish article, as A Lecture by Althusser [an English version in Partisan in 1973].  Secondly, ideology is seen as the opposite of science. 

The first argument is designed to attack the notion of alienation and the hope that eventually a new transparency would dispel the mystification.  LA argues that all social structures are opaque necessarily for their actors, as an effect of social structure.  Ideology will exist even in societies without classes, since human beings have to be able to do their allotted tasks.  To this general function is added the effects of class struggle which overdetermine the hold of ideology.  This is supplemented by an argument that ideology aims at giving people a mystified representation of the social system in order to keep them in their place, but this is 'socially necessary', although the additional requirements of class conflicts are far more important [citing a French reference Theory, Practical theory and the Formation of Theory, Ideology and Ideological Struggle --my schoolboy translation. Now in Althusser, L (1990) Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists and other essays ].

However, the idea of social cohesion and social bonds seem to belong to something other than Marxist analysis.  Did Marx not say that the history of mankind is the history of class struggle?  We seem to have shifted back to Comte or Durkheim.  There is some mythical 'social group' outlined here.  LA even goes on to say that the first example of general ideology is religion!  To see ideology as having both a general and class function indicates that two conceptual systems are at work here, one Marxist one bourgeois.  LA attempts to articulate them by putting the general theory first, but claiming that this general theory is still Marxist, that he has derived it somehow from the Marxist concept of class and the generation of ideology [this is so even in the specific notion of ideology in general in the isas essay?]

This involves a new notion of social structure, something separate from class divisions, and not as the effects of the relations of production.  We can see how these class divisions work in constituting apparently separate social features by analyzing fetishism.  In R's own bit in Reading Capital, fetishism was seen as both the manifestation and dissimulation of the relations of production, but it is necessary to add that the antagonistic elements of the relations of production also appear, concealing the opposition between capital and labour, disguised by the apparent similarity of sources of revenue.  The fact that contradictions are hidden shows the class nature of this process.  If we leave this out, we are left with an argument that all social structures have necessarily hidden parts, that they dissimulate.  To extend this beyond class societies, however is unwarranted—it leaves it outside of Marxist theory and thus open to the influence of metaphysics, especially notions of 'the cunning of reason'.

LA's dualism in arguments about ideology seem like an extension of Marx's own analysis of the twofold nature of production, especially its socially determined nature together, the result of labour in general, with its specifically capitalist exploitation of labour power.  But connecting arguments at the economic level to the superstructural denies their relative autonomy.  We run the risk of someone applying it to politics as well, with some sort of political structure, a State always being required, with definite political functions, before the specific one emerging in capitalism.  There is this danger in LA.  He runs the risk of seeing ideology as natural.

LA weasels around this by using forms such as 'as if' to disguise his actual assertion that the origin of ideology lies in society itself.  This is a Kantian kind of modesty.  Using terms like that actually conceal political functions under modesty.

LA runs the risk of analyzing capitalism not as centrally based on ideology, but as possessing class ideologies,  with ideology as not a necessary field of struggle, but one of the participants in the struggle.  This further leads to an argument that contrasts ideology as a weapon of the ruling class, with science as a weapon of the ruled.  Ideology can never be a system of knowledge, or even the basis of one. 

However, this is really 'the function of the dominant ideology ', and not the function of all ideologies.  LA introduces class struggle only through the development of the ideology/science split, and this leads to another problem—'Difference [between science and ideology] has become contradiction'(4).  This is in fact another old metaphysical operation.  Ideologies are never seen as  contradictory in themselves , but only ever feature articulated differences and oppositions [a bit like Hall and Jacques on Thatcherism]: again the ideological struggle which produces major contradictions has been erased.  Instead, we have a metaphysical distinction between science and its other, akin to 'the realms of the true and false'.

We can see how this works in an actual political analysis, drawing on L A's texts on the problem of students, and his Marxism and Humanism.  The first reflected a split between the pcf and the arguments developed by the National Union of French Students.  The Party simply wanted more and better [more accessible?] universities, while the unions were questioning the teaching situation itself, qualitatively, through the notion of alienation.  LA was trying to correct this analysis: but he did not start with an analysis of the university.

Instead of seeing class divisions between teachers and students, LA focused on the content of knowledge, and how it can reveal the split between science and ideology.  The argument is based on a division between technical and social divisions of labour in Marx.  Again this replaces a specific class struggle with a general function necessary to all social structures, or at least those in modern societies.  However, Marx's intention was different, to explain production as necessarily two-fold, as general and as socially defined.  This is to be read as 'a mere formal distinction corresponding to two ways of conceptualising the same process' (5), 'aspects of a single division', which implicate technical reproduction in social reproduction.

LA sees it as a real distinction, however, with technical divisions of labour being determined only by technical necessity.  But technical necessity cannot be separated from relations of production. Indeed, technical functioning depends on the reproduction of the relations of production.  The argument actually works backwards, and LA is really arguing explicitly that universities are central to every modern society, implying that specific levels of development of productive forces exclusively produce technical divisions, a dangerous flirtation after all with the notion of evolution and linear development, specifically criticised elsewhere by LA.  He seems to be agreeing after all that science or rationality imposes its own requirements.  This is dangerously close to slogans about the crucial 'needs of the economy' or 'modernization.'

This coincides with the French Party shifting towards alliances and a reforming role rather than 'the revolutionary necessity to destroy the bourgeois relations of production'.  Technical progress is seen as a good aspect of modern societies.  However, such requirements always serve a class, in this case 'the labour aristocracy and intellectual cadres' who are increasingly represented in the Party.  What we have in effect is 'the defence of the hierarchy of "skills"'. LA is supporting this 'opportunist ideology of revisionism'. In this way, metaphysics assists revisionism, specifically by seeing universities as representatives of science, leaving militant students as representatives of the other.  This explains the appeal of LA's defence of the university, its '"obviousness"'.

Apart from anything else, it claims that 'science is automatically on the side of the revolution', while ideology with its half truths is always reactionary.  LA does not and cannot explain why science is always subversive in this way, however.  We do need a Marxist science of social formations, but this can't be extended to science in general.  The reality of teaching science in universities shows this.  It features positivism [acknowledged by LA to be fair] , and also a particular social structure involving 'the type of institutions; selection mechanisms; relations between students and staff' (6).  The environment is ideological, the very institutions and the forms of transmission.

It is the case that the so-called human sciences can be seen as openly ideological, revealing the class origins of systems of knowledge.  But their ideological role does not mean that they lack scientificity.  Instead, they adopt bourgeois ideology.  We should not be confronting them with the demands of proper science, but opposing them with 'the proletarian ideology of Marxism-Leninism'

There is no need for a split between science and ideology in this analysis.  The divisions of knowledge, and the forms in which it is institutionalized are the important issues, 'the examination system, the organization of departments—everything which embodies the bourgeois hierarchy of knowledge'.  Ideology is not just a collection of discourses, but 'a power organised in a number of institutions'[the basis of the claim that R invented isas?].  Ideology doesn't just operate in the imaginary.  Ideological struggle does not just mean confronting one discourse with another, including confronting spontaneous student ideology with rigorous Marxism.  These struggles only reinforce bourgeois ideology's conception of knowledge.

It is wrong to see the struggle in terms of an abstract science confronting abstract ideology.  Universities actually select from science and produce objects of knowledge.  This is a form of appropriation of scientific knowledge, 'and these are class forms of appropriation'. Systems of discourse, together with their institutions and traditions 'constitute the very essence of bourgeois ideology'. In universities, science is articulated with ideology, precisely in dominant ideology.

Knowledge cannot be easily divided into science or ideology.  The content of knowledge clearly reflects the forms of appropriation.  There is no class division in knowledge, and there is no established knowledge outside of any institutions, which are instruments of class rule.  All the characteristics of established knowledge are determined by the dominant class.  Knowledge itself is at stake in the class struggle, 'and, like State power, must be destroyed'. Universities must be 'the objective of a proletarian struggle'.  They are not neutral sites.  The issue is how a scientific knowledge is constituted and appropriated—'There is a bourgeois knowledge and a proletarian knowledge', and splitting science from ideology is not adequate to grasp this. We need a concrete analysis instead, not one that starts from abstract notions of social class which serve to 'ignore class struggle as it really exists' (7). 

How does LA's notion of science conceal class struggles?  The clue lies in the notion of teaching as transmitting determinate knowledge to those who do not have it.  This division between teaching and taught is based on the same dubious notion of technical division of labour.  However, we have a new absolute difference, not between science and ideology, but between knowledge and non knowledge.  The old distinction between science and ideology might actually justify student suspicion towards the knowledge they encounter—now, that knowledge is seen as science.  Science then reveals itself as some notion of pure knowledge.  Teachers now should be understood as those attempting to mediate this pure knowledge of quality, and it is only naive provocateurs who would want to criticize them.

We can see the presence of metaphysics in this argument and also when LA defines philosophy as itself scientific, when it intervenes in politics.  However, this connection between philosophy and politics is itself based in the bourgeois notion of knowledge, although its class nature is not recognized here.  Traditional philosophy attacks other philosophers in the form of a criticism of knowledge, not just as a matter of error, but related to social and political power—but this is not understood as a matter of social classes [Deleuze is a good example] .  As a result, the criticism of knowledge 'is made in the name of an Ideal of Science' (7), which is to be contrasted with opinion or illusion.  The philosophical discourse typically asks questions such as what constitutes scientificity.  Sometimes this is understood as somehow a request from science itself, wanting to clarify its terms.  In effect, the real basis of knowledge in the class system is avoided, and knowledge wants to conceal itself.

Philosophical knowledge is denegated [the very claim that Rancière was to criticize when Bourdieu made it!].  It takes an ironic stance towards knowledge, questioning it but not investigating its foundations.  As a result, this sort of knowledge is always restored in the end, as philosophers know when they criticise each other.  It is the same with LA—we doubt knowledge, only to rescue it as science.  When discussing teaching, LA is quite aware of the issue of who possesses knowledge.  In classical philosophy, we often find that questioning the object of knowledge ends by confirming a subject [such as the Cartesian cogito].  Philosophy can therefore claim to take a political stand against 'the possessers of false knowledge', like theologians or sophists.  This clearly strengthens claims for dominance, 'hence justifying class domination' (8).  The political demands of classes excluded from power are represented as a demand for true knowledge, making this demand looks universal.

L A.s academic ideology makes this metaphysical discourse justify teachers in their claims for dominance.  He speaks in their name, adopting 'the class position expressed in revisionist ideology—that of the labour aristocracy and the cadres', and therefore justifies his own class position.  Class struggle becomes imaginary, and helps revisionism and class collaboration.  Marxism has become opportunism.

The analysis of humanist ideology expresses the concealment of the class struggle best.  It starts by asking what the function of humanist ideology is in the USSR, but does not investigate its class meaning.  It is assumed that the USSR is classless, so we can go ahead and analyze ideology on its own.  The familiar argument ensues, that ideology is not a science, and that it helps people adjust to their conditions of existence.

For LA, socialist humanism disguises a series of new problems in a classless society, of organization, development of the productive forces, anticipation of the disappearance of the state and new forms of leadership and individual responsibility.  We see that these new problems and the old arguments about ideology prevent analysis of the reality of the Soviet union.  LA analyses 'nothing but the image which Soviet Society presents of itself; or to be more precise, which the governing class present of it'.  The adequacy of this ideological discourse is never challenged [the Reply does challenge it, esp. the notion that the USSR is classless—this is explained as an error in misunderstanding the role of the socialist production system deterministically].

This apparently concrete analysis confirms the general discussion of ideology inevitably.  Revisionism, however cannot be thought out.  The very notion of the general theory of ideology, separated from the existence of classes is itself an account of 'a politics which claims to have got beyond classes'.  The critique of humanism actually leaves it intact, by basing itself on the notion of scientificity.  The real issue is what humanism represents politically.

We know that humanism usually ends with protecting their privileges of specific sets of men: 'Man is always the Prince or the Bourgeoisie', sometimes the party leader.  However, it can also become a concept to guide rebellion and protest, it can function 'as the discourse of a class in struggle'.  Humanism in the USSR has taken this form.  Even Stalinism offers some notion that 'Man' is the most valuable capital, despite the claim that the cadres should decide everything.  This humanism can also be seen as helping to restore capitalism as a state of the people, but it can also express rebellion of classes and peoples.  It is necessary to investigate concrete reality, but LA sees humanism in terms of a general ideological form, something that helps people serve their proper functions in the USSR.  The task is to make the transition to communism, and this presents a number of problems for LA, but he can never see this in terms of contradiction, and is forced to revert to terms of bourgeois sociology, a matter of unifying groups.

We need to return to the original goal, which was to criticize notions of alienation and dealienation.  The intention was to show that the world is not transparent to consciousness, even in classless societies.  This was convenient for the Soviet party and for revisionism generally.  But the real reason for this error is that LA remains in 'a classic philosophical problematic' (9).  L A's tactic is to criticize ideologies of alienation by seeing them as based on a theory of the subject.  But this is only pursued partially, by examining idealist accounts of consciousness.  Ideology explains the illusion of consciousness, but it is not just false consciousness but a system of representations, images and signs, which have an objective social reality.  However, he should also have looked at social forms in which struggles are contested.  This is also ideological.  Ideology is not just a matter of inadequate representations, but exists' in class struggles, not just in discourses', in institutions or 'what we can call 'ideological apparatuses'.  This would prevent LA from seeing ideological forms as 'spectral', something that subjects construct.  That account can never understand contradiction in the Marxist sense, but remains on metaphysical grounds.

For LA, ideology can only be ended by replacing it with science, with the disappearance of illusion—which is clearly impossible. Ideology can never end in this system, which prevents a suitable political analysis of how class struggle produces actual ideologies reflecting class interests.  That analysis would see the end of class struggle not as some wonderful utopia, but as the result of successful class struggle: ideology, like the State, would wither away.  We would need to criticise those claims that certain regimes have achieved a classless society, and examine the continued existence of class struggle in socialist societies, like the Chinese ideological struggles against bourgeois ideology and its remnants [very much like L A's own later analysis here].  Seeing ideology simply a subjective illusion will not help.

LA's notion of science itself reflects the class position of intellectuals as petty bourgeois, squeezed between the bourgeois ideological apparatus of the university, and the proletariat, who can be joined only after they have been rethought, as advocates of science [!].  All the time intellectuals remain as intellectuals, they can only participate in proletarian struggle 'in a mythical fashion', uniting their apparent interests with their own intellectual goals.  An intellectual can adopt proletarian positions but at the price of 'the denegation of his own class practice'.  In effect this means adopting a bourgeois take on proletarian politics, which inevitably means revisionism.

Conditions in France makes this convergence particularly likely.  Petty bourgeois intellectuals cannot easily access the working class, because of their integration into bourgeois ideological dominance, but also because they cannot pose as or act within the institutions of or with the representatives of the working class.  Only proper participation can 'guarantee the Marxist rigour of his discourse', however (10).  These conditions lie behind the transformation of Marxist theory into a discourse on science.  Scientific rigour is a consolation.  However, scientific rigour can only become progressive if it is not fully pursued—if it is, it inevitably becomes 'a bourgeois rigour', a justification for academic knowledge 'and the authority of the Central Committee', or justification for counter revolution.

We know that revolutionary movements need revolutionary theory, but it is also true, as May '68 and the cultural revolution [in China] have taught us, that 'divorced from revolutionary practice, or revolutionary theory is transformed into its opposite'.

Afterword (1973)

This was written four years after the main piece.  At the time, it seemed as if the struggles of 68 had obviously exposed LA, and that any 'theoretical refutations seemed laughable compared with the lessons of the struggle' (10).  However, that was an idealism.  Actual struggles clearly transform people's views much more than theory, but bourgeois ideology and domination has not been utterly destroyed, especially the 'university machine', which continue to police people using scholastic and theoretical scaffolding to argue that it is wrong to rebel.  There have been some changes, including the establishment of certain experimental forms of university as at Vincennes.  This has only transferred the authority from the teacher to the knowledge, and ended professorial despotism replacing it with 'an egalitarian Republic of petty mandarins'.  This has strengthened L A's problematic and discourse, even though he has receded into the background [and a pcf student is quoted as being pleased that selection is reintroduced toexcludse those of insufficient grasp —the test being whether people could grasp L A.s problematic of reading!].

So there is still an ideological struggle going on between the mass movements and the ideological apparatuses of the bourgeoisie.  Those apparatuses have got clever by appearing to fight on the opponent's ground.

Although this original critique of LA is still relevant, there are new problems which require rectification.  The criticism does seem one sided, but it was addressing particularly how Althusserianism was drafted in to support revisionism after May '68.  This is a 'specific articulation' of L A's work, representing the specific position of Marxist scholars faced with ideological revolt.  There were other ways in which LA's work was taken up politically, even as a left-Althusserianism, which should lead to maoism.  The right wing readings were dominant at the time, and even the left wing readings were opposed by communist youth organisations.

LA has also now undertaken self criticism, and broken with theoreticism.  However, this new political emphasis does not overcome the effects of the classic texts.  Even the new notion of philosophy is practice has produced no actual affect on class struggles, because it still ignores political problems.  Overall, the self criticism 'was really more of a denegation of the foundations and the political effects of Althusserianism'(11).  It is the concepts criticized above the other real rational kernel of L A.s ideology.

Nevertheless, the later contributions do now recognize that there are multiple sciences and ideologies, and that a spontaneous philosophy of scientists is ideological.  However, the main arguments remain—these multiple versions simply arise from a complex mechanism of representation.  The class struggle is still seen as a component of one of these representations of practice.  Scientific practice itself, and the analysis of it, is not clarified.

The isas essay does introduce new ideas, and acknowledges the impact of the Chinese cultural revolution and May '68.  But the ideas are not connected back to the mode of production.  They are represented in the text as a surprise arising from research, although the mass movement clearly revealed the workings of the educational ISA very clearly.  L A's suggestion that political parties and trade unions are isas, and that the class function of education can be somehow combined with the glorification of science and schools can only be seen as an 'ironic discourse'.  New lessons can be drawn from practice, but they need not challenge underlying models.

The point of criticizing LA is not to knock down a great man, but rather to show how ideological mechanisms constrain the discourse of intellectuals.  It is not that LA simply did not realise the connections between his theory and relations of power at the time.  There is a general relation to power in the practice of intellectuals.  It was not just LA who ran seminars where students interrogate concepts, or attempt to authorise them, challenge their identity, challenge those ideas that seem out of place, displaying 'a vast network of philosophy's police mentality'.  These are not LA's intentions, and he is no more responsible for them than capitalists are for capitalism.  'The apprentices of bourgeois and knowledge are trained in the universe of discourse where words, the argument, ways of questioning, deduction are prescribed by the discursive forms—which are those of the repressive practices of power'.  This is a form of 'police - reason', a 'network of constraints in which the half-wits of academic philosophy romp, free from all problems'.

It was vital at the time to insist that subordinate classes can produce their own rebellious ideologies, without waiting for permission.  May '68 lead to a war against spontaneism on all sides, identifying a missing vanguard, party or science or discipline.  It was necessary to defend 'the right of the masses to autonomous speech and action'.  This is not just a choice between spontaneous or disciplined discourse, but a matter of heterogeneous modes of production of ideology.  Bourgeois ideology is routinely produced by the ideological apparatuses, proletarian ideology emerges from struggle, sometimes with other classes, against 'all forms of bourgeois exploitation and domination'(12).  This must necessarily take a fragmentary form, operating at different levels and advancing unevenly.  Proletarian ideology is never a full summary of alternative values: it takes the form of stopped assembly lines, mocking authority, fighting against scientific innovations, developing working class access to Chinese universities.  There is no fully developed complementary philosophy or conception of justice.

The usual accounts of proletarian ideology simplify matters such as proletarian discipline or solidarity, or want to impose a particular text: all these are designed to channel spontaneity and avoid anarchism, restore law and order.  In Stalinism, proletarian ideology was defined in this way, amounting in practice to a series of reasons for obeying and keeping discipline. This is the same source of ambiguity found in the science/ideology couple, which also apparently explains the failure of spontaneous rebellion.  These '"proletarian" phantasms' need to be swept away by practice.

[There are some interesting notes, including 14a that talks about what it is that makes science serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. In the first place, science is never developed and taught in a pure logical way.  This opens the way to criticism, even in mathematics, that the very propositions, proofs, fields of application and methods can be a matter of class struggle.  Apparently, some Communist Chinese mathematicians who did self criticism admitted to practising 'an academic's science, looking only for personal prestige'(12).  Ranciere goes on to argue that it is the issue of how science is practiced, how it is based on a system of division of labour which keeps science out of the hands of the masses, and restricts it to experts.  Proletarian science means developing something that is not just the business of specialists but which is accessible to the masses.

17A discusses denegation, apparently used first by Freud 'to designate an unconscious denial masked by a conscious acceptance, or vice versa'.  A criticism cannot conceal 'the strengthened affirmation.  The affirmation is "misrecognised" as criticism'(14)].

back now to the sequence in the book

Chapter 1 A Lesson in Orthodoxy

Both characters in the Reply are a bit odd.  John Lewis is not well known.  LA makes his criticism by speaking in the name of Marxism-Leninism, of orthodoxy.  This already gives a false impression of the unity between, say Marx and Engels, or denies the contradictions in Lenin once he came to power.

There are other elisions.  For example does making history mean the same thing to both?  John Lewis is supposed to be a spokesman for the bourgeois humanism, although LA actually confuses what the bourgeois said about the human mind with the view that man makes history.  The real issue was what is meant by the term 'man', and this led to philosophical anthropology, which is often materialist in the sense of giving a determining role to the sensory apparatus.  The bourgeois project therefore became one of controlling the sensory apparatus, as in Panopticon [the debt to Foucault is acknowledged in a note, 4].  The same idea was shared by French revolutionaries!  This continuity is what Marx criticizes when he talks about freedom, equality, property and Bentham.  It is why early radicals objected to the combination of the wage system with domination.

This understanding is what underlies the Theses on Feuerbach—especially the remarks that men are indeed subject to disciplining circumstances and education, and that these circumstances and the educator himself must be changed.  This is the revolutionary rupture with bourgeois thinking in Marx—who should arrange the world and educate the educators?  LA has also misquoted Feuerbach who never believed there was a simple essence of man as the origin of history, rather that human essence is at the heart of Hegel's history, and this notion of essence is misconceived as natural in origin.  Marx wanted to restore a historical dimension to Feuerbach's subject of history, instead of sticking with the history of representations.  In fact, Marx never refers to Feuerbach's category of the subject: rather he points out that F's subject is specifically German, meaning that it is often people on the sidelines of the major developments of class struggle who require humanist philosophy.  This means that humanism is always a marginal ideology, arising whenever there are discrepancies in the class struggle. Marx is really putting historical active subjects against contemplative and interpretive ones, empirical individuals, concrete men rather than Man.

LA must surely know this, because he has read the texts, but he acts as if he had forgotten what he knew about Feuerbach—because he doesn't want to know.  The real thrust of Marx's thought is to contrast the historical and the atemporal, the way historical forms are turned into atemporal features of nature.  LA sees in this the dangers of historicism.  If Marx is ambiguous, LA turns to Marxism-Leninism.

LA wants to promote the materialist over the dialectical theses.  For him, history has no privileged status: it's not true that it's more transparent because men have made it.  He argues that men have not made the natural world.  However the argument really is whether scientists can ever get to data outside the design of their experiments or hypotheses.  By making this a bourgeois ideology, LA clears the ground for philosophy, in the bit attacking Vico, and arguing that men are always separated from history by an illusion that they understand it.  In fact, Marx argued the opposite, that technology reveals the active relation of man to nature and therefore '"lays bare the process of the production of the social relations of his life and of the mental conceptions that flow from them"'[apparently in Capital 1].  Of course, anyone can interpret Marx, although LA is claiming to be a champion of orthodoxy.

The point about ruling class ideologies about nature has long been understood in the critique of religion, even in Feuerbach.  It also seems odd to ignore the historical experience of the masses in their dealings with various lords, landlords, police officers and so on.  Surely ordinary men can see that the social relations of a mode of production are connected to the material forms of production?  LA has got a rather bourgeois view of the masses here, who had just seem to live in history, without struggle.  History needs to be studied by specialist party intellectuals.  We see again this notion that there is a division between working men who produce, and men of leisure who provide the theory.  If the masses make history, it is only after being firmly guided by the Party to penetrate their existing illusions.

A hierarchical order of the university was justified by LA in the concept of the technical division of labour.  LA did retract this slightly after 1968, in the guise of a discussion of scientific understanding.  The intention was still clear, to preserve even Marxist philosophy as the preserve of academic specialists, a goal 'diametrically opposed to Marx's' (11).  This is driven by a residual fear that a proper workers revolt would make philosophy redundant producing 'a serious job crisis on the philosophical market' (12).  Marx had already proclaimed the end of philosophy and philanthropy in the Theses, but this is rendered as a new philosophical practice.  Marx actually proposed a politics of theoretical statements.  He obviously does defend the findings of theory, as in the defence of the notion of surplus value, or even in his insistence [in the Marginal Notes] that we should start with social production not 'man'.  But this is to be seen as offering a new materialism based on the history of production, against more abstract materialisms as in [philosophical anthropology, surely?]  natural science.

This means that L A's distinction between materialist and dialectical theses 'makes no sense'.  Instead of arguing that we can only know what exists, Marx is arguing that the consciousness of man is determined by their social being.  Knowledge does not emerge from being in the old materialist way, the bourgeois world view, the bourgeois materialist tradition [which is deterministic, the origin of ideas in material events etc].  The new materialism opposes the split between idealism and materialism.  There is no need for a philosophy to arbitrate between the different claims.

Indeed, what is the role of philosophy?  It tells us that the masses make history, but 'do we really need philosophy to tell us this?' (13).  Marx's scientific propositions can also function philosophically as LA suggests, but what's the worth of doing so?  Is it that philosophy somehow produces a surplus by working on these concepts and slogans?  In this, LA produces a familiar character, 'indispensable to any extortion of surplus: the foreman'.

So it is not just a debate about whether man or the masses make history, rather how man is to be conceived, concretely, against the old materialism of senses.  In fact, it's Lenin who coins the term masses, although he remained suspicious because it seemed to imply a difference between masses and leaders.  The notion that the masses make history is actually Maoist, and Mao actually asserts that the people drive world history, no less.  This would be too Hegelian and humanist for LA, who modifies it.  Even here, the whole argument is about the competence of the masses, not what drives history.  It was an important slogan in the Chinese civil war, to reject fascism by arguing that 'it is the oppressed who are intelligent, and the weapons of deliberation will emerge from their intelligence' (14).  This extended to supporting the students against their professors.  It is a new contribution.  It clearly challenges the old view that the working classes only develop an economist consciousness.  Chinese workers showed their creative and political power, and this actually challenges mechanistic Marxism, the laws of the development of productive forces, and the old authoritarianism of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This Maoist conception is not just a philosophical thesis.  It rejects the notion that the oppressed can only triumph through the assistance of philanthropists or philosophers.  This is a new conception of the intelligence of the masses, hinted at in the Theses.  It requires philosophers to seriously rethink their practice, knowledge, and social position.  It questions the value of Marxist science in explaining events.  LA can only respond by turning this conception back into classic philosophy, and discussing the notion of a process without a subject: Mao's challenge becomes a move in a philosophical game, the old favourite critique of the subject, which was already well underway.  LA's specific move was originally welcomed as suiting the new times: it had political implications.

We can see this see if we penetrate beneath the apparently neutral struggle between LA and John Lewis.  LA's disguise as the anonymous spokesperson of Marxism-Leninism helps conceal the politics.  The British Communist Party was insignificant, and little would actually follow politically from the debate anyway, but it is different with other communists like Gransci.  Those leaders are critiqued in a different way, philosophically, as in Reading Capital [quite a good critique of Gramsci's humanism I thought.  However, R says that there was a role played by the factory councils, as well as by Italian philosophers like Croce.]

John Lewis is seen as nothing more than a double for Sartre, but Sartre's politics are never seriously discussed, especially the issue of whether intellectuals could have a political role outside the Party, and how they might relate to the working class, how objective research might link to political combat and so on.  Since Sartre, communist intellectuals have coped by developing the arrangement 'we leave the Party alone in questions of politics, and it leaves us alone when it comes to epistemology and other issues of theoretical practice' (18).  Existentialism was on the verge of raising questions about the drift towards dictatorship in the Soviet union.  The existentialists did engage in interesting debates with the pcf.  Sartre's work did encourage the insubordinates during the Algerian war, the rebellious students of May '68, the establishment of new newspapers to let intellectuals and the masses interact.  However, these matters cannot be discussed by LA, because the Party comes out of it very badly.  In exchange for this tactical silence, the Party is prepared to tolerate LA's philosophical 'pranks' (19) which at least help to recruit leftists.  L A's role is what makes his particular Reply significant.

Yet there are clearly political lines being developed, against any notion that the masses themselves might be able to make history, that they can determine history.  For LA, saying things like this would only distract the masses and disappoint them: their role is to get on with forming class organizations, the trade unions and the Party.  L A's points repeat bourgeois folk wisdom.  LA has helped to bring some Maoist slogans into philosophy, in a nice domesticated form, as an academic debate.  The fight against humanism is 'only a screen': the real fight has been against anything which challenges the authority of the Party and of his philosophy, whether it's Maoists or rebellious students.

Chapter two.  A Lesson in Politics.

[This is an account of the twists and turns of radical politics in the tumultuous period of the 60s and 70's.  As should be clear already, there was a great debate inside the pcf as a result of Kruschev's denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the Soviet party, emerging splits between the USSR and China, and the emergence of all sorts of the apparently spontaneous revolts outside the party, of which the student revolts in May '68, and the occupation of the Lip factory in 1973 were particularly challenging.  The Italian Party was also developing a new social democratic line that was to become Euro communism.  In the middle of all this, a number of communist party theoreticians attempted to develop particular responses.  One tendency was to revive the writings of the young Marx in order to explain cultural events as the result of alienation—the humanist tendency— which could attract other leftists and critics.  Stalinism was denounced as a mere cult of personality.  Various spontaneist and anarcho-syndicalist movements were accused of indiscipline and the unwitting reproduction of bourgeois ideology of the individual: working class participants were suspected of 'economism', that is the pursuit of their immediate interests in better wages or conditions.  LA's own approach has been demonstrated—a return to orthodoxy in the form of a reading of Marx that suggested it was a science, which gave the party intellectuals a role, and which also dismissed humanist variations.  Ranciere was an Althusserian at first, then located somewhere between 68 spontaneism, and Maoist cultural revolution. 

It is not worth summarising all the details.  LA is to be accused of supporting all those trends which opposed spontaneism and cultural revolution.  It is as usual a very harsh critique, and sometimes a hilariously sarcastic one, one that's almost impossible to test out unless you know the particular details of the organisations and struggles of the period..  LA is never really allowed much consideration anyway.  R says that 'we must distinguish between Althusser's politics and the politics of Althusserianism; Althusser may very well always have kept his distance from the latter, but that very distance was a political position…  "theoreticism"…  was an actual partisanship'(24), which is either a subtle hermeneutic reading or a paranoid one.  It is actually apparent from some of the stuff below, that L A.s work was also subversive of the party line at certain moments.  A critical reading of it is precisely what led R to develop his own stance].

The theoretical investigations, especially in the core work, was designed to transform the Party.  Liberal tendencies had been opposed by the excesses of Stalin [actually Zhdanov] in creating a dogmatic socialist culture.  The only alternative seemed to be liberal eclecticism.  At least there was a spaces for L A's project to reexamine Marxist philosophy.  The point was to found a new rational politics, especially based on a particular notion of the dialectic in Marx and Lenin, which seem to be having such an effect in China and Cuba.  Theoreticism did not abandon politics, but claimed rather it took a detour, eventually to revive local politics with philosophical inputs, and to relate to events elsewhere in the world, especially those that seemed to operate blindly and empirically [Debray's line on Cuba which fiercely opposed theoretical debating in favour of action].  It was not clear what such theoretically supported politics might look like in the actual texts of Marx and Lenin, however.  Philosophizing was needed.

There were also themes detectable in For Marx to restore philosophy against those who saw them as irrelevant in the face of politics.  It was necessary also to defend the place of communist intellectuals in 'the university elite'(26).  To do this, it is necessary to oppose reductionist readings of historical materialism.  To stave off spontaneism, it is necessary to distinguish between science and philosophy, and this is also necessary to counter those who were seeing Marxism as just another ideology.  LA sees these as an attack on 'leftism', but borrows the definition offered by the Soviet communist party, who saw proletarian culture and science as inspired by leftism.  Marxist philosophy had to be seen as autonomous, and it had to be provided with new concepts.  Anyone opposing the relative autonomy of philosophy, or the other levels, could be seen as operating with 'the concept of a bad totality' (27). [Among the accused is Gramsci, as well as Lukacs].  This grouped together a number of opponents 'under the single model of subjectivism', and this could then be seen as just the flip side of economism, engendering an endless alternation between the two. 

The philosophical attack on leftism leads to a political intervention.  This takes the form of developing a system of differences—such as science and ideology, epistemological breaks.  This can help dump Marx's early work.  However, LA generalizes from the specific situation of needing to oppose Stalinist reductionism to found an entire politics claiming to actualise Marxist philosophy.  This leads to a break with the notion of politics as systematizing the ideas of the masses, and as representing class power [which R suggests is also a break with Lenin].  Individual leaders like Stalin and Zhdanov went astray because they did not have a suitable theoretical tradition, and so they were left flapping in a void, in ideology.  Anything that denies suitable theory runs this risk.

[R goes on to suggest that even in the worst of Stalinism, there were achievements, such as the victories of Stalingrad and Nanjing, and successful strikes of French miners.  These people did not operate in a void, but gained 'the positivity borne by the manifest sense of a struggle' (29).  Those struggles should have restored the primacy of class struggle above any notions that party intellectuals might have something in common with conventional politicians.  Even crude notions like a proletarian science helped this sense of positivity.  Objections to this crudity are merely petty bourgeois quibbles, from party intellectuals unable to adopt working class positions.  All this is lost in a simple abstract division between science and ignorance by LA.  Actual history is complex and subjective, not a matter of rational politics based on analysis of levels.  It follows that Marx's dialectic must be rediscovered from examining these struggles.  By not doing so, LA had no alternative but to 'invent theoretical solutions to problems that political practice could not solve' (30), working from above.  The relative autonomy of levels was in fact 'the new figure of  utopia', a substitute for self emancipation.  No wonder LA has only largely appealed to academics: 'it is not at all to change the world, but one more tool to interpret it with'(31) {nice, but a bit repetitive}].

There is an odd link between the notion of the history without a subject, and the constant valuing and of individual heroes, especially of Lenin, and, of course of Marx the great explorer.  This residual individualism led to the defence of the individualistic research in universities.  LA himself claim this heroic status in discovering that schools were isas, even though radical students had already demonstrated that well enough.

Political practice is supposed to unite the various elements, but they had to be grasped theoretically first.  While we were waiting, the Party could be relied upon to provide 'a provisional moral code' (32).  This avoided an earlier struggle that intellectuals had with commitment to the party.  But the same time, the party could only deal with short term issues, while theorists were set to develop the the long term plans.

Why did the pcf accept L A's project?  Officially, they saw no problem with what Marx actually meant, since that was expressed in the party of the working class.  The only ones interested in rereading Marx were those who had left the party or never joined it.  Philosophical readings could challenge the authority of the Party.  The challenge of spontaneism seem to suggest the need for an organisation, but not for a philosophy.  There had been an argument offered by Kautsky that the working classes needed to have consciousness imported, and members of the UEC [university students, communist] were interested in using this to discuss party positions.  LA policed this with his own project, by arguing it was one of several misguided projects. The pcf was content to accept the new line in the Soviet party after the 20th Congress rather than working at its own
theoretical position. 

However, this was threatened by the UEC who had become interested in 'Italian' variants of what it meant to pursue a peaceful transition to socialism, how the majority of the population had to be won over, how they had to be seen as united by being alienated.  This was seen as a break 'to the right', and was met by a break to the left turning on maoism and the critique of Soviet revisionism.  This forced a theoretical debate on the Party.  L A.s work helped to critique the philosophy of the Italians—its major role in defending the Party.  It was not accepted immediately, but became more popular after growing threats from the UEC and other humanists.  Intellectuals were particularly likely to be attracted by the argument that they should be given autonomy.

Other events cemented the alliance.  L A.s work on the materialist dialectic seem to agree with the Chinese line that's contradictions could be displaced [away from class, more towards the struggle of marginal oppressed people].  The pcf  questioned him about this, and had to argue that there was no relation between theoretical positions and political lines.  He was interested in maoism only to grasp its underlying Marxist principles—actual maoists had probably misread them directly as political texts.  However, LA realised that he would have to identify 'with the immediate interests of the Party' (36), and its struggles with the splitters.

In the critique of humanism, it looks like subjectivism needs to be critiqued by theory, and this is an acceptable way to critique humanist communists.  However, there were constant challenges arising from political episodes like the Algerian war or the student uprising, and these also had to be seen off—in theory.  For R, this 'reveals the complicity between the illness and the doctor' (37) [can't quite see why—threats to the Party had to be dignified as theoretical so they could be seen off by theory?]

For various reasons, the discussion about education became crucial.  LA opposed rebellious students.  This is actually his only political intervention, and it was crucial in showing the links between his philosophy and pcf politics.  Rebellious students were particularly threatening because they challenged the whole notion of education and its relation to the existing order, and even talked about differences between producers and consumers of knowledge: a 'left' attack.  The UEC had already gained some credibility in the struggle against the Algerian war, and now wanted to exercise its newfound power in its own struggle.  They challenged the point of academic knowledge, the forms of the transmission of knowledge, including '(lecture courses which inured students to being docile)' (38), individualism, and 'the arbitrary nature of exams'.  They saw themselves as alienated and made dependent financially, and demanded student wages.  This was more of an exploration rather than a programme, but it lead to a structuralist response in L A.s work, as a response to the challenge of knowledge and its links with power.

Intellectuals were divided by the structuralist challenge as much as by 'Gaullist "technocratism"'.  It is this division that somehow brought together quite different thinkers like Foucault, Lacan and Althusser.  Structuralism seem to open up a new kind of politics, to do with the relations between knowledge and power.  This is sheer relief compared to the old dilemmas about whether to oppose war or get committed to the party.  A proposal for a student strike prompted L A's particular reaction—apparently, a student spokesman had also asked awkward questions about knowledge and power in a seminar run by Bourdieu and Passeron, and LA saw that is an unwelcome oppression against researchers.  He was to reassert the Party line on education, such as scholarships, and to replace the idea of the division between students and lecturers as one between science and ideology, knowledge and ignorance.  His intervention was clearly very important for him, and it also showed the active political possibilities of L A.s position.

LA went on to develop the science/ideology split as a form of 'authoritarian leftism' (41), and helped deepen the split between Marxist scholars and petty bourgeois students, serious and frivolous politics.  It also implied that any intellectual authority should be accepted.  It helped revive the particular centre at Ulm [Cercle d'Ulm] which saw a new point in struggling with the UEC.  [R was on LA's side at that time?]

It is tempting to see L A.s work as 'the simple ideology of a student aristocracy', who saw themselves as trainee professors, were used to competition, and were liable to see the critique of individualism and the advocacy of collective work 'as the reveries of illiterate minds'(41).  For the financially independent, the notion of student wages seemed absurd.  Financial security made it possible to focus on science as the only important thing compared to the petty grievances of lived experience [sounds very much like Bourdieu here].  However, this is not the only factor.  It was never a struggle between theoreticians and students, but between theoreticians themselves.  There were dubious connections between collective work groups and modern capitalist human relations [does R still believe this?] .  Focusing on daily life seemed romantic.  Demanding to be involved in theoretical debates looked democratic.  L A.s position seemed to offer an independent notion of being an intellectual, escaping daily life and its ideological effects.  Structuralism seem to offer a new theoretical power.  Nevertheless, all this was still confined to 'a professorial ideology' (46) ), and thus a compromise with the notion of hierarchies of knowledge.  A spokesman from Ulm particularly denounced UEC demands as trivial and irrelevant, compared to learned commentary and theoretical discussion.

R and his colleagues campaigned against the main lines of the UEC, and found that this lead them to agree with the pcf.  It looked like a an honest reassertion of Marxist principles, for example on the limits of the wage system.  However, events in China were more unsettling, and Mao also had a theoretical appeal.  There was still no Maoist tendency exactly, but Mao's texts required a theoretical effort.  Ironically, the pcf supported the UEC's Italian line as a possible defence against maoism.  However, while the struggles made student politics look particularly relevant, the pcf was also organizing to make sure its delegates dominated the UEC.  This changed the rules of the game for R and his colleagues, since the Party was then able to purge the UEC, and subsequently demanded 'cold orthodoxy' (45).  The choice was to abandon L A.s notion of the autonomy of
science, or to stick with philosophical commitments and be isolated.  However,'the Althusserian machine' had also stimulated an interest in theory to guide present practices, not long term ones, and a new Centre was constructed.  This was tantamount to allowing militants to group around theoretical formation, becoming a kind of party within the UEC.

Then LA and his associates at Ulm produced Reading Capital.  This looked like a political critique of the pcf and its economism.  The radical breaks between modes of production looked like it was advocating violent revolution after all.  However, what resulted was only 'the creation of a new field of academic inquiry'  (47).  However, a subversive path emerged again, based on the autonomy of theory.  This was the familiar argument that the agents of production can never fully understand how their practices produces illusions.  In fact this is barely an advance on Kautsky.  This was useful to denounce the spontaneism of students, but it was also a critique of the party's claim to be an authority on the basis of the unity between theory and practice [this also denies the gramscian notion of the collective intellectual or the organic intellectual].  LA gets close to drawing some of these implications himself, even while condemning critics of the university.

These points lead to an autonomy for Marxist theory and its texts, but LA uses this to prop up the pcf line again.  It is necessary before you gain freedom to subject yourself to the discipline of science.  This appealed at first because it seemed to resolve disputes between different lines.  It solved a quest for authority outside the party without engaging in the 'eclectic blabber that…  was regarded as the height of "Marxist" culture'(48) [like the designer Marxism in Britain?] This was an authority that would free intellectuals from guilt, requiring no class submission or betrayal, although excepting professorial repression.  This was a good side of L A.s work, even leading to maoism, and it gained support from the Sino-Soviet split and the general challenge to party authority.  It seemed  to Maoist students as if defending theory would somehow benefit the Chinese.

UEC militants liked this, but had more trouble with a critique of humanism, especially since the pcf had long adopted a stance of 'reusing the cultural and scientific heritage of the bourgeoisie' (49), although LA distinguished two sorts of humanism.  A residual worry was what would happen to the party, and to political practice.  LA ended a pluralistic toleration of intellectuals in the pcf and 'confiscated theory' (50), and some critics found this authoritarian, and also worried about the absence of any examples from workers practice, especially in Balibar.  The split between theory and practice was clear, and this is how a purist theory has political effects. The Ulm circle got increasingly critical of the party on theoretical grounds, especially with its attack on humanism which was less prudent them L A's original.

However, the real change was the development of a Maoist UJC [union of young communists].  Thus exploited splits between L A.s followers, who joined the different factions. Althusserianism is much more a theory of education rather than political practice, and thus must preserve educational hierarchies and forms.  It was also forced to staying with the pcf on the promise of regenerating it.  The UJC offered a radical alternative, although it had compromises of its own and was still ultimately a philosophical politics, unable to challenge scientific authority and power.  One faction was no longer willing to support the party short-term, without theoretical justification.  A trotskyite faction emerged after  the 'repression of empirical politics'.  Maoist adherence to the power of marxist science lead to a split with the other anti authoritarian students.  The events of May '68 would deepen the splits, and isolate the theorists

A political line had developed from Reading Capital that the student rebellion in France was ideological, untimely, and wrong in that it did not involve the working class.  This was actually supported by the professors, 'a class in love with every revolution except that of its students' (53).  This 'ouvrierist' attack by solid bourgeois on petty bourgeois was also supported by L A's legacy—repression by science is kin to repression by the proletariat, the petty bourgeois have to be stripped of their illusions and proletarianized. The issue of actual power and its effects was never addressed.  Instead there was a theoretical discussion about rational politics.  Organization was simply seen as a technical instrument, and the issue was to use it for the right ends.  It is a model of 'enlightened despotism'that ideally suits the modern university.  The UJC developed a similar hierarchy, and maoism was seen as a matter of absolute authority.  This notion of neutral political organization prevented an understanding of how organizations have their own power effects.

LA took the same line on the Chinese cultural revolution as the founders of the UJC, as an ideological revolution helping to respond to the threats of capitalism.  However, this could not openly be said since the pcf was pro Soviet.  However, the Chinese cultural revolution eventually came to be seen as a serious critique of the role of the educator, and LA had to admit this finally in his own piece On the Cultural Revolution.  He saw the time as not yet ripe for cultural revolution, and it is true that the events in China did not spread to other communist parties.  However, since the Chinese seemed to attack the whole notion of a guiding philosopher, it never could operate at the right moment.

LA eschewed further political interventions in favour of his self criticism, admitting that he had forgotten politics and practice.  Philosophy was now to serve politics, to be partisan [this was why the more theoretical structuralist bits of Reading Capital—R's bits--were omitted in the new edition]. R sees this as 'mockery, surely or a dark sense of humour' (56).  Partisanship was a slogan of Zhdanov era, which LA had begun by reacting against!

Chapter three A lesson in Self - criticism

[By now, I am starting to get the hang of R's general critical themes applied to LA:

1.  We should read LA's arguments, even those of Lenin and other heroes of the Soviet party, as really being rooted in particular political debates and interventions.  These then get generalized and theorized, and made into something abstract.  LA's notion of science and ideology is just one of those examples.

2.  In this chapter, it is going to be the notion of science that is falsely abstracted and made neutral, this time by ignoring its institutional context, the hierarchies organizations and divisions of labour that characterize real actual science.  This is also the understanding of scientists themselves, their 'spontaneous philosophy'.

These are powerful criticisms.  I'm not sure if R is suggesting they even apply to Marx himself?  It can look like that, as when the famous phrase about being determining social consciousness is located in a particular political struggle with other philosophers, Hegel of course, but also those earlier ones who believed in a material sensory base for thought and action.  There are problems with R's position too, which runs the risk of denying any autonomy to theory or science at all.  I'm also not sure that he has not made the same sort of mistake with his own insistence that you can somehow induce from a number of historical examples, the axiom of equal intelligence.  There is no doubt that some workers in revolutionary periods in France, including a free thinking schoolmaster, did manage to penetrate capitalist ideology, and work out some of the ways in which they were actually being exploited. My favourite example is the one in Proletarian Nights, where  some workers are discussing why employers are so cross when they absent themselves from work, as they often did on 'holy Monday' after the excesses of the weekend.  Why should employers worry, because they were saving the day's wages?  The answer eventually appeared—because employers actually gain a surplus from a day's work, and it is that surplus that they are losing when workers absent themselves.  Pretty perceptive! However, the issue is whether this is a general characteristic of workers, or whether it is just limited to a specific political episode, the turmoil in France around the revolutions of 1830 and 1848.]

Philosophy had to be partisan, and philosophy itself had to be secured, oddly enough by defending science, including the self misunderstandings that scientists had about 'the reality of their object' (57).  LA saw an urgent task to understand the production of scientific knowledge, quite in contrast to the necessary delay in understanding contemporary politics.  Although this looks irrelevant to politics, it is still political, at least in its effects.  'Class struggle in theory' looked as if LA was taking a leftist turn, but its real role was to use 'proper' philosophy to police concepts.

[for whom? LA, PCF hacks? Below, R says there was a leftist reading too,closer to his own militant stance]

LA was trying to understand the process of deStalinization in terms of an earlier moment, the reaction to Zhdanov and proletarian science.  He has nothing to say about current political issues such as the cultural revolution.  There is also nothing said about earlier episodes, especially the unfortunate turn to proletarian science in the Soviet Union, or the perversion of biology by Lysenko.  Ignoring these embarrassments means science has no role in the class struggle, only philosophy does, so the main target for LA is 'spiritualist religious ideology'(59).  Partisan philosophy simply defends science against religion.  This is seen particularly well in Lenin and Philosophy, where Lenin's contribution is seen as helping the sciences rather than investigating a problem, to help him refute the alternative conceptions of Bogdanov.  Lenin's actual contribution would probably look to have ignored relativity, which was seen as bourgeois at one time.  This is typical of LA, to try to arrive at an abstract division between idealism and materialism by simplifying people's positions, and in particular ignoring the complexity of the political circumstances.

As it happens, socialist theories had also long used idealist philosophy, sometimes to criticize the notion of Marxism as a science [examples page 61]. The crucial issue has always been to look at the political effects of discussions about science and their apparent crises.  What is usually at stake is the relation between Marxist intellectuals and the autonomy of the working class.  Lenin had already abstracted from the issue, and LA does the same, even more radically.  Scientists are to be assisted, since they are evidently incapable of thinking their own productive activities, and philosophy is required to help them become more aware.  There is a new dispositif with LA, to moderate any philosophical independence from the Party, but again this simply focuses on science as offering 'the universality of certain modes of verification', while ignoring that it also embodies 'a certain division of labour' (62).  This helps LA to say that scientists are actually victims of class exploitation, not just that they can't think of their own practice.  Class exploitation intrudes through 'idealist world views and philosophies that exploit the results of scientific activity' (63).  [Lots of references to LA's course on the philosophy of science].  Philosophy now actually brings political aid to a fundamentally good practice.  Both the spontaneous philosophy of scientists and the spontaneity of the working class as they develop their political consciousness are used to rebuke ignorant petty bourgeois students. R wants to argue that class struggle is already central to science, in its social functions, sources of funding, applications of research. 

Even as this work was unfolding, there were serious questions about science being asked, in China and in the West, especially its 'relation to power, capitalism and war' (64).  If scientists talked about the need for philosophy, they were addressing this emerging issue, not trying to distinguish idealism and materialism.  However, to investigate the issue would not really require philosophy, but the self critique of the environment in which scientists live: but that would raise questions about the environment in which philosophers live [R does not seem very keen to do this either, if it opens the gates to Bourdieu].  Instead, we have to show that the exploitation of science is a philosophical issue requiring philosophical weapons.

Apparently, materialism is always open to the threat of domination by idealism.  It was sometimes hard to persuade scientists themselves, but this only shows the 'dominance exerted by the extra-scientific' (65).  The 'proof' here is that idealism dominates contemporary scientists' language, whereas it did not do so before. Detailed arguments in L A.s philosophy course for scientists ensue, 65-66.  What LA does is to take some existing work on the sorts of problems that scientists face, [which actually look a bit like the difference between normal and revolutionary science in Kuhn], but to which he wants to add occasional epistemological problems.  However the latter only arise as a threat to science from philosophy, an attempt to exploit crises through constructing pseudo problems.  Scientists can not introduce dubious ideological epistemological terms themselves, so they must be introduced by a lurking idealism.  R says there is a parallel in the way in which Soviet paradise required a police force to reject evil trotskyite infiltrators. Philosophy cannot have the great role of constructing proletarian science anymore, so it can only pose as a 'a petty philanthropist that is always but one step away from degenerating into the police' (67).

R makes sure that he is not accusing LA himself of having controlling intentions, but instead focuses on 'one way of practicing philosophy.  The structure of its problematic', which he says inevitably produces LA's further work, such as that of the Reply.  The problematic, through LA, produces a police force.  If it attracted leftists, that was only because they enjoyed correcting particular words and validating particular utterances as revolutionary or reactionary—they were academics.  Of course words are weapons in class struggle, but philosophy should do more than arbitrate between good and bad ones, such as 'the masses' vs. 'man'.

These tendencies were already detectable in LA before May'68, and were used to interpret the events.  Petty bourgeois students could not lead or give lessons to the working class.  At the same time, the spontaneous interests of the working class were economist.  Students might have taken the lead from syndicalist working class leaders in organizing occupations.  Students did not lead the events, even if their disturbances were merely chronologically in advance of workers striking.  The chronology misleads and confuses real historical orders.  LA still gets into difficulty, though: it is hardly novel to say that the May events could only be successful with working class support, and dangerously Hegelian to argue that the students somehow got their ideas but they were poorly developed before the strike clarified them.  LA has to play with language here, seeing students as detonators, not vanguards.  Students were misled for the same reason that scientists are—they were forced to believe what were fundamentally bourgeois views about their significance.

However, revolting students did not seem to be willing to ask for philosophical advice, especially from the pcf who seem to be quietist about universities and concerned to reestablish order.  That was the reason some professors actually turned to the pcf, and gained some comfort from LA's work.  Some used LA to conduct a theoretical offensive against left wingers like Foucault [R argues that students also joined in, and that Bourdieu and Passeron were also useful]. Tel Quel was also developing a congenial academic Marxism.  However, LA himself did not want to be seen to be openly supporting pcf order.  In his more public work at least, he pointed to problems still to be solved, and undesirable effects of some solutions to defending science.  Whereas the student problems essay openly supported the pcf line while still containing some 'subversive propositions' (71), L A. inverted this strategy after 68, flirting with maoism, openly criticizing the Party and its policy [R says the isas essay should be seen in this light --below].  The new notion of class struggle in theory would help attract a leftist fringe.

The events of May had already divided intellectuals—some wanted to preserve the authority of their knowledge and pursue their peaceful career, some 'as [both] mandarins and communists' (72).  This group was further divided.  Some realized that attacking bourgeois ideology will end attacking the relevant set of institutions, including the split between mental and manual labour, abandoning the purely intellectual struggle against reactionary books.  This group were the 'gauche proletarienne' [GP] and the 'secours rouge' [SR].  However there was a right wing response as well, which focused on class struggle as universal, which then meant there was no need to go into factories or anything, and opened up a nice academic battlefield to fight revisionism or 'preserve the materiality of writing' (73). [I think R's own notions of politics as universal dissent runs this risk too]. ' Class struggle in theory' appealed to this group especially, although it seemed more like militant activity to the left wing. The same splits had gone on even inside the Party  and other Marxist organisations, where every challenge to hierarchy would immediately be interpreted as struggles between bourgeois and proletarian ideologies and so on.  Maoist slogans helped here.  This was 'the authoritarian ideology of leftism'  emerging after May '68.

LA came to talk about ideological state apparatuses (isas)  as a corrective to the view that ideological domination was just a matter of the social imaginary.  Now, students were seen as controlled directly by academic institutions, forms of selection and control and use of knowledge.  R himself first launched this idea as a critique of LA [see Appendix].  At first, this was a fundamental criticism of the abstractions of LA, the science ideology split, class struggle in theory and the others, and it also seemed like unwelcome politics to the pcf.  LA incorporated it by ignoring the political conditions which had produced the concept, and pretended to have discovered it simply from his reading of the classics of Marxist theory 'particularly Gramsci' (74).  It did not emerge from May '68 but from heroic research.  May '68 is simply denied, not even explained by comparing historical to real orders.  No one else apparently was aware of such roles for the school.  Noisy practice had to be tidied up.  Normal social life did not throw up any untidiness or contradictions. LA does admit that some teachers have been able to become aware and struggle against the system, and they're heroes, but no students have worked it out.  Interpellation works every time, except for the occasional deviant who then requires a repressive state apparatus.

In this way, isas fit in to the old problematic, with misrecognition as the core.  There are apparatuses, but the ideological structures are eternal.  Interpellation is eternal as well.  R objects to the application to religion and the church, by saying that the actual churches can play a political role, and also mentions the Lip workers again.  Ideology remains as a form of illusion, supported by 'an enslaving mechanism' (76), but this is a general analysis which ignores specific concrete struggles.  There is no analysis of those who are dominated, no analysis of class struggle.  We see the workings of 'an enormous despotic machine that subjects every individual to its functioning', even incorporating organizations like unions and parties have tried to struggle against it.   Even though LA eventually repents, politics is still not explored [presumably in the sense of the necessary and universal struggle as in conflict theory?].  R calls this 'Ultra-left-Platonism'(77), and the ultra left position contrasts strangely with those who wanted to see 'class struggle in theory' as a matter of finding the class location of words: it is the latter that dominates the Reply, and isas are not mentioned at all.

Again, there must have been an ironic reaction from the pcf when they saw LA saying that parties and unions were isas, but he was rather discreet about it.  Perhaps LA was not rebuked because he continued to write for the communist press—'the words didn't have to be orthodox, they just had to be printed in the right publication'.

[This chapter has an appendix, addressing the notion of the epistemological break, as a demonstration of the difference between ideology and science, and as a way of policing the works of Marx.]  This shows the usefulness of the notion of class struggle in theory, especially in the argument that Marx had adopted proletarian positions in politics and that this helped him with his efforts in theory and philosophy.  However, by the time we get to the Reply, the stages in the break are seen as 'incontestable facts', a polemic that is also found among party apparatchiks.  Again, there is no attempt to look at the concrete cases represented by terms such as petty bourgeois communism, or even proletarian communism, and these terms were by no means solidified in 1844 or 45.  As a result, LA simply applies hindsight, or tautology—'proletarian' is simply defined as Marxist theory defined it, so it is nonsense to say that movements had an independent effect on Marxist theory.

Similarly, there were many strands rather than one simple epistemological break.  LA simplifies because he has to see the changes in Marx's thought as a result of the philosophical revolution, which is also incomplete, explaining the survival of earlier categories.  Continuing political struggle with the dreaded bourgeoisie also prompts a return to these concepts, and we even have stern warnings like those in the debate on science, that idealism can force its way in, even to Marxism.  This is an example of the reality of class struggle in theory.  However, there are contradictions again—Marx sometimes speak solely on behalf of the proletariat, but apparently also on behalf of the bourgeoisie on other occasions with other words.  There are no actual historical connections between bourgeois ideological offensives and the emergence of terms like alienation in the later work. Marx himself denied that he did much leading of the workers' movement, and he was not exactly engaged permanently in class struggle.

What should be looking at is something much more concrete, reflected in the changes of terminology.  Marx uses empiricist language against philosophical concepts, then borrows the old philosophical categories to think about the revolution of 1848, he uses Hegelian  categories when he starts on political economy, and Hegelian logic to structure Capital.  The specific analyses, like the civil war in France, still seem to talk about the struggle to reclaim a part in social life.  We also find working class aspiration in the discussion of fetishism, with an argument that the possibility of free producers in free association has to be mystified by merchandising and the functioning of the markets: this was the dream of workers on strike in Paris at the time [and described more fully in Proletarian Nights].

As a result, there is no Marxist science to be defended from ideological corruption, but 'many logics', 'different discursive strategies', borrowed discourses taken from current ways in which classes think of themselves or argue, including those of philosophers, factory inspectors, workers and classical economists.  There is no single class struggle in theory, rather it is the class struggle and the characteristic discourses it operates with that have affected the discourse of theorists.  There is always contamination with non scientific elements, and always an interweaving, say between bourgeois and proletarian accounts.

Chapter four.  A Lesson in History

[LA operates with a very abstract history which ignores all the complexity and detail of actual history, especially of working class protest and rebellion, and, of the Soviet union and the transitions between Lenin and Stalin. It is ultimately supportive of Party orthodoxies and discreet silences].

As an example of the new applied kind of philosophy, LA turns to examine every day politics, especially in the Soviet union, but also Czechoslovakia.  Again, this is really only a pretext to revive the argument about humanism, which is eternal.  It is only objects of analysis that the new. Humanism is central to L A's project.  It is an ideological myth, even though rebellious workers, Marx and Mao still seem to be talking about man and a humane society.  So were the Lip workers, even as LA was 'entering France's theoretical market' (83).  LA is keen to argue that this is not an attack on real men, preserving the speculative nature of philosophy: it is just a philosophical battle over 'words waged and the class struggle'.  Philosophy can always claim that it is only talking about concepts rather than actual men, which avoids ambiguity, 'but at the price of rendering it incapable of saying other than the generalities accepted by everyone' (84).  No one except John Lewis even argued the history does have a subject, 'and who gives a second thought to John Lewis?'.  Everyone agrees that of course the subject is a dubious category—the only quarrel is the shape in which this critique takes.  'The only ones who dare speak of man without proviso or precautions are, in fact, the workers'.  LA seems to accept that philosophy is really only about concepts and correct words, which hardly leads to suitable politics, except the politics of the academy.  The wrong words, including the ones that workers use, have to be explained by particular circumstances.  In this way, words like 'man' turn out to be on the side of the employers.

It seems easy to trace the ideological nature of human freedom, from the notion of market freedom, and the category of the legal subject.  These mystify 'the reality of the class struggle'(85).  Marxist philosophy aims to stop workers identifying themselves with these illusory men.  This presupposes as usual that only the bourgeoisie think, that popular thought is just an expression of the relations of domination.  However, there has been a notion of freedom among the workers that is not the bourgeois one, there has been an antagonism, not a legal freedom, but a collective one, the freedom to collectively negotiate wages.  This has long been in conflict with bourgeois freedom and has led to
industrial struggle.

Worker actions have imposed a different notion of equality, not just a legal one, but an equality between employers and workers specifically, including laws which prevent unionism and exempt employers from forming associations of their own.  In such troubles, the bourgeoisie does not rely on claims that all men are equal, but openly acknowledges of class struggle, which it sees as the struggle between barbarism and civilisation: seditious workers are to be denied human rights, even in the courts.  Rebellious workers insisted that there were no class distinctions, that all were men, that the old days of slavery or chatteldom were passed.  Workers denied that they were wage slaves, and demanded the same rights as their employers: they were producers.  They were perfectly capable of honesty and good sentiments.  Employers did not have property rights over them.  This is a much more concrete and political notion of equality, not an abstract one, and some workers created their own workshops to show that they did not actually need masters.  The drive to be an autonomous producer is still found in the present, as in Lip and the demand that the economy 'serves man' (90).

This exposes a major theme in bourgeois ideology, that workers cannot change events and must resign themselves to existing social relations, that inequality is natural.  Even if we did away with private ownership, 'natural vices' would reestablish inequality, such as that between the idle and the energetic.  This becomes an argument that work is a gift of capitalism, requiring proper markets and investments and so on.  The USSR was held up as the only undesirable and authoritarian alternative.  However, the Lip workers could see through that with their notion that there could be another economy.  When workers insist on the right to work, they are not embracing the notion of the legal subject, but rather showing
that behind apparent economic reality lie politics, that apparent economic necessities are simply strategies to attack labour.  Specifically, work is not a gift, but expresses a struggle for autonomy, and we see behind this debate two notions of power, one exercised by the state and employers, and the other exercised by labour through its institutions.

Struggle often focuses on the organiztion of the factory, including resistance to 'factory despotism' appearing as the only alternative.  Such despotism attacks labour community and autonomy as a major goal, and it has always been resisted by the labour process as defined by the labour community.  Discourses and words are relatively minor players.  Words can have a clear class allegiance, but there are other forms of distinction and a great deal of ambiguity and overlap: they can even change sides.  Marx recognizes this himself in his comments on the Commune, and an echo of the politics of the workerist struggles inform the analysis of fetishism in Capital [I have tried to find this precise section without success so far, but] R argues that the notions of men as autonomous producers have a role to play in the theoretical discourse, somehow prompting the need for a science.  In LA, science never overlaps with ideology, and working class discourses are all categorised as humanism.  LA acknowledges that sometimes slogans like 'socialism with a human face' in Czechoslovakia should not be condemned, but they are still 'words, not concepts' (95).

For LA, words merely represent ideological images.  The isas essay seems to have been forgotten, and the only issues to distinguish between appearance and essence.  Behind the appearance of free citizenship is private interest and trade relations, and so on.  However, Marx's citation of Bentham as pointing to the illusions of freedom, might also be an allusion to Bentham's work on the power of surveillance in despotism, the discipline found in workshops, schools and prisons.  For LA, it is a political decision to see the real separation between workers and their powers of production in metaphysical terms—ideology operates through insufficient vision, poor representations.  Only words which are produced from outside the social relations, in science, can offer a proper vision.  However, this makes philosophy into an operation of censure and correction.

LA's turning back to practice is supposed to help.  Thus the Czech case was expressed in humanist terms, because they were limited in the words they could use.  Philosophers of course are not permitted this excuse—but R says that words are already stripped of meaning in philosophy journals!  (96).  They only take on a political function if they contradict what the pcf line happens to be there.  This goes along with a convenient division of labour where theory demands particular rules for discussion, and untidy political issues can be ruled out.  The autonomy of theory has to be defended, so that messy practices need not intrude, like those of the Czechs.

The same evasions characterize the discussion of Stalinism.  This is not as novel as it looks, and others [Castoriadis is the example] had already made the main arguments about how the productive forces had not been properly understood, and the analysis of the relations of production and lagged behind.  The changes in China had also been decisive, and leftism in the west.  The Chinese party had pursued their own policy of development, based on both agriculture and heavy industry, which preserved the notion of collectivization not mechanization, and this helped resist the development of a hierarchical division of labour.  Material incentives were not all powerful.  There is also an encouragement to develop mass political solutions instead of centralised ones.

What was novel in LA was to quietly incorporate some leftist theses, new to the pcf.  This was managed by theorising them, canceling their political effects, and claiming to have made theoretical discoveries.  In particular, Stalinism had to be seen in the familiar terms of economism/humanism, with the latter forcing its way on to the agenda.  Stalin's economistic politics is examined under the concept of deviation, and, since a deviation is a form of recurrence of earlier ideas, Stalinist deviation can be seen as the revenge of the Second international, itself understood in terms of the struggles between economism and humanism.  LA claims this is Leninist, although this is of course are reading of what Lenin said: actually, his was an analysis of political fractions and the social forces that nourished them, not a clash of principles.

LA is very incurious about what the more immediate origins of the deviation might be.  This is because they might be traced back to Lenin after all.  Lenin also advocated factory discipline, specialists, material incentives and the rest, although possibly only as local and limited tactics.  Nevertheless, he did see the need to transform the masses through large scale industrialization and the elimination of older forms of production which generated capitalist ideologies.  These capitalist forms were unavoidable, but they did discipline the workers.  Their voice was heard through the state apparatus.  Stalin's policy worked against this background.  Lenin was a link in the chain between the second international and Stalin.  Lenin thought that it was necessary for capitalist productive forces to be developed, even though socialism could be inaugurated immediately.  Capitalist discipline was required for socialist organization.  Lenin also modelled the party on German social democratic ideas.  Economic factors were more important than the influence of bourgeois ideologies, and Soviet workers would be disempowered not by inadequate thought, but by factory despotism.  It was no good giving workers power through state apparatuses, if they lacked it at the level of labour processes.

Of course the actual shift to Stalinism depended on local political conditions as well as tendencies—the class struggle in the countryside, the emerging power of experts, the repressive practices of police apparatuses.  But Bolshevism itself bears a responsibility for what happened, and how it conceived the dictatorship of the proletariat and how class might continue to operate.  Bourgeois ideology has an effect here, but not in terms of promoting humanism, more in terms of seeing factory discipline and various other apparatuses as essential. Given these developments, what can communism and LA offer us in the future?  Leaders of the party seem content to do abstract philosophy and politics, and do not analyse real power relations.  They have not criticised the notion of democratic centralism and what the party will do if it comes to power.  A serious analysis of Lenin as well as Stalin is required, and so is a recognition that Marxism does not guarantee a particular forms of politics.

It is not surprising that LA wants to divert attention to the second international, to make his attack on humanism and bourgeois penetrations of Marxism take on a real appearance.  Again the politics are rendered as abstract discussions of philosophical categories, 'reducing the actual to the eternal, the other to the same' (105), seeing underlying continuities in history even though history is discontinuous.  In particular, there is a continuous and homogenous class struggle, and this requires no analysis of current situations.  Oddly enough, that restores the notion of a subject of history—the labour movement, and its subsidiaries like the Paris communards, the working class and so on.  This is despite a role for philosophy as distinguishing idealist and materialist elements, or proletarian and bourgeois ones.  Together, there are political advantages in avoiding discussion of particular disasters like Stalinism, or analyzing current power and class relations in the USSR.  The source of any problems is excessive economism.  China is supported to the extent that it helps against economism, and every other thinker is allocated to camps according to whether they help or not.

This develops a new orthodoxy, patrolling theoretical forms only, avoiding the difficult issues like whether labour camps existed in the USSR or not.  Humanist protests are diverting us from some important theoretical labour.  All forms of protest in places like the USSR can be seen alike as humanist.  We can forgive these protests, and see them as limited by the choice of words they can use, but we need to keep theory safe.

Where would any critical analyses be based, however?  Not in the pcf, but outside the party lies only 'free cultural chit chat' (108).  LA can only have a highly limited discussion about Stalinism, without asking awkward questions about power or class relations in the USSR.  He is prepared to pretend that is not aware of any legal violations in the USSR.  Everything has to be traced back to humanism, so that the 'real relations of domination and…  the voices of revolt' can be ignored.

To transform real issues into philosophical ones like this is idealism, and it confines discussion to academics.  Real militants would ask questions not about economism, but the organization of factories and hierarchy.  French unionists seem to have accepted hierarchies [one even claims that salary hierarchy is 'class struggle because it reduces employers' profits'(109)].  It is groups seeking power who support economism, including elites in the working class.

LA might well claim that he is simply soft-pedalling these issues in order to get the discussion started in the pcf, and that he is addressing 'clever readers' who can see this hidden intention [echoes of Bourdieu on elite discourse!] .  However, this 'discourse serves as a conduit for the power of specialists', and is addressed to 'Marxist mandarins', and so is complicit itself in a form of class struggle.  It amounts to the same thing as conventional power plays like 'the manager's humanism', which ultimately defend 'the privilege of competent people'.

Philosophy does no more than those Stalinist prosecutors who saw signs or indexes of class enemies in 'objective contradictions'  or particular words (110).  L A's account of Stalin is apologetic, arguing that normal Marxism is still valid.  This is a mode of reasoning of state Marxism.  This is what L A's class struggle in theory has led to, 'the impotence to change the world, the power to reproduce the power of specialists'.  The failure to relate to real events is the source of 'philosophical dignity'. 

Chapter five A Discourse in its place

[Brilliant stuff about professional intellectuals here, aimed at LA but very widely applicable. Up the soixante-huitards!]

LA wanted to see what was singular about Marxism, what made it more than a justification of the party, or mere 'fodder for cultural chit chat' (111).  All the work is left with these days, though, is 'its own caricature', able to prattle about all sorts of things ' with the approximative discourse of academic (that is, obscurantist) knowledge', all about self justification, trying to save the revolution, denouncing bourgeois infiltrators and 'teaching its readers what they should and should not say if they want to be good Marxists' (112). [reminiscent of the CCCS]

It is not exactly what the Party teaches, though.  LA deals with the differences by being ironic after taking suitable precautions.  He is attained radical to show that 'a total freedom remains intact'.  His subversive works 'never entail any disruptive practices'.  He can engage in gentle mockery, but he takes no action in real issues, such as when non communist teachers are denounced as troublemakers.  He can talk about class struggle, 'provided he does not bother himself with any of the class struggles happening today'.  This is the familiar kind of bourgeois freedoms for intellectuals: they can say anything they like as long as they are perpetuate the structure of the university.  The Party knows that theorists can no longer be expected to find ways to support politics, and have decided just to let them 'say whatever they want, in the places where their
discourse is sure to merge into the hum of cultural chit chat' (113).  There is no longer any choice to be made between committing to the Party or to elite academic life. 

Academics offer an authorized heterodoxy which helps the party defend its own toleration—'Althusser's book shows that members of the party can say whatever they want'. This is inevitable with any discourse abstracted from its context.  It is what happens when you try to find 'the rationality of politics outside politics, the revolutionary dialectics outside the…  practices' of revolt'.  The 'purpose of academic discourse is [only]  the formation of students' and there are real power relations in the places that discourses are produced.  Radical intellectuals must take them into account and attempt to transform these power relations, and as they are to become only intellectuals.  LA has not done this, however [nor have most radicals, none of the gramscians, not Biesta].  He answered all questions about his practice by neutralising his discourse.  This
location in the university and the party was simply a tactical matter.  He posed as speaking from within theory, not from within the university, from the labour movement, not from the party.  When he was forced to choose a political practice, he chose 'a certain labour movement', one that supported Brezhnev.  But because LA claims to speak from the perspective of theory, this becomes speaking for everybody, and apparently drawing upon the experience of every labour movement.There is no intention even to defend reformism as a tactic, to turn out the vote, so as to pursue revolution in strategy.

Abstract theory like this is doomed to become atemporal even as it discusses history, academic while it tries to be political.  If there is an insistence that the masses make history, this only strengthens 'the power of the ones who say so, the ones who decree from their armchairs that these words are bourgeois, those proletarian' (115).  Even maoism is inverted, and serves only to introduce into philosophy the notion of revolt, a way of reconciling ideas with the militant loyalties.  LA uses it to claim a universality for his position on science.

Marxism has become useful as the defence of the division of labour in ideas, with the class struggle in theory as supreme  It is the old function of interpreting the world rather than changing it.  With the development in the USSR of state intellectuals, intellectuals are able to 'impose real chains in the name of the proletariat and of class struggle' (116), in the guise of 'the intelligentsia', a further reinforcement of a rational hierarchy.  Intelligentsia are able to transform workers into active members of the party, but this also gives them  'the power to recognise the provocateur'.

L A.s Marxist philosophy claims to represent the proletariat, speaking in their name to negate petty bourgeois ideologists, and identify the real enemy.  The real threats to Marxism are seen as humanism and ideologies of human rights.  This helps police all those other forms of subversion,  instead of supporting them  In this way, what looks like an appeal to Marxism or even maoism, or a critique of the subject is really a 'the call to order'.  It serves the cause of revisionism.  It is 'directly correlated to the system of practices—discursive and otherwise—of our communist apparatuses' (117).  These now aspire to accommodate capitalism, but Party theorists cannot use the old language of revisionism, nor can they say that the time for revolution has passed and that capitalism has not collapsed.  Such views would hit party morale and fail to attract rebellious youth.  The language of class struggle is still required, but it is a domesticated one.

That language is used to fight off leftist provocations in the name of order.  Denouncing occupations and provocations as petty bourgeois while awaiting the scientific form of transition is no longer popular, however.  It is possible to depict revisionism as somehow theoretical, even Maoist, in a 'philosophy of recuperation' (118).  Leftism was already in historical decline in France—both maoism and Trotsky ism had been marginalised, 'and the old combatants of May 22 were singing about the libido and about desiring machines' (118).  However, the same ideas are being expressed in new forms, in new 'communities of struggle', among workers, peasants immigrant workers, young people, women, and national minorities.  There is proliferation rather than unity under any one particular banner.  Lip showed the subversive potential of apparently docile workers, and offers a new kind of subversion, outside of 'leftism's totalizing discourse'.  LA and others have responded by saying that only the old apparatuses' can possibly can now offer any kind of unity, and that everything still needs to be led by the Party.

These events have restored 'the discourse of armchair Marxists', and helped official Marxism recover from May '68.  The Events had shown that  the PCF  was the party of order.  Some professors had always been able to argue that revolutionaries strategy depended first on adequate theory, but this was not widely accepted by the militants themselves. They realized that the struggle itself could systematize, and political organizations universalize.  The totalizing discourse of leftism, as in the GP was no more successful, except as some universal enemy for Marxist intellectuals.  No unifying discourse is available now to link struggles of youth and those of other groups, unless we deal in 'the most blatant generalities' (119).  The struggles are multiple, and reflect 'a multiplication of the discourses of struggle', as Foucault predicted with the prisoners' movement. 

Lip in particular showed a coherent discourse emerging which has had more impact.  There was no attempt to take specific complaints or slogans and make them into 'the discourse of the spokesperson for the universal proletarian' (120).  The Lip workers' discourse genuinely joined May '68 with syndicalism, and the experience of workers' struggle with even a Christian ideology.  Indeed, many subversive practices use idealist theories.  They can be no grand syntheses.  Emergent discourses do not 'meet the demand for an overall reflection about today's struggles', but they do show that there is not just a void which makes such reflection impossible—'the void of the universal, the void of the book'.

The old parties have tried to reassert themselves, and so have 'armchair Marxists' who offer some 'ecumenical dogmatism' while 'saying the rosary of the certainties that are everyone's common property', about the role of the masses and the party and all that.  Those certainties remove doubts that there are things like 'the' proletariat, or one single authoritative Marxism Leninism, that the only splits are between bourgeois and proletarian, and that party intellectuals can always tell which is which.  That is, they provides the dogmatism with philosophical principles, including the critique of the subject and the process without a subject—this helps to claim a universal significance without having to specify who it is who is speaking: it can be assumed to be the universal proletarian.  This also helps ignore the circumstances or contexts from which this philosophy emerges.

This philosophy looked finished in May '68, but the Events 'did not destroy the theoretical and political machine of representation' (121), where someone claims the right to promote a universal discourse in the name of the masses.  This machine is still in operation, and intellectuals are still unable to see anything positive in May '68, anything that might help them rethink their position.  The threat produced by an uprising of a whole new group of intellectuals against the power of the bourgeoisie, including their cultural power, was contained, not only by the familiar petty bourgeois but also the avant-garde intellectuals.  There was an awareness, especially in the GP, that the division of labour between intellectual and manual was at the heart of the problem, but this is still an abstract understanding, and led to tokenism such as the transformation by some students into manual labourers, and it led to a reversal, whereby intellectuals were still allowed to speak with even more authority 'in the name of the proletarian'(122).  The policy led to a split inside petty bourgeois intellectuals, where one faction had to repress the other in this name.  The intact discourse of representation undermined the whole revolt of the intellectuals.  'this mechanism is not the product of ignorance or of the arrogance of petty bourgeois "spontaneity", but of Marxism learned in the classrooms of universities and "working class organizations"' (122).  It finds its best expression in the discourse of LA.  No revolts since May '68 have been able to attack it, especially its pretensions towredas hrte universal.  Leftism responded only by developing 'the accusatory, and merely reactive, the discourse of "desire"'.

The class struggle will persist even if we abandon Marxism.  There is no new purer Marxism to be found either: it has 'always been inflected by social practices…  Discourses and practices of revolt' (123) even in Marx's day.  Mass struggle is the only way to defeat the 'theoretical and political apparatus of representation that blocks the autonomous expression of revolt'.

R knows his  own argument is not exempt.  He also invokes the masses and the practices' of workers and peasants 'to shore up our discourse'. What really is the point of swapping philosophical texts, or turning to 'the discourse of workers from long ago'?  Little has been actually established, and perhaps something positive should be sought instead, something that is 'more than a scholarly pastime tailor-made to swell the existing ranks of Marxist and para-Marxist literature'.  There is no way out of the circle, but we can at least reveal the effects intended by dogmatism.  We can critique professors who claim to be speaking with a universal discourse, and LA is exemplary.  This critique has first of all put it back in 'the system of practical and discursive constraints that allowed it to be uttered at all', and tried to disarticulate it by forcing it to answer other questions outside of its usual range, including words used in the past.  It is not a refutation of LA, because 'it is useless to refute dogmatism', but it is an attempt to stop Althusserianism functioning so smoothly, and to show how it supports the existing order while pretending to be revolutionary [why? surely it was a dead dog by then?].  This critique is itself an example of 'the expressions through which the struggle and questions of our present seek to give voice to a new freedom' (124).

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