Re: Foucault and capital

I have known Warren Montag since 1996, and I have read most of his work. I
apologise for not being clearer about the various different sorts of
'Althusserians' in a previous post. There was a certain form of
'Althusserianism' that was around in the 1980s and early 1990s that was very
sympathetic to critical realism and attempted to produce a sort of
'structuralist Marxism', perhaps the best example of this was Robert Paul
Resch's book _Althusser and the Renewal of Marxist Social Theory_
(University of California Press, 1992), but there were others too, including
an essay on Althusser in Bhaskar's book on Rorty. Besides Montag and
Macherey, Balibar's work can be seen as continuing to develop the most
productive aspects of Althusser's work, and Althusser's book _Machiavelli
and Us_ (Verso, 1999) is perhaps most representative of his later thought.
Althusser rejected the scientistic formalism of the 'Theory of theoretical
practice' as early as 1967, in the lectures later published as _Philosophy
and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists_ (Verso, 1990).

The one feature of all of the works following Althusser that remain
important now -- Montag, Macherey, Balibar, etc -- is that they not only
develop the emphasis on conjunctural analysis and the materialist theory of
reading found throughout Althusser's work from the early 1960s (as opposed
to the formalistic and scientistic aspects) but also apply those theories to
Althusser's work itself, considering it as a material, contradictory
discourse (like any other) and intervening to push to the fore the aspect
that Balibar has called the 'Althusserianism of the conjuncture' at the
expense of the 'Althusserianism of the structure'. Montag discusses this in
his book better than I can in an email. This approach contrasts with that
of many other readers, such as Resch, who emphasised the structuralist
aspect and attempted to construct a sociological system out of Althusser's

I think most people on this list might find something of value in the
reading of Althusser put forward by Montag. On the other hand, the readings
of Resch, Benton, etc would appeal more to those who still find something
appealing in the project of Nicos Poulantzas, whose Weberian form of
structuralist Marxism bears some superficial similarities to the spinozist
Marxism of Althusser and has often been lumped together with it (and the
work of others, such as Maurice Godelier and Claude Meillassoux) under the
rubric of 'structural Marxism'. Few find Poulantzas's critical appreciation
of Foucault's work on power (in _State, Power, Socialism_) of interest
today, although it was influential for people such as Stuart Hall in the
early 1980s.

With regard to epistemology, I think it is fair to say that few influenced
by Althusser would consider themselves 'relativists', with the exception
perhaps of Steve Resnick and Richard Wolff (and those influenced by them),
who are influenced by Rorty in this regard, and whose reading of Althusser
is quite selective with regard to epistemology. Most would seem to be close
to the position of Ian Hacking in _Representing and Intervening_, that is,
rejecting the 'correspondence theory' but ontological realists (Hacking also
approvingly cites _Materialism and Empirio-Criticism_, a very Althusserian
guesture in my view). They also relation some notion of the dialectic of
the imaginary and the real, in the thesis that the imaginary exists only in
its effects. It's not entirely clear to me that Foucault's work doesn't
imply a similar position, although he is wary of using the imaginary/real
distinction for various good reasons. I'm interested to read what others
think about the relations between Hacking's work and that of Foucault. It
is correct to say though that Althusser's 'Theory of theoretical practice'
represented a variant of Kantianism in epistemology and this is why he
rejected it, and did so via a return to Lenin and a reappraisal of Hegel's
critique of Kant in the late 1960s.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Stuart Elden" <stuartelden@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2003 6:04 PM
Subject: RE: Foucault and capital

> > David McInerney complains that this discussion is
> > superficial but does
> > not tell us what is so good about the writings that he cites. Except for
> > Macherey, who has turned Foucauldian in his later work, the other
> > Althusserians repudiate Foucault as relativist and defend the early
> > scientific project which Althusser himself repudiated later on.
> > Philip Goldstein
> This isn't supposed to apply to Montag is it? Montag's reading of Foucault
> is generous and critical, doesn't repudiate Foucault as a relativist, and
> his reading of Althusser is considerable more nuanced. His recent book on
> Althusser made me rethink a number of things about him, not least the
> the posthumous publications shed on the books published in his life. It's
> highly recommended.
> Stuart

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