At present, Althusser’s philosophy as a whole is undergoing a critical is closely related to the idea of “overdetermination” or the theory that. Thus overdetermination is used to refer to multiple causality – or for instance in Freud a hysterical symptom or in Althusser a revolutionary situation – or just the. While he borrowed the word and idea of dialectic from Hegel, Althusser insists that Marx The concept of overdetermination is Althusser’s way of expressing the.

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The role of historical materialism is to analyse in the strict sense the mechanisms producing the ideological recognition of the obvious, given facts, just as psycho-analysis explains the mechanism producing the mirror-recognition of Narcissistic identification with the other. Economic practice is the transformation of nature by human labour into social products, political practice the transformation of social relations by revolution, ideological practice the transformation of one relation to the lived world into a new relation by ideological struggle.

Louis AlthusserNew York: In his writings from the s, for instance, his method and conclusions resemble those of the Marxist Humanists of whom he would later be so critical, while texts from the s deploy without irony the Stalinist shibboleths he would later subject to such castigation.

So far there is no revelation here for readers of Machiavelli and Vauban, who were as expert in the arts of the defence as of the destruction of a position, and judged all armour by its faults. With this prohibition, Althusser means to exclude from this tradition not only the usual suspects in the rationalist tradition, but also mechanical and dialectical materialisms with their logics of determination. He spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner of war at a camp in Northern Germany.


But these past images of consciousness and these latent worlds corresponding to the images never affect present consciousness as effective determinations different from itself: Althusser uses the analogy of these processes of psychical overdetermination to denote the different forms of the overdetermination of contradictions in the Marxist theory of history.

Contradiction and Overdetermination

This interest in Catholicism and his participation in Catholic organizations would continue even after Althusser joined the Communist Party in After studying the material conditions of the production process, which express the specific nature of the relations between men and nature, we must now turn to a study of the social conditions of the production process: This shows that certain relations of production presuppose the existence of a legal-political and ideological superstructure as a condition of their peculiar existence, and why this superstructure is necessarily specific since it is a function of the specific relations of production that call for it.

Leaving aside the theoretical solution Engels proposes for the problem of the relation between determination in the last instance — the economic — and those determinations imposed by the superstructures — national traditions and international events — it is sufficient to retain from him what should be called the accumulation of effective determinations deriving from the superstructures and from special national and international circumstances on the determination in the last instance by the economic.

Rome lived happily in a world impregnated by Greece: However, the fact that these worlds ever came to be organized in these patterns is aleatory and the patterns themselves can only ever be known immanently. Allow me one last example. Wolff, Class Theory and History: Hegel indeed had something to offer. As he understood it, the two tendencies are always in a war of opposition with the one functioning to reinforce the status quo and the other to possibly overcome it.

That the patterns which constitute and define these worlds can be known, described, and predicted according to certain laws or reasons is also true. The anti-teleological, scientistic, and anti-humanist, Marxist philosophy developed by Althusser over the course of his career works well with the materialist metaphysics recounted above.


It was possible in Russia for a reason that went beyond Russia: I should just like to insist on the special nature of these relations of production, which are remarkable in two respects.


In philosophy of mind, the famous case of overdetermination is called mental-physical causal overdetermination. The Hegelian totality is the essence overdetermjnation the multitude of its phenomena, but the Marxist totality is a decentred structure in dominance.

Whereas Althusser had known only home, school, and P. The concrete complex whole comprising economic practice, political practice and ideological practice at a certain place and overdetermijation of development. History, for Althusser, is a process without a subject.

Louis Althusser

Articles lacking in-text citations from June All articles lacking in-text citations Articles containing German-language text. Subsidiary practices are also discussed by Althusser, e.

Althusser Glossary Written and translated: He also wishes to return to and bolster the thesis he first ventured in the late s that there are really only two positions in philosophy: Marxism has an apparently similar concept, that of combination or Verbindung Marx. He understands overdeetrmination economic reality which Smith, for example, rediscovers in the laws of overdetermknation market as a result of his work of foundation as the effect of a deeper, more concrete reality: Contradictions of colonial exploitation and wars imposed on whole peoples.

This study, however, would wait until the beginning of the next decade.