Philosophy as a Practice of Political Intervention.


Marxist-Leninist afternoon continues with a section from Althusser’s Lenin and Philosophy:

In a lecture now a year old, published in a small volume by Maspero under the title Lenin and Philosophy, I have attempted to prove that Lenin should be regarded as having made a crucial contribution to dialectical materialism, in that he made a real discovery with respect to Marx and Engels, and that this discovery can be summarized as follows: Marx’s scientific theory did not lead to a new philosophy (called dialectical materialism), but to a new practice of philosophy, to be precise to the practice of philosophy based on a proletarian class position in philosophy.

This discovery, which I regard as essential, can be formulated in the following theses:

1. Philosophy is not a science, and it has no object, in the sense in which a science has an object.

2. Philosophy is a practice of political intervention carried out in a theoretical form.

3. It intervenes essentially in two privileged domains, the political domain of the effects of the class struggle and the theoretical domain of the effects of scientific practice.

4. In its essence, it is itself produced in the theoretical domain by the conjunction of the effects of the class struggle and the effects of scientific practice.

5. It therefore intervenes politically, in a theoretical form, in the two domains, that of political practice and that of scientific practice: these two domains of intervention being its domains, insofar as it is itself produced by the combination of effects from these two practices.

6. All philosophy expresses a class position, a ‘partisanship’ in the great debate which dominates the whole history of philosophy, the debate between idealism and materialism.

7. The Marxist-Leninist revolution in philosophy consists of a rejection of the idealist conception of philosophy (philosophy as an ‘interpretation of the world’) which denies that philosophy expresses a class position, although it always does so itself, and the adoption of the proletarian class position in philosophy, which is materialist, i.e. the inauguration of a new materialist and revolutionary practice of philosophy which induces effects of class division in theory.

All these theses can be found in Materialism and Empirio-criticism, either explicitly or implicitly. All I have done is to begin to make them more explicit.

The rest of this essay is found here.

4 thoughts on “Philosophy as a Practice of Political Intervention.

  1. Ranciere has some great remarks on Althusser written around 1969 or so, very harsh, I can find the citation and some of the quotes if you like.

    I’m interested to hear what you make of this extract. Are the bolded bits your emphasis or Althussers?

    • Nate, no I bolded the bolded part – I sort of had one of those mornings when I read some stuff here and there and Althusser’s essay hit some proverbial philosophical spot, especially vis-a-vis philosophy as a certain type of practice rather than a certain theoretical view of reality which is where science is probably a better candidate at telling us what’s what (although, of course, it does not have any sort of privileged method or access, it’s just seem to be better organized and more efficient). I think part of my recent philosophical trouble come from watching health care debate and its ultimate battle of influences and lobbies without any sort of real thoughtful discussion – “we don’t need government providing health care” – says one side without really explaining why (it’s especially frustrating when it’s the people who needs insurance the most) – “we want government taking care of its citizens” – says the other side and yet again is too afraid to explain why (god forbid someone will think we are socialists)… In any case, I think I’m more in a position of learning these days then teaching and explaining – can you think of a nice book or two to read on the matter? (I’m reading lots of Marx again, maybe that’s why I’m frustrated with Kant’s conservatism).

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