A Necessary but Impossible Political Practice: Althusser between Machiavelli and Marx

In: Historical Materialism
Fabio Bruschi Institut supérieur de philosophie, UCLouvain

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Althusser’s Machiavelli and Us has often been considered as the French Marxist’s first step on the path beyond Marxism. This article opposes this interpretation by showing that, while Machiavelli helps Althusser to renounce any attempt to deduce a communist political practice from the necessity portrayed by a theory of history, Althusser was mindful not to identify the relationship between the communist party and the masses with the relationship between the Prince and the people. From a Marxist perspective, a communist political practice must further the autonomous political initiatives of the masses that delineate a tendency towards the withering-away of the state and cannot merge with a practice of governing the people. This is why Marxism must not forsake its theory of history but employ it in the process of the subtraction of the party to its becoming-state by detecting the conditions of impossibility of the duration of a communist political practice.

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