A Philosophy for Communism

Rethinking Althusser


In A Philosophy for Communism: Rethinking Althusser Panagiotis Sotiris attempts a reading of the work of the French philosopher centered upon his deeply political conception of philosophy. Althusser’s endeavour is presented as a quest for a new practice of philosophy that would enable a new practice of politics for communism, in opposition to idealism and teleology. The central point is that in his trajectory from the crucial interventions of the 1960s to the texts on aleatory materialism, Althusser remained a communist in philosophy. This is based upon a reading of the tensions and dynamics running through Althusser’s work and his dialogue with other thinkers. Particular attention is paid to crucial texts by Althusser that remained unpublished until relatively recently.

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Panagiotis Sotiris (1970) has a Ph.D. from Panteion University and has taught social and political philosophy at various Greek universities. He has edited the collective volume Crisis, Movement, Strategy: The Greek Experience (Brill, 2018).

Part One: Structure, Conjuncture, Encounter

1 The Many Readings and Misreadings of Althusser
1.1 The polemic against theoreticist structuralism
1.2 Althusser as the repetition of communist orthodoxy
1.3 Althusser’s work as rupture of the dialectic of theory and practice
1.4 The possibility of another reading

2 Althusser and Hegel: The Never-ending Confrontation
2.1 The 1947 Thesis
2.2 The polemics against French Hegelianism
2.3 The Critique of Hegel

3 ‘This man is indeed alone in facing his task’: Althusser on Montesquieu
3.1 Montesquieu’s revolution in method
3.2 Montesquieu’s politics
3.3 Montesquieu as anti-teleology

4 Structure Revisited
4.1 ‘Althusser of the structure’ vs. ‘Althusser of the conjuncture’?
4.2 High Althusserianism revisited
4.3 Structures without structuralism?
4.4 Althusser’s self-criticism: From structures to enduring relations
4.5 The critique of Feuerbach as critique of Phenomenology and Structuralism
4.6 From structure to the conjuncture

5 Materialism as Philosophy of the Encounter
5.1 An Althusserian Kehre?
5.2 Rethinking the genealogy of the encounter
5.3 The encounter as anti-teleology and as new practice of politics

6 From the Critique of Natural Law to the Void of the Forest and the Inexistence of the Origin: Althusser on Rousseau
6.1 The 1956 course
6.2 The 1958–59 course
6.3 The 1965–66 course
6.4 The 1972 course
6.5 A comparison between the three courses

7 From the ‘Hidden God’ to the Materialism of the Encounter: Althusser and Pascal
7.1 Althusser in captivity and Pascal
7.2 Lucien Goldmann and the ‘Hidden God’
7.3 From the materiality of ideological practices to aleatory materialism

8 The Difficulties of Being a Materialist in Philosophy: Assessing Aleatory Materialism
8.1 The genealogy of aleatory materialism
8.2 A philosophy of the encounter
8.3 Pierre Raymond on aleatory materialism
8.4 Contradictions of aleatory materialism
8.5 Contingent encounter or materialist dialectic?

9 Spinoza in Althusser-as-Laboratory
9.1 Spinozist epistemology
9.2 Spinoza and singularity
9.3 Spinoza and the rejection of classical theories of knowledge
9.4. Spinoza in the genealogy of the materialism of the encounter

10 Structure and/as Conjuncture
10.1 Rethinking singularity
10.2 Contradiction and antagonism
10.3 Specific historicities
10.4 The dialectic of structure and conjuncture and the recurring necessity of philosophical interventions

Part Two: A New Practice of Philosophy

11 Althusser’s Struggle with the Definition of Philosophy
11.1 The aporiasb of theoretical practice
11.2 The politics of the epistemological break
11.3 Philosophical self-criticism
11.4 Philosophy and/as politics
11.5 The spontaneous philosophy of the scientists
11.6 Philosophy as class struggle

12 Philosophy as Laboratory
12.1 Redrawing the line of demarcation with idealism
12.2 The margin and the encounter
12.3 Philosophy and ideology
12.4 Different practices of philosophy
12.5 Philosophy and abstraction
12.6 Practice revisited
12.7 Philosophy and practice
12.8 How can anybody be a philosopher?

13 A Philosopher Always Catches a Moving Train
13.1 The return of philosophical metaphors
13.2 The new practice of philosophy revisited
13.3 Portrait of a materialist philosopher

14 Althusser and Gramsci on Philosophy
14.1 Gramsci and the philosophy of praxis
14.2 Althusser and Gramsci: a missed encounter?
14.3 The open question of Marxist philosophy

Part Three: Is There an Althusserian Politics?

5 Althusser 1960–65: Attempting a Theoretical Correction of a Political Strategy in Crisis
15.1 Althusser’s political engagement
15.2 The politics of the 1960–65 texts
15.3 The debate on ‘student problems’

16 The Politics of Theoretical Anti-Humanism
16.1 Theoretical anti-humanism as a theoretical and political strategy
16.2 Marx’s Sixth Thesis revisited
16.3 The combination of historicism and humanism as the main danger
16.4 The debate at Argenteuil
16.5 The Humanist Controversy revisited
16.6 Theoretical anti-humanism in the 1970s

17 Althusser’s Self-Criticism
17.1 1966: The turning point
17.2 Althusser on the Cultural Revolution
17.3 May 1968 and the new challenges
17.4 On the Reproduction of Capitalism as a political statement
17.5 Balibar and the new practice of politics
17.6 The left-wing criticism of Stalinism

18 Althusser in the 1970s: Break and Open Criticism of Communist Reformism
18.1 The French debate and the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat
18.2 Althusser’s confrontation with the crisis of the communist movement
18.3 Facing the crisis of the Party
18.4 The confrontation with the crisis of Marxism
18.5 Marx in his Limits
18.6 Traces of communism
18.7 The debate on the state
18.8 Confronting Gramsci

19 The Politics of the Encounter: Machiavelli and Beyond
19.1 The first confrontation
19.2 The founder of a theory without precedent
19.3 Thinking under the conjuncture
19.4 A philosophical reading of Machiavelli
19.5 The encounter and the New Prince
19.6 Throwing the dice: Machiavelli in the 1980s texts
19.7 Althusser’s solitude
19.8 A Convergence for Liberation: Althusser in the 1980s
19.9 How to organise good encounters?

20 How to Make Lasting Encounters: Althusser and Political Subjectivity
20.1 The subject as problem and not answer
20.2 The return of the subject?
20.3 A non-subjectivist theory of subjectivity
20.4 Political organisations and collectivities as knowledge processes and forms of collective intellectuality

21 The Limits of Althusserian Politics



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