Isabelle Garo and the Provincialism of French Marxism and Anti-Marxism

A Review of Foucault, Deleuze, Althusser & Marx: La politique dans la philosophie by Isabelle Garo

Andrew Ryder

Isabelle Garo’s study, Foucault, Deleuze, Althusser & Marx: La politique dans la philosophie, presents a historical approach to the French philosophy of the 1960s and 1970s and its relationship to Marx and the Marxist tradition. In her view, these authors were captured by a largely mistaken understanding of the resources present in Marxist thought, and were overly affected by the prejudices instilled by the French Communist Party. Speaking from a perspective of practical commitment, she traces a path from early French Marxism to an anti-totalitarian consensus. Her study renders Louis Althusser’s innovations the most pivotal in introducing a whole series of themes, with ambivalent effects on theoretical production today. Most significantly, she discerns a replacement of politics and political economy by philosophy and epistemology. She attends first to the mobilisation of psychoanalysis against humanism, which gave way to a vehement critique of the normative aspects of psychoanalysis itself. Re-reading Foucault and Deleuze as post-Althusserians, Garo suggests that this led to a championing of Friedrich Nietzsche’s viewpoints against Marx. Garo’s study is immensely valuable in contextualising the apparent innovations of poststructuralist thought. However, we can discern greater relevance for the insights of these thinkers for contemporary Marxist thought than Garo concedes, and her attempt to read them as a complete deviation from Marxist principles ultimately fails to convince.