On the occasion of the publication of the translation of Pierre Raymond’s text on Althusser’s materialism, we attempt an introduction to his theoretical trajectory. We begin with his conception of the conflict between materialism and idealism in Le passage au matérialisme in and his thinking on the question of the history of sciences in L’histoire & les sciences (1975), before turning our attention to his elaboration on the question of a history of mathematics and in particular of the emergence of probabilistic reasoning. Then we examine his confrontation with the question of the relation between materialism and dialectics in Matérialisme dialectique et logique. After that, we proceed to his conception of the need to break with any form of teleology and finalism as the starting point for a new conception of causality (La résistible fatalité de l’histoire of ), before looking at Dissiper la terreur et les ténèbres of and his attempt to rethink the question of practical reason. It is in light of the above presentation that we insist on the importance of Raymond’s text on Althusser.
The relation between structure and conjuncture has been one of the biggest challenges facing social theory and Louis Althusser’s writings provide some of the most important interventions on this subject. Contrary to an image of Althusser first embracing and then abandoning structuralism, Althusser tried from the beginning to articulate the theory of structural causality with an insistence on the singularity of historical conjunctures. Althusser’s theoretical trajectory, despite his shortcomings, still offers a necessary starting point for a materialist conception of the relation between structural and conjunctural determinations that stresses the complex, uneven and overdetermined character of social reality without resorting either to a ‘surface phenomena/deep structures’ dualism or to the empiricism of simply registering singular practices.
Peter Thomas has written an important book that brings forward the full importance of Gramsci’s strategic concepts and the pertinence they have for current theoretical and political debates. Based upon this interpretation of Gramsci, this text attempts a critical reading of the contradictory stance of the Althusserian School towards his work. Using Althusser’s own ambivalence towards Gramsci as a starting-point, the main aim of this article is to reconstruct Poulantzas’s direct and indirect dialogue with Gramsci. Despite Poulantzas’s reservations and criticisms regarding aspects of Gramsci’s work, his theoretical endeavour not only is indebted to Gramsci, but also represents, despite its shortcomings and limits, one of the more original and profound theoretical attempts to come to terms with the theoretical challenges posed by Gramsci’s elaboration on hegemony, hegemonic apparatuses and the ‘integral state’.