Warren Montag

Abstract

A review of recent French and Latin-American work on Althusser suggests that the received interpretations of the latter’s work may profitably be re-examined. The notion that there exists an early, middle and late Althusser, each distinct from the others in important ways, is called radically into question by this body of scholarship. Various authors show the presence of an aleatory dimension, usually associated with the late Althusser, in even his most ‘structuralist’ concepts (for example, structural causality). These works help us read Althusser in a new way.

Warren Montag

In July 1976, Althusser delivered a lecture in Spain on the topic of the dictatorship of the proletariat. At the moment that many Western European Communist parties sought formally or informally to distance themselves from the dictatorships of both West and East, Althusser proposed to examine the emergence of the concept of the proletarian dictatorship in a specificity. The debates of the mid-seventies, he argued, obscured or repressed the concept’s corollary: the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, a notion that made visible the forms of coercion and control characteristic of ‘bourgeois democracy’. To ignore the latter was to risk squandering the opportunities the conjuncture offered and suffer both political and theoretical regression.