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

In: Historical Materialism

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.

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  • 1

    Althusser 2005, pp. 27–8.

  • 2

    Garo 2012b.

  • 3

    Her works on Marxism include Garo 2000, Garo 2009a and Garo 2013a. Poetic works include Garo 2009b and Garo 2011.

  • 4

    Garo 2013b.

  • 5

    Garo draws on Pouch 2001.

  • 6

    Serge 2012, p. 326; Souvarine 1939, p. 673.

  • 7

    Christofferson 2004, Audier 2008.

  • 8

    Bensaïd 2002, pp. 239–88.

  • 9

    Althusser 2006, Althusser 2014.

  • 10

    Elliott 2009, Montag 2003, Montag 2013, Lahtinen 2011, Diefenbach, Farris, Kirn and Thomas (eds.) 2013.

  • 11

    Montag (ed.) 2013.

  • 16

    Althusser 2001, pp. 82–3.

  • 18

    Montag 2013, pp. 96–7.

  • 19

    Lahtinen 2011, pp. 83–6.

  • 20

    Foucault 1970, p. 219; Foucault 1972, pp. 12–13; Foucault 1977, pp. 221–8. For a discussion of Foucault’s reassessment of Marx in the early 1970s, see Ryder 2013, pp. 149–51.

  • 21

    Davis 1998, p. 96.

  • 22

    Deleuze and Guattari 1988, p. 571.

  • 24

    Hallward 2006, Choat 2012, Eyers 2013.

  • 25

    Foucault 2001, pp. 1001–20; Foucault 2012.

  • 26

    Federici 2004.

  • 27

    Read 2003, pp. 103–51.

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