On the notion of the political in postmarxist theory.


Miguel Abensour
Is there a proper way to use the voluntary servitude hypothesis?

The Transformation of Structural Causality in Late Modernity 

Propositions on Subject and History

Filippo del Lucchese
The symptomatic relationship between law and conflict in Spinoza 

Jura communia as anima imperii

Warren Montag
Althusser and the Question of Origin
Hegel sive Spinoza

Jacques Rancière
On the political and theoretical effects of Althusserian Marxism
Althusser's Lesson

Michael Löwy
Romanticism and Zivilisationskritik
Walter Benjamin

V. Desclaux, K. Diefenbach M. Dolar, D. Hoens, A. Kukuljevic,
Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan II
The impossible encounter

Michaela Ott
Reading Spinoza with Nietzsche
Deleuze's affective “thinking with”

Emiliano Battista, Vanessa Brito, Jack H. Fischer
Book presentation
Becoming major, becoming minor

Sara Farris, Peter Thomas
Counter-politicisation of the non-political
The theory of politics in the young Marx

Lars T. Lih
The Unifying Theme of his Political Career
Lenin's Scenario of Class Leadership

Rodrigo Nunes
The politics of Badiou and Deleuze/ Guattari
Subject, event, separation

Rodrigo Nunes
Politics, poetics + popular culture in Brazilian cinema 1962-1979
'Stronger are the powers of the people' I

Thomas Seibert
Reading Badiou with and against his postmarxist contemporaries
Politics unbound

Kathrin Thiele
Nietzsche with Deleuze II
The thought of becoming

International conference
Becoming-major, becoming-minor

Marina Gržinić
Global capitalism, necropolitics and contemporary art

Roberto Esposito
The dispositif of the person

International Conference
Encountering Althusser

Conference material: schedule, abstracts, articles
Encountering Althusser

Antke Engel
Queer/ing Images of Sexuality and Economy
The Surplus of Paradoxes

Matteo Mandarini
Negri's encounter with Guattari: the elision of Lenin
Communists like us

Ruth Sonderegger
A cinematic diagnosis of biopolitics
The cinema of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Christian Kerslake
The specter of an unsolved problematic
The Meanings of Immanence in Deleuze's Philosophy

Luca Basso, Vittorio Morfino
A French Marx
The singular, the trans-individual and the common

Pier Vittorio Aureli, Andrea Cavaletti, Katja Diefenbach, Mark Purcell, Miguel Robles-Duran, Lukasz Stanek, Roemer van Toorn, Peter Trummer, Sven-Olov Wallenstein
State-space symposium no. 1
Biopolitics of scale

Paul Hegarty, Vanessa Theodoropoulos, Jean Louis Violeau
Against the economic: Reading Baudrillard with Bataille, Lacan, Marx, and Debord
A Workshop on Baudrillard

Lecture of Tom Rockmore at the International Institute for Research and Education, Amsterdam
Is Marx a Fichtean?

Martin Saar
Negri on Power
Political Spinozism

Steve Wright
The Refusal of Labor
Tronti's Legacy

Massimo De Angelis, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Anne Querrien
The production of commons, subjectivity and space
Communists like us

A. Auerbach, K. Diefenbach, S. Dillemuth, M. Vishmidt
The politics of bohemia

Maria Muhle
From Foucault to Rancière
Politics, police and power

Manfred Hermes
Narrative strategies of subjectivisation in Fassbinder’s "Berlin Alexanderplatz"
In the figurative sense

Serhat Karakayali
On political hegemony and militant becoming: Gramsci and Deleuze
The poetics of knowledge

Ruben Martinez, Jaron Rowan, Marina Vishmidt, Katja Diefenbach
The cultural producer as model of the post-fordist worker
In the mood for work

Grahame Lock
The actuality of Althusser's thinking
Dictatorship of the proletariat as political science

Judith Hopf
The imposition of creative work
Hey production!

Raul Zelik
Notes on asymmetric warfare and governance
Sovereign police

Jacques Rancière

On the political and theoretical effects of Althusserian Marxism
Althusser's Lesson

Lecture and workshop with Jacques Rancière

— Interventions by E. Battista, K. Diefenbach, L.Z. Fraser, O. Timofeeva

—Please register at coordinator.events [at] janvaneyck.nl

Published in 1974, La leçon d’Althusser criticizes along divergent lines the theoretical and political strategies of Althusserian Marxism. According to Rancière, Althusser's great ambition had been „to think Marx in his historical context to allow us to implement Marxism in ours“. He grasps the strategy of Althusserianism in the reinvention of Marxism as cutting edge of theoretical production, in order to generate a political renewal in the midst of 1960s new forms of workers' struggles, anti-colonial liberation movements and the spreading uprisings of a dissident youth.

Althusser’s Lesson is one single effort to pinpoint the contradictory effects produced by this detour to politics through philosophy. In the second chapter, this effort starts from the theoretical inventions of Althusserian Marxism in its „theoreticist period“ in the time of For Marx (1965) and Reading Capital (1968): the break with an evolutionist concept of history, the affirmation of the discontinuity of modes of production, the assertion that the laws of dissolution of a particular structure are not the same as its laws of operation, the radical originality of the problem of transition, etc.

Rancière shows, in how far these theoretical positions that were opposed to the politics of the PCF lead to disparate consequences: By keeping faith with the Party and by staying its member, Althusser strengthened its apparatus; his theoretical rigour convinced communist students to stay in the PCF. The sharpness of his 1960s writings, however, also produced a breach, since it „provided support to [those] students who founded the first Maoist student organisation in France, the UJC (ML)“. This double effect was displaced by a third one, the tendency of the Althusserian project to retreat to the field of academic inquiry and the autonomy of thought.

That is why, Rancière relentlessly asks, if in Althusser's philosophical detour to politics, in his decision to produce the philosophy that is immanent to Marx's critique of political economy, but has never been written by Marx himself, there is to be found an essentialist seperation between a praxis reserved to philosophers, and a praxis reserved to the masses. Hence, it is the universalisation of the question of the division of labour through which Rancière integrates the divergent lines of criticism in Althusser's Lesson making the capacity of everyone to think and to act the point at which political conflict breaks open:

„My book declared war on the theory of the inequality of intelligences at the heart of supposed critiques of domination. It held that all revolutionary thought must be founded on the inverse presupposition, that of the capacity of the dominated.“ 

At the beginning of the workshop Jacques Rancière will reconstruct this complex line of criticism. We then will discuss a couple of questions regarding the political stakes of Althusserian Marxism, e.g. the strategy of intervening in the PCF by way of philosophy, the critique of Stalinism through the conceptual couple humanism/ economism, the distance Althusser kept to the May events, the mode of his turn to Maoism, and the problematics immanent to the politics of gauche prolétarienne, in particular the reemergence of representation in its activism.

Subsequently, we can discuss a couple of corresponding theoretical points put foward by Rancière in Althusser’s Lesson, especially the critique of the epistemological rupture Althusser introduced to Marx's writings based on a particular understanding of the relation Marx-Feuerbach, and the critique of the theory of ideology developed during the period of „self-criticism“, against which Rancière sets the egalitarian thesis of the capacity of everyone to think.

The politico-theoretical operator of Althusser’s Lesson—the capacity of the masses—inspired Rancière’s later criticism of Marx in The Philosopher and his Poor and in Disagreement. In both books, Rancière symptomally reads Marx with Plato considering the ruse that connects Plato’s philosophy in The Republic to Marx’s anti-philosophy in On the Jewish Question, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, and the series of works written between 1845 and 1848 (The Holy Family, The German Ideology, The Poverty of Philosopy and the Communist Manifesto)?

For Rancière, the idea that sutures Marx to Plato is that of the evacuation of the people from the scene of politics, the cancelling out of the worker-artisan, his stillstand in moderation in Plato and in self-negation or self-subtraction in Marx. This evacuation of the people from the stage of politics is organised, according to Rancière, by way of the division of labor. All modes of domination are thought by him through this idea of which he said in Althusser’s Lesson that “through May”, gauche prolétarienne “inherited [it] from the Cultural Revolution” and was called “to abolish the division of labor that separated intellectual from manual labor”.

From The Philosopher and his Poor to Disagreement, Rancière shifts from a primarily positive to a primarily negative ontology of the political. From the affirmation of the excess immanent to polytechnology in The Philosopher and his Poor, he passes on to the affirmation of an incision introduced to the order. That is to say, from the idea that the people are capable of doing whatsoever, he passes on to the idea that the people are capable of subtracting from itself. From class singularisation, Rancière thus turns to a reinvention of the Marxian idea of declassifying class: the third people or the part with no part possesses nothing but the instance of conflict and litigation that it adds to the situation while subtracting from itself. 

Ultimately, the workshop will offer the occasion to discuss with Jacques Rancière, if he started—by the theoretical operation carried out in Althusser’s Lesson—to move towards thinking an autonomization of politics in the figures of the capacity of the masses and the equality of intelligences, and if this movement risks to eclipse the question of the complex conditions, in and against which politics acts,—or, on the contrary, if it does not do so, or differently seen, if this risk is no risk in thinking politics. 

—J. Rancière: Althusser's Lesson, translated by Emiliano Battista, New York and London: Continuum, 2011