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The Paris Strangler

John Sturrock, 17 December 1992

‘L’Avenir dure longtemps’ suivi de ‘Les Faits’: Autobiographies 
by Louis Althusser.
Stock, 356 pp., frs 144, May 1992, 2 234 02473 0
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Louis AlthusserUne biographie. Vol. I: La Formation du mythe 
by Yann Moulier Boutang.
Grasset, 509 pp., frs 175, April 1992, 2 246 38071 5
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... we have another bold and engrossing first-person work which could have borne the title ‘Moi Louis Althusser ayant étranglé ma femme ... ’, for L’Avenir dure longtemps is the garlanded Marxist philosopher’s long essay in explanation of how he came to strangle his wife late in 1980. Pierre Rivière’s was the extrovert testimony of a rube, a ...

Althusser’s Fate

Douglas Johnson, 16 April 1981

The Long March of the French Left 
by R.W. Johnson.
Macmillan, 345 pp., £20, March 1981, 0 333 27417 2
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One-Dimensional Marxism 
by Simon Clarke and Terry Lovell.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 85031 367 8
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Communism and Philosophy 
by Maurice Cornforth.
Lawrence and Wishart, 282 pp., £8.95, July 1980, 0 85315 430 9
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The Crisis of Marxism 
by Jack Lindsay.
Moonraker, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 0 239 00200 8
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Class in English History 1680-850 
by R.S. Neale.
Blackwell, 250 pp., £12, January 1981, 0 631 12851 4
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... Is it easy to be a Marxist?’ Louis Althusser put this question to a crowded audience at the University of Picardy in 1975. Is it possible to be an Althusserian? The question has to be asked now. Althusserian Marxism has always been under threat, but since the tragic events of last November we are obliged to wonder whether the ruin of Althusser’s own life and career, as he faces a future necessarily bounded by the mental hospital, will also encompass the definitive destruction of his philosophical work ...

Top of the Class

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 8 May 1997

The State Nobility 
by Pierre Bourdieu, translated by Lauretta Clough.
Polity, 475 pp., £45, November 1996, 0 7456 0824 8
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... talked of a ‘solidarity’ fashioned in more adversarial circumstances. At the same time, Louis Althusser was trying to revive the Party’s materialism with his notion of the ‘ideological state apparatuses’ that did capitalism’s work with powers that were distinctively their own. Bourdieu was drawn by this, too. In 1972, he recast his ...

Disaffiliate, Reaffiliate, Kill Again

Jeremy Harding: Régis Debray, 7 February 2008

Praised Be Our Lords: The Autobiography 
by Régis Debray, translated by John Howe.
Verso, 328 pp., £19.99, April 2007, 978 1 84467 140 3
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... controversy and action. As a young man at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, he sat at the feet of Louis Althusser; he trained in the use of assault weapons with Fidel Castro; he trod the thankless Bolivian forests with Che Guevara and served nearly four years in jail for his trouble. In Chile he was taken up by Salvador Allende and Pablo Neruda. Ten ...
The Dialectic of Change 
by Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Rick Simon.
Verso, 393 pp., £29.95, January 1990, 0 86091 258 2
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... He tells us in a footnote that he has only just learned of the personal disaster which overtook Louis Althusser a decade ago (this in the context of a rather lenient judgment of Althusser’s work as ‘monstrously pseudo-philosophical’, which I was glad to see appearing under at least one of the rubrics of New ...


Sherry Turkle: Lacan and Co, 6 December 1990

Jacques Lacan and Co: A History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985 
by Elisabeth Roudinesco, translated by Jeffrey Mehlman.
Free Association, 816 pp., £25, December 1990, 9781853431630
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... professionals of both. In the context of May, Lacanianism had a special cachet. It was linked to Althusser’s Marxism and Dali’s Surrealism, both excellent credentials for a movement that found itself caught between Marx and street theatre. Anti-establishment and anti-American in his politics within the psychoanalytic movement. Lacan became the symbol of ...

Pamphleteer’s Progress

Patrick Parrinder, 7 February 1985

The Function of Criticism: From the ‘Spectator’ to Post-Structuralism 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 133 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 86091 091 1
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... wave of neo-Marxist theory. As major influences, Sartre, Williams, Lukacs, Goldmann, Anderson, Althusser, Macherey, Benjamin, Derrida and the feminist movement have followed one another in quick succession. The Function of Criticism, hard on the heels of The Rape of Clarissa and Literary Theory: An Introduction, marks if anything an intensification of this ...


Wendy Lesser: On O.J. Simpson, 21 July 1994

... Hitler – who were, in any case, only ‘arrested’ in the sense of being stopped. I proposed Louis Althusser, but was condescendingly told that an academic political theorist who strangled his wife hardly counted as famous in the terms we were using. (The first response of my tablemates was: ‘Who?’) ‘How about Fatty Arbuckle?’ someone ...

I want to be her clothes

Kevin Kopelson: Kate Moss, 20 December 2012

Kate: The Kate Moss Book 
by Kate Moss, edited by Fabien Baron, Jess Hallett and Jefferson Hack.
Rizzoli, 368 pp., £50, November 2012, 978 0 8478 3790 8
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... has been or ever will be) at all troubled – or worse yet, influenced, or even worse, to invoke Louis Althusser, interpellated, which involves, basically, self-misrecognition – by all the ‘strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions’ that so many of us, myself included, have seen expressed in such work. And with that not so ...

The Terror Trail

Tariq Ali: The real story of Daniel Pearl, 20 May 2004

A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Daniel Pearl 
by Mariane Pearl.
Virago, 278 pp., £7.99, March 2004, 1 84408 126 5
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Who Killed Daniel Pearl? 
by Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Duckworth, 454 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 7156 3261 2
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... him as Tintin in Afghanistan. At the Ecole Normale Supérieure in the mid-1960s Lévy was one of Althusser’s star pupils. He then became a leading intellectual of the French Communist Party and the editor of its cultural magazine, Lettres françaises. A decade later he discovered the gulags. Why did it take him so long? Whatever the reason, he was part of ...


Terry Eagleton: Marx and Hobsbawm, 3 March 2011

How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011 
by Eric Hobsbawm.
Little, Brown, 470 pp., £25, January 2011, 978 1 4087 0287 1
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... he is not at his sharpest in the realm of ideas, and he is wrong to suggest that the disciples of Louis Althusser treated Marx’s Capital as though it were primarily a work of epistemology. Nor would Hegel’s Geist treat feminism, not least Marxist feminism, with such cold-eyed indifference, or consign one of the most fertile currents of modern Marxism ...

On Complaining

Elif Batuman: How to Stay Sane, 20 November 2008

Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida 
by Elisabeth Roudinesco, translated by William McCuaig.
Columbia, 184 pp., £15.50, November 2008, 978 0 231 14300 4
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... close resemblance to the avalanche: Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida looks very much like a vast ledger full of entries for ‘people who have become things’. (Would Bouvard and Pécuchet feel or think any better if they found such a thing in the garden shed?) For most of its length the book has the ...

The Hippest

Terry Eagleton, 7 March 1996

Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues 
edited by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen.
Routledge, 514 pp., £45, February 1996, 0 415 08803 8
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... emerged from a brief affair with Lévi-Straussian Structuralism into the glacial grip of Louis Althusser, moved straight through Gramsci to post-Marxism, dived into discourse theory and teetered on the brink of Post-Modernism. Hall himself, having left the Centre in 1979 for the Chair of Sociology at the Open University, became a leading analyst ...


Richard Stern, 15 August 1991

... anthropologist in France, the other a student of philosophy in the States. For twenty years he and Louis Althusser had been the philosophy department of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, where he himself had gone to School. After Althusser’s disaster (he’d gone mad, killed his wife), Derrida had been ...


John Sutherland, 15 September 1988

The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins 
by William Clarke.
Allison and Busby, 239 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 85031 960 9
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Wilkie Collins: Women, Property and Propriety 
by Philip O’Neill.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £27.50, September 1988, 9780333421994
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... summary in its relentless new-Marxist, male-feminist analysis of half a dozen Collins texts. Louis Althusser gets three mentions in the index, Caroline Graves none. O’Neill’s thesis is that Collins’s fiction ‘deliberately subverts the popular literary representation of women’. Collins ‘sees the situation of women as both symptomatic ...

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