Speculative Non-Buddhism

ruins of the buddhist real

Althusser Today

Posted by Glenn Wallis on November 15, 2016

If anyone in the Philadelphia area is interested, I’ll be driving to Princeton for this roundtable. Send me an email. Bosteels is the author of The Actuality of Communism and the translator of Badiou’s Theory of the Subject.althusserevent

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8 Responses to “Althusser Today”

  1. wtpepper said

    Sounds great–I’d love to be there. Maybe you can give us a report?

    Is it time, finally, to overcome our terror of the concept of ideology?

  2. Danny said

    Yes, it does sound great. I hope someone is willing to give us a report….here’s a link to a Nov. 9th talk by Badiou at UCLA and while not specifically on Althusser and ideology (actually reflections on the day after US election) I think it is relevant to the post:

    http://mariborchan.si/video/alain-badiou/reflections-on-the-recent-election/

  3. Patrick jennings said

    Hi Danny,
    Thanks for this link. Magnificent. There is so much here both about ongoing local resistance in all its forms ( as described by Shaun to a resounding silence, for some reason ) and the global, strategic and theoretical/philosophical context within which they can be assessed (Badiou’s four principles).
    His last point says it all…capitalist ideological hegemony is a hegemony of pessimism over the the optimistic and idealistic insistence on the possibility of the IDEA of real change and its joyous AFFECTS.

  4. wtpepper said

    So, did anybody go to this talk? Are there signs of hope for the dreaded concept of ideology?

    It seems to me that the enormous difficulty of understanding Althusser today is almost identical, if form and cause, to the inability to comprehend Buddhist concepts like dependent origination and anatman.

    Is there any indication that Badiou, Bosteels or Nesbitt are working to get beyond the Lockean atomistic/transcendent subject, and finally think with Althusser?

  5. wtpepper said

    If anyone is interested, the there is a video of this event on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMnqVpk5jLE

    This is your brain on theory. Any comments?

  6. Tom (5). Thanks a million for posting the link to the Badiou event. I wanted to report back while my memory was fresh, but got bogged down in preparations for a show I’m doing with Ruin next week. The two points that have stuck in my mind are this: I would have liked to hear more from Badiou about his contention that materialism/idealism is no longer the most salient divide, but rather dialectics/analytics. I can guess at his meaning, but would like to hear more from him on it. The second point was actually addressed in the third question from the floor. When Badiou speaks of the monstrous future event, there always seems to be a presumption of something approaching utopia. As the questioner suggests, why not a monstrous evil event? With the link, I’ll go back and have another listen.

    Having listened yourself, how would you now answer your own question (in #4)?

    Thanks again.

  7. wtpepper said

    My short answer to my own question(s) in #4 is: no.

    There still seems to be an attempt to avoid the dangerous implications of Althusser’s concept of ideology.

    Bosteels wants to escape the current tendency to confuse the subject of capitalism with the subject in general, the tendency to “theorize” the subject by merely describing the capitalist subject. This leads to the kind of problem I described in my response to Jodi Dean’s Crowds and Party https://linesofflight.co/2016/02/26/what-should-a-communist-party-look-like/
    But Bosteels doesn’t seem to want to go so far as to suggest, with Althusser, that we only ever have agency as subjects, that we gain agency, capacity to overcome our natural history, only in collective social practices. He still seem trapped in the pursuit of the free atomistic subject.

    Badiou’s concern that human sciences can’t be really scientific also tries to avoid thinking with Althusser–the idea that we can gain theoretical/conceptual understanding of those parts of reality that are not mind-independent, and then create a new practice and undertake it, becoming a new subject. etc. This is the purpose, clearly, of the ISA essay, at the moment of the student uprising in France, the theorizing of the kind of subject the school system was meant to produce, and the suggestion that we could plan out a different school system that might produce different kinds of subjects, etc. This is the most terrifying possibility. It is true enough that the function of global capitalist ideology, its first task, is to convince us that things could not be otherwise. The problem is, that Althusser suggests we can decide to act otherwise, for theoretical reasons, and then, only by taking that action, become different subjects. We need not wait for the event. This is why Badiou suggests that we “decide” to say “I love you,” that it is not “decided” for us. For Althusser, the discourse/practice of romantic love exactly does decide this for us–we can only then think the causes and effects of this practice, in a “science” of human behavior, and then from within this science “decide” (the scientific discourse decides) to participate in this practice or not. Once in this practice, we don’t decide such things–there is no free and autonomous “self” to make such decisions.

    This really is a “short answer,” though–the long answer would have to explain the distinction between scientific and ideological practices, which are never completely independent, etc.

    I was puzzled by the response to the third question. She seemed to ask, not if the event could be evil, but if we shouldn’t be concerned that if we saw that other Worlds were possibly, we would see only that they would be more monstrous than this one. I can’t see how this is anything but a sign of reactionary fear, of conservatism. Of course worse Worlds are possible–if they weren’t better ones wouldn’t be. The place to respond to this question would be at her assertion that subjects only arise in response to some power. This is to assume that the only kind of “subject’ is the one who has escaped ideology, and that something called “power,” some evil dominating other like all these alien races in so many recent movies and tv shows, must precede the existence of a subject (like the French resistance who require first the Nazi occupation to become subjects, or Jesus Christ who requires first the sin of Adam and Eve to become the subject). This naive assumption can only lead to the reactionary terror of change…

    But like I said, the short answer.

    I’ll have to wait and read the book when it comes out, I guess, to see of there is really any more hope than is present here. After listening to this panel, though, I will admit I’m starting to see Laruel’s point a bit more.

  8. wtpepper said

    Oh, and good luck with the show! Record release party? Very retro, sounds like fun.

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