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And even our recent moments of political practice have neither originated within the parameters of Marxism, nor have they generated a specifically Marxist discourse.In our situation it has become difficult to say what “Marxism” , what distinguishes it as a theory, and why it matters. And of all the definitions and redefinitions of Marxism, Louis Althusser’s were perhaps the most controversial.
For Althusser, that this necessary criticism should come from the “Right” was a disaster, with humanism and Hegel in theory and Soviet tanks rolling through Budapest in practice.
Althusser recalled a similar dynamic earlier in the century, when a number of theorists dissented against the orthodoxy of the Second International.
The definition of this science was highly original, a displacement of the traditional opposition between theory and practice.
Theory itself was a practice, theoretical practice, which like other forms of practice worked on raw materials, including ideas, to transform them into determinate objects, in this case knowledge.
However, the status of Marxism, as a body of thought, remains obscure.
Althusserian Essay Future In Marxist Materialism Postmodern Theory Tradition
Underlying every Marxist explanation of the economic crisis are tendentious debates about the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, the transformation problem, and the relevance of the labor theory of value.
The intervening decades have seen not simply a defeat for the workers’ movement but its total dissolution – the collapse of the institutions that once made it an undeniable social force, and the rollback of the reforms it had won from the state.
While Western Marxism could define itself within a relation of dissent from the “official” Marxism of the Soviet Union and the Communist Parties, academic Marxism from the 1980s on began to find itself in relation to nothing. The economic crisis, and even more recently the glimpses of a new class struggle, have forced even the financial press to asks what we might learn from Marx.
Not only was the later Marx distinct from the earlier one, but he operated in an entirely different problematic that had nothing to do with the one which had ensnared him in his youth.
In short, at some point in 1845, Marx broke with his ideological past by founding an entirely new science, complete with its own principles, logic, and language, just as the ideological morass of alchemy became the science of chemistry, or astrology became astronomy.