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Louis Althusser, or the impure purity of the concept

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Chapter Summary

The fate of Louis Althusser's work today is a remarkable one. The concept of symptomatic reading is used to analyse Marx's reading of the 'text of classical economics'. According to Althusser, the principal characteristic of empiricism is that it does not distinguish between the real object and the object of knowledge and conceives knowledge as an abstraction in the literal sense of the word: the object of knowledge is supposedly part of the real object - essential reality as opposed to inessential reality. The theme of the purity of the concept is directly bound up with the sharp break established by Althusser between science and ideology, and, more generally, with the primacy of theory ceremoniously proclaimed by the whole of his oeuvre. For Althusser, Machiavelli's project is an absolute beginning dictated by the Italian political situation: a 'political void (which) is simply an immense aspiration to political being'.

Keywords: Louis Althusser; Machiavelli; Marx; purity



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