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Althusser and Monod: A 'New Alliance'?

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image of Historical Materialism

Althusser dedicated the fourth lesson of his 'course of philosophy for scientists' at the Ecole Normale Supériere in the autumn of the 1967 to the inaugural lecture held by Jacques Monod at the Collège de France on 3 November in the same year. Althusser defined the concepts of 'living system' and of 'emergence' that Monod uses in his interpretation of evolution as 'materialist'; whereas he judged his conception of human history as the evolution of ideas in the 'noosphere' as 'idealistic'. Against the latter, Althusser counterposed a reading of Marx's work centred on the notion of 'structure' – which is very close to that of 'system' used within biology – and on the refusal of teleology and finalism. This last position, which Althusser takes up particularly in the writings of the 1980s on the 'materialism of the encounter', represent a particularly significant break with orthodox Marxism.

Affiliations: 1: University of 'Ca' Foscari', Venice;, Email:


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