5/13 | Louis Althusser, Reading Capital

Professors Étienne Balibar and Bernard E. Harcourt

read and discuss

Reading Capital by Louis Althusser, Étienne Balibar, Roger Establet, Pierre Macherey and Jacques Rancière

at Maison Française, Columbia University

November 13, 2019 


Reading Reading Capital: surely, the linguistic reprise does not escape you. Our project, very much like the project of Louis Althusser and his students, is to return to a formative critical text in order to deploy it in our contemporary political struggles. That, I would argue, was Althusser’s project—as it is ours.

The proximity raises, as an introductory matter, three issues which, I hope, will guide in part our discussion in the seminar Critique 5/13 with Étienne Balibar who has already posted a brilliant preface:

  1. How does Althusser’s and his students’s project in Reading Capital compare to our project in Critique 13/13? What are the differences and, if there are any, how might they inform or transform our project here in Critique 13/13?
  2. How does Althusser’s reading method—what he refers to as the “symptomatic” (symptomale) method—relate to the critical reading methods we discussed in the first seminar, Critique 1/13? How might the differences enrich our critical reading methods here?
  3. How can Althusser’s and his students’s substantive interpretation of Marx’s Capital inform our substantive reading of Reading Capital in such a way as to enable us to deploy our reading of Reading Capital for purposes of our contemporary political struggles?

Project. Method. Deployment. Those are three important dimensions that I hope we will explore in this seminar Critique 5/13. And I could not think of anyone better suited to discuss these questions with us than Étienne Balibar, who not only participated in the original project with Althusser and co-authored the book itself Reading Capital, but has since become the leading and most influential French philosopher in critical philosophy and contemporary politics. It is an honor and a privilege to welcome Étienne Balibar to Critique 5/13!

[Read more here]

Readings are available here