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Karl Marx (1818–1883)

Born in Trier, Prussia, Marx had his itinerary shaped by three conditions: the political legacy of the French Revolution; English theories of political economy accompanying the rise of industrialisation; and the philosophical framework of German Idealism. After his early relation with the Young Hegelians, Marx broke with this group through a series of critical works, culminating in the publication of The Communist Manifesto, co-authored with Friedrich Engels, in 1848, shortly before the revolutions that rattled Europe that same year. In 1849, he moved to London, where he spent the rest of his life, sheltered from the forces of reaction on the continent threatened by his ideas and their spread. In the 1850s and 60s, Marx devoted himself to study, the major result of which was Capital, vol. 1, published in 1867. In addition to his theoretical works are Marx’s varied occasional writings, many of which retain their political and historical resonance, from the influential Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) to his remarks on The Civil War in France (1871). Marx’s work is both an expansive theoretical achievement - developing a materialist theory of history and a critique of capitalism as a historical and social form - and a practical intervention in history itself, geared toward achieving the political goal of Communism.

Louis Althusser’s philosophical return to Marx, and particularly Marx’s Capital, in the early 1960s was a major influence on the members of the Cercle d’Épistémologie. A central element of Althusser’s project was the concern to develop a theory of ideologythat was lacking in Marx’s corpus, but was nonetheless essential to its theoretical integrity. Althusser’s own flirtations with Lacan’s re-thinking of psychoanalysis were a tentative step in this direction. The effort to develop the consequences of thinking Althusser’s Marx alongside Lacan’s Freud - that is, the effort to develop a structural account of historical causality consistent with a renovated theory of the subject - lay at the heart of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Jacques Lacan, ‘La Science et la vérité’, CpA 1.1 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Thomas Herbert, ‘Réflexions sur la situation théorique des sciences sociales et, specialement, de la psychologie sociale’, CpA 2.6 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Jacques Derrida, ‘Nature, Culture, Ecriture (de Lévi-Strauss à Rousseau)’, CpA 4.1 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
François Regnault, ‘La pensée du prince (Descartes et Machiavel)’, CpA 6.2 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Jacques Bouveresse, ‘L’achèvement de la révolution copernicienne et le dépassement du formalisme (La théorie du droît naturel “réel” de Fichte)’, CpA 6.7 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Thomas Herbert, ‘Pour une théorie générale des idéologies’, CpA 9.5 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Jacques-Alain Miller, ‘Action de la structure’, CpA 9.6 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Alain Badiou, ‘Marque et manque: à propos du zéro’, CpA 10.8 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • Collected Works, with Friedrich Engels. New York and London: International Publishers, 1975.
  • The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker. New York and London: Norton, 1978.
  • Capital: Volume 1. A Critique of Political Economy, trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin, 1992.
  • Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, trans. Martin Nicolas. London: Penguin, 1993.