You are here: Home / Overview

This project is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) research grant and is supported by the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) and Kingston University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

AHRC logo

CRMEP logo

Project overview

About the website

This website provides an electronic annotated edition of the French philosophical journal the Cahiers pour l’Analyse. Edited by a small group of Louis Althusser’s students at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, the Cahiers pour l’Analyse appeared in ten volumes between 1966 to 1969 – arguably the most fertile and productive years in French philosophy during the whole of the twentieth century. Guided by the examples of Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser and Georges Canguilhem, the Cahiers were conceived as a contribution to a philosophy based on the primacy of concepts and the rigour of logic and formalisation, in opposition to philosophies based on lived experience or the interpretation of meaning.

The Cahiers were soon recognised as one of the most significant and innovative philosophical projects of its time. The journal published landmark texts by many of the most influential thinkers of the day, including Althusser, Derrida, Foucault, Irigaray, Lacan, and Leclaire. Many of the young students and writers closely involved in the production of the Cahiers (e.g. Jacques-Alain Miller, Jean-Claude Milner, François Regnault and Alain Badiou) were soon to become major figures in French intellectual life. (For more on the research context, see below).

This website is the main product of a research project funded by the AHRC, undertaken by members of the Centre for Research in European Philosophy. It began at Middlesex University in the autumn of 2006; the Centre moved to Kingston University in 2010, and the project was completed there over the course of 2011.

The site provides the original French texts in both html and facsimile pdf versions, substantial synopses of each article, and translations of some articles; it also includes recent interviews with members of the original editorial board, a conceptual index, discussions of the most significant concepts at issue in the journal, and brief entries on the main people involved with it. Other components of the research project included an international conference on the Cahiers and its legacy, held at Middlesex University on 21-22 May 2009, and two edited volumes on the Cahiers, entitled Concept and Form. These volumes were published by Verso in 2012: the first includes English translations of a selection of texts published in the Cahiers, the second is a collection of newly commissioned essays on the journal and translated extracts of interviews with members of the editorial board.

The lead investigator on the project was Peter Hallward; Christian Kerslake served as the project research fellow, in collaboration first with Ray Brassier and then Knox Peden.

An initial version of the website was made public on 31 March 2010. A revised version was posted on the Kingston University CRMEP website in June 2011, with the final documents (prepared in conjunction with Verso’s publication of Concept and Form) added in 2012.

Most of the new (English-language) documents on the site were written and edited (listing names in alphabetical order) by Peter Hallward, Christian Kerslake, and Knox Peden. Additional synopses were written or prepared by Ed Baring, Jean-Yves Béziau, Tom Eyers, Simon Hewitt, Tracy McNulty, Cécile Malaspina, Alice Moss, Daniel Edward Wilson, and Brad Zukovic. The original French documents were scanned and reviewed by Christian Kerslake, Peter Hallward and Ray Brassier.

The website documents were coded in XML by Christian Kerslake, Frank Owen and Karl Inglis. The website was designed by Nick Balstone (Senior Project Officer, Middlesex University Research and Business Office). Nick also created the XSL Transformations that build the website from the XML files, and gave regular advice on all technical aspects of the project. Karl Inglis made a final and substantial set of changes to the site when it moved to Kingston in 2011. Special thanks to Rebecca Young for her proofreading of the site.

In cases where it offers the most useful source of additional information online (for instance regarding some French intellectuals or political organisations), we have included some external links to Wikipedia; needless to say, readers should be advised that Wikipedia entries are not subject to conventional academic scrutiny, and change over time. The last time such entries were checked, for this project, was December 2011.

Research context

Inspired by Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and Althusserian anti-humanism, the authors of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse set out to address a distinctive and far-reaching set of questions: What is the difference between science and ideology? To what extent is the dimension of the subject excluded from the discourse of science? How far might forms of analysis developed in modern approaches to logic and mathematics also apply in the domains of discourse, signification and the unconscious? What is the relation between theory and truth, and between theory and political practice?

The Cahiers were one of the most influential French intellectual journals of their time. In his History of Structuralism, François Dosse recognises the Cahiers for what they undoubtedly were: ‘the single most symptomatic, most ambitious and most radical manifestation of the structuralist project of the 1960s.’ While some of the concerns of the Cahiers were first eclipsed in the immediate aftermath of May 1968 and then dismissed during the 1980s backlash against anti-humanism and ‘la pensée 68’, new developments in French philosophy and recent critical theory (signalled for instance by the current interest in the work of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek) have restored many of the issues explored in the journal to the top of today’s philosophical agenda.

Thus far, however, philosophers and intellectual historians have paid remarkably little direct attention to the Cahiers or its legacy. Whereas suitably detailed work has been done on journals like Les Temps Modernes and Tel Quel, no monographs or articles have been written on the Cahiers themselves. The Cahiers are not mentioned in the most substantial book-length histories of French philosophy in the twentieth century (by Matthews, 1996; Gutting, 2003; Descamps, 2003). A large part of the reason for this neglect is no doubt due to a relative lack of access to the journal itself. Complete sets of the journal are available in only four British research libraries.

Omission of the Cahiers and its legacy from the critical reception of recent French philosophy has led to significant distortions in the reception of this philosophy abroad, including an exaggeration of the influence of neo-Nietzschean and neo-Heideggerian tendencies. In particular, this omission contributed to the lasting impression of an uncrossable gap between the analytic concerns of Anglo-American philosophy and a supposedly irrational continental tradition. Even a superficial review of the contents of the Cahiers is enough to demonstrate that this divide is largely an illusion: new articles on linguistics, logic and mathematics appear alongside translations of articles by thinkers like Cantor, Gödel and Russell, together with substantial commentaries of canonical figures like Aristotle, Galileo, Hume and Rousseau.

This website should go a long way towards dispelling this illusion. It will help to excavate the Cahiers’ contribution to recent and ongoing developments in French philosophy and critical theory. In doing so, it should both help to fill a major gap in recent intellectual history and make a significant intervention in several ongoing debates in continental philosophy and critical theory.