Download Althusser: A Critical Reader (Blackwell Critical Readers) by Gregory Elliott PDF

By Gregory Elliott

Louis Althusser used to be most likely some of the most complicated - and the main debatable - of the "maitres de penser" to emerge from the turbulent Parisian highbrow scene of the Nineteen Sixties. in the course of an extended occupation, Althusser completed extensive popularity, notoriety and, eventually, effacement. but his paintings continues to be an incredible aspect in modern philosophy and cultural critique. This quantity, timed to coincide with the English-language booklet of Althusser's autobiography, "The destiny Lasts an extended Time", assesses the significance and effect of "Althusserianism", either with regards to, and past, the controversies of his political profession and the occasions of his own biography. one of many primary goals of the e-book is to situate Althusser and his texts in the wider histories and cultures to which they belong, drawing on participants from a variety of backgrounds and geographical destinations. therefore E.J. Hobsbawm contextualizes Althusser's Marxism; Pierre Villar assesses Althusserian historiography; Paul Ricoeur probes Althusser's conception of ideology; Axel Honneth articulates his relation to the valuable rival faculties of Marxism within the Nineteen Sixties and Nineteen Seventies; Peter Dews examines his kin to the structuralist university; David Macey casts a sceptical eye over his alliance with Lacan; Francis Mulhern explores the variety of Anglophone "Althusserianism"; and Gregory Elliott responds to Althusser's research of his personal case historical past. The booklet concludes with a bibliography of Althusser's research of his personal case background.

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Example text

He refers to Sophocles’ play, especially to one point when Oedipus is worrying about the fate prophesied for him; his wife tries to reassure him: Many a man ere now in dreams hath lain With her who bare him. (Freud 1973–86, vol 4:366) FREUD AND LACAN 29 Freud reads this dream easily enough. ‘It is’, he says, ‘the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father’ (ibid: 364). After discussing Oedipus Freud takes up Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Hamlet, and confirms his understanding from that.

Freud’s answer is consistent with his analysis of other instances of unconscious expression. Just as dreams disguise a latent wish in the manifest content and jokes depend on the mechanism of indirect statement, so art works with a specific means of representation. There are two moves. First, creative writers soften the self-concerned character of their ‘egoistic daydreams’ by altering and disguising it, presenting it in plausible and seemingly impersonal form. Second, the writer ‘bribes us by the purely formal—that is, aesthetic—yield of pleasure’ which is offered in the presentation of the fantasies (ibid: 141).

The unconscious in Freud’s summary has four characteristics: 1 ‘exemption from mutual contradiction’: opposed wishes can co-exist in the unconscious, as does Little Hans’ fear of his father alongside his fear for his father, as do the desire for and prohibition of incest; this effect of living with contradictions is enormously enhanced by the way the unconscious speaks in images rather than words; 2 ‘primary process’: energies in the unconscious are not fixed but mobile, liable to recombine into new configurations in an active process like that in which meanings are displaced and superimposed in dreams; the unconscious ‘is alive’ (ibid: 194), and this makes repressed material likely to return to consciousness in some form; 3 ‘timelessness’: the processes of the unconscious are not ‘ordered temporally’, are ‘not altered by the passage of time’ (ibid: 191), in fact have no reference to time at all (this is an issue we will need to come back to); 4 ‘replacement of external by psychical reality’: the unconscious essentially seeks pleasure and since it has little need to have regard for reality it will readily express itself in wishes and fantasies.

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