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Althusser and loneliness

Myself is one thing, my writings another.
  - Nietzsche, “Look, the Man”
one

  In Louis Althusser’s autobiography, “A Long Day to Come,” the word “solitude” appears forty-one times, and the words “alone” or “seul” are everywhere. He even said: “Just read my text, and you will find again and again a theme of obsessive loneliness.” (“The Future of Japan: The Autobiography of Althusser”, p. Edited) In 1987, Gregory Elliott compiled a chronology of Althusser’s writings, up to “Machiavelli’s Solitude”, which was first published in German in the same year. The following year, he wrote an essay “The Solitude of Althusser” imitating the title. But, like all ordinary readers, Eliot was unaware of this autobiography, which Althusser had completed two years earlier: here, the “theme of loneliness” remains his last obsession.
  The term “theme” (leitmotiv) is also worth pondering. This word comes from German and refers to the “dominant motive” in music. It appears only here in “The Future of Japan”. Unlike the thème (referring to the subject of speech or thought) used elsewhere, this metaphor emphasizes a recurring characteristic. As if his “texts” are sonata-style works, the theme of loneliness is used as the basic melody, in which it appears, unfolds, and reproduces, sometimes intensifying or weakening the intensity, sometimes changing the rhythm, and sometimes expressing it with different harmony… By extension, Contrast, unfold, and endow different elements or objects with a common structure or personality. As if the author was not talking about the subject, but he was being talked about by the subject.
  So, as Eliot finds elsewhere, the loneliness in “A Long Day to Come” is also “not attached to the individual.” Before it belonged to Althusser, it always belonged to all the others in this autobiography: grandparents isolated in the Algerian forest; mute great-grandmother who lived with a cow; either silent or vague In other words, the father who slammed the door when he was angry and disappeared in the night; the mother who was plagued by phobias and did not allow him to make friends, play football, get dirty… Some people he only knew: a single musician Brother and sister, terrified little Madeleine; some more important people: teacher, friend, comrade, lover; most important person – Elena.
  Imagine an encounter like this: two people who are lonely and desperate, meet by chance, look at each other, with the same anxiety, the same suffering, the same loneliness, and the same desperate waiting, and find brotherhood in each other. (p. 123)
  He sees himself in the loneliness of the other, like in a small photo hidden in his father’s relic, miraculously witnessing his “shielded memory” of his lonely childhood: “It is I ( C’est bien moi), I’m here.” (p. 61)
  ”It’s me”! Readers of Althusser may think of another source for this quote. In the famous “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus”, passers-by answer the “inquiry” of the police or others, or Moses answers God: “Yes, it is me!” He explained to us with this “little theoretical play” What is called “ideology interrogates the individual as the subject”.
  Moses answered God’s call, because God is a big subject, he needs some small subjects to “submit” to him, so he simply separated a small subject (Jesus) from himself as a demonstration. By acknowledging that it was “I” that God called, Moses also recognized himself as a minor subject: he obeyed God and taught his people to obey God’s commandments. “Ideology = recognition/misrecognition”, Althusser found that this Lacanian formulation had long been hidden in the original text of The German Ideology. He found that all the functions of ideology are realized by a set of mirror relations: the mutual recognition of small subjects and large subjects, the mutual recognition of small subjects, and the final self-recognition of subjects.
  The loneliness in “A Long Day to Come” has a super-personal and even super-experiential existence. Rather than having a subject/subject (suj et), it is itself the single, absolute, large subject jointly recognized by a number of mirror-image, mutually-recognized sub-subjects, occupying all ideas, emotions, memories, or The center of the hallucination is the center of the ideological world of this autobiography. In the book’s startling “Illusions are also facts” (p. 86), the implication is that the autobiography itself is an ideological fact that, like any ideology, “expresses the imaginary relationship of the individual to his actual conditions of existence. ” (“Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus”). Marx, referring to Robinson, said that the isolated individual can be imagined only in society. Similarly, the individuals in “The Future of Japan” can only become lonely subjects in the “imaginary relationship” with society: their subjective loneliness is all self-recognition/misrecognition completed in the ideological world of autobiography.
  Therefore, every autobiography hides a lonely subject. If we look only at “Althusserian’s loneliness,” we are looking at the subject’s self-recognition, self-compassion, self-“interpretation” (which is his stated intention of writing) or “self-destruction” (which he makes “explanation”), it is not enough to see that the autobiography has any quality beyond the ideological world—that is, beyond the banal.
two

  There is another class of solitary Others –
  Descartes in his “stove”, the hero’s hideout, Kant in his quiet, regurgitated hideout in Königsberg, Kerke Gaul hid in the sanctuary of his inner tragedy, Wittgenstein hid in the wooded shelter of his shepherd’s hut in Norway. (183 pages)
  and Lacroix, Conguillaume, Lacan, Jacques Martin, Chen Decao, Foucault, Planchas, Derrida…all the philosophers around the author.
  The loneliness of philosophers is nothing new. Heidegger said that loneliness, as the basic emotion of philosophical activities, is the nostalgia when people face the whole world with their finitude. This sentiment is expressed in the oldest philosophical legends: Philosophers “searched everywhere for the essence of things as a whole, never condescending to think about the mundane things around them. . . The ridicule of the maid, saying that he longs to know the things of heaven, but cannot see what is beneath his feet. Anyone who wants to live a philosophical life must accept this ridicule” (Plato, Theaetetus). Unlike Plato’s equanimity or Hegel’s famous defense in Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Althusser sees in this legend the comedy of “philosophers scrambled” (“Philosophy and the Scientist”). The Spontaneous Philosophy”) and the ambiguity of this comedy:
  on the one hand, it expresses a satirical critique of the philosopher: a reckoning of philosophy or tenderness or poignancy; on the other hand, it contains an acknowledgment of a certain fact : Philosophers are engaged in a subject that is beyond the level of ordinary people and beyond the ability of ordinary people, and at the same time is a subject with huge risks. (“On Reproduction”)
  Therefore, for Althusser, loneliness, as the basic emotion of philosophical activities, has become a kind of ambivalence (the most common psychoanalytic term in “The Future of Japan”, which refers to the tendency to love and hate the same object, to welcome and reject). His unique philosophical view is based on this ambivalence, and the tension of ambivalence is also pulled to the limit in this philosophical view. On the one hand, he made a fierce criticism of philosophy, on the other hand, whether he was talking about Das Kapital, Machiavelli or Brecht, he always stated in advance that “I am only a philosopher”. He openly admitted in “The Future of Japan”: Only the purely theoretical form of philosophy can satisfy the extravagant hope of a philosopher to grasp and dominate the world as a whole from a distance; and for a communist philosopher like him, only this This purely theoretical form can provide a safe distance for him to fight alone, against others, and to intervene politically in the party.

  In this way, the theme of loneliness gives the two different sides a common structure and is thus paradoxical. It constitutes the pathology of Althusser’s emotional life on the one hand, and the principle of his theoretical work on the other. It was Althusser’s problem and his solution; it was the object of fear he wanted to get rid of, and it was his “doctrine to engage in thought and action,” his “peak of desire.” He finally understands the “dialectics” of it:
  total impotence and supreme power over everything are the same thing. There has always been this terrible ambivalence, and we can find a corresponding statement in medieval Christian mysticism: all = nothing. (p. 292)
  This is very much like what Freud called the death/life-instinct relationship: on the one hand his “work of self-destruction” (of which Elena’s destruction was only part of it); I have to be loved, and in order to love… seduction and deception” (p. 94). But the self-exposure of these techniques constitutes “evidence of his non-existence”, a continuation of the steps of self-destruction, and also constitutes the most disturbing content of “The Future of Japan” – it is too much like a book of self-destruction (travail and meaning “work” and “writing”).
  This dialectic is different from Hegel’s dialectic: it has no “synthesis”. For a subject who says yes and no at the same time, ambivalence constitutes an insurmountable opposition in life, which not even the “sublimation” of philosophy can overcome:
  the greatest philosophers were born without a father, They live in solitude, theoretically helpless, and face the world on single-handed adventures. Yes, I never had a father, and I played “father’s father” endlessly in order to give myself the illusion of having a father, in fact, to play the role of my own father… So philosophically, I You must also be your own father. (p. 180)
  There is a huge leap in this passage that complicates things and makes things serious.
three

  A self-destructive book is disturbing, but even more disturbing: it is the autobiography of a philosopher. Since in the “post-religious autobiographies” since Rousseau, “confession has been integrated with the ideas of exhibitionism, provocation, cheekiness, pride, etc.” (Le Gennes: “Autobiographical Contract”), philosophical reflection often serves as the last redemption. “How many philosophers have you heard of admitting to making mistakes? Philosophers never make mistakes!” (“The Spontaneous Philosophy of Philosophy and the Scientist”) Althusser likes to borrow Kant’s analogy: philosophy is a “battlefield”. Philosophers always try to distance themselves from error by attacking other people’s philosophies.
  But in this autobiography, the subject’s self-destruction is at the same time the philosopher’s self-defeating. There has never been a philosopher like Althusser who not only criticized “philosophically in general” but also exposed his own philosophy as a “scheme”, degrading himself as “a man who can only play tricks and deceit, and A man of nothing, a philosopher who knows almost nothing about the history of philosophy and almost nothing about Marx” (p. 155).
  So much so that Etienne Balibar disappointedly declared: “I do not believe this ‘explanation’ . . . it does not correspond to the memory I have retained.” The secret of reading that Dusser once revealed: “Invisibility” is inherent in “seeing”, and Balibar’s “memory” also contains his forgetting. In the same passage, he talks about how the experience recalled by rereading “In Defense of Marx” helped him overcome his disappointment, without realizing in the slightest how opposed it was to his reading of “The Future of Japan”:
  in its At each step, I identified that intellectual work—however limited it may be, however “overdetermined” by the constraints of its peculiar conditions, “objects” and various “goals.” . . . it, like all real experience, is not sure what its outcome will be, but the peculiar tension is reflected in the quality of its writing.
  This reading experience, marked with a distinct “Althusserian” label, always emphasizes the relationship of a text to its “object.” As Althusser pointed out in their joint work, “the difficulties and fallacies that arise from reading Capital are related to a misunderstanding of the character of the objects of Capital”; we may equally say that Barry Barr’s misunderstanding of “The Future of Japan” is also because he ignores the clear distinction between the two objects in the text. In several chapters, speaking of his relationship to philosophy, politics or Marxism, Althusser has not hesitated to remind the reader:
  the problem is not the objectivity of what I can write, and therefore not between me and one or some objective object, but in my relationship with an “objective” object, that is, with the inner unconscious object. All I’m going to talk about now is this object relationship. (p. 227)
  He “doesn’t intend” to talk about the “objective theoretical consequences” of his work—”it is entirely objective because it has I will make such a judgment” (pp. 168, 179)!
  This distinction is enough to take us from our unease about “self-destruction” to the more serious side of things. It goes back to Marx’s original reminder: “A distinction must always be made between the material changes that take place in the economic conditions of production, which can be specified with the precision of natural science, and the Forms of ideology that are aware of this conflict and seek to overcome it” (Preface to the Critique of Political Economy); and, long before Freud: “They are not aware of it , but they did.” (Das Kapital) Between the objective consequences of people’s actions and the subjective forms in which they are “conscious” (or “unaware”) of those actions, or, conversely, in ideology There is an absolute distance or gulf between it and its material practical basis. The recognition of this distance or gulf constitutes those main arguments of Althusser (“Ideology expresses the imaginary relationship of the individual to his actual conditions of existence”, “Ideology is eternal”, “History is an object without subject and without purpose”. Process”, “Not to deceive oneself is the only definition of materialism”, etc.) are the foundations, and at the same time constitute the deepest implication of “The Future of Japan”. It gives us the key to open this text correctly.
  In The Long Days to Come, the theme of loneliness is actually doubly paradoxical. It gives a common structure not only to the two distinct aspects of Althusser’s emotional life (A) and theoretical work (B), but also to the private, subjective causes (B’) and public, objective causes of theoretical work (B’) Consequences (B”) of these two different fields. The “great leap” we pointed out in the paragraph “The greatest philosophers were born without fathers” did not take place between A and B, Rather, it happens between A → B’ and B”, that is, between the subject and what happens entirely outside of its subjectivity:

  What has been bridged is the distance or gulf that Marx first pointed out; the latter separates two different meanings of “loneliness”, or, in other words, two different loneliness.
  There is a subjective loneliness. It is the self-recognition/misrecognition completed by the subject in the ideological world of autobiography, and the “self-destruction” constituted by the dialectics of ambivalence, including the “destructive position” in philosophy, “because philosophy… All subjective pure inner life, each claustrophobic in its own solipsism” (p. 185).
  But there is also an objective loneliness in Althusser’s thème that the greatest philosophers were born without fathers. He also called it “absolute loneliness”, because it breaks free from the subjective when “the projection and investment of fantasy leads to totally objective actions and works, and thus to a certain reaction to external objective reality” (p. 243) The relativity of consciousness. In Reading Das Kapital, he described Marx as follows:
  Marx’s repeated efforts, … his failures, his repetitions themselves, are the composition of the theoretical drama he experienced long before us, in absolute solitude part. … Alone, Marx looked around for allies and supporters: who could blame him for having turned to Hegel for help?
  In Machiavelli and Us, he wrote: “All absolute beginnings require absolute solitude of the reformer or founder.” Like the new monarch in the old world, Althusser’s greatest philosophy The family is also completely isolated in the ideological world. Epicurus, Machiavelli, Spinoza, Rousseau… were despised, cursed and exiled in different ways, constituting the suppressed “undercurrent of materialism” in the history of philosophy. They were his “high road to Marx” (p. 231)—and naturally to Lenin, who laughed at “philosophical exchanges”: the “little fury” that Althusser caused when he brought the latter into the French Philosophical Society (177 page), as a small footnote to this “absolute loneliness”.
Four

  Just as there is a rupture between materialism and ideology, there is also a rupture between objective loneliness and subjective loneliness. In fact, the “child without a father” was originally Althusser’s metaphor for the “epistemological rupture” that occurred in Marx (Materials of Self-Criticism), while “absolute loneliness” illustrates the objective consequences of the rupture.
  The rupture that took place with Marx will also take place on everyone’s road “to Marx.” According to Althusser’s final definition, rupture means a shift in class position: first of all, from the “slipsism” of “consciousness” to the recognition of the external reality of “practice”, as Marx discovered in the spring of 1845 There is an external called “change the world”. In the recollection of “A Long Day to Come”, Althusser’s rupture or transformation began when he “considered the active and industrious body over the passive, speculative consciousness”:
  the body, the exhilarating physical exercise, Walking in the woods, running races, cycling long sprints on exhausting inclines—the whole of life has finally been discovered and become my own, forever replacing the mere speculative distance of vain staring… …it was through my body that I subscribed to Marxism when I “encountered” it. (p. 229)
  If subjective loneliness is the self-recognition of the subject in the ideological world, then objective loneliness is the result of giving up ideology and no longer “thinking that ideas rule the world” (Marx: “The German Ideology”). Abandoned by the ideological world. This materialist will enter naked into history “without subject and without purpose”: “This may be his ultimate loneliness. He knows that even if his thoughts help to make a little history, he will cease to exist. This knowledge Molecules do not believe that intellectuals make history” – these words in “The Solitude of Machiavelli” also fit him.
  This intellectual does not believe that intellectuals make history. Nor does he believe that “people” make history. He replied to John Lewis: “It is the masses that make history.” “The masses” is the subject that should have appeared in Marx’s half-sentence “The problem is to change the world” (es kommt darauf an sie zu ver ndern). But the masses are not the kind of subjects with the unity of personality, they are just the “parties” of history: thousands of “active and industrious bodies” are not dominated by any one subjectivity, and their struggle to change the world is “philosophers” You can’t do it alone” (p. 183). So the mass, or precisely the practice of the mass, is no longer the sum total of solitary individuals. When Althusser “disappeared in the dark corps,” he felt “I was at last in the water, and all my fantasies of wanting to be in control were gone” (p. 214):
  As a philosopher, I was completely alone One person, but I wrote in “Answer to John Lewis”: “A Communist is by no means alone.” Herein lies the whole difference. (p. 183)
  This distinction is the result of the same rupture that Marx made between consciousness and practice. A similar consequence is his new definition of philosophy after “self-criticism”: “Philosophy is, in the last analysis, class struggle in theory.” This definition criticizes his old definition (“Philosophy is theory of theoretical practice”) The “solipsism” (“theoreticalism”) of theory, which reveals to theory that it has an exterior called “practice” and the priority of this exterior to it, establishes philosophy in the final analysis by this exterior— In Marx’s view, it is on the “battlefield” defined by the “history of class struggle”. It is only here that “the final conclusion on the objective meaning of any philosophy” can be found:
  for, whatever the conscious or even unconscious inner motives of every philosopher, the philosophy he writes is objective reality, what becomes fully real; thus Whether or not his philosophy has an impact on the world is also an objective consequence. After all, it no longer has anything to do with the kind of inner life I describe, thank God! (185 pages)
  His public, objective form of existence, his writings, is the only possible way for “theory to master the masses.” But that means surrendering oneself completely to a history “without subject and without purpose”. That’s why there is objective loneliness, atoms that occasionally deflect, rain that falls on seas, beaches, and roads in vain; there is “the most hated and maligned” Marx of our time, and there is “posthumous” Nietzsche was born”, with Machiavelli, cursed and isolated for four centuries – until the night of madness, Althusser still spoke of himself through this materialist predecessor:
  he knew that telling the truth was All he can do, and he knows that it won’t go very far, because other conditions are needed to instill the truth into the masses: these political conditions cannot be achieved by relying on the strength of an isolated intellectual. (“What to Do?”)
  The painful combination of intellectuals and the masses is like a mussel embedded in the unbalanced historical destiny of mankind, a process without subject and purpose. Once realized in the name of “objective consequences”, philosophy will It is no longer a systematic production of subjective consciousness, but a weapon that is handed over to the masses for control. This is the meaning of “come to Japan for a long time”. Althusser disagreed with Lacan when he said that “a letter always goes to the recipient”, but he said: “If you have the courage to speak aloud in silence, it will be heard” (p. 239), that is, There is always an objective consequence, but one cannot posit it subjectively: this world, which excludes all ideological action, was what Althusser, in his later years, called “the emptiness” in Epicurean language.

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