Pierre Macherey – where to start?

I was sent the following query as a followup to the recent post on the review of Macherey’s Hegel or Spinoza:

With all the recent notices over the new translation of Pierre
Macherey’s Hegel or Spinoza, I was thinking of taking a look at it, but as a complete newcomer, I’m not sure if it’s the best work to start with. Would you know of any good starter primer’s or
introductory texts on Macherey available in English? Specifically texts by Macherey himself?

I’m posting this here because I am definitely not the right person to answer it – and perhaps someone reading this blog is. My tentative answer would be to say that the In a Materialist Way collection, edited by Warren Montag, would be a good place to go, along with Montag’s essay in that, and Ruddick’s intro to Hegel or Spinoza. His work on literary theory is translated, but I suspect that is not the best way in. As far as I know, Macherey’s contribution to the Althusser led collection Lire le Capital is not in English – the English Reading Capital (online here) only includes Althusser and Balibar’s contributions. Rancière, Macherey and Establet’s pieces did not make it into the English version. But I suspect reading even what is in English would be helpful to see where Macherey was coming from. Macherey has a website here which may be helpful for those who read French. Any other suggestions?

[update: be sure to read the comments to this post – thanks Sue, Clive, Nicholas and David]

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5 Responses to Pierre Macherey – where to start?

  1. Sue Ruddick says:

    Stuart – that is the path I would suggest as well: In A Materialist Way especially because of Macherey’s “Soutenance,” coupled with Warrens introduction in that work,(IMW) and mine in Hegel or Spinoza. There are also is a great article on Macherey by Jason Read in Rethinking Marxism – the title escapes me at the moment.

  2. Clive says:

    I think Macherey has an essay in the old Alan Montefiore collection called something like French Philosophy Today, a bunch of pieces which are intros of sorts to the greatish and good of that generation.

  3. I would agree with Susan’s comments above – and add that Jason’s paper is called ‘The Order and Connection of Ideas: Theoretical Practice in Macherey’s Turn to Spinoza’ (RM 19:4, 2007) – but I would disagree with Clive’s comment somewhat, in that while Macherey’s paper (also called ‘In a Materialist Way’) in the Montefiore collection is a very good one it is a very difficult introduction to his work for anyone who has not gotten their head around the usage of ‘materialism’ and ‘idealism’ in Althusser’s post-1967 work. It might be easier to progress to that paper after reading Macherey’s paper on Althusser’s ‘Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists’ (http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia06/parrhesia06_macherey.pdf) in conjunction with Althusser’s text itself, which has recently been reprinted in the Radical Thinkers series by Verso: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Philosophy-Spontaneous-Philosophy-Scientists-Louis-Althusser/9781844677894

    I have also found Warren Montag’s work in general to be a great introduction to Macherey’s literary analysis, as it is heavily informed by Macherey’s work. His book on Spinoza should be read alongside Macherey’s In a Materialist Way. The paper I keep finding myself coming back to is the essay on ‘literary reproduction’ in the latter volume.

    In terms of strictly introductory texts on Macherey, Warren’s ‘Louis Althusser’ is really an introduction to Althusser and Macherey on literature and art. For those interested in Macherey’s literary theory that book on Warren’s book on Swift are great places to start

  4. Nicholas Dahmann says:

    Richard Clarke’s entry Macherey in Twentieth Century European Cultural Theorists (Gale 2004) is a very reasonable introduction and is available online, http://www.rlwclarke.net/Publications/PierreMacherey.pdf

    Seconding Sue Ruddick’s suggestion, Jason Read’s piece in Rethinking Marxism is “The Order and Connection of Ideas: Theoretical Practice in Macherey’s Turn to Spinoza” (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08935690701571268)

    Alan Sinfield has a recent article that reasserts the importance of Macherey through an assessment of Catherine Belsey’s second edition of Critical Practice. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2010.521673)

    Last but certainly not least is an engaging interview with Balibar in Diacritics from 1982 which nicely introduces Balibar and Macherey’s work on literature and also fleshes out some aspects of Althusser, Marxism and structuralism. http://www.jstor.org/stable/464790

  5. Here’s a link to Chapter 1 from Warren Montag’s book on Althusser and Macherey. http://www.palgrave.com/pdfs/0333918991.pdf This is the official ‘free sample chapter’ but it consists of at least one third of the whole.

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