Forthcoming translations of Althusser from Polity and Verso
History and Imperialism: Writings 1964-1988, translated by G.M. Goshgarian, Polity, October 2019
Writings on History brings together a selection of texts by Louis Althusser dating from 1963 to 1986, including essays, a lecture, notes to his collaborators, and the transcript of an informal 1963 discussion of literary history. The centrepiece of this collection is Althusser’s previously unpublished Book on Imperialism, a theorization of globalized capitalism that remained unfinished. All these writings are concerned with the place of history in Marxist theory and, in particular, on what Althusser considered to be the mortal danger of historicism haunting the revolutionary reading of the present. They testify to his continuing dialogue with the historiography of his day, several of whose representatives were engaged in discussion and debate with him. Deeply interested in history but intent on avoiding the kind of interpretation that would transform it into a deterministic force, Althusser never ceased to reflect on the equilibrium between the historical and the concept in Marxist historiography, an equilibrium that he sought to reinvent for his time. The traces of that undertaking, which continues to generate debate throughout the world today, are brought together in this volume.
Lessons on Rousseau, translated by G.M. Goshgarian, Verso, November 2019
Althusser delivered these lectures on Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality at the École normale supérieure in Paris in 1972. They are fascinating for two reasons. First, they gave rise to a new generation of Rousseau scholars, attentive not just to Rousseau’s ideas, but also to those of his concepts that were buried beneath metaphors or fictional situations and characters. Second, we are now discovering that the “late Althusser’s” theses about aleatory materialism and the need to break with the strict determinism of theories of history in order to devise a new philosophy “for Marx” were being worked out well before 1985 in this reading of Rousseau dating from twelve years earlier, which introduces into Rousseau’s text the ideas of the void, the accident, the take, and the necessity of contingency.