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On Ideology (Radical Thinkers Series 3) Paperback – 1 Jan 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; Second edition edition (1 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844672026
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844672028
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 416,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One reads him with excitement. There is no mystery about his capacity to inspire the intelligent young." Eric Hobsbawm "A golden treasury of theory" Eric Banks, Bookforum "Verso's beautifully designed Radical Thinkers series, which brings together seminal works by leading left-wing intellectuals, is a sophisticated blend of theory and thought. The 12 authors whose writings are included in the series have worked tirelessly to expose the mechanisms by which culture and knowledge are manufactured, managed and controlled." Ziauddin Sardar, New Statesman"

About the Author

Louis Althusser was born in Algeria in 1918 and died in France in 1990. He taught philosophy for many years at the Ecole Normale Superieur in Paris, and was a leading intellectual in the French Communist Party. His books include "For Marx"; "Reading Capital" (with Etienne Balibar); "Essays in Ideology"; "Politics and History: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Marx"; "Machiavelli and Us"; and "The Spectre of Hegel."

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B. Sawas on 18 April 2010
Format: Paperback
I've bought this book quite a while back (we're talking months here) and when it first arrived I attempted to read it but was paralysed from the very first page. I simply cannot get past it as I couldn't understand what Althusser was trying to say. I returned to this book a while later and I have to say I managed to read almost half of it by now but it was a difficult mission and I had on several occasions referred to articles and explanations on the internet for several of the ideas Althusser proposes in his book. It is not due to the translation, but just the difficulty of the subject and the way Althusser explains his ideas.

In summary, Althusser is brilliant and his ideas are fascinating, but if you're not well read on Marxism then this book sure as hell is not for you to start with. If you really want to understand the book you will have to be very patient and definitely not rely on Althusser to explain his own ideas but constant refer to other works wherever you can find it. I would also add it is definitely worth the struggle though!
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Format: Paperback
A dazzling performance from the man, bearing in mind that such brilliance implies he blinds as often as he illuminates. He is glib and an obscurantist, late on admitting he was in fact not well-read in Marx, calling into question the validity of his usually opaque interpretations. His self-styled 'symptomatic' interpretation of Marx is a cover for not knowing him well, so magpie-fashion he picks Young Hegelian Marx and extrapolates. His writing is many things, but it is not actually Marxism he reads or indeed writes. He is one of those thinkers who actually manages to elide the distinction between sanity and madness even more completely than the wilder and more honest Antonin "I am a fanatic not a madman" Artaud.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sa.olaloko29 on 16 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
A minimalist's Althusser; look elsewhere for a more complete picture 9 Mar. 2008
By Anonymous - Published on
Format: Paperback
This slim volume was first published more than twenty years ago under the name Essays on Ideology. The book exists mainly as an inexpensive way to get Althusser's most widely read work, the essay "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes toward an Investigation." Apart from that, it includes a few other works, seemingly haphazardly assembled around that essay: the "Response to John Lewis," the essay "Freud and Lacan," and the brief "Letter on Art." All of these are interesting, and the essay on Lacan is actually quite illuminating and helpful for any student of psychoanalysis -- but the volume doesn't really cohere, nor does it provide any of the best of Althusser apart from his single most famous (and hence most misunderstood) essay. If anything, this book represents '80s British Althusserianism better than it represents what Althusser himself wrote or thought.

There are better choices. The wider selection provided in the volume Lenin and Philosophy is a more useful and worthwhile single-book representation of Althusser's thought, and also contains the famous essay on ideology, while For Marx gives a much more complete picture of Althusser's contribution to Marxist thought. This book, by contrast, will serve most of its readers as a thin wrapper around a single essay. (Also, disturbingly, no translator is credited in this edition, though the translation appears to be Ben Brewster's from the earlier edition.)
16 of 88 people found the following review helpful
Academic Marxist Gibberish available for free elsewhere 22 Mar. 2009
By Mike - Published on
Format: Paperback
"As Marx said, every child knows that a social formation which did not reproduce the conditions of production at the same time as it produced would not last a year."

This is from the first page. I don't know about the kids Althusser says Marx knows, but none of the ones I've ever taught have known this. I consider myself lucky if they all spell their names right. I was 25 before I could even approximate what that sentence meant. Maybe the kids in Germany were smarter than the ones now, who knows? That page really sets the tone for the rest of what's written.

Extremely obscure, impractical, jargon-filled, armchair academic Marxism from a Frenchman who assumes the entire world agrees with him and has a dog-eared copy of Das Kapital on his desk.

I've read it in English and French. It makes very little sense in either language. When it is coherent, it is impractical. The whole thing is written in a haughty tone, too.

Here's a chestnut - "Ideology has a material existence". How does Althusser explain this prima facie ridiculous notion? He doesn't. He admits as much when he writes:

"Of course, presented in affirmative form, this thesis is unproven. I simply ask that the reader be favourably disposed towards it, say, in the name of materialism. A long series of arguments would be necessary to prove it."

Basically, he just says, "Trust me on this one, guys. Proving it would take a lot of work." Great reasoning for a philosopher.

If you buy into the variety of anti-state Communism that Althusser is pitching (and I don't because historically it's failed every time), read Trotsky, at least he's coherent. Or if you just want a book on Marxism that's more academic, read something by Marx, Lukacs or Lenin. If you must read this, get it off for free, don't pay for it. Easily one of the worst things I've ever read in my life.
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