On Sat, 7 Feb 2009 05:30:54 -0800 (PST) Mehmet Cagatay
<mehmetcagatayay...@yahoo.com> writes:
> Mr. Dumain, would you please clarify why you regard Althusserian 
> anti-humanism as a kind of "epater les bourgeois"?

The whole debate seems peculiarly French to me.
In France since the 19th century humanism was
seen as something that was closely tied to
the bourgeoisie.  Even someone like Sartre
struggled over whether he was a humanist
or not.  He eventually decided that his
existentialism was a kind of humanism,
but one that was different from the kinds
of humanism that the bourgeoisie typically
embraced.  In Sartre's case, I think he
identified conventional bourgeois humanism
with essentialism. Those humanisms
posited a human essence, whereas for
Sartre, existence preceded essence.

In the French debates over humanism
in the 1960s and 1970s, structuralists
and poststructuralists like Levi-Strauss,
Louis Althusser, and Michel Foucault
attempted to push the critique of humanism
much further than Sartre had been willing
to go.  Sartre's existentialism, as he realized,
was still a humanism.  He placed free will
at the center of his conception of man.
People, regardless of the circumstances
that they might find themselves in, still
retained their freedom, if only the
freedom to redefine their situation
in alternative ways.  The French
anti-humanists questioned this view
in light of such developments in the
human sciences like structural linguistics
(which Levi-Strauss to generalize into
a complete anthropology), psychoanalysis
(i.e. the work of Lacan which enjoyed
great currency in this period), and of
course, Marxism.  Althusser, was
of course, a Marxist and long time
member of the PCF.  Foucault,
who had been a student of Althusser,
was a member of the PCF for a brief
period of time.  By the 1950s, he had
renounced Marxism in favor of Nietzscheanism,
although his work was still very much
influenced by Marxism.  Levi-Strauss,
I believed, identified himself at this time
as a Marxist, although his work doesn't
strike me as being particularly Marxist.

There were certainly differences in viewpoints
between these people.  Althusser doesn't
seem to have been particularly enamored
with Levi-Strauss's work, and he didn't
like being called a structuralist.  However,
all these people's work, whether drawing 
from Saussure, Freud, Marx, Nietzsche,
or Heidegger, all had certain themes in
common.  They all rejected the Sartrean
emphasis on human freedom, instead
emphasizing the extent to which human
behavior is determined by structures
of various sorts, whether these be
linguistic structures, kinship structures,
structures of epistemology (Foucault
in this *The Order of Things*), social
structures as represented by the 
mode of production and associated
superstructures (i.e. Althusser), and
so forth.  They all rejected the traditional
humanist idea that their exists an unchanging
human essence which provides the basis
for freedom and equality and human rights.
For the French antihumanists, this conception
was rejected as being ideological and/or
metaphysical, and they drew variously
upon Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger,
in their critiques of humanism.

> Thank you in advance,
> Mehmet Çagatay
> http://weblogmca.blogspot.com/
> --- On Fri, 2/6/09, Ralph Dumain <rdum...@autodidactproject.org> 
> wrote:
> > Althusserian and French anti-humanism in general 
> > is bullshit, the French intellectual's way of, as 
> > they say, epater les bourgeois. If "humanism" 
> > alludes to something else, then that should be 
> > decoded. And I think Tedman is quite mistaken.
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