Jérome Skalski's interview with Étienne Balibar about the period surrounding Reading Capital was published in L’Humanité in March 2015. This translation by Patrick King and Salar Mohandesi first appeared in Viewpoint.
Reading Capital: The Complete Edition — the first unabridged English translation of the collective work, including contributions from Balibar, Louis Althusser, Jacques Rancière, Pierre Macherey, Roger Establet — is out now.
Jérome Skalski: Fifty years ago Louis Althusser’s For Marx, and, under his direction, Reading Capital, were published. What was the context of the debate at that period?
Étienne Balibar: To put it very briefly, I would say that the question speaks to an intellectual and even academic dimension, and a political and ideological one.
Jacques Rancière and Étienne Balibar expressed their solidarity with students protesting Hollande's labour reforms. The students have occupied the Tolbiac Faculty of the Pantheon-Sorbonne University since 22nd March. Workers, Students, High-Schoolers, Intellectuals – All Together!
A convergence of struggles, and a meeting of minds as well. Such was the dual constellation shining over Wednesday night’s meeting at the Tolbiac Faculty [in Paris, occupied by students since 22 March].
The philosopher Jacques Rancière reviews the causes of the identitarian (and more particularly religious) drift we are currently seeing France. This is a catastrophe that must be fought with politics. Interview by Éric Aeschimann, published in L’Obs 28/01/16, translated by David Broder.
One year after the Charlie Hebdo shootings and two months after the attack on the Bataclan, how do you see the state of French society? Are we at war?
The official discourse says that we are at war because a hostile power is waging war against us. The attacks perpetrated in Paris are interpreted as the operations carried out by detachments executing acts of war for the enemy, in our own country. The question is one of knowing who this enemy is. The government has opted for Bush’s logic, that of a war that is simultaneously both total (aimed at the destruction of the enemy) and circumscribed to a precise target, namely the Islamic State. But according to a different response, related by certain intellectuals, Islam has declared war on us, and is implementing a global plan to impose its own law across the planet. These two logics converge insofar as in fighting Daesh the government has to mobilise a national feeling, which is an anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment. The word ‘war’ itself speaks to this conjunction.
According to the philosopher Jacques Rancière, a number of so-called French ‘republican’ intellectuals have been opening the door to the Front National for some time now. In an interview with Éric Aeschimannm, Rancière shows how universalist values have been perverted to the benefit of xenophobic discourse.