Blog post

“But didn’t he kill his wife?”

If there is one thing that everyone knows about Louis Althusser, it is that he killed his wife - the sociologist and résistante Hélène Rytmann-Légotien. In this article, William S. Lewis asks how should this fact effect the reception of Althusser's work, and how should those who find Althusser's reconceptualisation of Marx and Marxism usefully respond? 

William S. Lewis29 May 2019

“But didn’t he kill his wife?”

There is a common reaction when people find out that the work of Louis Althusser significantly informs your thinking.[1] If the person knows who Althusser is–and especially if the acquaintance identifies as female–you will often be met with a stunned silence, followed by: “But didn’t he kill his wife?” How to respond?  The banal and facile reply is: “Yes, but this fact doesn’t matter philosophically.” However, given the frequency of this and similar reactions, to say that the killing does not matter at all is plainly wrong. For those of us who find Althusser’s rethinking of Marxism of theoretical or practical relevance, a pressing moral and political question is, therefore, how can we continue to think with Althusser. Can we continue to employ Althusser’s philosophical ideas politically in light of this offense? 

The ways in which theorists and activists have typically dealt with the uncomfortable fact that Althusser ended the life of his wife, the sociologist and résistante Hélène Rytmann-Légotien, have undoubtedly hindered the reception of Althusser’s ideas.[2] Two years ago and in preparation for a conference supporting Althusser’s 2018 centenary, I prepared a list of every philosopher, political theorist, or social scientist whose work was significantly informed by Althusser’s ideas. The male to female ratio of the list was somewhere around11/1, making Althusser studies worse in terms of gender equity than academic philosophy as a whole, and probably much worse than political philosophy as a sub-discipline.[3] That Marxism, socialism, and the far left have their own gender problems presents confounding variables. But, having researched Althusser for over twenty years and having corresponded or visited with folks interested in Althusser from all over the world, I am only too aware that the Althusser-citing crowd overwhelmingly identifies as male. Further, more than one student has told me of graduate seminar debates regarding whether one should teach, read, or cite Althusser given his history. Clearly, we have evidence to suggest that the fact of Althusser killing his wife is generally off-putting, perhaps particularly to women, who might otherwise be interested in his thought. During the year following Althusser’s centenary, when his life is temporally connected to his work and to its ongoing influence, it is more than appropriate to think about the relation of his biography to his ideas and to the history of their reception.[4]

If one made two stacks of the literature written about Althusser, the mound that puts the killing of Rytmann-Légotien front and center–what I will call the externalist or biographical approach–would far outweigh the pile that exclusively treats of Althusser’s contributions to political philosophy. That said, the latter–philosophy first or internalist approach–is the one that I have taken for most of my career. I then want to examine the arguments for and against it first.[5] The externalist approach takes two forms: one from those interested in the history of philosophy, and another to those in political philosophy. History of philosophy types consider Althusser’s work in its historical context and look to understand how it contributed to contemporaneous theoretical debates­–biographical claims only enter when they help to explain things like formation, or the effect of these on the work’s production or reception. Political philosophers or theorists, by way of contrast, tend to elaborate, reconstruct, criticize, apply, or reject the arguments and concepts that he developed in political philosophy in order to solve philosophical or political problems. Therefore, they give even less attention to his biography than do those in history of philosophy.

Despite differences in focus and methodology, the arguments for treating Althusser exclusively as a political philosopher are basically identical for history of philosophy and for contemporary political philosophy. The first argument is very rough and may be contestable given the definition of philosophy it includes. From the standpoint of history, it is that the history of philosophy consists of a history of ideas about ourselves, our universe, and about our place within it. Philosophy in this definition is about finding the truth of things or, better put, about developing concepts adequate to the conceptualization of the universe that we inhabit and about deciding how we should live in it. Correspondingly, political philosophy is about creating, analyzing, and defending adequate or true ideas about how we should live with others. Combining the former and the latter, history of political philosophy surveys, critiques, or applies ideas from the past regarding how we should live together and about who has legitimate power over others. For both, and regardless of whether we are doing straight political philosophy or history of political philosophy, it is the ideas and arguments that matter and–as with the development of other sciences–the biography of the thinker of the ideas and arguments is irrelevant to the utility, adequacy, or truth value produced by this practice.

The second argument for treating Althusser exclusively as a political philosopher, rather than just implying a duty to treat ideas in the abstract as the first, fleshes out why it matters that ideas are tied to a specific person. Brian Leiter makes the case for such reference succinctly in a recent essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education titled: “Academic Ethics: Should Scholars Avoid Citing the Work of Awful People?”[6] There, he argues that scholarship is about advancing knowledge within a discipline and that, within a discipline, scholarly citation has only two purposes. These are “to acknowledge a prior contribution to knowledge on which your work depends” and “to serve as an epistemic authority for a claim relevant to your own contribution to knowledge.” According to Leiter, failure to cite relevant knowledge is harmful because scholarship is thereby not advanced. Therefore, if an idea or argument is relevant to one’s scholarship, then our duty as scholars is to cite it and to name the originator of that knowledge.

Combined, the first and second arguments suggest that not only must we do philosophy by reference to past ideas–even if awful people originate these notions–but also that we have a duty to explicitly reference these people. Notice, however, that these two arguments do not imply that we have a duty to skip over the wrongful deeds and characters of the originators of philosophical concepts; merely that any such mention is extraneous to the purpose of scholarship, which is to advance knowledge on a specific topic in a specific discipline.

As mentioned above, I have embraced the internalist or philosophy-first approach. Though I had never worked it out as clearly as I just did, I believe these arguments have merit and that philosophy would be irremediably harmed if we were to expunge the ideas of vicious philosophers. Rousseau and Peirce would have to be thrown in the dustbin and that is to name only two thinkers who treated others horribly.[7] Yet, I must also confess another–more practical and less principled–motive. This purpose was to get Althusser’s ideas accepted and discussed within Anglophone analytic political philosophy. In this tradition, it is the norm to discuss ideas irrespective of the context of their production. So, to slip a French, Marxist, murderer into conversation with John Rawls and Iris Marion Young, there was an all too convenient disciplinary norm where all three strikes against his ideas being entertained in the Anglosphere could be ignored; one could just focus on “advancing political philosophy.”

Strategically convenient, yes, but the response obviously flees from the question this essay poses: that of whether and how to employ Althusser’s ideas in light of his killing of Rytmann-Légotien. In order to answer this question, we should seek a better understanding of what harms are associated with both the externalist and the internalist methods.

The approach outlined so far, which puts the content of the philosophy first, has three central problems. First, internalism ignores the direct interpersonal harms caused by Althusser’s offense. Second, not only it is oblivious to the impersonal harm to the discipline of philosophy such ignorance may precipitate. It also ignores the damage to Marxist practice that occurs when people who may otherwise advance Marxist philosophy or practice are turned off by the fact that leftists discuss the ideas of vicious people in the same way that we discuss the ideas of virtuous ones. Third, and particularly apposite to the subject of this essay, the philosophy first approach disregards the impersonal harms to society when we do not hold someone accountable for his or her crimes. Althusser was judged non culpable and let off for the homicide due to his being mentally unstable at the time the killing was committed.[8] More than a few critics have argued that patriarchal dominance and structural misogyny were the reasons for this verdict, that the victim herself was silenced (while Althusser kept on speaking) and that to continue to read Althusser is to contribute to women’s ongoing oppression.[9]

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Of these three problems with the philosophy first approach, it is the impersonal wrongs–being widespread and persistent––that perhaps most deserve our consideration. As for direct harms, the person Althusser maltreated is deceased and so cannot be harmed any further. That those close to Rytmann-Légotien were directly robbed of her care and friendship is also true. However, lacking children and being born in 1910, the number of people who knew her is small. If, there are friends and relations of Rytmann-Légotien still hurting because the killer of a loved one is discussed while his victim is forgotten, then this is a type of direct harm, albeit limited in scope and becoming daily more restricted. As for the wrong of profiting from ones notoriety, Althusser is dead and so he cannot be said to directly benefit in prestige or lucre from the harm he committed when one reads, discusses, or cites his work. Richard Seymour suggests that there is another source of direct injury in that, by shortening Rytmann-Légotien’s life, we all lose the benefit of hearing her ideas.[10] Temporally, this is, indeed, a permanent loss. However, Rytmann-Légotien published and lectured little in her lifetime and there is no indication that, at the age of 70, her public career was about to accelerate.[11] Plus, and noted with shameful irony, it is almost certain that we know as much as we do of Rytmann-Légotien’s life and ideas precisely because Althusser killed her and wrote a book about the murder. Without the autobiography and its sales figures, the couple’s correspondence would most probably never have been published.[12] Further, it is indubitable that the success of the autobiography led to articles and investigations into the life and work of Rytmann-Légotien, studies which would not otherwise have been undertaken.[13]

In contrast to the direct harms, that, while serious, are limited in scope or time, the impersonal harms associated with ignoring the killing of Rytmann-Légotien and simply reading and using Althusser for his ideas are both persistent and grave. First among them, we should consider the injury to the discipline of philosophy and to political movements done by alienating those who might otherwise be interested in Althusser’s thinking but who are put off by scholars’ and activists’ easy embrace of the internalist approach. Similarly, there is much to be said on behalf of the argument that failing to punish violence against women and continuing to ignore female victims of male violence by not discussing past harms reinforces patriarchy and contributes to women’s ongoing oppression. Ignoring a victim of male violence who can no longer speak for herself as a result of that violence is perhaps the most egregious form of “testimonial smothering.”[14] This silencing is compounded when theorists and activists seek to limit discussions to ideas and arguments and to bracket past misogynistic offenses as unrelated to present egalitarian political strategies and struggles. The recent Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the United States Senate, where senators and pundits demanded that the yet-to-be appointed Justice be scrutinized only for his jurisprudential record, should be exhibit “A” in this regard.[15]

Consequently, if there be plausible impersonal harms to the discipline of philosophy, to women, and to an egalitarian future by ignoring the inconvenient facts of Althusser’s biography, then it would seem that the externalist or biographical approach to Althusser’s philosophy has merit. This is because those who consider Althusser’s philosophy in relation to his life and his life in relation to his philosophy cannot be considered to have similarly ignored the female victim of male violence while celebrating the male’s achievements. Moreover, rather than alienation by omission, externalist accounts invite those potentially interested in Althusser’s philosophy to think of him as a whole person, embedded in history, who had severe mental health problems, who manifested both virtues and vices, but who also had interesting ideas about ideology, causality, and class struggle.

As mentioned above, the scholarship on Althusser that takes the externalist approach is voluminous. Can one name another 20th century political philosopher who has had multiple volumes written about their inner life and television and radio documentaries similarly devoted?[16] For that matter, name another thinker who has had multiple dramatic pieces mounted exploring their dreams and their inner monologues.[17] And these are just the large pieces: there exist dozens of op-eds, essays in literary reviews, and book chapters relating Althusser’s philosophy to the internal and external events of his life. Given the sheer amount of material, we may use this body of work to determine whether the biographical approach may plausibly diminish the harms associated with the philosophy first approach.

To aid us in this assessment, we might think a bit with the philosopher under consideration. Famously, Althusser maintained that the truth of a philosophy is in its effects.[18] If all of the pieces that attempt to understand Althusser’s philosophy by his biography are themselves a type of externalist philosophy, then at this point in the game, their effect is quite noticeable. However, and again to follow with Althusser’s ideas about overdetermination and uneven development, the effects of philosophical ideas are not always and everywhere the same and they do not happen at the same time.[19] In different countries, at different periods, externalist approaches have had different results.

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In France, the obsession with Althusser’s biography and especially with psychoanalytic explanations of his behavior and ideas has largely occluded these ideas’ philosophical consideration. As a once prominent intellectual and Marxist, Althusser is not alone in this occlusion: lingering romantic obsessions with madness and genius as well as French anti-communism have overdetermined the production and reception of externalist work. The result is that Althusser has been reduced to a caricature: the mad Marxist philosopher whom history passed by and who remains only of pathological, nostalgic, or dramatic interest. The result of this is an industry–the Althusser industry–where plays, documentaries, and staged readings compete with texts of dream narratives and personal letters for notices in Le Monde littéraire.[20] The most recent and perhaps most egregious in this regard was France Culture’s “La vie secrète des philosophes : Le procès Althusser” which dwelt almost wholly on murder and pathology and only tangentially on his importance as a philosopher.[21]

Unlike Greece, Turkey, Japan, Germany, Italy, and much of North and South America where the level of scholarship on Althusser is fairly high (and everywhere mostly male), this obsession with the past has stunted Althusser studies within the country of his birth. In France, Althusser scholarship seems stuck in 1978 and the same texts: the ISA essay, For Marx, Reading Capital, and the published “Philosophy of the Encounter” texts are discussed ad nauseum. Too often these works are read sloppily, subjected to “immanent” or “psychoanalytic” critique or supplemented with inaccurate accounts of the theoretical, political, or biographical conjuncture that produced them. It is as if Althusser’s ideas were hermetically sealed on the eve of Mitterand’s election. There are exceptions to this quarantine, but these pieces and their authors are the exception and not the rule.[22]

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In Anglophone countries, but particularly in the United Kingdom, the level of theoretical engagement outside of specialist circles has been even lower.[23] While novel interpretations and usages of Althusser’s thought flourished among Analytic Marxists, Critical Realists, and Neo-Marxists in the 1970s and 1980s, these research programs declined with Cold War budgets. Now, the most prominent English-language voices that “deal with” Althusser are writers and historians like Anne Boyer, Sunil Khilnani, and Tony Judt. In essays like “The Paris Strangler,” such critics have constructed a faulty syllogism that functions as an ad hominem attack on Marxism.[24] It goes something like this:

  • Althusser killed his wife.

  • Killing is Bad.

  • Althusser was communist and Marxist.

  • Communists also killed people

  • .: Marxism and communism are bad.

When these scholars do a little research, they read so far as Althusser’s autobiography and there discover self-incrimination: astonishingly, the most celebrated post-war Marxist philosopher declares in The Future Lasts Forever that he did not even read Marx![25] These writers never bother to check the archives to see Althusser’s meticulous notes. Neither do they bother reading any contemporary scholarship, research that makes a strong case for the continuing relevance of his political philosophy. Unlike in France where the externalist approach has ossified Althusser’s reception, in the case of Anglophone externalists, the biographical approach has rendered his philosophy invisible, if not anathema.

Of course, part of the problem with both the Anglophone and Francophone externalist approaches to Althusser’s philosophy is that the biographical methods employed are reductivist and facile. The former is animated by anti-communism and anti-intellectualism. The latter stems from fascination with intellectual celebrity, armchair psychoanalysis, and notoriety. These deficiencies mean that we must suppose a methodologically rigorous biographical account in order to test if externalist accounts avoid the harms associated with externalism. Thorough biographical work would take seriously the fact Althusser was a product of his times and that he also contributed to them. They would look at the totality of available archival documents that relate his biography to his philosophy and–in order to give the best possible exposition of this philosophy–they would consider the relevant internalist research. Finally, such accounts would distinguish as best they can between a mentally well Althusser and one suffering from mental health issues, giving primacy to the former when his philosophical ideas are discussed and elaborated.

Such methodological rigor would, no doubt, give us a much better idea of how Althusser’s ideas are the product of a socially and historically embedded life. But would they solve the problems noted above as well as have the advantages that the internalist account offers for the due philosophical consideration of Althusser’s ideas? That is, would they or could they: (a) attract those who might be interested in Althusser’s ideas but who are alienated by internalist approaches that do not acknowledge the killing; (b) work against the existing narrative that silences female victims and thereby contributes to women’s ongoing oppression; (c) adequately consider his work in its historical context as to how it contributed into debates of the time and shaped these debates such that his contributions to the history of Marxism and political philosophy be recognized; and (d) elaborate, reconstruct, criticize, and apply the arguments and concepts that he developed such that philosophers, activists, and political strategists can make use of them?

If we set to one side questions of format and disciplinary norms such as those within Anglophone analytic philosophy, and further, if we suppose that authoring and publishing rigorous externalist accounts is possible, then my rough answer to these questions is that methodologically exacting externalist accounts could fulfill some of these desiderata but not others. Clearly, the condition that Althusser’s work be considered in its historical context could be met. More specifically, sensitively written pieces that take the facts of Althusser’s biography seriously may invite into the theoretical and practical conversation those put off by existing accounts. In their obsession with the homicide, current externalist work ends up making this one act the truth of Althusser’s philosophy. It thereby replicates some of the impersonal harms catalogued above and compounds most of the direct ones. While a relationship between the murder and his thought may be uncovered, it is unquestionably true that Althusser’s philosophy, the killing, his victim’s status, the police response, and the French court’s verdict were overdetermined by the masculine dominated, social institutions and practices which formed, employed, and, eventually, judged him. The same true is for Althusser’s posthumous reception. Thoroughgoing externalist approaches could elucidate these causal relations. Rigorous biographical approaches may also overcome the distantiation effect that externalist accounts trigger as they do not ask the reader to dismiss the killing and to focus exclusively on Althusser’s ideas and arguments. Further, in well-done externalist scholarship, Rytmann-Légotien would be given a voice and a history. Thereby, the tragedy of her demise would be felt and recognized independently of Althusser’s and post-war Marxism’s demise, two events under which it is facilely and all too frequently subsumed.

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Despite these benefits, the principal problem with rigorous externalist accounts is that, inevitably, the philosophy gets muddled with the history. The irony to Althusser’s reception is that he worked diligently to extract and clarify Marxian philosophical concepts for the use of egalitarian political movements yet the facts of his life and his autobiography serve to occlude these notions from the circumstances for which they were intended.[26] A perhaps deeper irony is some of this work is not only deeply and presciently feminist but that feminist theorists have made interesting and productive use of Althusser’s ideas.[27] Sometimes, as with Laura Mulvey’s work on the visual pleasure and Judith Butler’s on gender, these applications have changed the direction of entire academic disciplines.[28]

Simply put, for philosophy and for political practice, there are certain times when we need to interrogate the assumptions and notions that undergird our analyses and our practices and there are other times when we simply need to focus on the construction of new strategies and concepts. Yes, Althusser probably would not have become a communist were he not imprisoned in a Stalag or if he never met Rytmann-Légotien. However, the adequacy and utility of his idea of communism as mutual relations of amity and respect under condition of non-domination and non-exploitation can and sometimes need to be debated independently of these facts.[29] Linking biography with philosophy as intellectual historians often do tends to causally reduce the latter to the former. Internalist approaches, by way of contrast, allow us to elaborate, reconstruct, criticize, and apply the arguments and concepts Althusser developed in their autonomy. They then become tools whose usefulness to the movement can be assessed, applied, and then independently verified in terms of their helpfulness to philosophers, activists, and political strategists.

Fortunately, we are not stuck with a choice between philosophy first and biographical approaches to Althusser’s political theory. There are publishing venues and discussion opportunities for both. Due to the horrific political conjuncture we now collectively face, these fora are multiplying. Both methods therefore can proliferate and both are useful; we can have internalist accounts which advance political theory and political strategy and we can produce sophisticated externalist accounts which do the same but which simultaneously redress the harms done by ignoring Rytmann-Légotien’s death. Further, by incorporating mention of the uxoricide, internalist accounts can reduce the impersonal harms to women, left theory, and left strategy that caused by ignoring it. Yes, inasmuch as Althusser advanced political philosophy and philosophy is about ideas, those concerned with refuting or reconstructing his ideas have a duty to cite him. However, we do not have to do so unreflectively. In time, by incorporating these changes, the damages to political philosophy and to left political movements by treating Althusser like any other philosopher might be reduced. Similarly, if these paths are pursued, it could no longer be said that those who study or use Althusser’s ideas continue to ignore past and present female victims of male violence. 

How though to address the challenge of the colleague or student who is potentially interested in Marxian political theory but who meets the seminar assignment of “Contradiction and Overdetermination” with stunned silence or even with protest? What then, to do, when an activist calls out a comrade for using the concepts of ISA and RSA to explain racial disparities in sentencing and arrests? Will the combination and proliferation of rigorous externalist methods help here? I think that it might, but only to a small extent. There will be some trickle-down as the scholarship improves and, perhaps, rebarbative or hostile receptions will become less frequent. However, the real work is and will only be accomplished when those of us who do find Althusser of theoretical and practical interest begin to take these moments seriously. Taking these moments in earnest means that we pause and that we listen to comrades, colleagues, and students when they express apprehension or reprobation about employing Althusser’s ideas. After listening, we may dialogue together about the right way to proceed. Yes, concepts like Ideological State Apparatus, problematic, and overdetermination are theoretically and politically useful. However, no one will be engaged with Althusserian ideas if they are stuck wondering why someone would teach, research, or apply the thoughts of a man who killed his wife.

William S Lewis is Professor of Philosophy at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs (New York). He is the author of Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism (Lexington Books, 2005). He has published widely on Social and Political Philosophy, American Pragmatism, and in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences.

[1] I am grateful to Banu Barga, Arne de Boever, Fabio Bruschi, Thomas Carmichael, Caren Irr, Asad Haider, Alexander Gorman, Geoff Pfeifer, Hasana Sharp, and Panagiotis Sotiris for their comments on this paper, many of which have been incorporated.

[2] “Légotien” was the nom de guerre which Hélène Rytmann continued to use after the conflict. See: Yann Moulier-Boutang, Louis Althusser, une biographie 1. 1918-1945, 1. 1918-1945, (Paris: Grasset, 1992), 345. Various texts render her surname as Rytmann, Rittman, Rytman, Légotien as well as with the hyphenates Légotien-Rytmann and Rytmann-Légotien.

[3] Eric Schwitzgebel, “What Proportion of Philosophy Majors Are Women?,” Daily Nous, December 9, 2017, There is data to suggest that women gravitate to Value Theory rather then LEMM fields as well: Carolyn Dicey Jennings, “Women in Philosophy 1930-1979: What Can It Tell Us about Diversity Today? (Updated Numbers, 5/29/16),” New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, accessed January 13, 2019,; Carolyn Dicey Jennings and Eric Schwitzgebel, “An Empirical Look at Gender and Research Specialization” (May 2015),

[4] In this essay, I do not weigh in on the question of whether Althusser’s mental health in November of 1980 makes him culpable or inculpable of murder. The ultimate answer to this question is unknowable and the juridical response has been rendered.  Instead, I focus on the consequences of this act in contemporary theory and politics, an area where we can have some knowledge and where we can possibly make changes.

[5] Donald R. Kelley, “Intellectual History and Cultural History: The inside and the Outside,” History of the Human Sciences 15, no. 2 (May 2002): 3,

[6] Brian Leiter, “Academic Ethics: Should Scholars Avoid Citing the Work of Awful People?,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 25, 2018,

[7] For more on this line of argument see:  “Why Sexist and Racist Philosophers Might Still Be Admirable – Julian Baggini | Aeon Ideas,” Aeon, accessed January 16, 2019,

[8] “Meurtrier de sa femme,  M. Louis Althusser bénéficie d’un non-lieu et demeure interné,” Le, January 26, 1981, “Meurtrier de sa femme M. Louis Althusser bénéficie d’un non-lieu et demeure interné,” Le, January 26, 1981,

[9] Francis Dupuis-Déri, “La banalité du mâle. Louis Althusser a tué sa conjointe, Hélène Rytmann-Legotien, qui voulait le quitter,” Nouvelles Questions Féministes Vol. 34, no. 1 (May 29, 2015): 84–101; Geraldine Finn, Why Althusser Killed His Wife: Essays on Discourse and Violence (Humanities Press, 1996); Richard Seymour, “The Murder of Hélène Rytman,”, July 24, 2017,; Anne Boyer, “Kill the Philosopher in Your Head,” The New Inquiry (blog), February 11, 2014,; Finn, Why Althusser Killed His Wife.

[10] Seymour, “The Murder of Hélène Rytman.”

[11] Dupuis-Déri, “La banalité du mâle. Louis Althusser a tué sa conjointe, Hélène Rytmann-Legotien, qui voulait le quitter,” 99.

[12] Louis Althusser, Lettres à Hélène: 1947-1980, ed. Olivier Corpet, 1 vols. (Paris: B. Grasset IMEC, 2011).

[13] Dupuis-Déri, “La banalité du mâle. Louis Althusser a tué sa conjointe, Hélène Rytmann-Legotien, qui voulait le quitter”; Francis Dupuis-Déri, “Post-scriptum de l’article « La banalité du mâle : Louis Althusser a tué sa conjointe, Hélène Rytmann-Legotien, qui voulait le quitter »,” Nouvelles Questions Féministes 35, no. 1 (May 18, 2016): 131–35,; Seymour, “The Murder of Hélène Rytman.”

[14] Kristie Dotson, “Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing,” Hypatia 26, no. 2 (2011): 244,; Kate Manne, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Oxford University Press, 2017), 17.

[15] Diane L. Rosenfeld, “Does the Law Hear Women?,” CNN, accessed January 14, 2019,

[16] Gérard Pommier, Louis du Néant: la mélancolie d’Althusser (Paris: Aubier, 1998); Gérard Pommier, La mélancolie: vie et oeuvre d’Althusser (Paris: Flammarion, 2009); Moulier-Boutang, Louis Althusser, une biographie 1. 1918-1945, 1. 1918-1945,; Laure Adler, “Figures de Louis Althusser (1/5),” France Culture, accessed January 14, 2019,; Benedjaïzou, “Louis Althusser, un marxiste imaginaire,” France Culture, accessed January 14, 2019,; “« Louis Althusser : L’énigme du philosophe meurtrier »,” France Inter, accessed January 14, 2019,; “La vie secrète des philosophes (1/5) : Le procès Althusser,” France Culture, accessed January 14, 2019,; “Les lettres de Louis Althusser à Hélène,” France Culture, accessed January 14, 2019,; Louis Althusser et al., Des rêves d’angoisse sans fin: récits de rêves (1941-1967) ; suivi de, Un meurtre à deux (1985), 2015.

[17] “Sami Frey lit : Lettres d’Althusser à Hélène 1/9,” France Culture, accessed January 14, 2019,; Michael Billington, “After The Gods, Hampstead Theatre, London,” The Guardian, June 19, 2002, sec. Stage,; “‘Le Caïman’, ‘très proche’ d’Althusser,” February 2, 2006,

[18] Etienne Balibar, Margaret Cohen, and Bruce Robbins, “Althusser’s Object,” Social Text, no. 39 (July 1, 1994): 157–58,

[19] Louis Althusser, “Contradiction and Overdetermination,” in For Marx; (London: Allen Lane, 1969), 87–128.

[20] “Repas de famille ou folie d’Althusser : état(s) de crise(s) en scène,” France Culture, July 24, 2017,

[21] “La vie secrète des philosophes (1/5).”

[22] Cf. Anthony Crèzegut, Pascale Gillot, Geoffrey Goshgarian, and Guillaume Silbertin-Blanc.

[23] Specialist circles where very good Althusser scholarship is advanced and his ideas interestingly applied include Viewpoint Magazine, Historical Materialism, and Décalages.

[24] Boyer, “Kill the Philosopher in Your Head”; Tony Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 (Berkeley: University of California press, 1992); John Sturrock, The Word from Paris: Essays on Modern French Thinkers and Writers (Verso, 1999), 43–51; Sunil Khilnani, Arguing Revolution: The Intellectual Left in Postwar France (New Haven [etc.: Yale University Press, 1993).

[25] L. Althusser, O. Corpet, and Y.M. Boutang, The Future Lasts Forever: A Memoir (New Press, 1995), 165–66.

[26] Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading “Capital” (London: NLB, 1970), 32–33.

[27] Hasana Sharp, “‘Is It Simple to Be a Feminist in Philosophy?’: Althusser and Feminist Theoretical Practice,” Rethinking Marxism 12, no. 2 (June 1, 2000): 18–34,

[28] Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen 16, no. 3 (October 1, 1975): 6–18,; Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997), 1–31, 106–32.

[29] William S. Lewis, “Sur Un Voyage En Grèce,” accessed January 15, 2019,

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Reading Capital

Reading Capital

Originally published in 1965, Reading Capital is a landmark of French thought and radical theory, reconstructing Western Marxism from its foundations. Louis Althusser, the French Marxist philosophe...
Lessons on Rousseau
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...

Filed under: althusser, marxism, philosophy, western-marxism