Louis Althusser remained until his death in 1990 the most controversial of the “master thinkers” who emerged from the turbulent Parisian intellectual scene of the 1960s. The publication of his bestselling posthumous “autobiography”, L’avenir dure longtemps, has now refueled some of these controversies. Hugely influential, whether lauded or vilified, Althusser occupies a unique place in contemporary philosophy. What is certain is that Althusserian themes and motifs continue to constitute a vital region in materialist thought.
The Althusserian Legacy is the first collective attempt to draw up a balance sheet, not on Althusser alone but on the questions that his work helped to bring to the forefront of Marxist theory. The volume brings together work in history, philosophy, economics, sociology, and literary criticism, all of it derived from or significantly inflected by Althusser. Taken together, the essays assess soberly, critically, but always generously, the full extent of his legacy.
The volume contains a lengthy interview with Jacques Derrida, a long-time friend and colleague of Althusser at the Ecole Normale in Paris, and concludes with obituaries by Derrida and Gregory Elliott. Perhaps only now, more than a decade after his active intellectual life has come to a close, is it possible to render sound, just judgments on the meaning and significance of this much-debated body of work. The Althusserian Legacy is a rich beginning to that important task.