Re-situating Capital Vol. 1 beyond Althusser’s epistemological break: Towards second generation neo-Marxism
Though opening up important debates about the relationship between the different texts that make up Marx’s life time works, Althusser’s ‘epistemological break’ thesis has also been divisive for Marxism and ultimately constraining for Marxist social science. Rather than separating Marx’s writing into different stages on the path from ideology to science, as Althusser does, this paper argues that they are the broadly complementary steps of a unified research project. Discontinuity across the corpus of Marx’s writing refers more obviously to his developing account of capitalism. This two-pronged general argument is specifically detailed by comparing the Communist Manifesto and Capital Vol 1. This paper reflects a second generation neo-Marxism that aims to reinvigorate Marxist social science, help unify contesting schools of Marxism, and in so doing contribute to the possibility of progressive political change. The way forward, it is contended, is not by seeking a clean break with Marx, as the post-Marxists do, but rather by seeking a clearer break with the residue of orthodoxy that has constrained first generation Althusser-led neo-Marxism.
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