Althusser and His Contemporaries: Philosophy’s Perpetual War, by Warren Montag

Paul Patton

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationBook/Film/Article review


The work of Louis Althusser was enormously influential in the 1960s and 1970s, but he is not widely read today. Perhaps this is because, as Warren Montag observes in the opening sentence of this book, Althusser’s status as a philosopher “remains unclear in a way that is not true of his contemporaries and friends, Foucault and Derrida” (1). He was an avowed Marxist, committed to a conception of philosophy as perpetual war in which positions or ideas were both objectives and means of struggle, and in which the front lines between opposing tendencies were drawn within as well as between the texts of adversaries. Montag sets out to resituate Althusser’s work in the “theoretical conjuncture” of French philosophy in the 1960s. While he clearly regards Althusser as a great philosopher who produced work of “extraordinary power,” he does not shy away from drawing attention to the many theoretical conflicts and “countervailing tendencies” that coexist within his work (2). In addition to retracing some of the lines of demarcation that Althusser drew in the work of his contemporaries, Montag seeks to draw further lines within Althusser’s own work, in the effort to “set free those elements that might lead to the ‘recommencement’ of a materialism of the encounter, the only possible materialism from Althusser’s perspective” (10).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
Specialist publicationPolitical Theory
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • philosophy
  • materialism
  • perpetual war


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