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Overdetermination in determination: An Althusserian Marxist critique of the postmodern/poststructuralist anti-totalization

Junghi Lee, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The objective of this study is to provide the basis of demarcation between radically alternative philosophies, between different theories of society, and between competing politics, by rearticulating what-Althusser calls the Marxist Philosophy that Marx practices in his critique of capitalism. I argue and demonstrate how the Marxist theory of the condition of discourse about history illuminates the epistemological nature and political implications of various discourses, making coherent and effective praxis possible. Demarcation of radical alternatives is critical now more than ever because the alternative to the hegemonic practices, along with the very notions of demarcation and radical alternative, is severely undermined. As a case in which the alternative discourse and politics were sorely needed but conspicuously missing, I analyze U.S. public discourses about the North Korean nuclear program. The philosophical nature of the postmodern/poststructuralist anti-totalization needs to be closely examined and critiqued, because it has practically declared the death of Marxism as a critical theory of history and claims its place as the source of political inspiration for profound social change. I rearticulate the Althusserian Marxist theory of discourse in terms of the relations between philosophy and theory, between theory and the object of theory, between structure and a concept. From the perspective of the Althusserian Marxist theory of discourse and ideology, humanist notions of rationality and objectivity/subjectivity (that postmodernism and its critique have revived) are critiqued and juxtaposed with Althusserian concepts of 'determination of consciousness by ideology' and the 'relative autonomy of ideology and consciousness from the other historical conditions'. The central thesis of Marxist Philosophy is that determination and overdetermination are the key and organic properties of structure. It is also the basis of my critique of postmodern/poststructuralist anti-totalization. I examine the ways in which Foucault's Archaeology is an unwarranted return to the familiar empiricist inversion of Hegelian idealism. I argue that Derrida's deconstruction, his rejection of the very notion of philosophy that leads to sustainable knowledge, is based on the naturalization of the hegemonic philosophy in which the discursive universe consists of the dichotomy of empiricism and idealism.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Composition|Philosophy|Political science

Recommended Citation

Lee, Junghi, "Overdetermination in determination: An Althusserian Marxist critique of the postmodern/poststructuralist anti-totalization" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809357.