Post-Marxism After Althusser: A Critique of the Alternatives

Ceren Ozselcuk, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

This dissertation has been moved to the following series:


This dissertation provides a particular Marxian class analytical political economy critique of post-Marxism. The dissertation demonstrates the ways in which different positions within post-Marxism continue to essentialize the conceptualizations of class and capitalist economy. What distinguishes this dissertation from other dominant critiques of post-Marxism is the anti-essentialist epistemological and ontological position it adopts. By adopting an anti-essentialist epistemological position the dissertation is able to demonstrate the discontinuities and continuities between post-Marxism and the Marxian tradition. The dissertation does this by reading the heterogeneous and disparate post-Marxian approaches as so many different ways to "resolve" the central tension of the Althusserian mode of production debate of the 1960s and 1970s: The tension between the desire to think the overdetermination of social reproduction and transformation and the effort to explain the stability of class domination . The dissertation argues one of the effects of this tension to be the lapse of the Althusserian mode of production problematic into reproductionism . Drawing extensively on the scholarship of Ernesto Laclau and Étienne Balibar, the dissertation substantiates the ways in which the post-Althusserian post-Marxism has developed a critique of the reproductionist tendency of this problematic and constructed a theory of the social that allows for conceiving social reproduction to be both provisionally stable and overdetermined. The dissertation argues, however, that such "resolutions" have failed in different ways to dislodge the constitution of class and capitalist reproduction from essentialist narratives, with the effect of restaging the ontological duality of the mode of production problematic (i.e., overdetermination vs. determinism qua reproductionism ) in a new form: The contingency of politics and the necessity of class and capitalist reproduction. After showing the limitations of some of the prominent positions within post-Althusserian post-Marxism, the dissertation concludes with an alternative post-Althusserian Marxian perspective, initially developed by Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, that provides an overdetermined understanding of social and economic reproduction from the entry point of class qua surplus.