At our request, Louis Althusser has agreed to let us reproduce the following article, which was written in 1964 and published in the French Communist Party journal, La Nouvelle Critique.
Louis Althusser himself reckons that ‘there is a danger that this text will be misunderstood, unless it is taken for what it then objectively was: a philosophical intervention urging members of the pcf to recognize the scientificity of psychoanalysis, of Freud’s work, and the importance of Lacan’s interpretation of it. Hence it was polemical, for psychoanalysis had been officially condemned in the 50’s as “a reactionary ideology”, and, despite some modification, this condemnation still dominated the situation when I wrote this article. This exceptional situation must be taken into account when the meaning of my interpretation is assessed today.’
Louis Althusser would also like to warn English readers that his article contains theses that must ‘either be corrected, or expanded’.
‘In particular, in the article Lacan’s theory is presented in terms which, despite all precautions, have “culturalist” overtones (whereas Lacan’s theory is profoundly anti-culturalist).
‘On the other hand, the suggestions at the end of the article are correct and deserve a much extended treatment, that is, the discussion of the forms of familial ideology, and the crucial role they play in initiating the functioning of the instance that Freud called “the unconscious”, but which should be re-christened as soon as a better term is found.
‘This mention of the forms of familial ideology (the ideology of paternitymaternity-conjugality-infancy and their interactions) is crucial, for it implies the following conclusion—that Lacan could not express, given his theoretical formation—that is, that no theory of psychoanalysis can be produced without basing it on historical materialism (on which the theory of the formations of familial ideology depends, in the last instance).’
Letter from Louis Althusser to Ben Brewster,