denied that he and his co-workers had been structuralists, and, in their defence,offered an alternative intellectual afliation. He argued:
If we never were structuralists, we can now explain why: why we seemedto be, even though we were not, why there came about this strange mis-understanding on the basis of which books were written. We were guiltyof an equally powerful and compromising passion:
we were Spinozists
...withvery few exceptions our blessed critics, imbued with conviction and swayed by fashion, never suspected any of this. They took the easy road: it was sosimple to join the crowd and shout ‘structuralism’! Structuralism was allthe rage, and you did not have to read about it in books to be able to talkabout it. But you have to read Spinoza and know that he exists: that he stillexists today. To recognize him, you must at least have heard of him.
Gregory Elliott has voiced an obvious objection to this line of defence:‘Admission of Spinozism does not automatically compel acquittal on thecount of structuralism, and it had been apparent some time before Althusser’sconfession’.
Some critics, already enraged by the theoretical anti-humanismof Althusser’s structuralist Marxism, in which human agency was reducedto mere
of the relations of production, seemed to regard Althusser’sdeclared admiration for one of the most rigorous determinists of the modernphilosophical tradition as merely adding insult to injury. So rather thanclosing the case against Louis Althusser, his confession of Spinozism insteadresulted in his Marxism becoming doubly condemned – as both a struc-turalism and as a Spinozism.Yet, as Montag has noted, it is questionable whether this pronouncementwas an accurate remembrance of the forces which shaped the early Althusserianproject (specically, the texts
), or was rather,‘nothing more than a retrospective construction, the very condition of whichwas a renaissance in French Spinoza studies that took place at the end of thesixties’.
Montag points to the lack of any systematic and textually explicitstudies of Spinoza by Althusser and his colleagues in this period, arguingthat, even if it is true that the Althusserian school developed in a Spinozisticenvironment, ‘they nevertheless did not produce any sustained work on
Philosophical Strategies:Althusser and Spinoza73
Althusser 1976, p. 132.
Elliott 1987, p. 183.
Montag 1998, pp. xi–xii.