Pierre Macherey

Pierre Macherey was a French Marxist literary critic and a very influential figure in the development of French post-structuralism and Marxism. He was a student of Lois Althusser as well as a collaborator of Reading Capital.

Etienne Balibar, Jaques Ranciere, and Roger Establet are other philosophers who contributed to the work. Reading Capital is a study of Marx’s Das Kapital and Marxist concepts such as the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, and historical materialism.

One amongst the Althusserians is Macherey who was most concerned with philosophy. His study of philosophy includes works on Hegel, Spinoza, and Marx. He treats philosophy alongside literature and sociology and takes into consideration Marxs’ idea that philosophy has no history.

He explains his argument stating that “philosophy has no history: it is precisely because philosophy has no history of its own that it is the site of the intersection of politics, economics, and literature.”

Macherey studies Hegel and Spinoza in his 1979 work Hegel or Spinoza. The work is a philosophical engagement with the ideas of Hegel and Spinoza. Hegel and Spinoza is an effort to understand two lines of thoughts by interrogating the one by the other. Macherey’s effort is not to reconcile the two philosophies but to understand them through their difference.

Macherey’s Hegel or Spinoza concerns with the critique of Hegel’s reading of Spinoza. In lieu, Macherey advocates the Althusserian idea of symptomatic reading. It is the idea that Althusser put forth in his contribution to Reading Capital. Macherey considers Hegel’s reading of Spinoza flawed.

It is flawed since it has the task to see the absolute not just as substance but as a subject also. It is flawed since it fails to understand the internal dynamic of Spinoza’s philosophy. However, Macherey argues that Hegel and Spinoza share a similar opposition to the idea of the method applied to the development of knowledge.

The idea is that thought is not a method that lies external to the reality represented. But it is a part of the immanent unfolding of thought. This idea is evident in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit which is critical of any method directed towards truth.

For Spinoza too, the method is not antecedent to the development of knowledge, but it is an expression of it. This idea is evident in Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise which holds the view that a method for interpretation of scripture can only be developed by its reading.