Existentialist Marxism, structuralism of Althuser

Existentialist Marxism, structuralism of Althuser


Date : 22-12-23

Thus Althuser Has provided critic of Orthodox Marxism that is political Marxism.

For example though Lenin provided critical analysis yet lenin is primary a man of action (Activist).

If we talk about althuser, he is primarily analyst.

Here, analyst means Offering critic of Marxist philosophy.

However, every Marxist will have both the features, action and theory, because Marxism is praxis.


Althuser As critic of Frankfurt School.

A School of Marxism, which is based on the ideas of young marks. the most important idea of young Marx is alienation. Means a marks concern for freedom and understanding now capitalism exercises domination.

Frankfurter school scholars bring marks near to Hegel. The project marks as philosopher.

Higgill is an idealist. for whom Idea is real and matter is a reflection of idea. 


What is the problem of Althuser with Frankfurt School ?

Althuser does not support bringing marks near to Hegel : For Althuser Marx age materialist.

For Marx matter is the ultimate reality. Marx treats idea as false conscious, hence we should avoid the tendency of bringing Marx closer to idealism. 

Altujer suggests that there is an epistemological (study of nature)  break in marx. 

Means we should avoid linking ideas of young marks and mature marks.

Young Marx is closer to Hagel.

However Marx makes complete break from hegel. Marbs is materialist. only ideas of Mature marks can be treated as real ideas of marks. We should not understand marx on the basis of ideas of young marx. (No need to emphasize on psychological element in Marxism)

Althuser criticise another tendency among Marxist. Primarily among French Marxist

That is Jean Paul Satre.

He was trying to project Marx is “Existentialist”

Existentialist Marxism

My Understanding : existential Marxism provides insights into how individuals shape themselves within oppressive social structures and how they develop the capacity and will to resist


There is a debate whether existentialist can be brought within the fold of Marxism.


Views of Satre

He used to consider existentialism as an extension of Marxism . Marx at existentialist.  

Satre was an active member of Communist Movement in France. 


Note: All Marxist at the time had concerned about the rise of totalitarianism in Russia.

Totalitarianism was rising in other parts of Europe also Westerner Scholars started blaming Marx as totalitarianism.


What Satre was doing ?

He was trying to rescue marks from the image that Marx is totalitarian

Hence he started projecting Marx as an existentialist. Existentialism is a philosophy of freedomit immersed in opposition to totalitarianism. Even Hannah arendt view of existentialism.

What is existentialism?

The prominent scholar of existentialism is satre. His famous statement is existence is prior to essence.

For example:

Body : existence : Materialism.

Soul: Essence : Idealism. 


Essentialism is nearer to idealism : UUniversal essence: (Sadhri and Althusser are materialists/Marxist)


In order to understand existentialism we have to contrast it with essentialism. Essentialism is a universalist idea. Hence it is a totalitarianism. Essentialism took four universal essences if there is some universalist concept for man woman. Universalism leads to generalization.

generalization is totalitarianism for example Hitler generalize all Jews, That all Jews are bad for Germany.


Essentialism does not recognise individuality. It reduces man to the level of object. 

Difference between man and object?

Each man is unique according to Satre- the fundamental difference between man and other object is that in case of man we cannot define what is the essence of man. Means what is the ultimate purpose behind the creation of man.

According to him man is doomed to be free.

In case of Man, God has not given any essence. God has left man free to determine his essence on his own. Man has only existence. 

In case of other objects essence comes first. Existence comes later. But this is opposite in case of man. Sathre suggests that origin of essentialism is in religion.

Every religion tells a particular essence every religion tells what God wants and how we should lead our life. Hence religions are totalitarian : Universalizing : Essentialist.

Treat as if man is an object to fulfil the desire of God

Hence Sarthai suggests believe in religion or God is a bad faith. 

Believe in oneself is a good faith.

Why believe in a god is a bad faith?

Because it takes the scope of freedom

What is existentialism?

Philosophy of freedom

Are existentialist,  materialist ?


Weather existential list are individualist?


Satre tried to project marks not as totalitarian to existentialist. The purpose of marx was not just revolution but emancipation : Liberation of man.

Which type of liberation ?

Not spiritualist like Gandhibut in material sense like Marx : Freedom from necessity.


Gandhi versus marx

Gandhi :  The spiritualist : Minimization of want. Gandhi was against Mass production.

Marx : Materialist : Satisfaction of wants. He was not against industrialisation.

For example in Indian context MN Roy's support industrial development or mass production.

Because he believed that Khadi clothes are costly and can be fulfilled the basic needs of masses in India. On the other hand mill made clothes are cheaper and more durable.


Satri concept of Freedom Is materialist that is why he says freedom is made up of protein

Existentialism stands for Personhood

Existentialism is humanism

It is Human centric approach


It is a humanist interpretation of Marx. Treating human at the centre and human emancipation

What is common between Frankfurt School and existentialist?

  • Both are humanist
  • Both are concerned with liberation of humans

What is difference?

Frankfurt School was idealist but existentialism treat marks as materialist. 

Frankfurt school is palimistic. 

Existentialism is optimistic.

Frankfurt school is inspired with young marx but existentialism inspired by mature marx.

Hence they are humanist interpretation of Marx.

Structuralism of althuser

Context of Althuser.

both Althuser and Satre belong to France.

Navsatri was promoting humanist version of Marx As if man has potential to liberate himself (Even in existing structures)



A structure list believed that man does not have the scope for freedom

Since both are French philosophers we can trace the origin of the debate in Rousseau.

The most defining statement of Rousseau is one is born free but everywhere in chains. This statement shows the structures of the society.

 What will be Satre position on it?

Man is born free and can free himself from the structure of the society.

Man is doomed to be free.

Freedom is a matter of choice if we wish to be free we have to oppose domination. 

For example if women want freedom they are supposed to challenge patriarchy.

What will be althuser’s position ?

neither we are born free nor we can become free 

We are born interpellated hence Hence we can not be free. It means since the time of our birth we are under the structures for example family is the structure.

Structures dominate us

We're not free to determine our existence

For example man is not born free man is born in a family

Family is the first source of identity.


Raj Singh

Hi There. I'm a professional Educator Cum Entrepreneur. Have done Technical as well as Professional Degree, Having Experience of 10 years as Educator and 8 Years of Entrepreneurship.

Comments Here