Among Marx’s great discoveries, for Althusser, was the necessary relation between the different areas of social life. From Hegel, Marx adopted the notion that politics, law, religion, art and economic life, far from existing in isolation from each other, each indifferent to the others, could not be understood except as part of a whole: the truth of any part could only be grasped at the level of the whole. In fact, in a rigorous sense, the various aspects of social life were only apparently separate aspects: each expressed in however disguised a form the essence of the whole. To know a historical period, then, was to reduce law, religion, and politics to the truth of which they were the appearance. Marx defended Hegel’s concept of history against those who declared art or religion above politics or innocent of economic realities; Hegel at least compelled us to conceptualize the necessary relation between all the areas of social life.
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