Pierre Macherey: op. cit, pp. 136-40.
problematic, seeking to prove, in the first case that the 'logical' order, being identical in essence with the real order and existing in the reality of the real order as its essence itself, can only follow the real order; in the second case that the real order being identical in essence with the 'logical' order, the real order, which is then merely the existence of the logical order, must follow the logical order. In both cases the interpreters are obliged to do violence to certain of Marx's answers which manifestly contradict their hypotheses. I propose to pose this question (this problem) not in the field of an ideological problematic, but in the field of the Marxist theoretical problematic with its distinction between the real object and the object of knowledge, registering the fact that this distinction of objects implies a radical distinction between the order in which 'categories' appear in knowledge, on the one hand, and in historical reality on the other. Once the so-called problem of the relation between the order of real historical genesis and the order of development of the concepts in scientific discourse in the field of this problematic (the radical distinction between these two orders) has been posed we can conclude that the problem we are discussing is an imaginary one.
Given this hypothesis, we can respect the variety of the answers Marx gives, i.e., both the cases of correspondence and those of non-correspondence between the 'logical' order and the 'real' order -- so long as we can admit no one-to-one correspondence between the different moments of these two distinct orders. When I say that the distinction between the real object and the object of knowledge implies the disappearance of the ideological (empiricist or absolute-idealist) myth of a one-to-one correspondence between the terms of these two orders, I include every form, even an inverted one, of one-to-one correspondence between the terms of the two orders: for an inverted correspondence is still a term by term correspondence according to a common order (with only a change in the sign). I evoke this last hypothesis because it has been held, by Della Volpe and his school, to be essential to understanding not only the theory of Capital, but also the Marxist 'theory of knowledge'.
This interpretation depends on a few sentences from Marx, the clearest of which appears in the 1857 Introduction (Grundrisse, p. 28).
'Hence it would be impracticable and false to range the economic categories in the order in which they have been historically determinant. On the contrary, their order is determined by the connexion that there is between them in modern bourgeois society and which is precisely the reverse (umgekehrte ) of what would seem their natural order or of the order corres- ponding to historical development.'
By appeal to this Umkehrung, this 'inversion' of sense, the logical order can be claimed to be a term by term inversion of the historical order. On this point, I refer the reader to Rancière's commentary. But what immediately follows this passage in Marx's text leaves us in no doubt, for
See Lire le Capital, first edition, 1965, Vol. I.
we learn that this dispute over the direct or inverted correspondence between the terms of the two orders has nothing to do with the problem under analysis: 'It is not a matter of the connexion which is established historically between economic relations in the succession of different social forms . . . but of their Gliederung (articulated combination) within modern bourgeois society' (p. 28). It is precisely this Gliederung, this articulated-thought-totality which has to be produced in knowledge as an object of knowledge in order to reach a knowledge of the real Gliederung, of the real articulated-totality which constitutes the existence of bourgeois society. The order in which the thought Gliederung is produced is a specific order, precisely the order of the theoretical analysis Marx performed in Capital, the order of the liaison and 'synthesis' of the concepts necessary for the production of a thought-whole, a thought-concrete, the theory of Capital.
The order in which these concepts are articulated in the analysis is the order of Marx's scientific proof: it has no direct, one-to-one relationship with the order in which any particular category may have appeared in history. There may be temporary encounters, fragmentary sequences apparently rhythmed by the same order, but, far from proving the existence of this correspondence or answering the question of the correspondence, they pose a different question. Without the theory of the distinction between the two orders it is impossible to examine whether it is legitimate to pose this question (which is by no means certain: this question might be meaningless -- we have grounds to think that it is meaningless ). Quite to the contrary, Marx spends his time showing, not without malice, that the real order contradicts the logical order, and if verbally he occasionally goes so far as to say that there is an 'inverted ' relationship between the two orders, we cannot take this word literally as a concept, i.e., as a rigorous affirmation which takes its meaning not from the fact that it has been put forward, but from the fact that it belongs by right to a definite theoretical field. Rancière's demonstration shows, on the contrary, that the term 'inversion' here as often elsewhere, is, in Capital, a point of analogy, without any theoretical rigour, i.e., without that rigour which is imposed on us by the theoretical problematic which underlies the whole of Marx's analysis, and which must be identified and defined before we can judge the legitimacy or weaknesses of a term, or even of a sentence. It would be easy to extend this demonstration successfully to all the passages which encourage the interpretation of an inverted one-to-one correspondence between the terms of the two orders.
I shall therefore return to the character peculiar to the order of the concepts in the exposition of Marx's analysis, i.e., in his proof. It is one thing to say that this order of concepts (or 'logical' order) is a specific order without any
one-to-one relationship of its terms with those of the historical order: it is another to explain this specificity, i.e., the nature of this order as an order. To pose this question is obviously to pose the question of the form of order required at a given moment in the history of knowledge by the existing type of scientificity, or, if you prefer, by the norms of theoretical validity recognized by science, in its own practice, as scientific. This is still a problem of great scope and complexity, and one which presupposes the elucidation of a number of preliminary theoretical problems. The essential problem presupposed by the question of the existing type of demonstrativity is the problem of the history of the production of the different forms in which theoretical practice (producing knowledges, whether 'ideological' or 'scientific') recognizes the validating norms it demands. I propose to call this history the history of the theoretical as such, or the history of the production (and transformation) of what at a given moment in the history of knowledge constitutes the theoretical problematic to which are related all the existing validating criteria, and hence the forms required to give the order of theoretical discourse the force and value of a proof. This history of the theoretical, of the structures of theoreticity and of the forms of theoretical apodicticity, has yet to be constituted -- and there, too, as Marx said when he began his work, there 'exists an enormous literature' at our disposal. But these elements at our disposal, often of considerable value (particularly in the history of philosophy treated as the history of the 'theory of knowledge'), are one thing, and their theoretical organization, which presupposes precisely the formation, the production of this theory, is another.
I have only made this detour in order to be able to say, on returning to Marx, that the apodictic character of the order of his theoretical discourse (or the 'logical' order of the categories in Capital ) can only be thought against the background of a theory of the history of the theoretical, which would show what effective relationship there is between the forms of proof in the theoretical discourse of Capital on the one hand, and the forms of theoretical proof contemporaneous with it and close to it, on the other. In this perspective, the comparative study of Marx and Hegel is indispensable once again. But it does not exhaust our object. For we are often warned, by Marx's constant references to forms of proof other than the forms of philosophical discourse -- that he also uses forms of proof borrowed from mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc. We are therefore constantly warned by Marx himself of the complex and original character of the order of proof he installs in political economy.
He says himself, in his letter to La Châtre: 'the method of analysis which I have employed, and which had not previously been applied to economic subjects,
A discourse inaugurated by Descartes, expressly conscious of the crucial importance of the 'order of reasons' in philosophy as well as in the sciences, and also conscious of the distinction between the order of knowledge and the order of being, despite his lapse into a dogmatic empiricism.
makes the reading of the first chapters rather arduous ' (Capital, T.I, p. 44, Vol. I, p. 21). The method of analysis Marx mentions is the same as the 'mode of exposition ' (Darstellungsweise ) he refers to in the Afterword to the second German edition (T.I, p. 29, Vol. I, p. 19) and carefully distinguishes from the 'mode of investigation' (Forschungsweise). The 'mode of investigation' is Marx's several years long concrete investigation into the existing documents and the facts they witness to: this investigation followed paths which disappear in their result, the knowledge of its object, the capitalist mode of production. The protocols of Marx's 'investigation' are contained in part in his notebooks. But in Capital we find something quite different from the complex and varied procedures, the 'trials and errors' that every investigation contains and which express the peculiar logic of the process of the inventor's discovery at the level of his theoretical practice. In Capital we find a systematic presentation, an apodictic arrangement of the concepts in the form of that type of demonstrational discourse that Marx calls analysis. What is the provenance of this 'analysis', which Marx must have regarded as pre-existent since he only demanded its application to political economy? We pose this question as one indispensable to an understanding of Marx, and one which we are not yet in a position to give an exhaustive answer.
Our papers do bear on this analysis, on the forms of reasoning and proof which it sets to work, and in the first place on those almost inaudible words, those apparently neutral words which Macherey studies in the first sentences of Capital and to which we have all tried to lend our ears. Literally, in the actual discourse of Capital, these words carry the occasionally semi-silent discourse of its proof. If, even despite the letter of Marx's work, we have succeeded in reconstituting the sequence and the peculiar logic of this silent discourse in certain delicate points; if we have managed to identify and fill these blanks; if we have been lucky enough to replace some of these still hesitant words by other, more rigorous terms, then that is all we have done. If we have been able to establish with enough proof to state it, that Marx's discourse is in principle foreign to Hegel's, that his dialectic (the Afterword identifies it with the mode of exposition we are discussing) is quite different from the Hegelian dialectic, then that is all we have done. We have not gone on to see whence Marx took this method of analysis which he presents as if it were pre-existent -- we have not posed the question as to whether Marx, far from borrowing it, did not himself invent this method of analysis which he thought he was merely applying, as he really did invent the dialectic which he tells us he took from Hegel, in certain well-known passages which are too often re-hashed by hurried interpreters. And if this analysis and this dialectic are simply, as we believe, one and the same thing, it is not a sufficient explanation of their original production to stress that it was only possible at the cost of a rupture with Hegel; we must also exhibit the positive conditions for this production, the possible positive models which, reflecting themselves in the personal theoretical conjuncture to which Marx's history
had led him, produced this dialectic in his thought. We were not in a situation to do this. Of course, the differences we have brought to light will be able to serve as indices and as a theoretical guide to such a new investigation -- but they cannot take its place.
And there is a more than even chance that, if as we believe this first attempt at a philosophical reading suggests, Marx really did invent a new form of order for axiomatic analysis, what is true of the majority of the great inventors in the history of the theoretical must be true of him as well: time is needed before his discovery will even be accepted, and only then will it pass into normal scientific practice. A thinker who installs a new order in the theoretical, a new form of apodicity or scientificity, has quite a different fate from that of a thinker who establishes a new science. He may long remain unknown and misunderstood, particularly if, as is the case with Marx, the revolutionary inventor in the theoretical happens to be masked in the same man by the twin who is a revolutionary inventor in a branch of science (here the science of history). The more partial his reflection of the concept of the revolution he has inaugurated in the theoretical, the greater the risk that he will suffer. This risk is redoubled if the cause of the limitations to his conceptual expression of a revolution which affects the theoretical through the discovery of a new science does not lie in personal circumstances or in a 'lack of time' alone: it may lie above all in the degree to which the objective theoretical conditions which govern the possibility of the formulation of these concepts are realized. Indispensable theoretical concepts do not magically construct themselves on command when they are needed. The whole history of the beginnings of sciences or of great philosophies shows, on the contrary, that the exact set of new concepts do not march out on parade in a single file; on the contrary, some are long delayed, or march in borrowed clothes before acquiring their proper uniforms -- for as long as history fails to provide the tailor and the cloth. In the meantime, the concept is certainly present in its works, but in a different form from that of a concept -- in a form which is looking for itself inside a form 'borrowed ' from other custodians of formulated and disposable, or fascinating concepts. This goes to show that there is nothing incomprehensible in the paradoxical fact that Marx treated his original method of analysis as a method that already existed even in the instant when he invented it, and in the fact that he thought he was borrowing from Hegel even in the instant when he broke his Hegelian moorings. This paradox alone requires an amount of work which we have hardly more than outlined here, and which undoubtedly contains many surprises for us.
But we have gone far enough in this work for a return to the difference between the order of the object of knowledge and that of the real object
to enable us to approach the problem whose index this difference is: the problem of the relation between these two objects (the object of knowledge and the real object), a relation which constitutes the very existence of knowledge.
I must warn the reader that we are here entering a domain which is very difficult to approach, for two reasons. First, because we have very few Marxist reference points with which to stake out its space and orientate ourselves within: in fact we are confronted by a problem which we not only have to solve but also to pose, for it has not yet really been posed, i.e., uttered on the basis of the required problematic and in the rigorous concepts required by this problematic. Second -- and paradoxically this is the most serious difficulty, because we are literally swamped by the abundance of solutions offered to this as yet not rigorously posed problem, swamped by these solutions and blinded by their 'obviousness '. These solutions are not, like those we have discussed with respect to Marx, answers to absent questions which can, however, be formulated in order to express the theoretical revo- lution contained in their answers. On the contrary, they are answers to questions and solutions to problems which have been formulated perfectly, since these questions and problems have been hand-picked by these answers and solutions.
I am alluding precisely to what the history of ideological philosophy classifies as the 'problem of knowledge' or 'theory of knowledge'. I say ideological philosophy since it is this ideological posing of the 'problem of knowledge' which defines the tradition that coincides with Western idealist philosophy (from Descartes to Husserl, via Kant and Hegel). I say that this posing of the 'problem' of knowledge is ideological insofar as this problem has been formulated on the basis of its 'answer', as the exact reflection of that answer, i.e., not as a real problem but as the problem that had to be posed if the desired ideological solution was to be the solution to this problem. I cannot deal here with this point which defines the essentials of ideology, in its ideological form, and which in principle reduces ideological knowledge (and par excellence the knowledge which ideology is discussing when it reflects knowledge in the form of the problem of knowledge or the theory of knowledge) to a phenomenon of recognition. In the theoretical mode of production of ideology (which is utterly different from the theoretical mode of production of science in this respect), the formulation of a problem is merely the theoretical expression of the conditions which allow a solution already produced outside the process of knowledge because imposed by extra-theoretical instances and exigencies (by religious, ethical, political or other 'interests') to recognize itself in an artificial problem manufactured to serve it both as a theoretical mirror and as a practical justification. All of modern Western philosophy, dominated by the 'problem of knowledge', is thus in fact dominated by the formulation of a 'problem' posed in terms and on a theoretical basis produced (whether consciously, as by some, or uncon-
sciously, as with others, is not important here) in order to make possible the theoretico-practical effects expected of this mirror recognition. In other words, the whole history of Western philosophy is dominated not by the 'problem of knowledge', but by the ideological solution, i.e., the solution imposed in advance by practical, religious, ethical and political 'interests' foreign to the reality of the knowledge, which this 'problem' had to receive. As Marx put it so profoundly in The German Ideology, 'Not only in their answers but in their very questions there was a mystification '.
Here we meet our greatest difficulty. For, practically alone in this undertaking, we have to resist the age-old 'obviousness' which repetition, not only the repetition of a false answer, but above all that of a false question, has produced in people's minds. We must leave the ideological space defined by this ideological question, this necessarily closed space (since that is one of the essential effects of the recognition structure which characterizes the theoretical mode of production of ideology: the inevitably closed circle of what, in another context and with other intentions, Lacan has called the 'dual mirror relation ') in order to open a new space on a different site -- the space required for a correct posing of the problem, one which does not prejudge the solution. The whole history of the 'theory of knowledge' in Western philosophy from the famous 'Cartesian circle' to the circle of the Hegelian or Husserlian teleology of Reason shows us that this 'problem of knowledge' is a closed space, i.e., a vicious circle (the vicious circle of the mirror relation of ideological recognition). Its high point of consciousness and honesty was reached precisely with the philosophy (Husserl) which was prepared to take theoretical responsibility for the necessary existence of this circle, i.e., to think it as essential to its ideological undertaking; however, this did not make it leave the circle, did not deliver it from its ideological captivity -- nor could the philosopher who has tried to think in an 'openness' (which seems to be only the ideological non-closure of the closure) the absolute condition of possibility of this 'closure', i.e., of the closed history of the 'repetition' of this closure in Western metaphysics -- Heidegger -- leave this circle. It is impossible to leave a closed space simply by taking up a position merely outside it, either in its exterior or its profundity: so long as this outside or profundity remain its outside or profundity, they still belong to that circle, to that closed space, as its 'repetition' in its other-than-itself. Not the repetition but the non-repetition of this space is the way out of this circle: the sole theoretically sound flight -- which is precisely not a flight, which is always committed to what it is fleeing from, but the radical foundation of a new space, a new problematic which allows the real problem to be posed, the problem misrecognized in the recognition structure in which it is ideo- logically posed.
The following few reflections are devoted to a first attempt at posing this problem, though I do not intend to hide the fact that they are as precarious as they are indispensable.
In the 1857 Introduction, Marx writes: 'the whole, as it appears (erscheint ) in the mind as a thought-whole (Gedankenganze ), is a product of the thinking mind, which appropriates (aneignet ) the world (die Welt ) in the only (einzig ) mode (Weise ) possible to it, a mode which is different from the artistic (künstlerisch ), religious or practico-spiritual (praktisch-geistig ) appropriation of this world' (Grundrisse, p. 22). Here the issue is not to penetrate the mystery of the concept of appropriation (Aneignung ) beneath which Marx expresses the essence of a fundamental relation of which knowledge, art, religion and practico-spiritual activity (this last has still to be defined: but it probably means ethico-politico-historical activity) appear as so many distinct and specific modes (Weise ). The text does indeed lay stress on the specificity of the mode of theoretical appropriation (knowledge) with respect to all the other modes of appropriation which are declared to be distinct from it in principle. But the expression of this distinction reveals precisely the common background of a relation-to-the-real-world against which this distinction is made. This clearly indicates that knowledge is concerned with the real world through its specific mode of appropriation of the real world: this poses precisely the problem of the way this function works, and therefore of the mechanism that ensures it: this function of the appropriation of the real world by knowledge, i.e., by the process of production of knowledges which, despite, or rather because of the fact that it takes place entirely in thought (in the sense we have defined), nevertheless provides that grasp (of the concept: Begriff ) on the real world called its appropriation (Aneignung ). This poses on its true terrain the question of a theory of the production of a knowledge which, as the knowledge of its object (an object of knowledge, in the sense we have defined), is the grasp or appropriation of the real object, the real world.
Need I comment that this question is quite unlike the ideological question of the 'problem of knowledge'? That it is not a matter of an external reflection on the a priori conditions of possibility which guarantee the possibility of knowledge? That it is not a matter of staging the characters indispensable to this scenario: a philosophical consciousness (which is very careful not to pose the question of its status, its place and its function, since in its own eyes it is Reason itself, present in its objects since the Origin, and having no dealings except with itself even in its question, i.e., posing the question to which it is itself the obligatory answer), posing scientific consciousness the question of the conditions of possibility of its knowledge relation to its object ? Need I comment that the theoretical characters cast in this ideological scenario are the philosophical Subject (the philosophizing consciousness), the
scientific Subject (the knowing consciousness) and the empirical Subject (the perceiving consciousness) on the one hand; and, on the other, the Object which confronts these three Subjects, the transcendental Object, the pure principles of science and the pure forms of perception; that the three Subjects for their part are subsumed under a single essence (e.g., this identification of the three Objects as it is seen, with significant variation, in Kant as well as Hegel and Husserl, depends on a persistent identification of the object perceived and the object known); that this parallel distribution of attributes disposes Subject and Object face to face; that this conjures away the difference in status between the object of knowledge and the real object on the Object side, and the difference in status between the philosophizing Subject and the knowing subject, on the one hand, and between the knowing subject and the empirical subject on the other, on the Subject side? That thereby the only relation which is thought is a relation of interiority and contemporaneity between a mythical Subject and Object, required to take in charge, if need be by falsifying them, the real conditions, i.e., the real mechanism of the history of the production of knowledges, in order to subject them to religious, ethical and political ends (the preservation of the 'faith', of 'morality' or of 'freedom', i.e., social values)?
I am not posing the question I have posed in order to produce an answer fixed in advance by instances other than knowledge itself: it is not a question closed in advance by its answer. It is not a question of guarantees. On the contrary, it is an open question (it is the very field that it opens), and one which if it is to be so, if it is to escape the pre-established closure of the ideological circle, must reject the services of those theoretical characters whose sole function was to ensure this ideological closure: the characters of the different Subjects and Objects, and the duties it was their mission to respect in order to play their parts, in the complicity of the ideological pact signed by the supreme instances of the Subject and the Object, with the blessing of the Western 'Freedom of Man'. It is a question which is posed and demonstrated as open in principle, i.e., as homogeneous in its structure of openness to all the actual questions posed by knowledge in its scientific existence: a question which has to express in its form this structure of openness and which must therefore be posed in the field and in the terms of the theoretical problematic which demands this structure of openness. In other words, the question of the mode of appropriation of the real, specific object of knowledge has to be posed:
(1) in terms which exclude any recourse to the ideological solution contained in the ideological characters Subject and Object, or to the mutual mirror-recognition structure, in the closed circle of which they move;
(2) in terms which form the concept of the knowledge structure, an open specific structure, and which, at the same time, are the concept of the question knowledge poses itself -- which implies that the place and function of this question be thought even in posing the question.
This last demand is indispensable in older to establish the distinction between the theory of the history of the production of knowledge (or philosophy) and the existing content of knowledge (the sciences), without thereby making philosophy that legal instance which, in 'theories of knowledge' makes laws for the science in the name of a right it arrogates to itself. This right is no more than the fait accompli of mirror recognition's stage direction, which ensures philosophical ideology the legal recognition of the fait accompli of the 'higher' instances it serves.
Posed in these strict conditions, the problem we are concerned with can be expressed in the following form: by what mechanism does the process of knowledge, which takes place entirely in thought, produce the cognitive appropriation of its real object, which exists outside thought in the real world? Or again, by what mechanism does the production of the object of knowledge produce the cognitive appropriation of the real object, which exists outside thought in the real world? The mere substitution of the question of the mechanism of the cognitive appropriation of the real object by means of the object of knowledge, for the ideological question of guarantees of the possibility of knowledge, contains in it that mutation of the problematic which rescues us from the closed space of ideology and opens to us the open space of the philosophical theory we are seeking.
Before I go on to our question, let me run through the classic misunder- standings which lead us precisely back into the vicious circle of ideology.
Our question is often given a straight answer simply by saying, in the plain language of the pragmatism of 'obviousness': the mechanism with which the production of the object of knowledge produces the cognitive appropriation of the real object? . . . Why, it is practice! It is the role of the criterion of practice! And if this dish does not fill us, they are pleased to vary the menu or provide as many accessories as are required to satisfy us. We are told: practice is the touchstone, the practice of scientific experiment! Economic, political, technical practice, concrete practice! Or else, to con- vince us of the 'Marxist' character of the answer: social practice! Or as a 'make-weight', the social practice of humanity repeated billions and billions of times for millenia! Or else we are served Engels's unfortunate pudding (Manchester provided him with this alimentary argument): 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'!
First of all, I would point out that this kind of answer does have some effectivity, and that it should therefore be used when the aim is to defeat ideology on the terrain of ideology, i.e., when the aim is ideological struggle strictly speaking: for it is an ideological answer, one which is situated precisely on the opponent's ideological terrain. In major historical situations it has
happened and may happen again that one is obliged or forced to fight on the terrain of the ideological opponent, when it has proved impossible to draw him onto one's own terrain, if he is not ready to pitch his tents there, or if it is necessary to descend onto his terrain. But this practice, and the mode of employment of ideological arguments adapted to this struggle, must be the object of a theory so that ideological struggle in the domain of ideology does not become a struggle governed by the laws and wishes of the opponent, so that it does not transform us purely into subjects of the ideology it is our aim to combat. But I would add at the same time that it is not surprising that this kind of pragmatist answer leaves us hungry as far as our theoretical question is concerned. We can show this for one general reason and a number of special reasons, all of which depend on the same principle.
In fact, pragmatism, in its essence, drags our question into ideology, by giving it an ideological answer. Pragmatism does nothing but set out, like the ideology of the idealist 'theory of knowledge', on a hunt for guarantees The only difference is that classical idealism is not content with a de facto guarantee but wants a de jure guarantee (though, as we know, this is merely the legal disguise for a de facto situation); that is its business -- whereas pragmatism sets out in search of a de facto guarantee: success in practice which often constitutes the sole content assignable to what is called the 'practice criterion'. At any rate, we are served with a guarantee which is the irrefutable index of an ideological question and answer, whereas we are in search of a mechanism ! The proof of the pudding is in the eating! So what! We are interested in the mechanism that ensures that it really is a pudding we are eating and not a poached baby elephant, though we think we are eating our daily pudding! Proof by repetition for hundreds or thousands of years of the social practice of humanity (that night in which all the practices are grey)! So what! For hundreds and thousands of years this 'repetition' has produced, for example, 'truths' such as the resurrection of Christ, the Virginity of Mary, all the 'truths' of religion, all the prejudices of human 'spontaneity', i.e., all the established 'obviousnesses' of ideology, from the most to the least respectable! Not to speak of the trap laid jointly by idealism and pragmatism in the complicity of their action (which obeys the same rules ). By what right do you tell us that practice is right? says idealism to pragmatism. Your right is no more than a disguised fact, answers pragmatism. And we are back on the wheel, the closed circle of the ideological question. In all these cases, the common rule which permits this action is in fact the question of the guarantees of the harmony between knowledge (or Subject) and its real object (or Object), i.e., the ideological question as such.
But let us leave this general argument for the special arguments, for they will bring us face to face with our object. It is enough to pronounce the word practice, which, understood in an ideological (empiricist or idealist) way is only the mirror image, the counter-connotation of theory (the pair of 'contraries' practice and theory constituting the two terms of a mirror field), to
reveal the play on words that is its seat. We must recognize that there is no practice in general, but only distinct practices which are not related in any Manichaean way with a theory which is opposed to them in every respect. For there is not one side of theory, a pure intellectual vision without body or materiality -- and another of completely material practice which 'gets its hands dirty'. This dichotomy is merely an ideological myth in which a 'theory of knowledge' reflects many 'interests' other than those of reason: those of the social division of labour, which is precisely a division between power (political, religious or ideological) and oppression (the executors who are also the executed). Even when this dichotomy is the servant of a revolutionary vision which exalts the workers' cause, their labour, their sufferings, their struggles and their experience in the undifferentiated proclamation of the primacy of practice, it still remains ideological: just as egalitarian communism is still an ideological conception of the aim of the workers' movement. In the strict sense, an egalitarian conception of practice -- and I say this with the deep respect every Marxist owes to the experience and sacrifices of the men whose labour, sufferings and struggles still nourish and sustain our whole present and future, all our arguments for life and hope -- an egalitarian conception of practice is to dialectical materialism what egalitarian communism is to scientific communism: a conception to be criticized and superseded in order to establish a scientific conception of practice exactly in its place.
But there can be no scientific conception of practice without a precise distinction between the distinct practices and a new conception of the relations between theory and practice. We can assert the primacy of practice theoretically by showing that all the levels of social existence are the sites |of distinct practices: economic practice, political practice, ideological practice, technical practice and scientific (or theoretical) practice. We think the content of these different practices by thinking their peculiar structure, which, in all these cases, is the structure of a production; by thinking what distinguishes between these different structures, i.e., the different natures of the objects to which they apply, of their means of production and of the relations within which they produce (these different elements and their combination -- Verbindung -- obviously vary as we pass from economic practice to political practice, then to scientific practice and theoretico-philosophical practice). We think the relations establishing and articulating these different practices one with another by thinking their degree of independence and their type of 'relative' autonomy, which are themselves fixed by their type of dependence with respect to the practice which is 'determinant in the last instance': economic practice. But we shall go further. We are not content to suppress the egalitarian myth of practice, we acquire a completely new basis for our conception of the relation between theory and practice, which is mystified in any idealist or empiricist conception. We regard an element of 'knowledge', even in its most rudimentary forms and even though it is profoundly steeped in ideology, as always already present in the earliest
stages of practice, those that can be observed even in the subsistence practices of the most 'primitive' societies. At the other extreme in the history of practices, we regard what is commonly called theory, in its 'purest' forms, those that seem to bring into play the powers of thought alone (e.g., mathematics of philosophy), leaving aside any direct relation to 'concrete practice', as a practice in the strict sense, as scientific or theoretical practice, itself divisible into several branches (the different sciences, mathematics, philosophy). This practice is theoretical ; it is distinguished from the other, non-theoretical practices, by the type of object (raw material) which it transforms; by the type of means of production it sets to work, by the type of object it produces (knowledges).
To speak of the criterion of practice where theory is concerned, and every other practice as well, then receives its full sense: for theoretical practice is indeed its own criterion, and contains in itself definite protocols with which to validate the quality of its product, i.e., the criteria of the scientificity of the products of scientific practice. This is exactly what happens in the real practice of the sciences: once they are truly constituted and developed they have no need for verification from external practices to declare the knowledges they produce to be 'true', i.e., to be knowledges. No mathematician in the world waits until physics has verified a theorem to declare it proved, although whole areas of mathematics are applied in physics: the truth of his theorem is a hundred per cent provided by criteria purely internal to the practice of mathematical proof, hence by the criterion of mathematical practice, i.e., by the forms required by existing mathematical scientificity. We can say the same for the results of every science: at least for the most developed of them, and in the areas of knowledge which they have sufficiently mastered, they themselves provide the criterion of validity of their knowledges -- this criterion coinciding perfectly with the strict forms of the exercise of the scientific practice considered. We can say this of the 'experimental' sciences: the criterion of their theory is their experiments, which constitute the form of their theoretical practice. We should say the same of the science which concerns us most particularly: historical materialism. It has been possible to apply Marx's theory with success because it is 'true'; it is because it has been applied with success. The pragmatist criterion may suit a technique which has no other horizon than the field in which it is applied -- but it does not suit scientific knowledges. To be consistent we must go further and reject the more or less indirect assimilation of the Marxist theory of history to the empiricist model of a chance 'hypothesis' whose verification must be provided by the political practice of history before we can affirm its 'truth'. Later historical practice cannot give the knowledge that Marx produced its status as knowledge: the criterion of the 'truth' of the knowledges produced by Marx's theoretical practice is provided by his theoretical practice itself, i.e., by the proof-value, by the scientific status of the forms which ensured the production of those knowledges. Marx's theoretical
practice is the criterion of the 'truth' of the knowledges that Marx produced: and only because it was really a matter of knowledge, and not of chance hypotheses, have these knowledges given the famous results, of which the failures as well as the successes constitute pertinent 'experiments' for the theory's reflection on itself and its internal development.
In those sciences in which it is unrestrictedly valid, this radical inwardness of the criterion of practice for scientific practice is not at all exclusive of organic relations with other practices which provide these sciences with a large proportion of their raw material, and occasionally go so far as to induce more or less profound re-organizations in their theoretical structure. I have demonstrated this sufficiently elsewhere to prevent any misunderstanding of the meaning of what has just been said. In gestatory sciences, and a fortiori in regions still dominated by an ideological 'knowledge', the intervention of other practices often plays a determinant critical role which may even be revolutionary. I have suggested this in unambiguous terms. But here, too, there can be no question of drowning in an egalitarian conception of practice either the specific mode of intervention of a determinate practice in the field of a theoretical practice which is still ideological or only just becoming scientific -- or of drawing the precise function of this intervention, nor above all the (theoretical) form in which this intervention is effected. Taking Marx as an example, we know that his most personally significant practical experiences (his experience as a polemicist of 'the embarrassment of having to take part in discussions on so-called material interests' in the Rheinische Zeitung ; his direct experience of the earliest struggle organizations of the Paris proletariat; his revolutionary experience in the 1848 period) intervened in his theoretical practice, and in the upheaval which led him from ideological theoretical practice to scientific theoretical practice: but they intervened in his theoretical practice in the form of objects of experience, or even experiment, i.e., in the form of new thought objects, 'ideas' and the concepts, whose emergence contributed, in their combination (Verbindung ) with other conceptual results (originating in German philosophy and English political economy), to the overthrow of the still ideological theoretical base on which he had lived (i.e., thought) until then.
I make no apology for this long detour: it was not a detour. It was essential to clear from our way the ideological answers to our question: and to this end it was essential to reckon with an ideological conception of practice which even Marxism itself has not always avoided, and which everyone will admit reigns supreme today and surely for a long time to come, over contemporary philosophy, even over its most honest and generous representatives such as Sartre. By avoiding this market-place of egalitarian practice,
or, as it has to be called in philosophy, of 'praxis', we have won through to a recognition of the fact that there is only one path before us, a narrow path certainly, but an open, or at least openable one. Let us therefore return to our question: by what mechanism does the production of the object of knowledge produce the cognitive appropriation of the real object which exists outside thought in the real world? I say a mechanism, and a mechanism which must explain a specific fact: the mode of appropriation of the world by the specific practice of knowledge, whose entire space is its object (the object of knowledge), as distinct from the real object of which it is the knowledge. Here we run the greatest risks. The reader will understand that I can only claim, with the most explicit reservations, to give the first arguments towards a sharpening of the question we have posed, and not an answer to it.
The first step in our formulation of this sharpening must be a very important distinction. When we pose the question of the mechanism by which the object of knowledge produces the cognitive appropriation of the real object, we are posing a quite different question from that of the conditions of the production of knowledge. This latter question is derived from a theory of the history of theoretical practice, which, as we have seen, is only possible given the application of the concepts which enable us to think the structure of that practice and the history of its transformations. The question we are posing is a new one, one which is precisely passed over in silence in the other. The theory of the history of knowledge or theory of the history of theoretical practice enables us to understand how human knowledges are produced in the history of the succession of different modes of production, first in the form of ideology, then in the form of science. It makes us spectators of the emergence of knowledges, their development, their diversification, the theoretical ruptures and upheavals within the problematic that governs their production, and of the progressive erection, in their domain, of a division between ideological knowledges and scientific knowledges, etc. At each moment of the history of knowledges this history takes knowledges for what they are, whether they declare themselves knowledges or not, whether they are ideological or scientific, etc.: for knowledges. It considers them solely as products, as results. This history really does enable us to understand the mechanism of the production of knowledges, but, given a knowledge existing at a given moment in the process of the history of its production, it does not enable us to understand the mechanism by which the knowledge considered fulfils its function as a cognitive appropriation of the real object by means of its thought object for whoever is handling it as knowledge. But it is precisely this mechanism which interests us.
Need we sharpen our question even further? A theory of the history of the production of knowledges can only ever give us an observation: here is the mechanism by which these knowledges have been produced. But this observation treats the knowledge as a fact, whose transformations and
variations it studies as so many effects of the structure of the theoretical practice which produces them, as so many products which happen to be knowledges -- without ever reflecting the fact that these products are not just any products, but precisely knowledges. A theory of the history of the production of knowledges therefore does not account for what I propose to call the 'knowledge effect ', which is the peculiarity of those special products which are knowledges. Our new question deals precisely with this knowledge effect (what Marx called the 'mode of appropriation of the world peculiar to knowledge'). The mechanism I propose to elucidate is the mechanism which produces this knowledge effect in those very special products we call knowledges.
Here too (we shall never escape the destiny of having constantly to avoid false representations in order to clear the path that opens up the space of our investigation) we are confronted by illusions to be revoked and destroyed. We might indeed be tempted to refer the mechanism we are trying to discover to its origins: to say that this knowledge effect, which, as far as we are concerned, is exercised in the pure forms of some strict science, comes to us, via an infinite series of mediations, from reality itself. Thus, in mathematics it is tempting to think the knowledge effect of such and such an especially abstract formula as the extremely purified and formalized echo of such and such a reality, whether it is concrete space or the first concrete manipulations and operations of human practice. We can readily admit that at a certain moment a 'dislocation' (décalage ) intervenes between the concrete practice of the land-surveyor and Pythagorean and Euclidean abstraction, but we can think this dislocation as a transfer (décollage ), a retracing (décalque ) of the concrete forms and gestures of an earlier practice in the element of 'ideality'. But all the concepts we bring into play to account for the immense space which separates the Chaldean accountant or Egyptian land-surveyor from Bourbaki will never be anything more than concepts which attempt to install, beneath the incontestable differences that have to be thought, a continuity of meaning which links in principle the knowledge effect of modern mathematical objects to an original meaning effect which is an integral part of an original real object, a concrete practice, original concrete gestures. Thus there would be a 'native land', an 'original ground' of the knowledge effect: either the real object itself, from which, according to empiricism, knowledge only ever extracts one part, the essence; or the Husserlian 'pre-reflexive' world of 'life', the passive ante-predicative synthesis; or, finally, the concrete of elementary behaviour and gestures, where all child psychologies, genetic or otherwise, obtain the cheap luxury of founding their own 'theories of knowledge'. In all these cases, a real, concrete, living original is made eternally and integrally responsible for the knowledge effect; the sciences throughout their history and even today are merely commenting on this heritage, i.e., subject to this heredity. Just as in good Christian theology, humanity lives only in original sin, there would be an original knowledge effect, emerging from the more concrete forms of the real,
from life, from practice, i.e., losing itself in them, identical with them -- an original knowledge effect whose indelible mark would still be borne today by the most 'abstract' scientific objects, destined as they are to its fate, condemned to knowledge. Need I set out the problematic presupposed by this 'model'? The reader will have guessed that its consistency requires support from the myth of the origin ; from an original unity undivided between subject and object, between the real and its knowledge (that they have the same birth, that, as someone well versed in theatrical effects remarked, knowledge is co-birth -- la connaissance soit co-naissance ); from a good genesis, from all the indispensable abstractions and, above all, mediations. The reader will have recognized in this passage a set of typical concepts which eighteenth-century philosophy scattered over the world and which have flourished nearly everywhere, even in the works of Marxist specialists -- but concepts which we can be absolutely sure, tailor-made as they are for the ideological functions expected of them, have nothing to do with Marx.
And while we are here, let us be clear: Marxism cannot for one moment discover or rediscover itself along the path of this empiricism, whether it claims to be materialist or sublimates itself in an idealism of the ante-predicative, of the 'original ground' or of 'praxis' -- in this idealism and in the concepts it has manufactured to play the star roles in its theatre. The concepts of origin, 'original ground', genesis and mediation should be regarded as suspect a priori : not only because they always more or less induce the ideology which has produced them, but because, produced solely for the use of this ideology, they are its nomads, always more or less carrying it with them. It is no accident that Sartre, and all those with none of his ability who feel a need to fill in the emptiness between 'abstract ' categories and the 'concrete ', abuse the terms origin, genesis and mediations so much. The function of the concept of origin, as in original sin, is to summarize in one word what has not to be thought in order to be able to think what one wants to think. The concept of genesis is charged with taking charge of, and masking, a production or mutation whose recognition would threaten the vital continuity of the empiricist schema of history. The concept of mediation is invested with one last role: the magical provision of post-stations in the empty space between theoretical principles and the 'concrete', as bricklayers make a chain to pass bricks. In every case, the functions are those of masks and theoretical impostures -- functions which may witness both to a real embarrassment and a real good will, and to the desire not to lose theoretical control over events, but even in the best of cases, these functions are more or less dangerous theoretical fictions. Applied to our question, these concepts ensure us a cheap solution on every occasion: they make a chain between an original knowledge effect and current knowledge effects -- giving us the mere posing, or rather non-posing of the problem as its solution.
Let us therefore try taking a few steps forward into the space we have just disengaged.
Just as we saw that recourse to a primitive real object could not save us from our responsibility to think the difference between the object of knowledge and the real object of which the first object gives us the knowledge, we have just seen that we cannot shift to an original 'knowledge effect' the responsibility for thinking for us the mechanism of this contemporary knowledge effect. And, to tell the truth, we know that these two problems are really one and the same, since only the reality of the contemporary knowledge effect, not the myth of an original effect, can give us the answer we are looking for. In this respect, we are in the same situation as Marx, who says in so many words that we must elucidate the knowledge of the 'Gliederung ' (the articulated, hierarchized, systematic combination) of contemporary society if we are to reach an understanding of earlier forms, and therefore of the most primitive forms. His famous remark that 'the anatomy of man is the key to the anatomy of the ape', of course, means nothing else; of course, it coincides with that other remark in the Introduction that it is not the historical genesis of categories nor their combination in earlier forms that enables us to understand them, but the system of their combination in contemporary society which also opens the way to an understanding of past formations, by giving us the concept of the variation of this combination. Similarly, only the elucidation of the mechanism of the contemporary knowledge effect can cast light onto earlier effects. The rejection of any recourse to origins is therefore correlated with a very basic theoretical exigency which insists on the dependence of the explanation of more primitive forms on the contemporary mode of systematic combination of categories which are also found in part in earlier forms.
We must regard this exigency as constitutive of Marx's theory, precisely in the domain of the theory of history. Let me explain. When Marx studied modern bourgeois society, he adopted a paradoxical attitude. He first conceived that existing society as a historical result, i.e., as a result produced by a history. Naturally, this seems to commit us to a Hegelian conception in which the result is conceived as a result inseparable from its genesis, to the point where it is necessary to conceive it as 'the result of its becoming'. In fact, at the same time Marx takes a quite different direction! 'It is not a matter of the connexion established historically between the economic relations in the succession of different forms of society. Still less of their order of succession "in the Idea " (Proudhon ) (a nebulous conception of historical movement ). But of their articulated combination (Gliederung) within modern bourgeois society ' (Grundrisse, p. 28). The same idea was already rigorously expressed in The Poverty of Philosophy : 'How, indeed, could the single logical formula
of movement, of sequence, of time, explain the body of society, in which all relations coexist simultaneously (gleichzeitig) and support one another ' (The Poverty of Philosophy, New York, 1963, pp. 110-11). The object of Marx's study is therefore contemporary bourgeois society, which is thought as a historical result : but the understanding of this society, far from being obtained from the theory of the genesis of this result, is, on the contrary, obtained exclusively from the theory of the 'body ', i.e., of the contemporary structure of society, without its genesis intervening in any way whatsoever. This attitude may be paradoxical, but Marx insists on it in categorical terms as the absolute condition of possibility of his theory of history; it reveals the existence of two problems, distinct in their disjoint unity. There is a theoretical problem which must be posed and resolved in order to explain the mechanism by which history has produced as its result the contemporary capitalist mode of production. But at the same time there is another absolutely distinct problem which must be posed and resolved, in order to understand that this result is indeed a social mode of production, that this result is precisely a form of social existence and not just any form of existence: this second problem is the object of the theory in Capital -- and not for one moment is it ever confused with the first problem.
We can express this distinction, which is absolutely fundamental for an understanding of Marx, by saying that Marx regards contemporary society (and every other past form of society) both as a result and as a society. The theory of the mechanism of transformation of one mode of production into another, i.e., the theory of the forms of transition from one mode of production to the succeeding one, has to pose and solve the problem of the result, i.e., of the historical production of a given mode of production, of a given social formation. But contemporary society is not only a result, a product: it is this particular result, this particular product, which functions as a society, unlike other results and other products which function quite differently. This second problem is answered by the theory of the structure of a mode of production, the theory of Capital. In Capital, society is taken as a 'body', and not just as any body, but as that body which functions as a society. This theory completely abstracts from society-as-a-result -- that is Marx claims that every explanation by movement, sequence, time and genesis cannot apply to this problem in principle, for it is a quite different problem. To say the same thing in more pertinent terms, I suggest the following terminology: what Marx studies in Capital is the mechanism which makes the result of a history's production exist as a society ; it is therefore the mechanism which gives this product of history, that is precisely the society-product he is studying, the property of producing the 'society effect ' which makes this result exist as a society, and not as a heap of sand, an ant-hill, a workshop or a mere collection of men. When Marx tells us therefore that in explaining a society by its genesis we miss its 'body ', precisely what had to be explained, he is focusing his theoretical attention
on the task of explaining the mechanism by which some particular result functions precisely as a society, and therefore the mechanism producing the 'society effect ' peculiar to the capitalist mode of production. The mechanism of the production of this 'society effect' is only complete when all the effects of the mechanism have been expounded, down to the point where they are produced in the form of the very effects that constitute the concrete, conscious or unconscious relation of the individuals to the society as a society, i.e., down to the effects of the fetishism of ideology (or 'forms of social consciousness' -- Preface to A Contribution . . .), in which men consciously or unconsciously live their lives, their projects, their actions, their attitudes and their functions, as social. In this perspective, Capital must be regarded as the theory of the mechanism of production of the society effect in the capitalist mode of production. We are beginning to suspect, even if it is only because of the works of contemporary ethnology and history, that this society effect differs with different modes of production. Theoretically speaking, we have every reason to believe that the mechanism of the production of these different society effects differs with the various modes of production. We are beginning to see that an exact consciousness of the precise problem implied by the theory in Capital opens new horizons in front of us by posing us new problems. But at the same time, we understand the absolutely decisive scope of those few lucid sentences from the Poverty of Philosophy and the 1857 Introduction, in which Marx warns us that he is looking not for an understanding of the mechanism of the production of society as a result of history, but for an understanding of the mechanism of the production of the society effect by this result, which is effectively a real existing society.
By thus defining his object with this merciless distinction, Marx provides us with the wherewithal to pose the problem we are concerned with: the problem of the cognitive appropriation of the real object by the object of knowledge, which is a special case of the appropriation of the real world by different practices, theoretical, aesthetic, religious, ethical, technical, etc. Each of these modes of appropriation poses the problem of the mechanism of production of its specific 'effect ', the knowledge effect for theoretical practice, the aesthetic effect for aesthetic practice, the ethical effect for ethical practice, etc. In each of these cases we cannot merely substitute one word for another, as 'dormitive virtue' was substituted for opium. The search for each of these specific 'effects' demands the elucidation of the mechanism that produces it, not the reduplication of one word by the magic of another. If we want to avoid prejudging the conclusion to which the study of these different effects may lead us, we must be content with a few indications as to the effect that concerns us here, the knowledge effect, produced by the existence of the theoretical object which is a knowledge. This expression knowledge effect constitutes a generic object which includes at least two sub-objects: the ideological knowledge effect and the scientific knowledge effect.
The ideological knowledge effect is distinguished by its properties (it is an effect of recognition-misrecognition in a mirror connexion) from the scientific knowledge effect: but insofar as the ideological effect, although it depends on other social functions which are dominant in it, really possesses its own knowledge effect, it falls in this respect within the general category with which we are concerned. I owe the reader this warning, in order to prevent any misunderstanding as to the beginnings of an analysis that follows for it is centred solely on the knowledge effect of scientific knowledge.
How can we explain the mechanism of this knowledge effect? We can now return to something we have just established: the inwardness of the 'criterion of practice' to the scientific practice under consideration -- and suggest that our present question is related to this inwardness. We showed that the validity of a scientific proposition as a knowledge was ensured in a determinate scientific practice by the action of particular forms which ensure the presence of scientificity in the production of knowledge, in other words, by specific forms that confer on a knowledge its character as a ('true') knowledge. Here I am speaking of forms of scientificity -- but I am also echoing this by thinking of the forms that play the same part (ensuring a different but corresponding effect) in ideological 'knowledge', and indeed in all forms of knowing. These forms are distinct from the forms in which the knowledge was produced, as a result, by the process of the history of know- ledge: they deal, it will be remembered, with a knowledge already produced as a knowledge by that history. In other words, we consider the result without its becoming, ignoring any accusations of lese-Hegelianism or lese-geneticism, for this double crime is merely a single good deed: a liberation from the empiricist ideology of history. It is to this result that we put the question of the mechanism of production of the knowledge effect -- exactly in the way Marx interrogated a given society, as a result, in order to pose it the question of its 'society effect', or the question of the mechanism which produces its existence as a society.
We see these specific forms in action in the discourse of scientific proof, i.e., in the phenomenon which imposes on thought categories (or concepts) a regular order of appearance and disappearance. We can say, then, that the mechanism of production of the knowledge effect lies in the mechanism which underlies the action of the forms of order in the scientific discourse of the proof. I say the mechanism which underlies and does not just govern the action of these forms, for the following reason: in fact these forms of order only show themselves as forms of the order of appearance of concepts in scientific discourse as a function of other forms which, without themselves being forms of order, are nevertheless the absent principle of the latter. To speak in a language which has already caught on, the forms of order (forms of proof in scientific discourse) are the 'diachrony ' of a basic 'synchrony '. I am using these terms in a way which will be defined precisely later (Part Two), as the concepts of the two forms of existence of the object of knowledge,
and hence as two forms existing purely inside knowledge. Synchrony represents the organizational structure of the concepts in the thought-totality or system (or, as Marx puts it, 'synthesis'), diachrony the movement of succession of the concepts in the ordered discourse of the proof. The forms of order of the discourse of the proof are simply the development of the 'Gliederung ', of the hierarchized combination of the concepts in the system itself. When I say that 'synchrony' thus understood is primary and governs everything, I mean two things:
(1) that the system of the hierarchy of concepts in their combination determines the definition of each concept, as a function of its place and function in the system. It is this definition of the place and function of the concept in the totality of the system which is reflected in the immanent meaning of this concept, when we put it in one-to-one correspondence with its real category.
(2) that the system of the hierarchy of concepts determines the 'diachronic' order of their appearance in the discourse of the proof. It is in this sense that Marx speaks of the 'development of the forms ' (of the concept) of value, surplus value, etc.: this 'development of the forms' is the manifestation, in the discourse of the scientific proof, of the systematic dependence which links the concepts together in the system of the thought-totality.
The knowledge effect, produced at the level of the forms of order of the discourse of the proof, and then at the level of some isolated concept, is therefore possible given the systematicity of the system which is the foundation of the concepts and their order of appearance in scientific discourse. The knowledge effect acts, then, in the duality or duplicity of the existence of the system, which is said to 'develop' in the scientific discourse, on the one hand, and on the other of the existence of the forms of order of the discourse, precisely in the 'play' (in the mechanical sense of the term) which constitutes the unity of dislocation of the system and of the discourse. The knowledge effect is produced as an effect of the scientific discourse, which exists only as a discourse of the system, i.e., of the object grasped in the structure of its complex constitution. If this analysis leads anywhere, it leads us to the threshold of the following new question: what is the specific difference of scientific discourse as a discourse? What distinguishes scientific discourse from other forms of discourse? How do other discourses produce different effects (aesthetic effect, ideological effect, unconscious effect) from the knowledge effect which is produced by scientific discourse?
I shall leave the question in this last form, and merely recall its terms. Unlike the 'theory of knowledge' of ideological philosophy, I am not trying to pronounce some de jure (or de facto ) guarantee which will assure us that we
really do know what we know, and that we can relate this harmony to a certain connexion between Subject and Object, Consciousness and the World. I am trying to elucidate the mechanism which explains to us how a de facto result, produced by the history of knowledge, i.e., a given determinate knowledge, functions as a knowledge, and not as some other result (a hammer, a symphony, a sermon, a political slogan, etc.). I am therefore trying to define its specific effect: the knowledge effect, by an understanding of its mechanism. If this question has been properly put, protected from all the ideologies that still weigh us down, i.e., outside the field of the ideological concepts by which the 'problem of knowledge' is usually posed, it will lead us to the question of the mechanism by which forms of order determined by the system of the existing object of knowledge, produce, by the action of their relation to that system, the knowledge effect considered. This last question confronts us definitively with the differential nature of scientific discourse, i.e., with the specific nature of a discourse which cannot be maintained as a discourse except by reference to what is present as absence in each moment of its order: the constitutive system of its object, which, in order to exist as a system, requires the absent presence of the scientific discourse that 'develops' it.
If I stop here, before a threshold we shall still have to cross, allow me to recall that it is the peculiarity of scientific discourse to be written ; and that it therefore poses us the question of the form of its writing. The reader will probably remember that we began with its reading.
We have therefore not left the circle of one and the same question: if, without leaving it, we have avoided turning round in this circle, it is because this circle is not the closed circle of ideology, but the circle perpetually opened by its closures themselves, the circle of a well-founded knowledge.