Rethinking marxism
  • Interview with Dick Howard — Distinguished Professor of Philosophy — Stony Brook University
Anne-Lorraine Bujon — Editor — Revue Esprit
Which critiques of Marxism paved the way for the founding of the so-called New Left in the years following 1968? Philosopher Dick Howard contributed to this intellectual movement through his international career in the United States, France, and Germany. He proposed a new reading of Marx viewed through his early works, forging a critique of communism grounded in a reinterpretation of Marxism, based on the watchwords of self-management and spontaneity. In this interview with Anne-Lorraine Bujon, the editor of Esprit, Howard – himself associated with many journals over the course of his career – goes over his work and discusses his moving around between countries, his activism, and his involvement in collective works, especially the review he co-founded in the US, Telos.
One life, one research itinerary.
Interview published on 09-16-2018
Last modified on 09-18-2018
Original language: English Lire la version French
  • Biography
  • Bibliography of Dick Howard
  • Interview’s bibliography

While working for his philosophy PhD at the University of Texas, Dick Howard studied in Paris (with Paul Ricoeur) and in Bonn (with Klaus Hartmann). In the United States, he became actively involved in the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. As a student in Nanterre, he took part in the 1968 events, traveling between France, Germany, and Eastern Europe. In addition to his activism he was also involved with journals, cofounding the Marxist Telos in the United States, and embarking in 1967 on a lengthy association with the Esprit journal in Paris, on whose editorial board he now sits.

As an anti-totalitarian left-wing intellectual, he set out a new interpretation of Marx based on rediscovery of his early works, which were largely untranslated at the time. This reading differed to that of the French Communist Party, which at the time took its cue from Althusser. This led Dick Howard to set up a course about Das Kapital for the “Free University” at the Shakespeare and Co bookshop in Paris.

He worked with critical Marxist intellectuals such as Lefort, Castoriadis, André Gortz and Serge Mallet, forming a group with links to journals such as Socialisme et Barbarie, as well as with Marcel Gauchet on the journal Textures and then Libre. Dick Howard was then active in disseminating the works of Rosa Luxemburg within the movement known as the “New Left”, and in rethinking the notion of spontaneity.

He is currently working on the American Revolution, returning to the idea that the state, rather than seeking to transform society, should leave it be. His latest book examines the contemporary period, particularly the desire for security and the rejection of uncertainty.

The Marxian Legacy, New York & London, Palgrave-Macmillan, on press [1977].

Les Ombres de l'Amérique: De Kennedy à Trump, Paris, Bourin, 2018.

Between Politics and Anti-Politics. Thinking about Politics after 9/11, New York & London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

The Primacy of the Political: A History of Political Thought from the Greeks to the French and American Revolutions, New York, Columbia University Press, 2010.

Aux origines de la pensée américaine. De Marx à Kant, Paris, Hachette, 2008.

“De l'Amérique à l'Europe: aller-retour”, Esprit, September 1990.

“Bourbier allemand et socialisme européen”, Esprit, January 1985.

Le communisme européen. L'affaire Rosenberg”, Esprit, April 1984.

“D’une nouvelle gauche à une autre”, Esprit, July 1983.

Enlightened Despotism and Democracy, Telos, n° 33, 1977.

Rosa Luxemburg: théorie et pratique, Esprit, February 1976.

(with Karl E. Klare), The Unknown Dimension. European Marxism since Lenin, New York, Basic Books, 1972.

(with Steven Kehnan), “La nouvelle gauche étudiante aux Etats-Unis”, Esprit, April 1970.

“Les intellectuels américains et nous”, Esprit, March 1968.

“Syndicalime et protestation”, Esprit, April 1967.

Andrew Arato, Jean L. Cohen, Civil Society and Political Theory, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1992.

André Gorz, Stratégie ouvrière et néo-capitalisme, Paris, Le Seuil, 1964.

Claude Lefort, Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag, Paris, Belin, 1976.

Serge Mallet, La Nouvelle classe ouvrière, Paris, Le Seuil, 1963.

Daniel Mothé, Militant chez Renault, Paris, Le Seuil, 1965.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago [1973], New York, Harper and Row, 1974.

Robert Zwarg, Die Kritische Theorie in Amerika. Das Nachleben einer Tradition, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017.