Future Anterior is the name of a journal founded by Antonio Negri, Jean-Marie Vincent and others, the archives of which are online here. It’s also a grammatical tense that I don’t actually understand (je ne parle pas le francais) and which I’d love to have explained to me.

Althusser uses the term in his 1960 essay “On the Young Marx,” included in For Marx. Althusser footnotes an essay by Adam Schaff, who writes that “[t]he history of philosophy is written in the future anterior” (54). Althusser hates this idea, not least because Schaff uses it to argue for an wholeness to the body of Marx’s work such that the early Marx is still Marx, so to speak. This is not compatible with Althusser’s idea at the time of a break between early and mature Marx.

None of this is a problem for Alain Badiou. Badiou writes in his Metapolitics, in an essay on Althusser, that “Marxism doesn’t exist.” For Badiou, the series Marx-Lenin-Stalin-Mao-Althusser (and presumably any or every other series stretching back to Marx, including much less odious figures) is not one continuity but of continual ruptures. This is in a way a deepening of Althusser’s thesis of a break. There are so many ruptures – and “all of these ruptures are themselves different in kind” – that there is nothing but rupture in Marx and Marxism. “All of which makes ‘Marxism’ the (void) name of an absolutely inconsistent set, once it is referred back, as it must be, to the history of political singularities” (58). The same can be said of Marx. As Badiou writes, “There are as many differences, say, between a Chinese peasant and a young Norwegian professional as between myself and anybody at all, including myself” (x). There is an infinity of infinities, or inconsistent multiplicities such that there is no (self)identity. (This is rather close to the Adornian dialectics of John Holloway.) Thus any consistency or one carved out of Marx(ism) is a product, something made rather than something found. The periodizations of future anterior and of young-mature Marx are no more valid than each other or any other.

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