in the last instance

Chris Barnes V2538Q5M at
Sun Dec 11 13:44:48 MST 1994

I am a grad student at SUNY Buffalo, writing a paper on economic determinism
and post-marxism and i'd like to ask a very unimportant, but puzzling question.

What is the origination of the phrase "in the last instance"?  Many critics and
theorists quote it, but very few cite it. Those that do generally cite either
of the two letters from Engels to Bloch in Sept of 1890. But the phrase doesn't
appear in either of these in the International translation. Engels says "in the
last resort" or "ultimately decisive." I thought I had found it in Engels
Preface to _Origins of the Family_ (1972 Penguin), and though the phrase does
appear there, Michele Barrett, the editor, quotes the phrase in an article as
"in the last resort", leaving me to think that this translation was influenced
by, maybe, Althusser's emphasis on the phrase. I'm wondering, in other words,
if "in the last instance" has come to English from the German via Althusser and
the French.

I think the difference between "resort" and "instance" is slight, but with so
many people quoting "in the last instance" I'd just like to know exactly where
it comes from.

Chris Barnes
SUNY at Buffalo
V2538Q5M at UBVMS


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