notes toward annotations

Ideology

–structure the approach according to a few theorists on ideology? How to organise it around Althusser? Add nuances? Off the top: Klein; Jameson for sure. (Especially Jameson on Utopia)

Here’s Eagleton:

Whenever one is pondering the meaning of some specialized term, it is always useful to get a sense of how it would be used by the person-in-the-street, if it is used there at all. This is not to claim such usage as some final court of appeal, a gesture which many would view as itself ideological; but consulting the person-in-the-street nonetheless has its uses. What, then, would be meant if somebody remarked in the course of a pub conversation: “Oh, that’s just ideological!” Not, presumably, that what had just been said was simply false, though this might be implied; if that was what was meant, why not just say so? It is also unlikely that people in a pub would mean something like “that’s a fine specimen of semiotic closure!” or hotly accuse one another of confusing linguistic and phenomenal reality. To claim in ordinary conversation that someone is speaking ideologically is surely to hold that they are judging a particular issue through some rigid framework of preconceived ideas which distorts their understanding. I view things as they really are; you squint at them through a tunnel vision imposed by some extraneous system of doctrine. There is usually a suggestion that this involves an oversimplifying view of the world — that to speak or judge “ideologically” is to do so schematically, stereotypically, and perhaps with the faintest hint of fanaticism. The opposite of ideology here, then, would be less “absolute truth” than “empirical” or “pragmatic.” This view, the person-in-the-street might be gratified to hear, has the august support of the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who characterized the “ideological method” as consisting in “the use of notions to govern the collation of facts rather than deriving notions from them.” (3)

. . .

The term ideology . . . would seem to make reference not only to belief systems, but to questions of power.

What kind of reference, though? Perhaps the most common answer is to claim that ideology has to do with legitimating the power of a dominant social group or class. “To study ideology,” writes John B. Thompson, “. . . is to study the ways in which meaning (or signification) serves to sustain relations of domination.” This is probably the single most widely accepted definition of ideology. (5)

–from Terry Eaglton, Ideology: An Introduction

Organisation: notes toward an outline! omg

levels–three?

1. Theoretical problem (the requirement for the paper); Althusser essay and others on ideology; specific aspect of ideological theory, definition to work with as I see it develop with other theorists (Eagleton? Jameson? Zizek?); how I plan to use the theory to read BNW, or how BNW demonstrates the theory. I *think* I want to talk about interpolation–how ideology interpolates individuals into subjects with a non-specific hailing and a spontaneous and involuntary response to that hail. Discuss desire for end times? Discuss notions of best possible societies? How theorizing about ideology connects to utopian studies? (Yes, I think so.)

MUST define WHY doing this with BNW will facilitate doing it with other utopian texts, specifically Vonnegut and the notion of a back-to-the-land community. Footnote? Cover letter? Proposal?

2. Other work on BNW–ways it has been read? What is my central concern with it? Utopian society–flawed, because it cannot be perfect. Discuss the notion of no history and no evolution, and the basic doctrine that everything is perfect now. (Here: footnote connection to reading communal social experiments and the notion of living in the present, Be Here Now). Ideology in BNW–must discuss the Savage and the Alphas, who, being intelligent and (literally, eugenically) well-bred, are compelled to conform, unlike the lower classes (especially the Epsilons), who are conditioned and engineered to conform without self-awareness.

3. Historical and social positioning of BNW, and positioning of the theoretical problem and the way it works in BNW according to contemporary ideological concerns. (Again, apocalyptic desires and persistent utopian urges). Fit this with the reading of BNW; try to refer directly to Althusser.

4–this aspect goes into the others: I have finally realised that Freud must be accounted for because of how much Huxley’s novel builds on Freudian psychoanalysis. This has been bothering me for a while because I haven’t been sure how to deal with Freud, or any references to psychoanalysis for that matter (and I have to be careful here because it will be so tempting to slip past Freud, if you know what I mean), in the essay, given that it is meant to focus on only one theoretical issue, or question, that came up during our seminar discussions and readings. BUT! The way the book talks about Freud, and Ford, IS the way the book delineates its ideology. Everything is built on the contributions to society made by these two figures. SO: I can initiate discussion of these as long as the discussion is governed by the focus on ideology (a focus that is yet to be determined). Indeed, any historical figure (like Marx, for example), can be discussed with regard to the book in this way.

Now . . . what was *so* important about this again?

–the glaringly obvious Oedipus? yes, to discuss family and individualism/creativity/resistance–really, BNW can’t be intelligently discussed without at least indicating awareness of this piece

— . . .

OK: next tasks

–review class notes and see if there’s anything there

–read these damn essays again! try to weed out a few . . .

–annotations

–go through the stack of books (!) of essays and see what fits, what can go, what can stay

. . .

(re: Marx and “The Wealth of Nations”)

I almost completely forgot that I wanted to discuss Marx’s theory of alienation and try it out on BNW, particularly with regard to dehumanisation (through specialisation–in industrial labour you learn how to do one thing). The practice of developing mastery is lost; ingenuity and creativity are lost in the dehumanising process (you don’t have to be smart or skilled to know how to punch tines into forks, just trained). Humanity and human potential (can I directly link human potential to humanity, as in human nature? Or is that associative thinking? How am I supposed to prop that one up, exactly?) are respectively expressed and realised through creativity, and through generativeness; i.e., wisdom handed down, personal experience, development of techniques and technology. Here we are back at the utopian impulse: always looking for a better way, driven by desire, precipitously near the conviction that there is an ideal way, a perfect way, perfection, utopia.

And here’s Eagleton on Marx: Marx wants to label all ideology as false consciousness. (See Eagleton’s list of definitions.) (for Zizek: can’t be outside ideology?)

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About owl

Disordered, reckless, persevering.
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