The problem with Marxism

. . . is that there is one explanation for every problem: real conditions, and the assumption that the material base is knowable.

From notes:

Society should change, but it shouldn’t affect me;
Marx’s utopia has nobody at the bottom;
At least slaves know they are exploited;
What is wrong with capitalism and the “wage contract,” is that it is mystified, and workers do not realise how exploited they are;
Consider the idea of waiting until the old people die off in contrast with conditioning to love and anticipate death (as in BNW) to make room for new workers

. . .

re: Althusser

ideology (unconscious) / ideologies (observable)

Adopts/adapts Freud’s expression: “the unconscious is eternal”–“ideology is eternal”

Hmm–trying to work out this note I took: “structuralist and psychoanalytic theory inflicted concept of ideology”–meaning that the theory of and discourses about ideolog(y/ies) are disseminated through these practices?

From the OED Online:


a. (a) The study of ideas; that branch of philosophy or psychology which deals with the origin and nature of ideas.  (b) spec. The system introduced by the French philosopher Étienne Condillac (1715–80), according to which all ideas are derived from sensations.

1796    W. Taylor in Monthly Rev. 20 569   [Destutt de] Tracy read a paper [at the National Institute of France]‥and proposed to call the philosophy of mind, ideology.
1832    W. Hamilton Discuss. (1852) 69   Ideologie (more correctly Idealogie)‥has in France become the name peculiarly distinctive of that philosophy of mind which exclusively derives our knowledge from the senses.
1852    H. Rogers Ess. I. vii. 377   The word ‘ideas’‥enters appropriately corrupted in the term ideology, as a name for a system of purely sensational philosophy.
1882    T. Davidson tr. Rosmini Philos. Syst. §10. 22   Ideology undertakes to investigate the nature of human knowledge.
1943    Ethics 53 266   Cabanis’ physiology and Destutt de Tracy’s ideology were but developments of the sensationism of Locke, Condillac, and Helvétius.
1975    F. C. Copleston Hist. Philos. IX. ii. 21   When laying down the fundamental notions of ideology de Tracy turned from the reductive analysis of Condillac to immediate self-observation.
2007    H. McDonald tr. P. Jaroszyński Sci. in Culture vi. xvii. 179   Ideology is a system of thought that studies our powers of perception and the origin of ideas within us.

This definition, number 1, seems to have the longest history, dating back to mid-18C. I didn’t realise that the word indicated our ideas formed on the basis of sensation, or the phenomenological experience of life.

There are, of course, further definitions:

b. The study of the way in which ideas are expressed in language (see quot. 1826). Now hist.

1826    P. Du Ponceau in Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc. (1830) 3 75   Ideology, or the comparative study of the grammatical forms and idiomatic constructions of languages, by which we are taught to analyze and distinguish the different shapes in which ideas combine themselves in order to fix perceptions in our minds, and transmit them to those of others.
1879    Trans. Amer. Philol. Assoc. 10 5   There is a distinct place for a Science of Ideology, as underlying and controlling the higher aspects of Etymology.
1886    Proc. Philol. Soc. 4 June p. xliii,   Valuable evidence‥could be derived from comparative ideology, a branch of the science of language that hitherto had been much neglected.
1990    J. T. Andresen Linguistics in Amer, 1769-1924 (1995) ii. 104   The third division, ‘Ideology’, belongs within a structural,ahistorical framework and not within the diachronic and evolutionist framework that was to emerge with Humboldt.

Pretty: the shapes that combinations of ideas make “to fix perceptions in our minds . . . .”

And this one:

4. A systematic scheme of ideas, usually relating to politics, economics, or society and forming the basis of action or policy; a set of beliefs governing conduct. Also: the forming or holding of such a scheme of ideas.

1896    Internat. Jrnl. Ethics 6 293   The older Socialism rested upon such ideas as ‘the right to live’, ‘the right to work’, ‘payment according to needs’.‥ The ‘ideology’ of the older socialists has given way to a deliberately‥scientific treatment of life.
1909    Westm. Gaz. 4 May 10/2   It may be worth while giving some account of the ideology behind the German proposal, and of the details as worked out in the Conservative programme, bearing in mind that it is the scheme of a reactionary Agrarian party.
1936    L. Wirth & E. A. Shils tr. K. Mannheim (title)    Ideology and Utopia.
1939    W. H. Auden in I Believe (1940) 22   It is despair at finding a solution to this problem which is responsible for much of the success of Fascist blood-and-soil ideology.
1955    E. Shils in Encounter 5 52 (title)    The end of ideology?
1972    J. M. Brown Gandhi’s Rise to Power iii. 106   It [sc. satyagraha] was a weapon for all seasons, and in Gandhi’s hands, directed by his personal ideology, it gave him the edge over conventional politicians.
1993    J. Hargreaves in E. G. Dunning et al. Sports Process 71   The Victorian cult of the family‥was a unifying feature of nineteenth-century bourgeois ideology and acted as a dominant constraining force on the early development of women’s sport.
2004    Times Lit. Suppl. 8 Oct. 25/1   In geostrategic terms, Communism and liberal democracy may have been mortal enemies, but from an intellectual standpoint the Cold War was a family quarrel among Western ideologies.

For Althusser, ideology’s primary function is to constitute concrete individuals as social subjects. Enter the man-hailed-by-cop scenario.

Reductively: We are all hailed into being by ideology, even before we are born. Family, name, gender, race, ethnicity, class, status–none of this is consciously chosen, but rather assigned, thus calling us into being as subjects.


About owl

Disordered, reckless, persevering.
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