Brief notes on: CCCS (1978) On Ideology.  London: Hutchinson.

Dave Harris

The introduction says that studying ideology requires the 'deeper knowledge than is at present available from the general perspective of cultural studies'.  In principle at least, such a study can deliver a more coherent account of either pole in the culture/society couplet, and, in so doing, avoid reducing either turn to the '"expressive" manifestation of the other' (6) [an obvious dig at Lukacs].

Hall, S. The Hinterland of Science: Ideology and the "Sociology of Knowledge."

Merton introduced the term ideology through the sociology of knowledge.  The history of the concept leads to dilemmas, since ideology is seen as representing both ideas and false ideas.  There is a promise of a criticism of idealism, but the sociology of knowledge soon drifts into idealism [gramscianism does as well].  Roots of the concept line Kant and his categories of mind, but Hegel remedied the lack of history in Kant and develops the notion of the super session of categories.  Feuerbach's project to unmask the root of religious ideas followed, and this led to Marx is objections that the material base of ideas had to be investigated.  Althusser further develoedp this notion to talk about breaks with rather than inversions of this philosophical tradition.  However, some of the dilemmas from Kant and Hegel still persist, for example in the development of neo-Kantianism in some German traditions that led to seeing ideology as some kind of Objective Mind: the example is Dilthey on the stages of human thoughts, the development of world views.  This legacy appears in Lukacs who tried to restore the dimension of social class (13) then Mannheim.  Methodological legacies including is an emphasis on verstehen and on hermeneutics, and eventually on Weber and the notion of the ideal time as a compromise between idealism and positivism. 

Weber failed to show an articulation between ideas and the economy, and we can criticise the famous Protestant Ethic study as developing only the notion of elective affinities or homologies as inadequate explanations of how ruling ideas come to rule (17).  However, ideologies are seen as a motivating force and as having specific histories, suggesting that Weber did have some proto Marxist inputs.

Marxism retained its emphasis on the social formation, its complexity and various levels, to replace the idea of an expressive totality.  Ideologies are also seen as real, but not self sufficient.  This contrasts with the work of Lukacs, who was influenced by early German 'irrationalism', especially via Nietzsche (18), and reason was to play a major role in the power struggle with systematic illusions.  The fascist appropriation of this notion is criticized in Frankfurt work on culture as illusions, and on lingering irrationality, as in Dialectic of Enlightenment: this is pessimistic.  [There is often a weak sociology of knowledge in this criticism, where Frankfurt pessimism is explained as a result of the awful circumstances they endured in Nazi Germany, and which somehow got incorporated, unreflected, into the general philosophy].

Weber's influence is also clear in Schutz and the development of social phenomenology, with a lingering notion of Objective Mind appearing in objectivated structures of meaning and the assumption of reciprocity.  Sartre develops the notion of alienation as both objectivation and loss, rooted in the dialectic between subject and object, which 'always testifies to the under exorcised ghost of Hegel' [which might be a reference to Althusser again] (20).  Berger and Luckmann develop the notion of social structure as a series of typifications, supporting symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology, but in this tradition, ideology is no longer historical or political, or produced by conjunctural relations.  Ideas become more important than studying reality, the opposite emphasis to the one developed in German Ideology.

Berger and Luckman link with Durkheim.  We should not see Durkheim as a simple positivist since he sees social facts as governed by rules or ideas, as collective representations, categories with social origins.  This work is developed with Mauss in Primitive Classifications, and in the Années.  Levi Strauss's work must also be considered, and his influences include Russian formalism, especially Jackobsen (23).  Levi Strauss operated with the notion of a deep structure connecting to actual structures not through reflection or analogy, a distinction akin to Marx on the real and phenomenal, and this led to work on the 'human spirit' and its formations, including arrangements between elements of language permitting communication [I have noted some work on the honey myth, for example, where honey stands in for other magical fluids that are both natural and cultural, such as sperm and blood].  We see structural resemblance at the level of difference, a reduction to a basic structure then a specific analysis of myths and so on.  The synchronic structure is the closed field, and this has led to the development of 'structuralist causality' as a 'Copernican revolution' (26), obviously appealing to Althusser, although he was forced to deny that his work was a mere combinatory of abstract possibilities.

We can also fit in Lacan and Kristeva, and Barthes.  Barthes was influenced by Saussure, and came to see ideologies as particular uses of signifying systems used by dominant groups [at least in Mythologies].  Eventually, Lacan's influence led to the notion that the subject was the key to ideology, rather than specific ideologies (27) [well at least in Althusser].

Levi Strauss is work can still be seen as Kantian, concerned with abstract rules for knowledge, leading to another collapse into idealism.  Why should this be so?  Is there some affinity between idealism and the bourgeoisie?  Is there some inadequacy in materialism?  We can see Bourdieu on the notion of symbolic power or some kind of third way, combining idealism and avoiding materialist reductionism.  Symbolic relations are not just class relations, and nor are the mere signifiers, but they transfigure, establish correspondences between structures rather than elements.  As with Althusser, we need to hold on to both ends of the chain, both relative autonomy and economic determinism.

[What should we make of this hectic tour through 95 positions before lunch?  The whole thing takes up about 26 pages.  A harsh critic, like me, would see this as a typical setting out of the ground, or 'theoretical mapping', where a set of oppositions is set up, such as those between idealism and materialism, there is a general 'balanced' discussion, but obviously a selective one, rival approaches are seen as giving too much to one side rather than the other, and ending with the need to somehow maintain both while transcending it with—Gramsci. A steady progress is made towards the preferred position.In this case, sociology of knowledge is a mere 'hinterland',and goes in sneer quotes -- sometimes,it is clearly nearly getting towards but never quite close enough to gramscian marxism.].

Chapter three.  Hall, S., Lumley, B., and McLennan, G.  Politics and Ideology in Gramsci

There is no systematic account of ideology in Gramsci's work and it should be read as focused on politics rather than epistemology.  It offers a concrete specific study of Italy at the time.  Ideology is considered to be a superstructure.  Gramsci has been accused of historicism because of his interest in history.  However the work is non psychological and complex rather than reductionist.

Ideology becomes something much broader than a philosophical world view, since it also appears as a substrate in common sense.  Ideology is a force in its own right rather than just something that reflects other forces.  Yet it is linked to the class structure.  The economic structure is the mainspring of history, but only in the last instance.  We can derive authority for this from 18th Brumaire rather than Capital.

The notion of a 'historical bloc' indicates the economic construction of classes, which are seen as both fundamental and as fractions, but also show the impact of political combinations.  This makes the notion of a bloc neither economic determinist nor idealist.  Blocs are some other formations not located in a base or a superstructure.  For example the notion of civil society refers to both base and superstructure and neither, when it is an intermediary sphere, between the economy and the state, something private, but still serving the interests of the state [Althusserian terminology here?].  It is the immediate source of the subordination of classes, which operates not just in the economic field nor in law, but in morals and customs [Althusser is a bit of  purist here and says Marx only ever included law in the superstructure] 

The political level itself is relatively independent, and it is here that we find ideologies, ideas which unify social blocs.  Ideology appears both in philosophy and in common sense, and is 'organic' in terms of its relation to the fundamental classes.  However, bourgeois ideology simply has to represent itself as universal.  Nevertheless, it is not simply produced by a unified ruling class, but draws on relations with other formations in the ruling bloc, both intellectual and practical.  Ruling ideologies are expected in different forms and to different extents by the subordinate classes.  This leads us to develop the notion of hegemony, which is not just ideological or political, but which operates at all levels, for example from economic concessions and political alliances to transformations of consciousness.

Common sense is inherently eclectic, disjointed and confirmatory, always a composite.  It appears as something ahistorical, 'natural' just like political economy: if anything, the latter is more open to modifications.  The levels of common sense and the economy are linked.  Common sense does contain a critical potential, because experience can always spontaneously produce contradictions and challenge hegemony [only if that experience is made critical, not fatalistic etc?].  Common sense is organized by intellectuals, who can be themselves 'organic', that is linked to classes and their interests, and 'traditional', linking two groups that are remnants from the previous historical social formation.  The latter become partially affiliated, as in Church intellectuals.  There is an intellectual field, where intellectuals battle for the spontaneous support of one of the fundamental classes.

The ruling bloc mobilizes state and civil society, and tries to use the state to subordinate civil society.  Resistance produces a battle for hegemony prior to the seizure of political power, and the development of working class organic intellectuals play a major part here.  There is no role for the detached traditional intellectual [given much emphasis by Mannheim and others known to Gramsci --important for him to deny he was one in the context too -- the Party would have booted him out?].  The party operates at the cultural level, unlike the ruling bloc, leading to an activist penetration of common sense in order to radicalize it and realize the contradictory possibilities of common sense.  The struggle does not just operate with logic, but acts literally to politicize common sense, since politics is the crucial level.  Common sense consciousness itself is spontaneously defensive, so there must be a radical theory to understand the terrain and to radicalize the proletariat.

We can see that the approach is not economic determinist or psychologistic.  There can be no pregiven historical mission.  Ideologies are grounded in material circumstances and they have material effects.  Consciousness develops in a largely corporatist direction, but this can be challenged.  However, there will be no necessary unity in a bloc, with struggle and room for maneuver at different levels.  The aim is to combat spontaneism to develop organic consciousness, and this will be an intellectual struggle.  The test will be whether or not the party can gain 'mass adhesion', but there is no relativism or spontaneity involved, and no notion of an 'expressive unity'.  The party itself can be considered as a bloc.

Is there a necessary unity between the levels for Gramsci?  Is Marxism a science or an ideology, a mere conception of life aimed at unifying the group, or some conflation of the theoretical and the real?  There is ambiguity here, even if we stress the practico-social functions of ideology.  However, the current denial of uniformity of ideology and its relations with the economic is itself produced by intellectuals, and is historically specific.  Analysis of this specific situation is a precondition of intervention [nice role for radical intellectuals here, and shades of Althusser's notion of theory as class struggle after all?]

Gramsci's 'philosophy of praxis' has been taken as indicating his historicism.  Yet there are similarities, even for Althusser [and the texts here is his essay on contradiction and over determination] social formation is not an expressive unity, for example and there is no principal contradiction in the base.  There can be revolutionary situations in decisive political conjunctures, when contradictions overlap and fuse.  Differences between Althusser and Gramsci are the most apparent in Reading Capital, in the section opposing historicism.  The similarities appear in the isas essay, and in political discussions in the various essays.

Much of the argument turns on the concept of civil society.  This can carry liberal undertones of something private, individual, the home of individual rights and humanism.  But civil society in Marx is different, and indicates the relations of exchange and distribution.  The phenomenal level of these is the 'hidden abode' of capitalism, a source of bourgeois ideologies, especially the 'imaginary relation'[presumably as in Althusser's discussion of the imaginary relation to the real relations of production?].  Civil society displays and accumulation these effects, economic, political, judicial, and ideological.  For Gramsci, it is not just the site of domination, but of direction and leadership, with partial consent, by the ruling bloc.  This is more than a series of state apparatuses as in Althusser.  The non state elements are also very important: they include the press and television in Britain, state and nonstate churches, trade unions [all these are included, I think, as isas—Althusser's point is that they all require backing from the state, at least with the legal framework]. Direction and leadership provide the source for the struggle to hegemonize.  These distinctions are blurred in the isas essay.  Nevertheless, the isas essay can be seen as an attempt to systematize Gramsci, through the notion of reproduction [special pleading here -- see Rancière's account of the French context]

Gramsci offers no structuralist analysis to connect specific conjunctures as instances of a structure, while Poulantzas does.  Nevertheless, Poulantzas's work is in the same space.  The major political disagreement arises over whether or hegemonic strategy is possible without state power.  Hegemony does too much work: for Poulantzas it simply means state activity, whereas for Gramsci it means struggle, not just coercion but coupled with consent, posing as universalistic.  It is a matter of domination and direction.  Any attempt to systematize this process in theory runs the risk of losing the concrete and ending in functionalism.  There are no concepts in general referring to general, automatic entities.

[ The notion of hegemony is discussed in a suitably complex way (48).  Then there is some work needed to use Gramsci to correct Althusser.  First, Althusserian terms are used to describe Gramsci, and Gramsci is seen as a hidden influence on Althusser and Poulantzas [with no real discussion of Althusser's critique of Gramsci in Reading Capital], although the role of the party and of party intellectuals is clear [and undesirable in the UK context] (51).  A more populist stance is developed, with a central role to be played by politics in a more diffuse sense, but there is still a need to understand the social formation adequately by deploying a theory [which might be a rebuke to the sort of activism being suggested by black CCCS students like Gilroy].  There is a need to reject historicist notions of the destiny of the working class [not completely rejected, according to Coward], and historicism is rebuked through the figure of the 'expressive unity', as above [there is also no obvious clear class party in the UK].

However, if the only test of Marxism is mass support for it, then it risks being seen as an ideology, and Gramsci is read symptomatically, here.  Gramsci is preferred to Lukacs on the grounds of the latter's historicism.  Gramsci is preferred to Althusser, by seeing his [Gramsci's] analysis as a 'limit case'.  Humanism is seen as a valid approach in civil society, and this is defended via a long detour into Capital, where the spheres of distribution and exchange are seen as equivalent to civil society (62).  By seeing these spheres as not separate, but offering an accumulation of effects, we can retain specificity as against the more general notion of ideological state apparatuses.  Even so, ideological state apparatuses are seen as a 'direct borrowing' from Gramsci any way [Rancière says Althusser got the idea from him!].

We can see the influence of Gramsci in Poulantzas's work on political power and social classes, although he denies it.  This raises a further issue about whether the class can be hegemonic before it wins power, and again Gramsci's enlarged notion of hegemony wins out here: it centralises struggle rather than any functionalist mechanisms, and it operates as a long-term process, where some moments can be non hegemonic, and where there can be crises.  All this points us towards the need for concrete analysis (69) [so does Poulantzas, of course].

Is the state or the ruling class hegemonic?  The state functions to maintain hegemony.]

Maclennan, G.  Molina, V., Peters, R Chapter three.  Althusser's Theory of Ideology

Ideology appears in several ways, in contrast to science, as a level in the social formation, and as a lived relation.  We can detect shifts from the notion of overdetermination to one of structural causality, with the economic, political and ideological/political (epic) levels making up a 'structure in dominance' (81).  There are clear signs of epistemological essentialism and eternality in the later conception

In the 'Generalities' model ideology becomes both an epistemological and a material structure, and this develops in the context of arguing against reductionism.  Ideology is also seen as essential to social life, having a practico - social function, something based on experience rather than theory [notoriously here].  Marx's theory is seen as undergoing an epistemological break in order to separate science from ideology.  Ideologies are seen as imaginary, that is as produced by a structure rather than emerging from consciousness, producing the famous 'imaginary lived relation to the real conditions of production, in For Marx.

In Reading Capital, ideology is defined as what Marxism is not.  If Marxism is another ideology, we're only left with the problem of choosing irrationally between them.  Instead, Marxism is a science.  Ideology here appears as a closed or mirror structure, closed as in the subject/object relationship at the heart of classic epistemology.  The real cannot be grasped by logical concepts [in some sort of correspondence], and this argument is developed particularly in the Introduction to Grundrisse.  Successful practice is not a criterion of theoretical validity.  The subject is to be removed from the discussion altogether, and knowledge decentred, so that only the systematicity of concepts characterizes a science.  Marxism is not an ideology, and, for Althusser, the distinction between the real and the phenomenal needs to be reworked is a distinction between phenomena and scientific knowledge.  Production of knowledge- effects is the issue, needed to counter ideology-effects.

Is there an ideology justifying Marxist philosophy?  What of the reference to empirical events and specific concepts in Marx?  Can ideology really be both a level and the practice?  Does the notion of the knowledge-effect really abolish epistemology?  Althusser goes on to develop the isas essay [to bring in material practices as well as ideas], and further goes on to develop the notion of philosophy as a kind of class struggle in itself, an intervention in the struggle as much as an attempt to develop scientific knowledge. 

There are later apologies for theoreticism in discussing the science/ideology split [for example here], and a redevelopment of the theory of superstructure and a discussion of the conditions of production of knowledge.  There are still odd sections, like those seeing reproduction and ideology in general as independent matters.  The reproduction of the legal and political relations is necessary for class exploitation, though, not just a mere repetition of forms of combination.  The isas essay also shows how the state is necessarily involved in hegemonic struggles in order to realize the role of the ruling class: the installation of the isas involves class struggle, for example.  Here, ideology is no longer eternal, but something separated from specific ideological state apparatuses.  Althusser does go on to develop some notes on the nature of ideology in general, and does suggest that even this is 'eternal'  only in class societies [I think he was saying that ideology was needin State Socialist societies, that the Soviet Union was not classless etc]. 

The concept is only an abstraction from specific ideologies rather than a proper theory [although he draws a lot on Lacan to allude to a general theory?].  Even here it is not clear if this is an abstraction from all ideologies or from the dominant ideology, however.  Again instead of investigating real conditions, Althusser discusses the representation of the individual to reality: this does not involve a distortion of reality but an imaginary relation to it [hardly scientific for McLennan et al].  The material present appears in practice, leading to the idea that all practices exist in and by ideology.  The human subject is a figure of subjection.  Overall, this is a departure from functionalism, but it only describes one moment of the capitalist mode of production.

Other problems include the notion of relative autonomy but not of total autonomy for science.  This produces an elitist notion of theory, an idealism.  There is insufficient specificity, 'encouragement' and strategy for a revolutionary movement.  The self criticism is not a complete apology: science can still not be reduced to the practico-social, but ideology can.  Philosophy is a class struggle which raises the possibility for specific studies, and there are still good criticisms of economism and historicism.  However, economism can still be found in the theory of the state.

[now try Rancière's blistering critique of Althusser]

Burniston S and Weedon C chapter eight.  Ideology Subjectivity and the Artistic Text.

Macherey sees literature as 'containing' ideology because writers draw upon ideological repertoires, including some which are dominant.  There is therefore a correspondence between a text and an historical period, although this is not 1 to 1.  Literature necessarily evokes contradictions in that historical period, so it is not possible to pursue a simple class reductive reading.

Literary ideologies also resolve contradictions.  They deliver a closed system, or try to.  However, great literature can break out and show contradictions that cannot be contained [obviously circular here].  Most literature however attempts 'an imaginary reconciliation' between contradictions (204).

It is possible to sketch out the background of class struggle in the development and use of national language.

There is a resolution between linguistically constructed subjects in the text [drawing upon Althusser and Lacan on interpellation].  The reader becomes an ideological subject, identified with the position in the text, and rewarded by having their subjectivity granted.  There is a possible misrecognition, however and sometimes deliberately misrecognition, and this is the first step in developing a critical practice of decentring and interrogating the text.  This in turn can lead to the perception of the ideological nature of lived experience.  However, we have to denaturalize the text and its claim that it can offer a reconciliation.  Instead we need symptomatic reading—'reading for absences' (206).

[Then just a few bits] Macherey is closer to Adorno in the analysis of contradictions rather than supporting an expressive totality [which seems to be the boo word running throughout this text].  However, Adorno tends to emphasize form rather than content, and also tends to accept the simple reflective link with the economic level.  By contrast, form is ignored altogether by Macherey.

Various other positions are then summarized, including Benjamin and Brecht, the Lacanians and Kristeva (212 F), with a good discussion on the mechanisms of desire reflecting a basic search for identity with the Father, but being possible only with submission to the linguistic order. I summarized the stuff on Kristeva mostly.

Kristeva develops Marxism to be able to deal with marginal discourses like poetry.  This challenges the norms of civil society, and leaves a space, especially for the female.  She also attacks the centring notion of the subject—the subject is really constituted in language, a 'thetic subject', located in the Symbolic as in Lacan, but developed at the price of having to repress drives.  It follows that signifying practices are not directly reducible to the Symbolic, and Kristeva is interested in repressed signification in the form of poetry, art, religion, and magic [and the avant-garde?].  Literature represents more than knowledge, and is a place where the social code can be 'destroyed and renewed' (220). 

The outside of the Symbolic is the semiotic order.  Semiotics together with the Symbolic produce more than just signifying practices, but 'signifiance' [sic] (220).  The semiotics precedes the mirror phase, reflecting drives and primary processes, and providing for a 'semiotic chora'.  Evidence for it is found in research on the pre-mirror phase [in kids] and on psychosis.  It is the site of negativity and challenge to the Symbolic with its excess of meaning.  It is decoded best in poetry where it takes over from the Symbolic.  We find it expressed in infantile linguistic rhythms, before the development of structure and grammar, featuring 'syntactically elipses'.  The semiotics offers a preconstruction of the subject, it is the site of 'subject in process', and the fixed moments produce a more fixed notion of the subject. Ideology is therefore not the same as subjectivity, despite Lacan [and subjectivity also exists before the entry into the Symbolic, which must feature male dominance].

Family and social structures do organize the drives in the semiotic chora, as in Freud, and particular moments are reinforced by state apparatuses.  But the unsociable elements remain, associated with sexual difference, incest, the death drive, and the pleasure process.  Signifying practices also discipline the semiotic, but only as a 'provisional articulation'(222).  Overall, the semiotic makes the subject precarious and challenges its unity.  Different signifying practices will inevitably align with political experiences and social movements, especially feminism.  The pleasure process is the main drive challenging the family and the state.  Some 'normal' signifying processes are dynamic and result in challenging art and literature.

In criticism, much of this work can be seen as a direct contradiction of Lacan and his particular notion of the unity of the social formation.  This did not arise from a systematic attempt to think the relations between the economic mode of production, and the mode of production of signifying practices.  Lacan and Althusser are simply brought together [by Althusser?] [echoing Hall's criticism]. The group formed around Tel Quel [disgruntled ex-Lacanians keen on the arts, briefly Maoist] refused to claim any scientific basis for their works, but offered only reading strategies [and this won't do for the writers here, who are after some serious Marxism to analyze literature. Stuart Hall couldn't stand the Tel Quel lot either, or anything avant-garde].  The development of science was seen to be based on need and on successful action, as an 'extension of control over the given'.  Practice is taken to be mostly a struggle over signifying practice.

Both Marxism and psychoanalysis claim to explain the same phenomena.  Both Lacan and Kristeva raid both disciplines in order to develop an attempt by one to engulf the other [with psychoanalysis leading?].  The origin of this attempt lay in 'failures, impasses and rivalries by various forms of political struggles' [including the notoriously fractious psychoanalytic schools?]  (227).  Each claims a privilege for their own position, and each is forced to place the psychic and the economic on a similar basis.

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