Date: Fri, 24 May 1996 15:19:01 +0100
Thanks for replying. One major point of disagreement might be over how marx
utilises his notion of ideology, which is made even more difficult because
common accounts of his use, perhaps don't necessarily accord with marx's own
use. I think it was De Man who said that ideology is the disjunction between
thought and reality. In this respect wage-labour vs labour-value represents
an ideological distortion of what is going on. But this need not be
something that is affecting all parties to a discourse and marx would
certainly argue that the capitalists were well aware that the wages they
paid were not of the same value as the labour expended, and that some of the
work force were also aware. The ideological distortion functions however, to
mask the underlying rational of the relationship, hence deluding the working
classes that the wages they recieve are an accurate representation of the
Now as for your conceptualisation of liberalism, although there are elements
I disagree with, we can run with it. Lets assume, as you seem to suggest,
that despite the many differences that separate the different forms of
liberalism, they all share certain things in common. Well Marx would well
agree with this, he didn't claim that it emerged everywhere the same, but
simply that it had some elements in common, or if you prefer in
Wittgensteinian terms, some family resembelances. So I think that your
common principles do indeed repesent a generic term liberalism.
Such a rational pursuit of
>self-interest is the fuel which powers the engine of capitalism. I do
>not believe it is 'simplistic' to argue that Marx believes that such
> ideological elements are widespread and common to the mass of society (this
>is Marx's analytic/dialectic of society, not mine).
Well yes, but they would manifest themselves differently at different
time-place-space locations within a given society. What allows Marx to claim
that thay are all effects of capitalism is that they are all effects of a
set of commonalities. so I am not sure how your reading of Foucualt differs?
>ideology/discourse works on such a widespread basis. That is why he prefers
>the term discourse to ideology, because ideology represents mass socialization
>via some mass ideas, and also brings to mine an innate consciousness that is
>somehow alienated or repressed by ideological and material forces.
You are touching on many things here. I think this is an oversimplification
of marx. One of the key debates surrounding marxism today is that of his
humanism or anti-humanism. Marx is much more nuanced on the subject of the
'subject' that portrayed in much of the literature. in fact, it is perfectly
possible to read Marx as a precursor of poststructuralist attacks on the
'subject'. Equally, of course, I do concede, that Marx wants to hang onto
the notion of a 'core species' being (Drawn from Feuerbach I think). Still,
Foucualt too has his own 'hidden' repressive hypothesis exploring clearly
how human beings are made subjects. This reappears, well actually it emerged
early, but what the hell, in his work on madness. Since for Foucault
'unreason' becomes the subject to be rescued, that which is excluded, and
that which is real.
>are envisioned by Foucualt to be quite particular, occuring in many different
>forms, for many different purposes, and resulting in many different effects at
>the level of subject construction (that is why there is such an array of
>subjectivites in any given society).
I agree, but is this a strategic move on his behalf, that is this is what
interested him, or a denial that more universal discourses existed. Science,
I would have thought he would have accepted as a univreesal discourse,
albeit a fragmented one.
Foucualt gives many critiques of
>Marxism, as a theoretical tool, in which he criticizes it in these terms.
>My way of describing Foucault's position on ideology may have been simply
>done in such a short message, but my understanding of Foucualt's problem
>with ideology as an analytic tool is not simplistic (common, understandable
>language does not automatically equate to simplistic thinking, it might
>instead represent clarity of thought, and an ability to break down
>complex ideas into understandable discourse).
No sorry, you misunderstand me. I'm all for clear language and my reference
to simplistic was more a point about setting marx up as a straw figure which
can then easily be destroyed. Marx is often much more nuanced on these
isuues than some of his more enthusiastic followers would car to think.
Foucualt may indeed have offered
>a rather simplified reading of Marx on the question of ideology, but I
>think I have done a good job of accurately portraying Foucualt's critique of
>Marx on this topic. I believe your criticism is better reserved for Foucualt,
>if you find such a critique simplistic, rather then myself, a humble messenger.
Still, we used to shoot them at one point in time. Beware the message you
carry and to whom is my motto.
I haven't time to check this posting so it could all be gibberish (isn't it
always I can hear Quetzil and Malcolm saying :-) (only joking, and trying to
keep a sense of humour going here).
"What I try to achieve is the history of the relations which
thought maintains with truth; the history of thought insofar as it is the
thought of truth. All those who say truth does not exist for me are
Department of International Politics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth