Birmingham Sch. and first instance

Thomas Schumacher tschumac at magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu
Thu Dec 8 18:50:52 MST 1994


The Hall quote is from "The Problem of Ideology: Marxism Without Guarantees,"
in Betty Matthews (ed.), MARX: A HUNDRED YEARS ON. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Here Hall says:

Understanding 'determinacy' in terms of setting of limits, the establishment of
parameters, the defining of space of operations, the concrete conditions of
existence, the 'givenness' of social practices, rather than in terms of the
absolute predictability of particular outcomes, is the only basis of a 'Marxism
without final guarantees' . . . It would be preferable, from this perspective,
to think of the 'materialism' of Marxist theory in terms of 'determination by
the economic in the *first* instance', since Marxism is surely correct, against
all idealisms, to insist that no social practice or set of relations floats
free of the determinate effects of the concrete relations in which they are
located.  However, 'determination in the last instance' has long been the
repository of the lost dream or illusion of theoretical *certainty*. (p. 84)

Hall is trying to get away from a Marxism which attempts some kind of complete
explanation of cultural events -- hence his turn from Althusser to Gramsci and
his theorization of determination as a force field of relations rather than the
unidirectional base-superstructure model.

Does this get at what you were thinking Jon?

Tom Schumacher
Dept. of Communication
Ohio State U.


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