More about that relative autonomy thing

Paul W. Cockshott cockshpw at
Wed Sep 28 08:51:49 MDT 1994

On Wed, 28 Sep 1994, Philip Goldstein wrote:

> This allows for control through the appearance of "relative autonomy."
> To take it a step further, intellectuals serve, Gramsci argues, pretty
> much as functionaries of the superstructure, as mouthpieces which hold
> up the hegemonic forces. I don't think I would go so far as to say
> the academy defines or did define what culture is or was. I also would
> maintain that the academy, as an  institution, not as individuals, is,
> like Althusser and Stuart Hall and countless others point out, merely
> is an Idological apparatus of the state. So, any cultural formation,
> which would then, using the previous argument, lead to social formation, ends
> up being a product of the state, or the borgeoisie (whichever terms you want
> to use)." There are two problems with this position. One, the position
> assumes that you can occupy a place outside the system and understand its
> workings in a neutral, systematic way. More precisely, Marxists who work
> within the system are corrupted and need to find some place outside it
> within which they can preserve their integrity and critique its
> operations. Where is this outside place? Who else will occupy it?

Marxists within the university can only overcome their own class position
through involvement with the working-class movement, contact with
working-class militants and participation in their struggles.

> Second, the position assumes that the system reproduces itself as a
> coherent whole and not as a fractured and divided entity. To work with
> the system is to maintain it coherently and not to subvert it from
> within. Postmodernists argue against the system's ability to reproduce
> itself  coherently and to preclude indeterminacy and ambiguity.
So what. We have known since the 30s and Godel that any linguistic system
is ambiguous, but what has this got to do with class politics?


More information about the Marxism mailing list